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In recent times, essays have become a major part of a formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants (see admissions essay). In both secondary and tertiary education, essays are used as testing methods to judge the mastery and comprehension of material. Students are asked to explain, comment on, or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay.
Academic essays are usually more formal than literary ones. They may still allow the presentation of the writer's own views, but this is done in a logical and factual manner, with the use of the first person often discouraged.
The five-paragraph essay
- Main article: Five paragraph essay
Some students' first exposure to the genre is the five paragraph essay, a highly structured form requiring an introduction presenting the thesis statement; three body paragraphs, each of which presents an idea to support the thesis together with supporting evidence and quotations; and a conclusion, which restates the thesis and summarizes the supporting points. The use of this format is controversial. Proponents argue that it teaches students how to organize their thoughts clearly in writing; opponents characterize its structure as rigid and repetitive. A five paragraph essay usually consists of:[How to reference and link to summary or text]
- The first paragraph contains the summary of topic, three supporting ideas, and the thesis.
- The second paragraph contains the first supporting idea with evidence. The last sentence of it leads into the next idea.
- The third paragraph contains the second supporting idea with the same structure as the second.
- The fourth paragraph contains the third supporting idea and the same structure as the second and third with the last sentence leading to the conclusion.
- The last paragraph restates the thesis, three supporting ideas, and gives the reader something to think about.
Longer academic essays (often with a word limit of between 2,000 and 5,000 words) are often more discursive. They sometimes begin with a short summary analysis of what has previously been written on a topic, which is often called a literature review. Longer essays may also contain an introductory page in which words and phrases from the title are tightly defined. Most academic institutions will require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other supporting material used in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention allows others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of the facts and quotations used to support the essay's argument, and thereby help to evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student's ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and tests their intellectual capabilities. Some forms of essays are:
Descriptive writing is characterized by sensory details, which appeal to the physical senses, and details that appeal to a reader’s emotional, physical, or intellectual sensibilities. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to be considered when using a description. A description is usually arranged spatially but can also be chronological or emphatic. The focus of a description is the scene. Description uses tools such as denotative language, connotative language, figurative language, metaphor, and simile to arrive at a dominant impression.
A narrative uses tools such as flashbacks, flash-forwards, and transitions that often build to a climax. The focus of a narrative is the plot. When creating a narrative, authors must determine their purpose, consider their audience, establish their point of view, use dialogue, and organize the narrative. A narrative is usually arranged chronologically.
An exemplification essay is characterized by a generalization and relevant, representative, and believable examples including anecdotes. Writers needs to consider their subject, determine their purpose, consider their audience, decide on specific examples, and arrange all the parts together when writing an exemplification essay.
Comparison and contrast
Compare and contrast is characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, analogies, and either comparison by object (chunking) or by point (sequential). Comparison highlights the differences between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects. When writing a compare\contrast essay, writers need to determine their purpose, consider their audience, consider the basis and points of comparison, consider their thesis statement, arrange and develop the comparison, and reach a conclusion. Compare and contrast is arranged emphatically.
Cause and effect
The defining features of a cause and effect essay are causal chains, careful language, and chronological or emphatic order. A writer using this rhetorical method must consider the subject, determine the purpose, consider the audience, think critically about different causes or consequences, consider a thesis statement, arrange the parts, consider the language, and decide on a conclusion.
Classification and division
Classification is the categorization of objects into a larger whole while division is the breaking of a larger whole into smaller parts.
Definition essays explain a term's meaning. Some are written about concrete terms, such as trees, oceans, and dogs, while others talk about more abstract terms, such as liberty, happiness, and virtue.
In this form of essay used commonly in Philosophy, one makes a thesis and argument, then objects to their own argument (with a counterargument), but then counters the counterargument with a final and novel argument. This form benefits from being more open-minded while countering a possible flaw that some may present.
Other logical structures
The logical progression and organisational structure of an essay can take many forms. Understanding how the movement of thought is managed through an essay has a profound impact on its overall cogency and ability to impress. A number of alternative logical structures for essays have been visualized as diagrams, making them easy to implement or adapt in the construction of an argument.
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