Academic assignments: Essays

Drafting essays

Writing essays is a process. When we are ready to start writing, the first attempt is always a draft. Some guides on writing introductions and conclusions, paragraphs and using linking words and phrases are provided in this section.

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Every piece of formal writing that you complete must contain a clear introduction and conclusion. The purpose of the introduction is to prepare the reader for what they are about to read. The conclusion should summarise the content of what you have discussed.

In writing an introduction and conclusion, follow the guidelines presented below.

Introductions

An introduction should include the following:

  1. Background information
    This is normally two or three sentences which give the reader general information about the topic that you will write about.
  2. Thesis statement/topic
    This is the most important part of the introduction. It introduces the main topic or argument on which the essay will be based.
  3. Outline
    The outline tells the reader what the sub-topics of the essay will be and in doing so how the essay will be organised.
  4. Scope
    This section is only required if you are going to narrow your discussion of the topic down e.g. to a particular time or place.

Example 1: The underlined section of the paragraph is the thesis statement

Education plays an important role in the community’s capacity to deal with emergencies, following a disaster or when a country is in conflict, contributing stability to the lives of girls and boys and helping families to heal and look forward. The benefits of educating girls have long been established. Now there is new understanding as to why educating girls is the most urgent task facing the global development community. This paper will argue that it is girls’ education that is the most effective means of combating many of the most profound challenges to human development, and that for communities, the strategies for providing girls the opportunities to complete their education yield benefits for all. 

Example 2: The underlined section of the paragraph is the thesis statement

Increasingly, research associated with prenatal development suggests the mother’s health and lifestyle have some influence on the life of the foetus. This essay will show that the physical health of the mother and her lifestyle will greatly influence the development of the foetus. It will show this by examining the effects of the following on a mother and in turn on her unborn child: smoking, malnutrition, drugs and diseases.

Try this interactive activity to find out how well you understood essay introductions.

Conclusions

The conclusion usually starts with ‘In conclusion’, or ‘To sum up…” and should:

  • restate your thesis or the main idea of the paper
  • give an outline: This provides a summary of the sub-topics/issues covered in the essay
  • qualify your thesis: Review the thesis statement acknowledging significant counter evidence if necessary.

Example 1: The underlined section of the paragraph is the thesis statement

The arguments presented in this paper have shown that educating girls from the very early years not only ensures that girls grow up healthier and more able to protect themselves and ensure their own well being; educating girls also benefits communities. Through the provision of resources and improved services implemented to support girls’ education, the lives of all people in a community improve. In addition, educating girls equates to educating women who will in the future be able to better nurture and support their families. All in all, it has to be said that educating a girl is equivalent to educating a whole family and educating a community.

Example 2: The underlined section of the paragraph is the thesis statement

In all, it is possible to conclude that the physical health of the mother will greatly influence the development of the foetus. In the majority of cases, the factors influencing the mother’s health such as smoking, malnutrition, drugs and diseases are closely related so that it becomes difficult for researchers to determine which factor and to what extent that factor is responsible for the adverse effects caused to development of the foetus. However, a great deal of the research associated with prenatal development does indicate that the main influences on the environment and development of the foetus are from controllable causes.

Try this interactive activity to find out how well you understood essay conclusions.

What is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a group of sentences that relates to a certain theme or idea. The length of a paragraph may vary, but the average paragraph should be between 80-120 words long.

Ideally, a paragraph should have a beginning, middle and an end. This should include a topic sentence which is the main idea or theme of the paragraph, supporting sentences which provide further information and explanation of the main idea and in some cases a concluding sentence. (This concluding sentence is not always necessary but in longer paragraphs it does help to add clarity and strength to your discussion).

In the following examples, the topic sentences are underlined. In example 1 and 2, the supporting sentences explain the topic sentence further. In example 3, examples are given to support the topic sentence.

Example 1: The underlined section of the paragraph is the topic sentence

In most education systems, the consequences are very serious if children do not learn to read by the end of grade three. This is because teachers in the upper primary years do not think that they should have to teach students how to read. Instead, they expect students to develop skills in learning from reading. By the time students reach high school they are expected to learn through reading texts. Thus, the child who reaches upper primary school without being able to read, will never be able to complete school.

Example 2: The underlined section of the paragraph is the topic sentence

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Inequitable access to land complicates the dependence of the largely rural population on subsistence agriculture, and has meant a growing reliance on the cash economy. This means increased migration for men for work, heavier workloads for women and children, and an erosion of traditional family patterns. Internal conflict over recent years has caused even greater hardship for the country’s poor.

Example 3: The underlined section of the paragraph is the topic sentence

Childhood malnutrition and illness can have devastating consequences for the cognitive development of a child. For example, iron deficiency anaemia reduces cognitive functions, iodine deficiency causes irreversible intellectual impairment and vitamin A deficiency is the primary cause of blindness among children. Childhood malnutrition can also leave individuals more vulnerable to ill‑health in both childhood and adulthood, and thus more likely to exacerbate the cycle of this. While some gains can be made during adolescence, damage done to cognitive development cannot be reversed.

Try this interactive activity to find out how well you understood paragraph structure.

The table below shows in bold the meaning of each word and phrase. Then, the two columns show first the words and phrases you can use to express this meaning and the appropriate punctuation to use at the beginning of a sentence and then those used within the sentence.

Cause, effect, reason or result Comparison, contrast and concession
Used at the beginning of a sentence Used in the middle of a sentence Used at the beginning of a sentence Used in the middle of a sentence
As a result,
Because of this,
Consequently,
For this reason,
Therefore,
Thus,
; as a result,
; because of this,
; consequently,
; for this reason,
; therefore,
; thus
However,
Even so,
Nevertheless,
Nonetheless,
On the other hand,
In contrast,
In comparison,
; however,
; even so,
; nevertheless,
; nonetheless,
; on the other hand,
  because
since
as
  though
although
even though
while
whereas
in spite of
despite
Time-order Addition
Used at the beginning of a sentence Used in the middle of a sentence Used at the beginning of a sentence Used in the middle of a sentence
First
First of all
Lastly
Second
Next
  Again,
Also,
Besides,
Equally,
Furthermore,
In addition,
; again
; also
; besides,
; equally,
; furthermore,
; in addition,
In the first place,
In the next place,
Likewise,
Moreover,
What is more,
after
before
until
when
while
as soon as
In the first place,
In the next place,
Likewise,
Moreover,
What is more,
 
Condition Transition between ideas
Used at the beginning of a sentence Used in the middle of a sentence Used at the beginning of a sentence Used in the middle of a sentence
Provided that
Unless
As long as
provided that
unless
as long as
given that
Incidentally,
Turning now to,
Similarly,
In the same way,
Equally,
For example,
In other words,
For instance,
; similarly,
; in the same way,
; equally,
; for example,
; in other words,
; for instance,
Explanation Summarising
To express it another way,
In other words,
To put it more simply,
That is,
It would be better to say,
In brief,
To sum up,
In conclusion,
To summarise,
To conclude,
All in all,
Overall,
 
Presenting an alternative idea  
  ; alternatively,
; on the other hand,
, or
   

 

Examples of usage

Showing cause, effect, reason and result

The government has been ineffective. Therefore, the voters rejected it in the last election.

As the government has been ineffective, the voters rejected it in the last election.

Showing contrast and concession

Many people still travel in winter even though the roads are very dangerous.

Although the roads are very dangerous in winter, many people still travel.

Showing time order

The manager asked her staff for their ideas for the new proposal. Subsequently, she ignored all their suggestions.

After the manager asked her staff for their ideas for the new proposal, she ignored all their suggestions.

Showing addition

The five year drought has caused a shortage of staple food products. In addition, recent increases in the price of food have caused food scarcity amongst the farming communities.

Showing condition

The President agreed to withdraw his troops from the area; on the condition, that all hostages were released.

The President agreed to withdraw his troops from the area provided that all hostages were released.

Once the President agreed to withdraw his troops from the area, all hostages were released.

Showing alternatives

The government may consider increases in personal income tax; alternatively, they could introduce some form of indirect taxation.

The government may consider increases in personal income tax. On the other hand; they could introduce some form of indirect taxation.

 

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