Academic essay sections

Academic essay sections

The Academic Essay

The academic essay is merely a specific writing genre–as is the love letter, newspaper editorial, or pop-fiction. As a genre, it functions within a set of norms, rules, and conventions. The purpose of this discussion is to make clear to you what those rules and norms are, and how to use them to express your argument clearly.

Purpose:
The purpose of the academic essay is to persuade by reasoned discourse. Scholars use the essay amongst themselves to advance ideas. Its value as an instructional tool is to assist students in developing their critical thinking skills. As you recall, critical thinking is defined as: the ability to read theory accurately, appropriate it meaningfully, apply it independently, generate results based on that application, analyze the results, and form a clear argument based on those results that can be defended with a specific line of reasoning.

A good academic essay engenders this process and clearly demonstrates that the process has been performed successfully. With this in mind let’s examine how to write an academic essay.

Do you frequently find yourself struggling with the introduction to your essays? Do you not know how to begin the essay? Do you find yourself searching for a generalizing statement that will get things going, and trying to find a delicate balance between BS’ing and saying something meaningful? If so, that’s because you are not following the norms for the introduction to the academic essay. Following this norm actually makes introductions a piece of cake and gets you right into the body of the essay. Here is the norm:

The purpose of the introduction is two-fold:
1. To introduce the theoretical framework that will guide your analysis
2. To introduce the thesis statement that will organize your paper.

Following this norm allows you to cut to the chase. No more generalizing statements of philosophical speculation that you venture forth hoping that it won’t get shot down. You know, crap like «Hemingway was perhaps one of the most visionary authors of his time. » or «The Western is perhaps the most uniquely American of all the genres. » Rather, if the purpose of the essay is to demonstrate that you have appropriated a theory and applied it independently to produce results, then the function of the introduction becomes more focused: to introduce the theory–or theoretical framework–that you have decided to use. Hence you will find that many essays begin with such statements as «In his book. » Or, «In her essay. «

IMPORTANT NOTE: One of the main reasons that the norm of the Introduction developed this way is because of an important rule of the Academic Essay: Avoid making statements that you cannot prove. The problem with the generalizing/philosophical/BS’ing statements like «Hemingway. » and «The Western. » is that they cannot be proven through reasoned discourse. Moreover, to even try and do so would require voluminous amounts of discourse for something that is not even your thesis: what you actually ARE setting out to prove. As a result, the genre of the Academic Essay has evolved into the above norm. It still meets an introduction’s purpose of orienting the reader, it just does so in a very specific manner.

Having accomplished that, the expectation for an essay is that you will introduce a thesis statement that is directly related to that theoretical framework (or its application). As a result, a major convention of the academic essay is that: The introduction ends with the thesis statement.

Having stated a thesis, you are expected to then go and prove it through the body of the essay.

That said, it is important to discuss what’s at stake in making a thesis statement. There are four basic logical forms for a thesis statement:

• A banal thesis statement
• A simple thesis statement
• A complex thesis statement
• An impossible thesis statement

Let’s discuss each of these quickly before moving on.

A banal thesis statement is a statement that does not really say anything–it is in fact meaningless because it is either so overly general or so evident as to not be of significance. Here’s an example from literature. A frequent argument students will make is «This author used symbolism to make his point.» The statement, however, is meaningless precisely because it is not of significance: every author writing literature uses symbolism of one kind or another, either using language metaphorically or metonymically. Thus, to attempt to single out or make a distinction of a piece for using «symbolism» is to not say anything that even needs proving to begin with.

A simple thesis statement is not quite what it may sound like. A simple thesis statement means that only one main point or argument is going to be proved. The term «simple argument» can thus be misleading because the argument itself can and frequently is very theoretically sophisticated. What makes them simple is that in terms of their logical structure, they only take on one line of proof, and hence, their organization of proof will be simple. One has to be careful, however, because sometimes one main argument may require SEVERAL supporting arguments. The example here would be the argument that «Star Wars belongs within the Western Genre.» Here the writer has only one thing to prove, but in order to do so will have to establish the elements that comprise the Western Genre and demonstrate how the film embodies them—not a small task.

Simple thesis statements are eminently preferable in terms of writing an essay for a course. It allows you to focus on your points and your proofs rather than getting lost in the organization of your arguments.

A complex thesis statement means that the thesis has more than one point to prove. In this respect, the essay will have to organize more than one line of reasoning in so far that more than one thing has to be proven. Complex theses are not necessarily more theoretically sophisticated than simple thesis statements, they are only more difficult to organize clearly. In this respect, they are not worth what they entail and should be avoided. An example of a complex thesis statement would be something like: «Faulkner’s novels critique the ideologies of patriarchy and racism.»

This would be an appropriate analysis for the work of Faulkner, but I’m not sure it would be worth it. To begin with, it is not clear what the writer has to gain in terms of proving BOTH of these aspects of the work rather than just the one. Instead, with this complex thesis, there are going to be long sections of the essay where half of what needs to be proved will be left suspended while the other half gets discussed. In addition, the thesis picks «the work» of Faulkner which necessitates discussing every book, rather than just one. Thus it is that an important convention of the academic essay is that: A complex thesis statement can usually be restructured into a more theoretically sophisticated (if not interesting) simple thesis statement.

Making an Argument
As stated earlier, the academic essay is an exercise in reasoned persuasion. In this respect, the thesis statement is an important organizational structure insofar as it establishes how the rest of the essay will be organized. Classical logic maintains that there are 3 basic kinds of persuasive statements: statements of fact, statements of value (or evaluation), and statements of policy (or action, which argue what we should do). Unless otherwise specified, the first of these, the statement of fact, is the form that the thesis statement for an academic essay should take–the obvious exception being when you write evaluative criticism (which you will NEVER do in my course).

Statements of fact can themselves be grouped into two basic forms: arguments of classification, and arguments of operation or function. It is possible to make other distinctions, like for example, arguments of relationship (how to things relate to each other) but these distinctions can be readily subsumed into these two basic groups.

Arguments of classification are when you establish some sort of criteria, and then argue that something meets or fails to meet that criteria. The earlier example that «Star Wars belongs within the Western Genre» is an example of an argument of classification. Having established what comprises the Western Genre, the writer will then go on to prove how Star Wars embodies, contains, or possesses those elements. The writer will, in other words, prove that Star Wars meets that criteria.

Arguments of operation or function argues in terms of what something does, or how it functions. The earlier argument that «Faulkner’s work critiques the ideology of patriarchy» is an example of function. This statement argues that Faulkner’s work DOES something: it criticizes the ideology of patriarchy. Note that unlike the argument of classification, the writer of this essay SEEMS to have to do more to prove their thesis. They will not only have to define what the ideology of patriarchy is–and thus establish criteria–they will also have to demonstrate that Faulkner’s work DOES something with that criteria. The question of HOW leads to a discussion of the body of the essay.

The Body of the Essay

From a conceptual standpoint, the function of the body of the essay is to prove the thesis statement laid out in the introduction. Easy enough. This section discusses how the writer accomplishes that proof.

Establishing Criteria
In the discussion of types of argument, I made the point that the writer will have to establish criteria that can be used to prove their argument. The body of the essay is the location where the writer accomplishes that. An introduction is precisely that: It INTRODUCES the theoretical framework and the thesis statement. It does not DESCRIBE or DISCUSS these two things. This is a fairly common mistake that beginning essay writers make. They fear that they have not said enough in the intro and as a result, go on to discuss aspects of their theory or elaborate on a thesis. The problem with doing so is that it screws up your organization. What comes next is no longer clear to the reader.

If you keep it clear to yourself that the purpose of the introduction to your essay is to only INTRODUCE your theoretical framework, and your thesis statement, then the function of the body of your essay will also become evident to the reader. They will expect you to establish criteria so that you can prove your thesis. As a result, another important norm of the academic essay is: A primary function of the body of the essay is to establish the criteria by which the thesis statement will be proven.

Thus it is that having argued that Star Wars is a Western, the body of the paper is going to have to first establish the elements that comprise the Western–it will have to establish the criteria by which the thesis can be proven. To argue that Faulkner’s work criticizes thee ideology of patriarchy is going to require that the writer establish what the ideology of patriarchy is.

Meeting Criteria
Establishing the criteria by which the thesis statement will be proven leads to the next logical step: demonstrating how the object under investigation meets those criteria. Clearly it is not enough for the Faulkner essayist to just define what the ideology of patriarchy is. Their thesis is that Faulkner’s work criticizes that ideology. As a result, they will have to point to specific things within the text and argue that they relate to those criteria IN A SPECIFIC WAY–in this case through a process of criticism. This process of relating the object of investigation back to the established criteria is another fundamental component of the body of the essay. Without it, the proof is not complete. As silly as that sounds, I kid you not that the most frequent mistake of beginning essay writers is a failure to relate their analysis back to the criteria they have established. Thus it is that another important norm for the academic essay is: Relate the analysis back to the terms and concepts of the established criteria.

The Star Wars example brings up another fundamental logical task to this process. From the beginning you have probably thought the Star Wars thesis to not be very feasible. The film is not set in the West, and it occurs in the future. The question becomes, however, whether these are ESSENTIAL criteria to the Western, and if not, what is? In terms of proving that thesis statement, the writer is going to have to clearly establish what the elements of the Western Genre are, and then relate aspects of the film back to ALL of those criteria. Herein lies the essential importance of «completeness» to that process. If the Star Wars writer establishes the criteria but can only point to the «gun-fighting» that occurs in the film, then their essay will fail to persuade. Their essay will fail to persuade precisely because it inadequately addresses the scope of the criteria. Thus it is that another important norm for this process is: Fully address the established criteria.

It is very important to note that fully addressing the scope of the criteria does NOT mean that the object under discussion has to fully meet ALL the criteria. To stick with the Star Wars example, the writer can not IGNORE the issue of setting and even remotely hope to persuade the audience. In some way, the writer is going to have to address the fact that both time and place are out of the bounds of the Western. This is the point precisely. The author will have to ADDRESS that point–those criteria–not necessarily MEET those criteria. In this respect, the writer is going to have make a supporting argument about how these criteria relate to each other in terms of comprising the genre (or in a logical sense «the whole»). The important point is that all criteria are addressed adequately. Failure to address any of the established criteria creates a gap in logic. Subsequently, the reasoning process (and its ability to persuade) fails.

Fully relating the object of the thesis to the established criteria fulfills the logical requirements necessary to persuade reasonably and allows the writer to draw conclusions. Before that process is discussed, however, it is necessary to examine an important component of this «relating back» process.

The Role of Description
Relating «the object of investigation» or the «object of the thesis» back to the established criteria is necessarily going to involve description. Description is frequently an unclear and thorny issue for writers of the academic essay–especially in terms of scope (how much is enough?). The purpose of description, however, clarifies the issue of scope. The purpose of description to is to make clear, or establish WHAT in the object of investigation (the film, the scene, the shot) relates to the criteria being used. It therefore becomes important for the writer to use description in such a manner as to establish the basis of the relationship between the object and the criteria. Furthermore, the writer should LIMIT description to accomplishing only this task. Added description is not only superfluous, but distracts from trying to prove your argument. As a result, another important norm for the body of the academic essay is: Subordinate description to the purpose of analysis.

The Conclusion
As stated above the process of fully relating the object of the thesis to the established criteria has the effect of fulfilling the logical requirements. It is THAT task which ultimately persuades, not the conclusion itself. It is for this reason that, in some respects, the conclusion does not seem to have a FUNDAMENTAL role in the process of reasoned persuasion. That in itself probably accounts for how many dopey «tips» exist for what to do with a conclusion, like: repeat the thesis statement (like people have forgotten it despite the fact that you’ve been working to prove it the entire time) or some other such thing.

What to do with a conclusion if the work of proof is already done? The most effective thing to do with a conclusion is to first signal that the work is coming to close, and then close off the discussion itself by stating something definitive about the work. Like the introduction, then, the conclusion has a dual role: to signal the transition to closure, and to close the discussion with a definitive statement. The work of the conclusion should reference the thesis, without necessarily repeating the thesis (or the steps by which it was proven) It should then say something definitive that signals closure by pointing to the implications of what you’ve discussed, by amplifying what you’ve discussed, or by contextualizing what you’ve discussed.

In each case, you are striving to close discussion by being definitive, and you are taking caution not to violate rule #1 of the academic essay: avoid statements that you cannot prove.

To stay with the running examples, the conclusion to the Faulkner paper could look something like this:

«. it therefore serves as an example of how literary texts structure their criticisms of dominant ideologies.» (pointing to the implications of proving your argument).

«Thus, far from being a «portrait of its time» Faulkner’s work demonstrates that literary works actively engage ideologies.» (amplifying your argument)

«Rather than a story centered exclusively on war, Hemingway’s novel instead participates in the reinforcement of dominant ideologies with American culture.» (Contextualizing the argument)

Note that the similarity here is how definitive these statements are. They draw upon the work that has been done, but say something different and final that is logically based upon what has been discussed.

Final Observations
There are, of course, variations on the genre of the academic essay—some rather large difference exist, for example, between the social sciences and the humanites. This discussion is based on the humanties approach. Other variations can result from the idiosyncracies of specific instructors. To the degree that what is written here sounds heavy handed and inflexible, I caution instead that such tone is trying to reflect the manner in which your own analysis and writing will need to sound precise and rigorous–the standards by which the academic essay is evaluated.

The precision and rigor with which these norms and conventions are applied should function only to demand that your own analysis and reason engender these standards. They are thus meant to elevate your thinking, not control it. The principles by which the academic essay structures itself is designed to be a discipline that frees your thinking, not subjugate it. Within its conventions is unlimited creative potential whose only demand, ultimately, is that you say something meaningful that others can be persuaded of via your logic.

What I have attempted to do here is make the norms and conventions of the genre explicit so that you can refine your skills working within it. Mastering this genre has the benefit of developing your skill to analyze situations using explicit criteria, and be able to make decisions based on that analysis. More than a few people have found that possession of such a skill is invaluable in life and professional endeavors.

Free Business essays

The purpose of this paper is to explain the main sections that should be found within the layout of an academic research paper according to the criteria of a good research paper in the business world. This means that a proper systemic research must have been conducted in order to be obtained information about business and management. However, when such investigations are made, must be taken both practical and theoretical point of view (,M. Saunders, P. Lewis, A. Thornhill, 2012). The first part of the paper will explain the main structure of the research and the second one will analyze the strengths and limitations of the research paper by A. Stainton, J. Johnson and E. Borodzicz on the topic ‘Education Validity of Business Gaming Simulation: A Research Methodology Framework’.

The first part of an academic research paper is the ‘Abstract’. This is probably one of the most important sections because on some occasions this is the only thing that is read and because of that it should summarize the main points reviewed in the paper. Moreover, it must answer the questions: ‘Why the paper was written? What method was used and what are the main findings’?. Second is the ‘Introduction’, which main characteristics are to give a brief explanation of the predominant topic and why it is worth reading. Next is ‘The Literature review’. The main function of that part is to show the place of that study within its broader context and represent how the research enhances the knowledge on that topic. Respectively, the research questions and any specific hypothesis may be stated. After the literature review part is ‘The Methodology chapter’ which must be a transparent look of the methods used and their accountability. All the graphs, tables and any qualitative or quantitative data collected should be included in ‘The Findings chapter’. However, in order this information to be useful, it must be interpreted, which is reflected in ‘The Discussion chapter’. Here, all the findings are related to the objectives, questions and hypothesis previously mentioned in the introduction. Incredibly important is to show your analyzes of the strengths and limitations of your work in that chapter. Additionally, is ‘The Conclusion chapter’, vastly important here is not to present any new knowledge on the topic, but to conclude the main aspects of the work. Finally, is the ‘References’ part where should be included all the resources used for the project, written in appropriate format and style. However, there is one more chapter which may be included in such academic research paper, which is titled ‘Recommendations’. In this section, the writer suggests an areas for further research or improvements, because each project is somehow limited by some constraints ‘ for example ‘time’ and ‘resources’. (M. Saunders, P. Lewis, A. Thornhill, 2012)

The analysis of this academic research paper have shown that the author have shown relatively good structure which is from vital importance when writing academic paper work, despite few confusions. Throughout the whole project the focus on the research questions and objectives haven’t shifted as well as the fact that clear and precise language is used makes the text easy to understand. Furthermore, the writer has shown good evaluation skills – criticizing the information obtained from the resources used: ‘The existing educational validity literature does not provide an adequate research methodology for business gaming simulation. Instead, past studies have tended to focus on the reporting of findings rather than to propose a basis for conducting validity investigations.'(papera-journal, zadanieto) Having such critical thinking makes the text not only more interesting for reading, but also shows to what extent the writer understands the topic. However, one weakness is the lack of proper explanation of how the author has searched for the literature which has been used. Transparency is vital especially if the Systematic Review methodology is used. Another limitation is the lack of any further suggestion for future researches on particular section or on the topic as a whole. Such suggestions are given in order more accurate and unambiguous statements to be presented. Additionally, in this text there is excessive amount of key words ‘ fifteen. In such texts the maximum amount of key words is considered to be six. (M. Saunders, P. Lewis, A. Thornhill, 2012)

To sum up, this research paper is academically sound because it has relatively good structure and proper language used. However, the above analysis shows that there are also some limitations like for example lack of suggestions for pursuit of future investigations.

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How to Write an Essay/Parts

You are telling the reader what you think are the most important points which need to be addressed in your essay. For this reason, you need to relate the introduction directly to the question or topic. A strong thesis is essential to a good essay, as each paragraph of your essay should be related back to your thesis or else deleted. Thus, the thesis establishes the key foundation for your essay. A strong thesis not only states an idea, but also uses solid examples to back it up. A weak thesis might be:

Wikipedia is a powerful resource in many ways.

As an alternative, a strong thesis for the same topic would be:

Wikipedia is a powerful resource because it allows users with knowledge in a specific area to share their knowledge, because it allows users to quickly find information about a vast array of topics, and because studies have confirmed that it is as accurate as any other encyclopedia.

Then, you could separate your body paragraphs into three sections: one explaining the open-source nature of the project, one explaining the variety and depth of information, and a final one using studies to confirm that Wikipedia is indeed as accurate as other encyclopedias.

Often, writing an introductory paragraph is the most difficult part of writing an essay. Facing a blank page can be daunting. Here are some suggestions for getting started. First, determine the context in which you want to place your topic. In other words, identify an overarching category in which you would place your topic, and then introduce your topic as a case-in-point.

For example, if you are writing about dogs, you may begin by speaking about friends, dogs being an example of a very good friend. Alternatively, you can begin with a sentence on selective breeding, dogs being an example of extensive selective breeding. You can also begin with a sentence on means of protection, dogs being an example of a good way to stay safe. The context is the starting point for your introductory paragraph. The topic or thesis sentence is the ending point. Once the starting point and ending point are determined, it will be much easier to connect these points with the narrative of the opening paragraph.

A good thesis statement, for example, if you are writing about dogs being very good friends, you could put:

A dog is an example of a very good friend because X, Y, and Z.

Here, X, Y, and Z would be the topics explained in your body paragraphs. In the format of one such instance, X would be the topic of the second paragraph, Y would be the topic of the third paragraph, and Z would be the topic of the fourth paragraph, followed by a conclusion, in which you would summarize the thesis statement.

Example Edit

Identifying a context can help shape the topic or thesis. Here, the writer decided to write about dogs. Then, the writer selected friends as the context, dogs being good examples of friends. This shaped the topic and narrowed the focus to dogs as friends. This would make writing the remainder of the essay much easier because it allows the writer to focus on aspects of dogs that make them good friends.

Body Paragraphs Edit

Each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence. If the thesis contains multiple points or assertions, each body paragraph should support or justify them, preferably in the order the assertions originally stated in the thesis. Thus, the topic sentence for the first body paragraph will refer to the first point in the thesis sentence and the topic sentence for the second body paragraph will refer to the second point in the thesis sentence. Generally, if the thesis sentence contains three related points, there should be three body paragraphs, though you should base the number of paragraphs on the number of supporting points needed.

If the core topic of the essay is the format of college essays, the thesis sentence might read:

A college essay has an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

The topic sentence for the first body paragraph might read:

The first paragraph of an essay is the introductory paragraph.

Sequentially, the topic sentence for the second body paragraph might read:

The introductory paragraph is followed by several body paragraphs.

And the topic sentence for the third body paragraph might read:

The college essay’s final paragraph is its concluding paragraph.

Every body paragraphs uses specific details, such as anecdotes, comparisons and contrasts, definitions, examples, expert opinions, explanations, facts, and statistics to support and develop the claim that its topic sentence makes.

When writing an essay for a class assignment, make sure to follow your teacher or professor’s suggestions. Most teachers will reward creativity and thoughtful organization over dogmatic adherence to a prescribed structure. Many will not. If you are not sure how your teacher will respond to a specific structure, ask.

Organizing your essay around the thesis sentence should begin with arranging the supporting elements to justify the assertion put forth in the thesis sentence. Not all thesis sentences will, or should, lay out each of the points you will cover in your essay. In the example introductory paragraph on dogs, the thesis sentence reads, “There is no friend truer than a dog.” Here, it is the task of the body paragraphs to justify or prove the truth of this assertion, as the writer did not specify what points they would cover. The writer may next ask what characteristics dogs have that make them true friends. Each characteristic may be the topic of a body paragraph. Loyalty, companionship, protection, and assistance are all terms that the writer could apply to dogs as friends. Note that if the writer puts dogs in a different context, for example, working dogs, the thesis might be different, and they would be focusing on other aspects of dogs.

It is often effective to end a body paragraph with a sentence that rationalizes its presence in the essay. Ending a body paragraph without some sense of closure may cause the thought to sound incomplete.

Each body paragraph is something like a miniature essay in that they each need an introductory sentence that sounds important and interesting, and that they each need a good closing sentence in order to produce a smooth transition between one point and the next. Body paragraphs can be long or short. It depends on the idea you want to develop in your paragraph. Depending on the specific style of the essay, you may be able use very short paragraphs to signal a change of subject or to explain how the rest of the essay is organized.

Do not spend too long on any one point. Providing extensive background may interest some readers, but others would find it tiresome. Keep in mind that the main importance of an essay is to provide basic background on a subject and, hopefully, to spark enough interest to induce further reading.

Example Edit

The above example is a bit free-flowing and the writer intended it to be persuasive. The second paragraph combines various attributes of dogs including protection and companionship. Here is when doing a little research can also help. Imagine how much more effective the last statement would be if the writer cited some specific statistics and backed them up with a reliable reference.

Concluding Paragraph Edit

The concluding paragraph usually restates the thesis and leaves the reader something about the topic to think about. If appropriate, it may also issue a call to act, inviting the reader to take a specific course of action with regard to the points that the essay presented.

Aristotle suggested that speakers and, by extension, writers should tell their audience what they are going to say, say it, and then tell them what they have said. The three-part essay model, consisting of an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph, follows this strategy.

As with all writing, it is important to know your audience. All writing is persuasive, and if you write with your audience in mind, it will make your argument much more persuasive to that particular audience. When writing for a class assignment, the audience is your teacher. Depending on the assignment, the point of the essay may have nothing to do with the assigned topic. In most class assignments, the purpose is to persuade your teacher that you have a good grasp of grammar and spelling, that you can organize your thoughts in a comprehensive manner, and, perhaps, that you are capable of following instructions and adhering to some dogmatic formula the teacher regards as an essay. It is much easier to persuade your teacher that you have these capabilities if you can make your essay interesting to read at the same time. Place yourself in your teacher’s position and try to imagine reading one formulaic essay after another. If you want yours to stand out, capture your teacher’s attention and make your essay interesting, funny, or compelling.

Example Edit

In the above example, focus shifted slightly and talked about dogs as members of the family. Many would suggest it departs from the logical organization of the rest of the essay, and some teachers may consider it unrelated and take points away. However, contrary to the common wisdom of “tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you have said,” you may find it more interesting and persuasive to shift away from it as the writer did here, and then in the end, return to the core point of the essay. This gives additional effect to what an audience would otherwise consider a very boring conclusion.