The Essay

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The Essay
Writing an Essay
An essay is a piece of writing several paragraphs long instead of just one or two paragraphs. It is written about one topic, just as a paragraph is. However, the topic of an essay is too complex to discuss in one paragraph. Therefore, you must divide the topic into several paragraphs, one for each major point. Then you must tie all the separate paragraphs together by adding an introduction and a conclusion.

An essay has three main parts:
1. An introductory paragraph
2. A body (at least one, but usually two or more paragraphs) 3. A concluding paragraph

The Introductory Paragraph
The introductory paragraph has four purposes:
1. It introduces the topic of the essay
2. It gives a general background of the topic.
3. It often indicates the overall “plan” of the essay.
4. It should arouse the reader’s interest in the topic.

The introductory paragraph consists of two parts:
1. a few general statements about your subject
2. a thesis statement

Introductory Paragraph

General statements

Thesis statement

General statements
introduce the topic of the essay
give background information on the topic

The first sentence in an introductory paragraph should be a very general comment about the subject. Its purpose is to attract the reader’s attention and to give background information on the topic. Each subsequent sentence should become more specific than the previous one and finally lead to the thesis statement.

The thesis statement
states the main topic
often lists the subdivisions of the topic or subtopics
may indicate the method of organization of the entire paper
is usually the last sentence in the introductory paragraph

The thesis statement is the most important sentence in the introduction. It states the specific topic and often lists the major subtopics that will be discussed in the body of the essay. Furthermore, it may indicate the method of organization such as chronological order or order of importance.

Here are some examples of thesis statements with no subtopics mentioned: Being the oldest son has more disadvantages than advantages. Young people in my culture have less freedom than young people in the United States. The large movement of people from rural to urban areas has major effects on cities.

In the following thesis statement, the subtopics are named:
The large movement of people from rural to urban areas has major effects on a city’s ability to provide housing, employment, and adequate sanitation services.

When listing two or more subtopics in a thesis statement, a colon (:) is often useful: Prejudice arises from three basic causes: childhood conditioning, ignorance, and fear.

Correlative conjunctions (both…and, not only…but also, neither…nor, either…or) are also useful in thesis statements listing two subtopics: Young people in my culture have less freedom than young people in the United States not only in their choice of lifestyle but also in their choice of careers. Puppies, like children, need both love and discipline to become responsible citizens.

To sum up, an introductory paragraph is like a funnel: very wide at the top, increasingly narrow in the middle, and very small at the neck or bottom.

Exercise 1
Read the following introductory paragraphs, each of which is in scrambled order. Rewrite each paragraph, beginning with the most general statement first. Then add each sentence in the correct order until the introduction becomes more specific. Write the thesis statement last.

Paragraph 1
(1) If done properly, a handshake gives the impression of strength and honesty, and if done improperly, it conveys weakness and dishonesty. (2) In some cultures, people bow, and in others, they shake hands. (3) In English-speaking countries, shaking hands is the custom. (4) A proper handshake has four ingredients: pressure, pumps, eye contact, and verbal message. (5)The way people greet each other when they meet for...