Essay Structure - Trivium Test Prep Online Courses
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The Essay
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Essay Structure

Essay Structure

Different tests call for different types of essays. For example, an essay may attempt to inform or persuade the reader, or perhaps describe or narrate a scene. It is important to use the appropriate type of essay for a given task.

A high-scoring essay can be written by following several simple rules.

  1. Identify the type of essay to be written. If the essay doesn’t correctly address the prompt, it will always receive a low score.
  2. Determine what the main point and organizational structure of the essay will be. It is much easier to write using a clear outline than to haphazardly organize along the way.
  3. Make sure that your essay uses sound evidence while maintaining a style that’s appropriate to the test. A good essay doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to have a clear, well-reasoned position.

All of this must be accomplished within a limited time frame. Fortunately, the essay graders will understand that a first draft written under test conditions does not need to be as polished as a final essay in a classroom assignment.

There are different ways to organize an essay. In the limited time frame of an exam, however, it is best to stick to a basic five-paragraph essay that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. This structure can be used to discuss nearly any topic and will be easy for graders to follow.

Writing a Thesis Statement

The thesis, or thesis statement, is central to the structure and meaning of an essay. It presents the writer’s argument or position on an issue. In other words, it tells readers specifically what the author is going to say in the essay. A strong, direct thesis statement is key to the organization of any essay. It introduces both the central idea of the essay and the main points that will be used to support that idea. Thus, the thesis will mirror the organization of the essay as a whole: each paragraph can elaborate on each supporting point.

In writing a thesis statement, it is important to respond to the prompt provided. The author must identify keywords in the prompt and think about what the prompt is asking. For example, the prompt may be asking for a clear stance to be taken a particular issue, or it may require a detailed explanation of a topic. Once a clear understanding of the task is reached, the author must develop a central idea along with supporting points from relevant sources, including any provided documents and personal knowledge or experience. The central idea and supporting points can then be concisely packaged into a one- or two-sentence statement. Generally, a thesis statement is no more than two sentences.

Underline key words in the prompt so you can refer to them while writing the essay. This can help keep you and your essay focused.


Writing a Thesis Statement

Many high schools have begun to adopt 1:1 technology programs, meaning that each school provides every student with a computing device, such as a laptop or tablet. Educators who support these initiatives say that the technology allows for more dynamic collaboration and that students need to learn technology skills to compete in the job market. On the other hand, opponents cite increased distraction and the dangers of cyberbullying or unsupervised internet use as reasons not to provide students with such devices.

In your essay, take a position on this question. You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

Possible thesis statements:

  • Providing technology to every student is good for education because it allows students to learn important skills such as typing, web design, and video editing, and it also gives students more opportunities to work cooperatively with their classmates and teachers.
  • I disagree with the idea that schools should provide technology to students because most students will simply be distracted by the free access to games and websites when they should be studying or doing homework.
  • By providing each student with a laptop or tablet, schools can help students apply technology to work more effectively with other students, communicate with teachers and classmates, and conduct research for class projects.

The Introduction

The purpose of an introduction is to set the stage for the essay. This is accomplished by capturing the reader’s interest, introducing and providing context for the topic, and stating the central idea and main points of the essay. Usually the introductory paragraph ends with a thesis statement, which clearly sets forth the position or point the essay will argue.

Technology has changed massively in recent years, but today’s generation barely notices—high school students are already experienced with the internet, computers, apps, cameras, cell phones, and more. It’s inevitable that these technologies will begin to make their way into classrooms. Opponents of 1:1 technology programs might argue that students will be distracted or misuse the technology, but that is exactly why schools must teach them to use it. Students need to know how to navigate technology safely and effectively, and schools have a responsibility to ensure they learn these skills. By providing each student with a laptop or tablet, schools can help students learn how to apply technology to work more effectively with other students, communicate with teachers and classmates, and conduct research for class projects.

This sample introduction introduces the topic in the first sentence. It then provides context by discussing why technology in the classroom is an important—and controversial—topic. The paragraph closes with a thesis statement that takes a firm stance and introduces the supporting ideas that the essay will be organized around.

The Body Paragraphs

The body of the essay should consist of two to four paragraphs, each of which is focused on a single supporting idea. The body of an essay can be organized in a number of ways:

  • Body paragraphs can explain each supporting detail given in the thesis statement.
  • Body paragraphs can describe a problem then discuss the pros and cons of a solution in separate paragraphs.
  • Body paragraphs can tell a story, with the story broken into two to four logical parts.
  • Body paragraphs can compare and contrast the merits of two arguments, possibly drawing a conclusion about which is better at the end.

Which essay structure would be better suited to a persuasive essay? What about an expository essay?

Each paragraph should be structurally consistent, beginning with a topic sentence to introduce the main idea, followed by supporting ideas and examples. No extra ideas unrelated to the paragraph’s focus should appear. Transition words and phrases can be used to connect body paragraphs and to improve the flow and readability of the essay.

Technology can be a powerful tool for collaboration. When all of the students in a classroom have access to reliable laptops or tablets, they are able to more effectively share information and work together on projects. Students can communicate quickly via email, share files through a cloud service, and use a shared calendar for scheduling. They also have the opportunity to teach each other new skills since each student may bring to the group unique knowledge about particular apps or programs. When the availability of technology is limited or inconsistent, these opportunities are lost.

This sample body paragraph discusses a supporting detail given the thesis (schools can help students apply technology to work more effectively with other students). It introduces the topic, then provides concrete examples of how technology makes it easier to work with other students. The final sentence reemphasizes the paragraph’s main idea.

The Conclusion

To end an essay smoothly, the author must compose a conclusion that reminds the reader of the importance of the topic and then restates the essay’s thesis and supporting details. The writer should revisit the ideas in the introduction and thesis statement, but these ideas should not be simply repeated word-for-word. Rather, a well-written conclusion will reinforce the argument using wording that differs from the thesis statement but conveys the same idea. The conclusion should leave the reader with a strong impression of the essay’s main idea and provide the essay with a sense of closure.

As technology continues to change and become more incorporated into everyday life, students will need to adapt to it. Schools already teach young people a myriad of academic and life skills, so it makes sense that they would teach students how to use technology appropriately, too. When technology is incorporated into schoolwork, students will learn to collaborate, communicate, and research more effectively. Providing students with their own devices is one part of this important task, and schools that do so should be supported.

This conclusion reminds the reader why the topic is important and then restates the thesis and supporting ideas. It ends with a strong, clear statement of the writer’s stance on the issue.

Always leave a few minutes at the end to proofread and revise your essay.

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