Writing Essays in Literature Classes
Brainstorm the question/assignment:
- Restate key words in the assignment with synonyms or in your own words;
- Use these equivalent terms throughout your paper to keep focused.;
- Write down everything you can think of that is related to the assignment;
- Generate two or three specific sentences that answer a question posed by the assignment;
- Write your introduction last, after you've had a chance to work your way to a conclusion;
- Often it helps to take your conclusion, use what you've learned, and then write the introduction in the next draft.
Refine your focus:
- After writing your initial "guiding sentence" (thesis statement), write a draft, then go back to the thesis and perhaps re-write it;
- Include in each paragraph an explicit reference to the language you use in your thesis. If the paragraphs are not an extension of something in your thesis, either re-write your thesis statement, edit the paragraph, or cut it. Often you can revise the paragraph by adding words that more explicitly make the connection.
Make sure that your essay is developed out of your close analysis of selected passages found in the readings:
- Choose one or two short passages from the text(s) to help focus your paper;
- If using a quote, elaborate on its meaning using words from it. Don't leave it up to the reader to figure out how to interpret the language quoted.
Think about how to organize your paragraphs to create an effective argument.
- Is there a "scheme" you can use to organize your thoughts to help structure your paper?
- How will your examples "build" upon each other? Think of logical possibilities:
less important to more important,or vice versa;
similar ideas versus contrasting ideas;
- Is there a central concept or metaphor you can weave throughout your paper to add coherence?
For short papers, start fast.
- Provide an immediate, specific answer to a question posed by the assignment.
Adapted from: Ida Masters Hollowell, James A. Levernier, A. Franklin Parks, Structuring Paragraphs: A Guide to Effective Writing. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's,1986.
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