The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you are writing this essay in order to convince your audience of something. That “something” is called a claim. The claim is also called a THESIS.
You should always think about your essays like this:
I WILL WRITE AS MUCH AS I NEED TO IN ORDER TO BE CLEAR AND CONVINCING
and not like this:
I WILL WRITE THE MINIMUM NUMBER OF PAGES BECAUSE I JUST WANT TO GET THIS ESSAY FINISHED
The last way is the way to fail. Why is that?
Because the first two things that I will do when I read your essay is ask:
- Does this essay have a good and identifiable thesis?
- Does the rest of the essay give enough support to convince me?
If the essay doesn’t do BOTH of those things, the essay will have a very hard time earning a passing grade. Writing the minimum number of pages is an excellent way of being unconvincing.
So now I expect you have 2 questions as well:
- How do I write a good and identifiable thesis?
- What do you mean by support?
1. Choose a prompt that you would like to write about, and then make a statement. If you are going to write that chapel strengthens students’ spiritual commitment, then you need to make a VERY CLEAR AND SPECIFIC claim about that. You might say something like, “Weekly attendance at Louisiana College’s chapel services gives students a chance to forget the stress of college and focus on their spiritual development.”
This is a clear statement, and something that you can defend. Now we are at….
2. You will defend it with support, and support is basically the reasons you give for saying what you said in the claim. Take that thesis statement above: “Weekly attendance at Louisiana College’s chapel services gives students a chance to focus on their spiritual development.”
What reasons can you give for saying that? What about the way chapel is organized makes it helpful? What kinds of chapel programs are most helpful to your spiritual development? And first of all, what do you mean by ‘spiritual development’? Right here you want to stop before you go any further. Your first paragraph had better include a definition and explanation of spiritual development. No dictionaries. What does it mean TO YOU? What is it, and what helps you become more spiritually developed? That’s part of your context, which goes in your introductory paragraph.
Take those reasons that you have come up with – those are going to be what makes up paragraphs 2, 3, and 4. Each paragraph will have a topic sentence, just like the paragraphs we have written in class. Each topic sentence will be related to your thesis. What I mean by that is that you will NOT use one of the paragraphs to talk about how Sunday services help strengthen you spiritually, because that is not part of your thesis. That is going OFF TOPIC. Once you have a topic sentence, you use the rest of the paragraph to EXPLAIN IN DETAIL what you are talking about.
Broken down by paragraph, you have:
Paragraph 1 – Introduction
This is the part of the essay where you introduce your topic – chapel and spiritual development. Remember that your audience may not know anything about chapel at LC, so you will need to explain that chapel is mandatory, when it is held, and how long it lasts. That way, when you introduce your thesis, your audience will know what you are talking about and why it is important. Your intro needs to be more than a few sentences, by the way.
Paragraph 2 – subclaim/support point #1
This is your first – BUT NOT YOUR STRONGEST – reason why you think chapel strengthens your spiritual development. You will state your reason (topic sentence!) and then you will explain it in at least four sentences. You will be detailed and thorough.
Paragraph 3 – subclaim/support point #2
This is your second – BUT AGAIN, NOT YOUR STRONGEST – reason why you think chapel strengthens your spiritual development. You are leading up to your strongest reason. As with the 2nd paragraph, you will state your reason (topic sentence!) and then you will explain it in at least four sentences. You will be detailed and thorough.
Paragraph 4 – subclaim/support point #3
This is your third – AND FINALLY, YOUR STRONGEST – reason why you think chapel strengthens your spiritual development. Leave your reader with your best and strongest reason. Again, you will state your reason (topic sentence!) and then you will explain it in at least four sentences. You will be detailed and thorough.
Paragraph 5 – conclusion
This is most people’s least favorite paragraph to write. By the time you get to this point, you are usually ready to be finished, and it’s pretty weak. This is a mistake – you are making your final impression on your reader, and you want to convince him or her that your points are valid and your thesis is believable. If you leave the reader with a weak conclusion, you make a bad and unconvincing impression.