The Elements of a Good Essay
Introduction: For a five-page essay, this element should be kept to a minimum! Please do not write a “funnel introduction”; we do not have the space to waste on generalities. Think of the introduction merely as a way to launch elegantly into your thesis statement. It can help to look at your motive for the paper (see below) as a means to this end.
Thesis: This is the key insight that you intend to convey. A thesis should lay out an argument and set the stage for the exploration that will follow. An example: “Demodocus’s song and Odysseus’s response bring to the fore distinctions between personal memory and public memory, or history.”
Motive: There should be something in your essay that offers a challenge: frames an ambiguity, explores a difficulty, asks a question. The motive provides the answer to the question, “Why bother writing this essay?” Note that this means that the question your essay explores should not have an obvious answer. A good motive surprises us with something we had not thought of before. General examples of good motives include:
-The truth is different from what one would expect on first reading.
-There is an interesting complexity or ambiguity that has gone unnoticed.
-A standard reading of a work needs challenging.
-The text is especially hard to make sense of, and its logical argument needs sorting out.
-A question presents itself in the text to which there may be a hidden answer.
-Something that seems minor in the text actually turns out to be very important.
Key Terms: Every coherent argument rests on a few recurring key terms, oppositions, and distinctions. Make sure that your reader can figure out what they are, and make sure that you have chosen the right words to indicate them.
Body Paragraphs: These should consist of (1) a claim, (2) evidence, and (3) an analysis of your evidence. See also the next two elements for further remarks on how body paragraphs should progress.
Complication or Development: A strong essay makes various turns and divides into sub-topics. It should also gain complexity as it progresses. This process can be helped immensely by revision. Look at your own thoughts and see how you can add another level to them, what new questions your own comments raise. Then include that new level in your revised essay by answering some of your own questions. Development (or the lack thereof) often registers in the transitions between paragraphs: pay special attention to these.
Implication or Significance: One important type of complication is to draw out or briefly speculate upon the broader significance of what you have been arguing—the implication of your analysis of a given text for the author’s works in general, or for the genre, or for the period. Such reflections can often make a strong conclusion.
Conclusion: This does not need to repeat your thesis, although it is a good idea for the conclusion to remind your reader of the overall themes of your essay by establishing the broader implications of your thesis. Take things one step beyond the work you have been dealing with, but make sure not to go too far astray, or to generalize too much. You want to be suggestive, not confusing or clichéd.
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Definition of Elements of an Essay
An essay is a piece of composition that discusses a thing, a person, a problem, or an issue in a way that the writer demonstrates his knowledge by offering a new perspective, a new opinion, a solution, or new suggestions or recommendations. An essay is not just a haphazard piece of writing. It is a well-organized composition comprising several elements that work to build an argument, describe a situation, narrate an event, or state a problem with a solution. There are several types of essays based on the purpose and the target audience. Structurally, as an essay is an organized composition, it has the following elements:
- Body Paragraphs
Nature of Elements of an Essay
An essay has three basic elements as given above. Each of these elements plays its respective role to persuade the audience, convince the readers, and convey the meanings an author intends to convey. For example, an introduction is intended to introduce the topic of the essay. First it hooks the readers through the ‘hook,’ which is an anecdote, a good quote, a verse, or an event relevant to the topic. It intends to attract the attention of readers.
Following the hood, the author gives background information about the topic, which is intended to educate readers about the topic. The final element of the introduction is a thesis statement. This is a concise and compact sentence or two, which introduces evidence to be discussed in the body paragraphs.
Body paragraphs of an essay discuss the evidences and arguments introduced in the thesis statement. If a thesis statement has presented three evidences or arguments about the topic, there will be three body paragraphs. However, if there are more arguments or evidences, there could be more paragraphs.
The structure of each body paragraph is the same. It starts with a topic sentence, followed by further explanation, examples, evidences, and supporting details. If it is a simple non-research essay, then there are mostly examples of what is introduced in the topic sentences. However, if the essay is research-based, there will be supporting details such as statistics, quotes, charts, and explanations.
The conclusion is the last part of an essay. It is also the crucial part that sums up the argument, or concludes the description, narration, or event. It is comprised of three major parts. The first part is a rephrasing of the thesis statement given at the end of the introduction. It reminds the readers what they have read about. The second part is the summary of the major points discussed in the body paragraphs, and the third part is closing remarks, which are suggestions, recommendations, a call to action, or the author’s own opinion of the issue.
Function of Elements of an Essay
Each element of an essay has a specific function. An introduction not only introduces the topic, but also gives background information, in addition to hooking the readers to read the whole essay. Its first sentence, which is also called a hook, literally hooks readers. When readers have gone through the introduction, it is supposed that they have full information about what they are going to read.
In the same way, the function of body paragraphs is to give more information and convince the readers about the topic. It could be persuasion, explanation, or clarification as required. Mostly, writers use ethos, pathos, and logos in this part of an essay. As traditionally, it has three body paragraphs, writers use each of the rhetorical devices in each paragraph, but it is not a hard and fast rule. The number of body paragraphs could be increased, according to the demand of the topic, or demand of the course.
As far as the conclusion is concerned, its major function is to sum up the argument, issue, or explanation. It makes readers feel that now they are going to finish their reading. It provides them sufficient information about the topic. It gives them a new perspective, a new sight, a new vision, or motivates them to take action. The conclusion needs to also satisfy readers that they have read something about some topic, have got something to tell others, and that they have not merely read it for the sake of reading.