Tips For Writing an Essay: Beyond The Basics

By: L.A.Parker and Alex Huffman

One of the most difficult things to do is write an essay. Even after you have prepared in advance, the most difficult part of writing an essay is the actual writing. It’s a  grueling process that most of us would rather skip and watch Adventure Time instead. Here’s some tips to hopefully make the writing process easier.

The Basics

1. Read the Material

This is obvious, but reading the actual book, short story, or assignment is generally the best place to start. Chapter/plot summaries and character lists are not enough to write a good (and by good we mean analytical) essay. By high school and college, teachers don’t want to read a summary of a book they’ve already read. They want to hear what the student has to say about it or how they analyze the assigned prompt. If the material is difficult to understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Chances are half the class is equally lost. If you’re too shy to ask questions during class, ask your teacher or professor before or afterwards. If that doesn’t work, type your question into an online search engine. Not everyone who starts reading The Scarlet Letter “gets it” immediately. Let’s face it, a lot of these books were written a long time ago and people just don’t talk like that anymore. So don’t be ashamed if you don’t understand What Thou Dost Read. Ask questions, keep up with the reading, use the internet as backup, and one day we might be able to comprehend the Canterbury Tales without crying or pounding our heads against a wall.

2. Stick With Parts of The Story That Interest You

As you read the source material, jot down notes about the parts you like or hate– anything that catches your attention. When writing the essay, use topics, quotes, and a thesis that keeps you interested. It’s really easy for professors to spot where you got bored and started to ramble in order to fill up space. If you were assigned a prompt to follow, approach the question from different angles  until you find ideas you want to discuss (so long as you stay on topic and answer the prompt).  Try to stay away from areas of the source material that you found most difficult to understand.

3. Don’t Overthink It!

Some assignments, if not most, are more daunting than they really are. Sitting down and actually writing is the best place to start. If the essay doesn’t seem to be any good then you can always start over at any time.

Beyond The Basics

1. What Are You Writing About?

Before you sit down and actually start writing, think about what you want to write about. Whether or not you were issued a prompt, it’s important to know what it is you want to focus on in your actual essay. Just think of a sentence or two that  summarizes what you want to say. After that, those sentences can develop into your thesis statement. Does the source material have a reoccurring theme? Do certain characters stand out? Do they do something meaningful that can relate to the prompt? Think of these things while you decide on what you want to say. Once you sit down with something in mind, you will be less likely to ramble and more likely to write a cohesive paper.

2. If You Need Quotes, Find Them First

Before you start writing your actual essay and after you have thought of what to write about, go through the material and find some quotes that support your thesis. If you look for these first, you’ll be able to write your essay faster and more concisely.

3. Put Your Quotes in Some Sort of Order

You’ve already come up with a thesis at this point, you have the quotes, now you just need to decide where you want to place them in paper. Do certain quotes coincide with each other? Does one quote’s idea lead to another? Does the order you place them work concerning your thesis? After you have asked yourself these questions, number the quotes in the order you want them to appear in the paper. That way you’ll know what to talk about in each paragraph and what you can work toward as your paper develops.

4. What Do You Want To Say in Each Paragraph?

You have a thesis and you have evidence. Now you decide what you want to say in each paragraph. You don’t have to write out the paragraphs yet, but now would be a good time to come up with an outline.

For Example:

Introduction

Thesis

Paragraph One

What is the subject of paragraph one?

How does it relate to the thesis?

What evidence do you have to prove it?

How does it relate to the next paragraph?

Paragraph Two

What is the subject of paragraph two?

How does it relate to the thesis?

What evidence do you have to prove it?

How does it relate to the next paragraph?

Etc.

Conclusion

What is your thesis?

How does all of the material you talked about prove your thesis?

5. Write Your Paper

Once you’ve got an outline, the essay shouldn’t be difficult to write. You already have a thesis, you have evidence, and you have an ordered outline with all of the information on it. The only thing left to do is write it out and put some transition sentences in there. When you are done, take a break! Walk away from your essay and come back to it later with fresh eyes. Re-reading your work with fresh eyes will help you to spot mistakes and any misspellings, grammatical errors. Reading it aloud will help make sure your sentences flow. If everything is good, write a Works Cited page and turn it in. However, keep in mind that it might be a good idea to have someone else read it before the due date. That way, they can catch anything that you might have missed. If there are some points you left out or maybe they are looking for something else to be mentioned, the best person to ask is your teacher.If your teacher is willing to read a paper before you have to turn it in, take advantage of that opportunity.  If they spot anything, go back over your work and improve it.

Happy Paper Writing!

How To Write An Essay: The Basics

By: L.A.Parker and Alex Huffman

Step 1: Things to Keep in Mind

Be sure to indent at the start of a new paragraph, or use the space bar five times.

Basic essay format is split into four easy steps: Introduction, body and conclusion. A safe short essay format to use is the five paragraph essay.

DO NOT USE “I” IN YOUR ESSAY UNLESS OTHERWISE ADVISED!

“I think” is an opinion, you want to sound like you know what you are talking about. Try “it is evident” or “one would assume” it makes you sound a lot smarter.

Now onto the good stuff.

 Step 2: The Introduction

This is where you introduce what you want to talk about. For a five paragraph essay list at least three things in your thesis or make sure it is a thesis you can talk about for at least three paragraphs.

It should look something like this:

     Introduce the subject in question in the first sentence, the best piece of information to go here should be the title of the work and then the author’s name, followed by a short statement. Now, one should state the point of the essay, or what is going to be discussed within the paper. Whether this sentence is about symbols, metaphors or characters it doesn’t matter, but this is a good place for the thesis statement. Sentence four, this sentence can also be used to expand on the thesis, or write something else that will be touched upon in the paper. Now sentence five can be the end of the introductory paragraph or just keep right on going, but if your paper is due soon (like in an hour), I suggest you conclude this paragraph in the fifth sentence.

Step 3: The Body Paragraph

This is your body, the whole point of your paper. In the body you get a chance to talk about whatever points your want to prove concerning the topic or discuss whatever analysis you have made on the subject. Each body paragraph has a simple layout: Topic sentence, transition sentence, quote, comment on the quote, transition sentence that mentions your thesis, concluding sentence.

It should look something like this:

     This is the first sentence of the body, mention the first key point from the thesis here, this will introduce your analysis. Now this sentence is tricky because it is the transition sentence, at this point you want to move your way to introduce a quotation to back up your thesis. “Place quote here” (Author’s last name page #). Now comment on your quote and sound literary, this will ensure effective writing and possibly make it seem like this essay was written in a timely manner. This sentence here would be another transition, don’t be afraid to write about the quote you just used, but be sure to link it to your thesis. By continuously expanding on your thesis statement it will keep you from going off track and rambling in your paper. Now conclude this paragraph by transitioning into the next one.

      Now this is paragraph three, be sure to mention another point in your thesis that has not been touched upon yet. Why is this necessary? It is necessary because it keeps your essay organized. Don’t be afraid to raise literary questions within the paper, just be sure they can be answered. “Insert quote here” (Author page #). One would comment on this fictitious quote if one had bothered to invent one. However, sometimes less is more and this transition sentence is a beast. It just seems to be one of those things that needs to be said, written down, and then put into a shredder because one would assume not many have read this far into the template, but don’t worry it’ll all be over soon.

     Paragraph four is the final body paragraph that needs to establish the final aspect of your thesis. Whether it is to sum up all points that have been made or to add in one final point, the thesis should be wrapped up in this paragraph using points that have already been established or more quotations to back up any theories made within the essay. “Since this is the final paragraph, one can assume that a sentence may have been thought up by now, something literary, witty, or rather something that states a rare bit of knowledge, but one such as the writer of this example couldn’t be more wrong” (Parker 666). It is safe to say that nothing of note worthiness was stated in the previous statement. When all else fails use a word with five or six letters every once in awhile, thesauruses are a wonderful tool to acquaint yourself with. In the end make a final point as if you have proved something like a literary genius.

If more than one quote is needed per paragraph, the format should look like this:

     Topic sentence, transition sentence, quote, comment on the quote, transition sentence that mentions your thesis, transition into your next quote, quote, comment on quote, transition sentence that mentions thesis, conclusion.

Use as many times as needed to satisfy the requirements for your teacher/professor.

Step 4: The Conclusion

The final paragraph of your essay should not mention any new information but should instead sum up everything that has been said in the body of the essay. The best way to write the conclusion is to re-read the introduction paragraph and then place a revised version of it as the conclusion.

It should look something like this:

     Restate the first sentence from the introduction to re-establish the thesis, and be sure to mention the title and author again. Now state all of the major points that had been mentioned in the body, do not go into detail simply summarize the main point of the essay. Whether this sentence is about symbols, metaphors or characters it doesn’t matter, but this is a good place for your restated thesis statement. Now mention the big finale point here. Now this sentence is the conclusion and can be best stated in this manner: Parker’s essay template clearly did not help anyone in need of essay help, it was too wordy and difficult to follow and in the end, the reader can only grasp that the writer was experiencing desperate and mentally fatal caffeine withdrawal.

 BE SURE TO ADD A BIBLIOGRAPHY/WORKS CITED PAGE AFTER YOUR ESSAY! IF NOT ANY QUOTES THAT YOU USED WITH OUT A CITATION PAGE WILL BE CONSIDERED PLAGIARISM AND CAN RESULT IN A FAILING GRADE.

Hope that helped! Remember, using this template does not guarantee you an “A.” Its purpose is to introduce the basic concepts of writing an essay. Your teacher/professor might have individual preferences as to how they want you to write your essay, so be sure to follow the guidelines/rubrics provided to you in class before using this template.

7 Common Symbols in Literature

Written by L.A.Parker

There are many different themes or symbols used in Literature, below you will find a list of 7 out of the many symbols used in Literature.

1. Colors: Colors often play a role in stories. Usually they represent emotions like love, anger, or sadness. Red is a passionate color that can symbolize love, anger, or passion. Blue can mean tranquility, peace, sadness, and in some cases fear. Yellow can mean spring, like turning over a new leaf, or it can symbolize sunlight or light. Shades of greens and browns can be used for nature, peace, and to give off a sense of hospitality, unless the browns are used in images of deserts which would symbolize a’ death in nature.’

Objects, mentioned in stories, often times have a color. If the author mentions the color of an object, even something that seems unimportant, it could mean something to the narrator of the story or another character. Colors are used not just for imagery but also to invoke emotions as well.

Look to see if a color or a series of colors are repeatedly mentioned, does it hold meaning?

2. Water:  Water is one of the most overused tools in Literature. It can be religious, like baptism, it can mean purification, or it can even mean death (in instances like drowning). If the writer of the story takes time to mention an element of water look and see how it is used. Does it sound negative or positive? Does it sound peaceful or violent? By understanding the context of how water is being used within a story you will be able to use it when writing an essay as a thesis or even as concrete examples from the text to support your thesis.

3. Fire:  Another overused element in Literature. Fire can represent anger, passion, love, pain or death. It is a symbol used in some cases for rebirth or new life. Think of the phoenix from mythology or even from fantasy books, fire for the phoenix is used as both a weapon and a form of rebirth when the bird bursts into flames and a baby phoenix is born from its ashes. If the story you are reading mentions fire, see how it is being used. Did a building burn down and a character learned a vital lesson? Was someone injured in a fight while using fire? See how this element is used and compare it to life lessons, intense emotions, or even a comparison between life and death or rebirth.

4. Night: Night can be used in connection to darkness and acts as a cover over the world and can be used to represent an ‘end of the road.’ It can represent peace or tranquility or it can be as simple as death and darkness concerning the usage of shadows. The great thing about night is that there is a lot to work with. Go back and look for a scene in your story and see if the writer mentions night, if he or she does see if they take time to mention the moon, stars, comets, asteroids, meteors, lamp posts, any type of light. If he or she does, the writer is trying to tell you something about the character. There are two sides, night is the end of the day, where things are hidden in shadows but if there is a source of light, even a small one, the writer is trying to tell you about some internal or external conflict. Things in the light are generally safe, but things in the dark can be susceptible to danger.

In the story if you have read, does night play a role? Does it have any connotations to hell or even show an image of horror? Does night trying to show you two sides, possibly good or evil, truth or lies or even danger and safety?

5. Day: Literally the opposite of night in both nature and Literature. With day comes the rising of the sun, representing new life and light. It can be the new beginning for characters or an opportunity for starting over. Day is often used to describe things out in the open; it is difficult to hide in the shadows unless a character is in a building or under some other form of shade. With this theme in Literature you could compare it with night or darkness and contrast it with a character in the novel that might be bright or truthful in the story, someone that represents the ‘good.’ Another thing to include with day is the sun. The sun is the largest source of light for Earth, and with light comes new opportunities and knowledge.

6. Light:   Light is used for truth, enlightenment, safety, or it can be used as a holy image. Light can stand for the side of ‘good’ in a novel or ‘power.’ It is used to overpower evil or even bring forth knowledge to a character or the narrator. When using light as a theme look for areas in the story that might discuss darkness or night, then use that to contrast the effects of light within the story and plot. Light illuminates shadows, which means that with light a character might be able to see the foil in another character or even see if the other character is a liar or evil.

In your story look and see if a character is cast in both light and dark. Use that image to prepare a thesis of both light and dark within a character or characters, after that just look for evidence within the story to support you thesis.

7. Dark:   See if a character is in the shadows, literally, does the author describe a character as lurking the shadows or have pieces of their body or face obscured? These are symbols for darkness and hiding, meaning the character may be lying about something. Look into the story you are reading and look for words that mean ‘night,’ ‘dark,’ ‘death,’ or ‘shadows,’ the author uses terms like that to provide the reader with an image in their mind, whether they are conscious of it or not. Darkness can play a role in a plot by hiding objects, people, or animals. Darkness can be symbols for death, or the Grimm Reaper, or Angel of Death. Writers never mention something unless it is important.

Go back and see if darkness plays a role in the story? How about death? Does death play a major theme/character in the story?