When writing an analytical or expository essay
on a text (e.g. novels, plays, poetry and film) you are aiming to
show that you:
can analyse and understand the topic;
can answer the question, i.e. discuss the topic;
do know the plot and characters;
do know the themes, messages, issues well;
understand the topic in relation to the text, the characters,
can draw upon appropriate evidence from the text and use
brief quotations which can support your argument.
Throughout your essay you are showing that
write a sustained interpretation (an argument that develops);
develop a point of view (has something to say about the text);
support that view through close textual references and analysis
(quotes and examples from the text are included to prove points
Your essay should show that you have developed
a clear understanding of:
'tag' words that frame the topic: Discuss, Do you agree?
How? Why? Do
planning and structuring an essay;
how to incorporate quotations into you essay; how to modify
writing strong introductions that engage with the topic;
using topic sentences that relate to the topic;
explaining and justifying each argument;
using specific evidence and explaining (qualifying) the evidence;
linking evidence to the topic and to the next paragraph;
reaching strong and firm conclusions;
developing vocabulary (metalanguage) with which to discuss
planning by composing at least five main arguments relevant
to the topic that will serve as the topic sentences for each paragraph
of the essay.
1. PLANNING THE ESSAY
|STAGE 1: Analyse the topic or question
|STAGE 2: Plan the Essay
begin each paragraph with a topic
sentence (main argument)
followed by a series of supporting arguments
include key quotations that support your arguments where
applicable (provide page references)
2. STRATEGIES FOR WRITING THE ESSAY
paragraph one INTRODUCTION
A well-written introduction is the generator
of a successful essay. It should deal closely with the issues in
the topic that your essay will concentrate on. The opening paragraph
must provide a clear and definite response to the topic.
clarify and define key terms and phrases
by discussing the main issues that will be tackled.
articulate your main argument in a confident and assured
manner - show a strong sense of authorial control.
simply repeat the topic in your opening
simply agree or disagree.
disregard the topic altogether and rewrite a pre-planned
essay that is largely irrelevant to the topic.
begin your introduction with: In my opinion this statement
, I agree with the above statement,
or In this essay I will talk about
, and other
such like expressions. Such phrasing is both unnecessary and begins
the essay on a bad note.
A well-considered and thoughtful introduction should
contain at least four to five key ideas that can be developed into
substantial and intelligent paragraphs in their own right. Also,
intelligent discussions explore the topic in depth. In other words,
they do not reduce the statement or question to an either, or, scenario.
Both sides will be developed, explored and discussed in some depth.
For each paragraph, your main body should
consist of a key idea (topic sentence) that directly relates to
paragraph two MAIN BODY
Develop and expand upon your first
key idea. It is often possible to take one key word or phrase in
the introduction and make it the focus for the whole paragraph.
Outline your first key idea and engage with the text by using
useful quotes and references. Above all, sustain the connection
with the topic and do not deviate from it!
Ensure that your concluding sentence leads onto your next
paragraph; this gives your essay "coherency".
Develop and expand upon your second key idea.
How does it relate to your first? How does it relate to the topic?
Again, back your ideas up by using specific incidents or quotes
from the text. Don't forget to link your concluding sentence with
the next paragraph.
Let us assume that you have three key ideas, therefore this is the
last paragraph that makes up the main body of your essay. Develop
and expand your idea, link it with your two others and return to
the topic. By slowly returning to the topic at the end of the paragraph,
this will provide you with a fluent and cohesive link to your concluding
paragraph five CONCLUSION
The final paragraph should tie up your ideas
and return quite clearly to the initial topic. Do not just summarise
your views here. A good strategy is to provide a clear, logical
and thorough response to the topic by re-expressing it to suit the
way you have developed your argument. Such a strategy assumes that
you have clarified, defined and substantiated the issues involved
thoroughly in the main body of the essay. Never introduce new ideas
that have not been developed earlier in the last paragraph. Finally,
remember to finish confidently and assertively!
bombard your reader with too many quotes.
Quotes should illustrate an argument or idea rather than act as
a substitute for it!
re-narrate the story. Examiners know the plot and who the
characters are! They are interested in your ideas and views.
simply rewrite an essay that is not relevant to the topic.
deviate from the topic!
3. ESSAY WRITING CONVENTIONS
use the inverted commas unless it is the title of a poem
or short story).
(not the past tense). The text is alive
and is being read now, in the present. The rule is simple: discuss
it in the present tense.
(i.e. no colloquialisms, abbreviations,
isn't, i.e.). Write the words in full
I think, In my opinion
your essay is your opinion!
throughout the essay (e.g. "Dickens' is critical of the
" ; "Dickens is ruthless in satirising
(i.e. vocabulary and metalanguage) to write about characters,
themes, etc. Ensure you have developed a vocabulary sheet throughout
your study of the texts.
you use quotations, you must quote exactly. You must, however,
only use the quotation if it strengthens your argument. It is
better to quote a few apt words or key lines than include large
chunks which are irrelevant.
Use the ellipsis (three dots) when you omit parts of a quotation.
When you quote and you use a word(s)
that is not in the quotation itself, put the word(s) in .
Note how quotations are used to support
arguments and how they are integrated into an argument in sample
Always write the page reference
after your quotation. Use and . DO NOT use pg or page. Place it
inside brackets or
Note how page references
are used in commentaries and sample essays.
Note how all the above are applied in the
following excerpt from an essay on To Kill a Mockingbird:
How does Harper Lee use the mockingbird
as a symbol throughout the novel?
Introduction engages with the topic vigorously.
It is focused, showing clear understanding of the topic;
it effectively understands the significance of the title,
both as an image and theme and shows awareness of how it
unifies the structure of the novel
Strong sense of the novel overall
Identifies the context of the mockingbird
Effective use of quotations to support ideas
Clearly understands title's significance, both as a symbol
and its relationship to the whole novel
Here, as elsewhere, the image of the mockingbird is further
explored, showing detailed knowledge and understanding of
Constant and apt use of quotations
A perceptive interpretation, linking the mockingbird to
the Southern way of life, which is clearly linked to the
ideas analysed in paragraph one.