These essays are usually some type of analysis or interpretation which require that you develop a thesis and then prove that thesis in the body of the paper. These are the types of papers (in contrast to lab reports or marketing proposals) closest to the style you have written in high school and UNIV 190. However, avoid doing some of the things that are common in high school papers: 1) data dumping, 2) spending too much space on summary 3) using a strict five-paragraph structure or 4) using an unintegrated comparison or counterargument.
Because these papers are thesis driven, you must spend time and attention on your thesis. Here are some of the most common problems:
- Ensuring that the thesis addresses the prompt
- Ensuring that the thesis is analytical or interpretive so that it is not simply a fact, but is a unique position that you’re staking out and will need to defend.
- Ensuring you are using the right style for your class. Some professors and fields prefer very bald styles: e.g. “In this paper, I argue…” They may also ask for an outline of the paper with the thesis. E.g. “I will first define the term, then demonstrate….” While other professors and fields require that you NEVER use words like “In this paper I argue…” nor give an outline. In the humanities, that is considered extremely bad style.
Analyzing a topic requires that you consider all of the following and then focus only on those which are the most appropriate:
- Comparison – consider what you main idea/thesis can be compared to. It is useful to compare to something completely different and to something quite similar. If a large portion of your paper requires comparison, be sure to use an integrated comparison. Don’t just talk about one item in one paragraph and the other item in another. Compare both according to some point in EACH paragraph.
- Classification–this is an extension of comparison. You classify when there are many similar items to compare. It is also a sort of vertical comparison. What broader or more general category does your idea/topic belong to?
- Cause/Effect, Reason/Result — Look for relationships
- Problem/Solution — This can be related to cause/effect or to comparison. What caused the problem? What effect will the solution have? Compare the alternative solutions to decide which is best.
- Ethos/Pathos/Logos/Kairos — Have you analyzed your topic from all perspectives? Ethos = Credibility including your analysis of the counterarguments, Pathos = Values, Logos =Reason, Kairos=Timeliness/Current Relevance
- try to use three different pieces of evidence to support each major point
- use examples of specific actions, people or places
- use quotes–be sure to integrate these by adding a sentence before or after to explain how you are using the quote as evidence. Many students make the mistake of paraphrasing or rephrasing the quote. That is not useful and doesn’t count as explanation. In fact, if you can paraphrase it, then there’s no point in quoting it. You use a quote because the words that author used are exactly the right words; i.e. there’s no better way to say it. In fact, you may use some space to explain why those words are so great.
- use numbers or facts