The Five Paragraph Essay

The Five Paragraph Essay-34
A writer can have an introduction that doesn’t do any structural work but is stylistically compelling, or a writer can have a plain-Jane intro that gets the structure set, but having neither is a problem. At its worst, this makes me feel like I am reading the private confessions of a schizophrenic.2) The most important fundamental issue I see again and again is a paper which is largely descriptive rather than analytical, which proves that a student has “done the homework” but not taken ownership of the material and crafted an argument of their own.This is especially bad at shorter lengths, where making good decisions about what to include and exclude is critical.

A writer can have an introduction that doesn’t do any structural work but is stylistically compelling, or a writer can have a plain-Jane intro that gets the structure set, but having neither is a problem. At its worst, this makes me feel like I am reading the private confessions of a schizophrenic.2) The most important fundamental issue I see again and again is a paper which is largely descriptive rather than analytical, which proves that a student has “done the homework” but not taken ownership of the material and crafted an argument of their own.This is especially bad at shorter lengths, where making good decisions about what to include and exclude is critical.

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The key here that makes this structure rise above the purely pedestrian is the conclusion.

A compare-and-contrast paper that concludes with an unresolved or rhetorical question about the meaning of the comparison is banal and descriptive, but a paper that concludes with an emphatic resolution of the comparison or contrast can be excellent. An essay built around a very tight interpretation of a single word, phrase, metaphor or other linguistic component of a source or scholarly account, or focus on a tight comparison of several related passages.

Sometimes I see an argument in the first paragraph or in the last paragraph (the latter often appearing to be a last-minute discovery) that is cut off from the rest of the essay, unexplored or unsupported.

I often comment that papers lack what I call “flow” a sense that they are moving relentlessly and naturally from one assertion to the next, building towards some goal or overall point.

Here are some of the structures I suggest for history papers written in response to a professor’s prompt or question: Simple compare and contrast.

The Five Paragraph Essay

This is often the next step up from the plain five-paragraph essay. The essay can be written around a block comparison, where the two (or more) things to be compared are discussed separately in longer multi-paragraph sections, or on a point-by-point basis, alternating each paragraph.

The implicit hope here is that the writer will find a potent enough metaphor or passage to hang a larger argument on if they pay close attention to the language of their sources or material. A structure that is more precisely fitted to historical writing, where it traces the development of a theme or issue over time.

This is also very simple, and often produces a mediocre paper that is purely descriptive and non-analytical, but if it is done well, can be very sophisticated.

Sometimes there are unique problems that arise in relation to a particular essay question, which is sometimes a consequence of my having given enough rope for certain students to hang themselves in the phrasing of the question. Sentences that I label “awk” (awkward) or “ugh” (ugh), where there is just something aggravatingly roundabout if not absolutely grammatically forbidden in the structure of the sentence or where the sentence or phrase is plain-old butt-ugly.

Often there are problems I’ve seen before and commented upon. “Purple prose”, e.g., wildly overwritten or florid.

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