Posts Tagged essay paragraphs

Constructing Conclusions – An Example

Kate Wilkinson, New Zealand Minister of Labour. Photo Credit: Geoff Walker, Photographer, Greytown, New Zealand.

Below is an example of a well-constructed conclusion:

Sentence 1: Re-state the scene

This essay has looked at the key issues of the 2009 Review of the Holidays Act 2003.

Know what the essay was about?

The sentence is short, simple, and clearly states what the essay did. For comparison here is the second sentence of the introduction, “This essay will examine the positions that the employer organisations and trade unions took, in regards to the key issues reviewed by the Working Party, within the Employment Relations’ frameworks of unitarism and pluralism.” Both sentences are very similar, as they should be, but the sentence in the introduction goes into a lot more detail. The reason is because in the introduction you haven’t said anything yet and so need to introduce the topic to the marker in a bit of detail. However, by the time they have got to the conclusion they don’t need to have it spelt out again in so much detail. All you need to do is refresh the marker’s memory, not try and put them to sleep!

Sentence 2: Answer the question

Looking in particular at where the employers and unions stood on these issues, this essay has shown how the reasoning behind their positions is a product of their unitarist or pluralist viewpoints.

See the answer?

The sentence follows on from the first sentence and narrows its focus before providing the answer to the essay question: “In 2009, the Government undertook a review of holiday entitlements in New Zealand. What were the key issues addressed by the Working Party? What positions did employer organisations and trade unions take on these issues? What does your reading of the debate on holiday entitlement suggest to you about the principal analytical frameworks used in Employment Relations?”

Once again, you are providing a broad answer to the essay question here – you don’t need to go into too much detail.

Sentence 3 (and 4): Deliver a twist

This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays.Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole.

See what the most important evidence was?

The first sentence is essentially the twist – it chooses from all the evidence and examples presented in the essay the most important. The next three sentences show the student”s intelligence. It is a different way of looking at the evidence in order to answer the essay question and shows the marker that the student has thought very carefully and understood the topic he is writing about.

When I introduced this formula in my last post I suggested two sentences but in this example the twist takes up four sentences. With the formulas we have discussed the most important thing is what the sentences are about, not how many sentences you write. The twist is the most important part of the conclusion and so here it takes up four sentences total. Make sure, though, that it is taking up more sentences because it contains important content – not because you’re waffling.

Sentence 5: End with a bang!

Overall, it appears that in New Zealand Employment Relations, unitarism and pluralism are going to continue to fight to gain the upper hand, with the Government’s job to try and balance the opposing views because of our democratic pluralistic political system.

Hear the bang?

Probably not quite what you were expecting. Ending an essay with a bang is not quite as dramatic as ending a fiction novel – but you want the same effect. This sentence ties the whole essay context together and doesn’t waste words.

To finish off, here is the conclusion in full:

This essay has looked at the key issues of the 2009 Review of the Holidays Act 2003. Looking in particular at where the employers and unions stood on these issues, this essay has shown how the reasoning behind their positions is a product of their unitarist or pluralist viewpoints. This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays. Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole. Overall, it appears that in New Zealand Employment Relations, unitarism and pluralism are going to continue to fight to gain the upper hand, with the Government’s job to try and balance the opposing views because of our democratic pluralistic political system.

Well that’s the formula in action, give it a try and let us know how you get on.

Photo Credit: US Embassy New Zealand via Flickr

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The Spectrum

No, this isn’t about politics, don’t worry. It is about opinions and arguments in essays, though.

In my last post, we looked at a simple method of ordering paragraphs: sequentially like the way content appears in the text. Along with the advantages, chronological ordering comes with a downside: it’s tempting to recount what happened in the text, rather than analysing the way the text was constructed and the deeper messages it conveys. The last thing markers want is yet another summary of the plot. They have sparknotes for that – and they’ve probably taught it so many times they can spout it off in their sleep – backwards – and with their hands tied behind their backs. Use chronological ordering to tie your technical and thematic analysis together in a logical manner. It’s not an invitation to stop thinking.

However, chronological ordering is just one method that you can use. The following ‘family’ of methods is modelled on the ‘Spectrum Diagram’ above.

  • Similarities
  • Differences
    • (nuance)

Essentially, all these methods structure your essay around concepts – usually themes and techniques in a Literature Essay.

Similarities and Differences

The spectrum diagram depicts the flow of the essay through the paragraphs. The spectrum itself represents the grounds of the debate, as set by the question. Opinions, individual concepts, arguments – and the different schools of thought that you discover in your research – can be placed on this spectrum.

Tip: to have a more convincing argument, look at alternative interpretations and arguments, as well as your own.

Structure your argument by balancing the different opinions and pieces of evidence. So some paragraphs may re-enforce each other (move in the same direction), while others may differ and take the reader back along the spectrum of opinion in the opposite direction. These paragraphs can be more persuasive, because the arguments are clearer; they form the very backbone of how the essay’s ordered. However, you have to very clearly communicate where the evidence is found in the text, since it’s not in chronological order. Also, remember to order the paragraphs with the end goal of being persuasive. Your paragraphs should link together in a meaningful journey, not just meander through some interesting but irrelevant concepts.

Ordering paragraphs to lead readers through stages of an argument is a more adaptable method than chronological ordering; every essay question will invite you to discuss concepts. You can mold the content more freely. However, it can take a little more thought to write using this method – but that can be a good thing. Done well, this can impress the marker and give you more persuasive power.

Perhaps it’s time to try a slightly more sophisticated paragraphing and ordering technique?

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Constructing your conclusion

1. Re-set the scene 2. Answer the question 3+4. Deliver a twist 5. End with a bang!

Over the last few weeks we have looked at where the content of your conclusion comes from, the one thing you should never include in your conclusions and the one thing you should.

Now we will put it all together to create a formula for your conclusions like we did with the introduction.

Sentence 1: Re-state the scene

Aim: Summarise your essay broadly, what did it do?

Start with a signpost such as “This essay has [examined/considered/discussed]…”

This sentence is essentially the past tense version of Sentence 2 in your introduction. Don’t copy it word for word though! Paraphrase it, show you understand what your essay has done.

Sentence 2: Answer the question

Aim: State the broad conclusion to your essay’s argument – what has your essay proved?

Carry on from Sentence 1 and move into specifically what your essay looked at and finish up the sentence with your broad answer to the essay question. This sentence can sometimes get quite long so don’t be afraid to split it into two sentences. However, as we keep stressing, be concise! The marker will have read tens if not hundreds of essays – you want your conclusion to stand out.

It is similar to Sentence 4 in the introduction.

Sentence 3 (and 4): Deliver a twist

Aim: Make your conclusion interesting and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding to the marker.

Everything you need to know about the one thing you need to include in your conclusion can be found in my previous post.

Since this is such an important part of the conclusion it usually takes up a couple of sentences. It has a similar purpose as Sentence 3 in the introduction.

Sentence 5: End with a bang!

Aim: To summarise your conclusion.

Be succinct and concise. This is the last thing the marker is going to read; you want them to remember it. So start with a signpost, “Overall…” and end with a bang!

It follows along the same lines as Sentence 5 in the introduction.

This formula is a great guide for writing your conclusions and is based off Ian Hunter’s book.

Next week we will look at an example of this formula in action.

Photo Credit: 1. Unhindered by Talent 3+4. thombo2 5. mudcu.be all via Flickr

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A Twist in the Tail – adding interest to your conclusion

Following on from what you don’t include in a conclusion let’s look at the one thing you should include.

Using a twist in your conclusion adds interest and shows your intelligence

A twist.

Many of you will recognise the twist ending as a literary device found in fiction. However, it also has an important place in your essay; which is entirely a non-fiction work (make sure it is and you have made nothing up!).

The twist seems to be a little known part of an essay’s conclusion and it was in Ian Hunter’s book that I first came across it.

The twist has two functions:

  1. Make your conclusion interesting – your conclusion only contains things that you have mentioned earlier in your essay so you need something different to keep the marker awake.
  2. Most importantly though, it is the perfect way to demonstrate to the marker that you know your topic and understand your arguments – this is how you show you are smart in your conclusion.

So what actually is a twist?

In your essay you have presented a number of arguments and a variety of evidence to back these up. Go back and reread what you have written – what was the most important?

This is what the twist is – making a judgement call on the significance and importance of the points your essay has made.

What was the strongest evidence? The weakest? Whose opinions are most valid? Or invalid? What source(s) were the most credible?

Form your answers to the above questions into a sentence or two and you have your twist. Remember don’t include any new information, just a layer of interpretation.

Up next week we look at structuring your conclusions and where the twist should be found.

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The one thing you never ever include in your conclusion

New information.

You never include new information in your conclusion. Everything that appears in your conclusion must have been mentioned in your introduction or body paragraphs.

Remember an essay is not supposed to contain suspense, the marker should not get all the way to your conclusion and then be surprised by a new piece of evidence. If they wanted suspense or surprise, then the marker would have picked up the latest thriller and not your essay.

What if I have just remembered a really key piece of evidence that I absolutely must put in my essay?

Go back to your body paragraphs and fit it in. Then if it is really that important it should also appear in your introduction. Makes sure that it fits; don’t just tack into onto the end of a paragraph. But most importantly, don’t add it only to your conclusion!

In conclusion, never ever include new information in the conclusion of your essays.

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Introducing Conclusions

Over the last few weeks we have talked a lot about introductions and body paragraphs which leads us nicely to the third and final part of an

Introducing Conclusions

essay: the conclusion.

Many people find writing conclusions difficult, but they do not need to be.

The purpose of your conclusion is to sum up your essay and nearly everything you need for your conclusion you have already written. You are taking all the arguments, information, and evidence you have presented throughout your essay and are tying it all together.

The introduction is there to hook, the body paragraphs to persuade, and the conclusion is there to convince.

The marker should, after reading your conclusion, see how all your points and mini-arguments work together to answer the essay question, convincingly.

So before you start your conclusion you need to refer back to your:

  • introduction – did you write about what you said you would?
  • body paragraphs – how does what you wrote answer the essay question convincingly?

If the answer to either of those questions is ‘No’ then you need to go back and fix them up. You cannot write an effective conclusion without being able to answer ‘Yes’ to both these questions because this is where you will draw your content from.

Just as a poor introduction will lose you lots of marks, so too will a poor conclusion. In fact, if written well, your conclusion can gain you a lot of marks by aiding the marker’s understanding of what you have written in your body paragraphs.

So just because you are sick of writing after 2500 words of introduction and body paragraphs or you are running out of time in your exams, doesn’t mean you can write a half-arsed conclusion and you’ll get away with it.

Over the next few weeks I will look at how you can write effective conclusions which will give the marker no choice but to award you a top mark.

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Essays for generals (Part IV) – strategic paragraphs

Strategic paragraphs in action...

Okay, so we’ve covered one of the reasons why paragraphs make your essay suck less: they let the reader absorb information before moving on to the next segment. Paragraphing stops them from dreading the rest of the essay.

Q: How do you decide where to split your writing into paragraphs?

A: You’re asking the wrong question.

Mini-arguments

Since the point of paragraphs is to make your points clearer, the real question is how can you use paragraphs to make your essay easier to understand? That’s the point (no pun intended) of paragraphs. This approach subtly reshapes the way you assign thoughts to paragraphs. Instead of creating a long rambling stream of consciousness with a few arbitrary paragraph breaks, you start to think strategically.

And you should think about paragraphs strategically. In our army analogy, “Paragraphs are regiments of troops. Each deployed regiment has a specific aim – they provide developed ‘mini-arguments’ and evidence to back up the overall thrust of the essay.” Body paragraphs should form a logical chain of reasoning throughout your essay. Plan the mini-arguments in note form to make sure they support the main argument that you make through the entire essay. Only then should you begin writing if you want to win the battle.

So good paragraphs make your reader hate you less. In addition, by giving your reader a break, they can also understand what you’re saying better. That’s got to be good for your marks.

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A Formulaic Introduction – An Example

Below is an example of the formulaic introduction broken down into its 5 sentences:

Photograph by Danny Masson

Sentence 1: Hook them!

While Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was first mentioned in the 1930s, it is not till more recently that CSR became an important part of business practice (Carroll, 1979).

Are you hooked?

This probably wouldn’t hook the average student, but the average student is not marking your essay. To a Management lecturer this is good stuff. It is neutral sentence, definitely won’t polarise anyone, and provides a good start to an essay on the importance of CSR.

Sentence 2: Set the scene

This essay will examine how The Boeing Company have responded to the challenge of CSR and will evaluate their performance.

Notice the signpost?

From this sentence the marker knows exactly what the essay is going to deal with – Boeing’s performance in regards to CSR. Even if your essay is long and you deal with a lot of content, always try and be concise in this sentence. It only needs to be a broad overview.

Sentence 3: Show you are smart

Samson and Daft (2005) define CSR as the requirement of the corporation’s management to contribute to society as a whole and not just to the corporation.

Genius?

No, but it doesn’t need to be. Definitions of the keywords/topics are great to put here; they provide a point for you to argue from and, if you have paraphrased the source, show that you are smart – and do know what you are talking about. Once again be concise and don’t try and show off – remember there is a fine line between showing you are smart and showing off.

Sentence 4: Give the game away

Using the guidelines set out by Carroll (1979), this essay will analyse Boeing’s social performance in terms of their ethical and discretionary responsibilities and discuss possible improvements.

Can you see cards?

From this sentence you know exactly what will be discussed in the essay. This sentence is very good for listing the topics of each of the body paragraphs that will be in your essay. In this essay the topics of the three body paragraphs were: Boeing’s social performance in terms of their ethical responsibilities, Boeing’s social performance in terms of their discretionary responsibilities, and Boeing’s possible improvements.

Sentence 5: Sum it up

Overall, this essay will show that while Boeing’s CSR is very good there is still room for improvement.

Notice another signpost?

This sentence sums up the entire essay, all 2000 words. The marker doesn’t need to read to the conclusion to find out the essay’s finding(s), it is right here in Sentence 5 – remember there should be no suspense in an essay, you’re not writing a bestseller.

To finish off, here is the introduction in full:

While Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was first mentioned in the 1930s, it is not till more recently that CSR became an important part of business practice (Carroll, 1979). This essay will examine how The Boeing Company have responded to the challenge of CSR and will evaluate their performance. Samson and Daft (2005) define CSR as the requirement of the corporation’s management to contribute to society as a whole and not just to the corporation. Using the guidelines set out by Carroll (1979), this essay will analyse Boeing’s social performance in terms of their ethical and discretionary responsibilities and discuss possible improvements. Overall, this essay will show that while Boeing’s CSR is very good there is still room for improvement.

As you can see, using the formula you can whip up a strong introduction rather easily. Try it when you write your next essay and let us know how it goes.

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Essays for generals (Part III) – Reader's Digest

Break Down write

Breaking things down is important...

So now you understand the “macro-level strategy” to prepare an essay (analysing the question and planning your essay’s overall argument). It’s time to move on to the next layer of detail: organising your answer into paragraphs.

A good analysis of the question + solid knowledge of the topic = opportunity to write unique and persuasive arguments.

However, these elements only give you the opportunity to write a compelling essay; you must express your ideas well. The first step for doing this is to form your paragraphs.

Paragraphs are the largest building blocks of your essay, and they have two important functions:

  1. they separate your overall essay into digestible pieces
  2. they make your points clearer as you build your argument

Digestible pieces

Imagine reading screeds and screeds of text running continuously for almost a whole page with no break. Not fun. No marker (or other normal human being) wants to face that. I suggest you avoid arousing unnecessary resentment.

Since this post is about conveying important ideas succinctly and giving your reader a break, I’m going to stop this post here.

I know I’m not perfect; I often need to be reminded of this too, but “be concise!

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The Greek Column – an extended metaphor

One of my favourite literary devices is the analogy (yes I have a favourite, English can be fun you know…).

So to better understand how an essay should be structured here is one:

An essay is like an Ionic Greek column (from Ionia – the southwestern coastland and islands of Turkey, nothing to do with Chemistry).

Introduction: Is the top of the column, called the capital, and is artistically crafted to draw the reader in (Number 14 on the diagram).

Body: Is the shaft of the column. It is narrower than the capital as the essay has moved from the more general introduction to the specific discussion of the body paragraphs. The shaft is continuous just as the essay must flow uninterrupted with the paragraphs linking together. It also must bear the weight of the roof and therefore must be strong, just as your arguments must be strong and backed up by valid evidence (Number 17).

Conclusion: Is the bottom of the column, called the base (who would have guessed?), and is of a simpler design than the capital. The reader should already have been hooked and therefore the conclusion should be clear and persuasive – there is no need to get fancy here. Like the introduction the conclusion focuses on the general rather than the specific but in reverse – moving from the specific body paragraphs to an overall sum-up of the essay’s argument (Number 23).

If you structure your essay well it will be pleasing to the marker’s eye and will stand up to their critique. So make sure your essays are as well designed as the Greek columns were.

What other analogies can you think of for essays?

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