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Alone Essay Writing

Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.

The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.

Answering Questions:  The Parts of an Essay

A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don't. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it's relevant.

It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)

"What?"  The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration" section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.

"How?"  A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.

"Why?"  Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.

Mapping an Essay

Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.

Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:

  • State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it's important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you're anticipating your answer to the "why" question that you'll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
  • Begin your next sentence like this: "To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . ." Then say why that's the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the "what" question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
  • Begin each of the following sentences like this: "The next thing my reader needs to know is . . ."  Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you've mapped out your essay. 

Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.

Signs of Trouble

A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or "description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or "listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Although they don't always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil").

Copyright 2000, Elizabeth Abrams, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

“Get connected” is a phrase that we have grown accustomed to hearing and seeing in the 21st century. With technology developing faster than ever, the digital world is (literally) at our fingertips. Some might say that the introduction of social networking has helped to bring people closer together. My aim is to demonstrate that, though our online communities may have a likeness to real-life societies, they are in fact nothing but numb conceptions of our day to day lives fuelled by self-pride and egoism. With our reliance on social media sites such as Facebook actually cutting us from real-life society, it’s a sad truth that mankind is looking at a very forlorn future. 

By definition, the term ‘digital’ represents “values of a physical quantity” expressed as a series of digits: 0 and 1. On the opposite end of the spectrum, humans are identified as having character, weaknesses, imperfections, and fragility – attributes that characterise us as a species like no other on this planet. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that words, speech and song can convey a range of human emotions but, in my opinion, doing so eloquently requires aptitude. In spite of this, you will see a number people popping up on social media sites documenting their lives and feelings as though they were a best friend or their private diary.

Nowadays, we’re less likely to hear someone say: “I can’t wait to tell my friends”, and more likely to hear: “I can’t wait to put this on Facebook”. So why has Facebook suddenly become everyone’s best friend? The younger generation of today perceives Facebook as being a part of everyday life and has become addicted to consulting news feeds and notifications. In this day and age, technology seems to get in the way of flourishing friendships. Gone are the days when one could spend time chatting and getting to know a friend; all it takes is to have your friend request approved and then you can find out almost anything about that person (where they live, whether they are in a relationship, where they work, what their favourite quote is, etc…). Not only is it affecting the nature of human interaction, our heavy dependence on social media sites has also been proven to result in children and adults alike doing fewer outdoor activities as well as studying and working less.

Addictive by nature, social media sites are impacting negatively on our societies. This can be seen every day on the news with increasing cases of cyber-bullying, harassment, theft and sexual crimes, meaning that our community is not as ‘together’ as we like to think it is. It is a scary fact that numerous teens with Facebook accounts don’t fully understand the implications of having a public profile thus making themselves vulnerable to danger. To them, each of their Facebook friends is someone to be trusted and perhaps have some fun chatting to; however the frightening truth is that they could really be talking to anyone. With the number of hacking incidents also on the up, can we ever be confident that our friends are who they say they are? It’s horrifying to see that so many people ‘check in’ on Facebook too, freely announcing to a long list of acquaintances their whereabouts.

As well as numerous users being generous with their personal information, they are also quite liberal with who they consider their ‘friends’. After all, its formal definition is “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection” and not “a person that one said ‘hi’ to in the corridor at work”. We are all guilty of this, though. Not only that, we all feel bad turning down friend requests and removing friends from our contacts which is why the numbers are misleading and have a tendency to spiral out of control. A recent study showed that Facebook users are seen as more attractive as they near 300 friends, but that this magnetism weakens if they exceed this by too many. I’d be willing to bet that most users only talk to around 10%  of this total on a regular basis and could count no more than five (excluding family) as true close friends.

Studies suggest that our newfound love for Facebook is due to the reward centre in our brain triggering pleasurable feelings with each ‘Like’ or positive comment we receive. But by putting some of our most intimate life events in the public domain, we are encouraging as much negativity as positivity, inviting others to pass comments and judge us. Whether premeditated or not, the decision to post a photo, status update or to share a link, is a cry for attention. No longer satisfied with human relations, we are psychologically (and egoistically) building our own modified, digital representation of ourselves in a fantasy world. Yet, with social media references all around us, it is impossible to escape the grip that technology has on today’s society.

Our generation is overdosing on digital media. Members of the community are lacking from everything that makes them human – weaknesses, imperfections, fragility… all that we see are the manipulated, faultless versions of people online. I can’t help but think that, in this new technologically advanced era, we are more alone than ever.