The Essay _______________________________________________________
1. The Thesis Statement
An interpretation is different from a description.
Your thesis statement directs all of the ideas, quote selection, and commentary in your essay. Therefore, a muddled or imprecise thesis statement will lead to an unclear or meaningless essay.
How to come up with a thesis: Choose a broad area of interest in the text(s) you will be writing about. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication and then ask why there is this element and what deeper implication of the work it reveals or suggests. Thinking along these lines will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, the tendency is to come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—and an observation is not a thesis).
Questions to ask about your thesis:
1. Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply
states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are
simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
2. Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not
have a strong argument. Thesis statements that would apply to all literature are generic. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
3. Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
4. Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.
_______________________________________________________ 2. The Introduction
There are five elements in an introduction paragraph
a) A hook: (an interesting idea, interesting word choices). Avoid using first or second person. The hook often needs a sentence to explain it and let the reader know how it connects to the work and/or the thesis.
b) Key facts: Mention of the title of the work, the author’s name, the century in which it was written, and the genre (drama, novel, poem, etc.) in the introduction.
c) A basic summary or “overview” of the work that prepares the reader for the thesis: This is a concise 2-3 sentence description of the work’s setting (place and time), central conflict, main characters, theme, etc. that is relevant to your thesis statement. (Note: use literary present tense throughout the essay when referring to plot events).
d) A lead in/transition to your thesis: The thesis should not come as a surprise but should come as a logical next step in your introduction.
e) A specific statement of your thesis: A thesis is a specific argument and can be supported by textual evidence. It is your interpretation of an aspect of the work. This one sentence will (or should) drive the rest of the essay. (Note: no first-person (I, me, we) or second-person (you) in an essay of literary analysis).
_______________________________________________________ 3. The Body Paragraph
What is a paragraph? Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as “a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit” (Lunsford and Connors 116). Ultimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea. It is often referred to as the “controlling idea,” because it controls what happens in the rest of the paragraph.
Before you can begin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will be, you must first decide on an argument and a working thesis statement for your paper. What is the most important idea that you are trying to convey to your reader? The information in each paragraph must be related to that idea. In other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship between your thesis and the information in each paragraph. A working thesis functions like a seed from which your paper, and your ideas, will grow. The whole process is an organic
one—a natural progression from a seed to a full-blown paper where there are direct, familial relationships between all of the ideas in the paper.
Every paragraph in a paper should be:
Unified: All of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea (often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph). Clearly related to the thesis: The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or thesis, of the paper (Rosen and Behrens 119).
Coherent: The sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development (Rosen and Behrens 119). Well-developed: Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph’s controlling idea (Rosen and Behrens 119).
Slave spirituals often had hidden double meanings. On one level, spirituals referenced heaven, Jesus, and the soul, but on another level, the songs spoke about slave resistance. For example, according to Frederick Douglass, the song “O Canaan, Sweet Canaan” spoke of slaves’ longing for heaven, but it also expressed their desire to escape to the North. Careful listeners heard this second meaning in the following lyrics: “I don’t expect to stay / Much longer here. / Run to Jesus, shun the danger. / I don’t expect to stay.” When slaves sang this song, they could have been speaking of their departure from this life and their arrival in heaven; however, they also could have been describing their plans to leave the South and run, not to Jesus, but to the North. Slaves even used songs like “Steal Away to Jesus (at midnight)” to announce to other slaves the time and place of secret, forbidden meetings. What whites heard as merely spiritual songs, slaves discerned as detailed messages. The hidden meanings in spirituals allowed slaves to sing what they could not say.
Writing a body paragraph in five steps
Step 1. Decide on a controlling idea and create a topic sentence
Paragraph development begins with the formulation of the controlling idea. This idea directs the paragraph’s development. Often, the controlling idea of a paragraph will appear in the form of a topic sentence. In some cases, you may need more than one sentence to express a paragraph’s controlling idea. Here is the controlling idea for our “model paragraph,” expressed in a topic sentence:
Step 2. Explain the controlling idea
Paragraph development continues with an expression of the rationale or the explanation that the writer gives for how the reader should interpret the information presented in the idea statement or topic sentence of the paragraph. The writer explains his/her thinking about the main topic, idea, or focus of the paragraph. Here’s the sentence that would follow the controlling idea about slave spirituals:
Step 3. Give an example (or multiple examples)
Paragraph development progresses with the expression of some type of support or evidence for the idea and the explanation that came before it. The example serves as a sign or representation of the relationship established in the idea and explanation portions of the paragraph. Here are two examples that we could use to illustrate the double meanings in slave spirituals
Step 4. Explain the example(s)
The next movement in paragraph development is an explanation of each example and its relevance to the topic sentence and rationale that were stated at the beginning of the paragraph. This explanation shows readers why you chose to use this/or these particular examples as evidence to support the major claim, or focus, in your paragraph.
Continue the pattern of giving examples and explaining them until all points/examples that the writer deems necessary have been made and explained. NONE of your examples should be left unexplained. You might be able to explain the relationship between the example and the topic sentence in the same sentence which introduced the example. More often, however, you will need to explain that relationship in a separate sentence. Look at these explanations for the two examples in the slave spirituals paragraph:
Step 5. Complete the paragraph’s idea or transition into the next paragraph
The final movement in paragraph development involves tying up the loose ends of the paragraph and reminding the reader of the relevance of the information in this paragraph to the main or controlling idea of the paper. At this point, you can remind your reader about the relevance of the information that you just discussed in the paragraph. You might feel more comfortable, however, simply transitioning your reader to the next development in the next paragraph. Here’s an example of a sentence that completes the slave spirituals paragraph:
Notice that the example and explanation steps of this 5-step process (steps 3 and 4) can be repeated as needed. The idea is that you continue to use this pattern until you have completely developed the main idea of the paragraph.
______________________________________________________ 5. The Conclusion
a) Some kind of restatement of your thesis, but not a word-for-word repetition from the introduction.
b) A synthesis (combination) of the ideas in your body paragraphs (not necessarily the counter-argument). Discuss how they contributed to the meaning and the development of the thesis.
c) Be sure to deal with how the central conflict is resolved and how this relates to your thesis. Essays that do not explain how the resolution of the central conflict/end of the book relates to the writer’s thesis usually appear underdeveloped.
d) A thought allowing the reader to reflect on the deeper meaning of the thesis and essay as a whole or on an enduring understanding.
Before you write, you will read. Please remember, then, that the heart of every paper you write should consist of careful, detailed, and nuanced close reading.
The papers you write for this class should follow MLA guidelines for formatting papers.
It is especially important that you proofread your work after you have printed out a final draft. If errors appear on this draft, correct them and reprint the paper. Papers that appear to not have been proofread will be handed back without a grade or comments, and they will be marked late. It is not my responsibility to proofread your work.
Revising and Proofreading
Effective revision and proofreading is often what separates strong papers from weak ones. The following tips may also help you improve your skills in these areas:
1. Read your completed drafts (whether rough or final) out loud slowly, either to yourself or to a friend, pausing to mark difficult, awkward, or unclear passages. Then go back and revise them.
2. Take time away from your paper. After completing a draft, set it aside — ideally for a day, but for a few hours at least. Do something else! It is far more productive to return to a draft with a fresh eye than to try to revise something you’ve just written: time off will help you see more clearly the gaps between your intended meanings and their written expressions.
3. Get feedback from others. All professional writers collaborate with other writers or editors, and you should make a habit of getting feedback from a variety of readers too. Readers can help you identify the areas of your paper that are unclear or need to be developed further. They can also make you aware of grammatical and stylistic problems, which are often highly idiosyncratic and therefore hard to identify on your own.
4. Leave yourself enough time to transform your insights and ideas into a well-written, persuasive paper.
You should begin to write your paper well in advance of the due date. You need to leave yourself enough time to do the following:
1. Organize your thoughts (through notes, an outline, freewriting, collaboration with a reader, etc.) and try to articulate your provisional thesis. It is often effective to begin by writing out close readings of passages that you think will be important to your argument.
2. Write a rough draft.
3. Seek and get feedback from your writing group.
4. Incorporate the criticism you receive from others, along with your own self-criticism, into a new draft. Refine your thesis.
5. Revise again on the basis of your refined thesis and make sure that your structure (topic sentences, transitions, logical progression, etc.) is coherent and effective.
6. Print out a final draft.
7. Spell-check and proofread.
8. Print out a final final draft, if necessary.
Clearly, this process will require at least several days and often a week or more, depending on the length and scope of the paper and on external contingencies such as your own schedule and the schedules of your readers.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarism consists of representing the words and/or ideas of another as your own. If you use someone else’s ideas, be sure to cite your sources carefully and distinguish his or her thoughts from your own. If you use someone else’s words, be sure to place them in quotation marks and cite your sources. See the most recent edition (the 8th) of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers for guidance on citing sources and other technical matters.
GUIDELINES I — THE ELEMENTS OF AN ENGLISH PAPER
Introduction: Topic and Thesis
Your introductory paragraph should do two things: introduce your reader to your topic and present your thesis. It is important to distinguish in your mind between your topic — what you will write about — and your thesis — what you will argue or attempt to prove. A thesis may be defined as an interpretation that you set forth in specific terms and propose to defend or demonstrate by reasoned argumentation and literary analysis. Your thesis, then, is the position that you are attempting to persuade your reader to accept.
Your thesis may be more than one sentence long. If you have a good thesis, however, in most cases you will be able to articulate it in one sentence. If you require two, that’s fine, so long as you make sure that the argument is coherent and that the transition from the first to the second sentence is clear and effective.
Please carefully consider this important hint: You do not need a refined thesis in order to start writing. If you begin with a provisional thesis and then do good and careful close readings, you will often find a version of your final thesis in the last paragraph of a first draft. Integrate that version into your first paragraph and revise from there. Do not worry too much about your thesis, therefore, until after you’ve written on your close readings of the literary work(s). A good final thesis should emerge from, not precede, your analyses.
Below, I will provide six steps that will help you work through the process of developing a strong thesis. First, though, please think about these four guidelines:
1. A thesis cannot be a statement of fact. Ask yourself, “Could anyone even potentially disagree with my argument?” “Would a mere summary or description of the text(s) I’m discussing suffice to support my claim?” If no one could possibly disagree, or if a simple summary would show that what you’ve said is true, then you have most likely set forth a statement of fact.
2. A good thesis is specific, not general. Avoid all sweeping generalities, about human beings, about poetry, about civilization, about anything “through the ages,” etc.
3. Your thesis should matter to you, and you should be able to imagine that your thesis would matter to me, your audience. Does your thesis address important issues that the course has raised? Does it pass the “So what?” test?
4. Finally, your thesis statement should give the reader some sense of what the structure of your paper will be. If your thesis contains two or three parts, then your reader will expect you to discuss those two or three parts in the order in which you’ve given them in your thesis statement.
Now that you’ve attentively read and considered these guidelines, here are several more steps that you can take.
1. Reread the work(s) you intend to discuss and take good, clear notes on passages that seem particularly relevant to the assignment. Your notes should include material on all of the literary devices we have discussed: setting and social milieu, plot, characterization, imagery, atmosphere, tone, imagery, figurative language, and irony.
2. Still keeping the assignment in mind, look over these notes and then select the one specific thing that resonates with you the most.
3. Using your notes, make a list of every instance of that specific literary device and choose the two or three passages that call out most loudly for interpretation.
4. Write out your interpretations of the instances that you’ve chosen, dedicating one rough paragraph to each. Remember, your goal here is to say not just what you think your passages mean, but rather to show how they mean what you think they mean. What work do they perform, and how do they perform it?
5. Finally, look at what you’ve written and let your thesis emerge out of your interpretations, out of your ideas concerning the work that your image or metaphor, or set of images or metaphors, performs in your text(s).
When you’re done with these steps, you should also have the foundations for several of your body paragraphs. With these foundations, you’ll be more than ready to turn to the next phase of composition, argumentation, the process by which you’ll persuade your reader that your thesis is valid and worth accepting.
Body I: Argumentation (Topic Sentences and Transitions)
Your argument must proceed in a logical progression from one thought to the next. This logic should be clear at the level of the sentence, the paragraph, and the paper:
● within the sentence, from one phrase to the next
● within the paragraph, from one sentence to the next
● and within the paper, from one paragraph to the next.
Each paragraph should develop one coherent point that relates clearly back to the thesis within the logical progression of your argument, and everything in the paragraph should be relevant to that one coherent point. In order to clarify this logical progression, every paragraph must have an effective topic sentence that does two things: the first sentence of each paragraph should clarify the one coherent point of that paragraph and provide a clear and explicit transition to that point from the point of the preceding paragraph.During revision, then, concentrate first on rewriting the topic sentence of each paragraph.
I find the term “topic sentence” somewhat misleading because this sentence must give more than merely the topic of the paragraph; rather, it should communicate the point that you need to make within the logical progression of your paper. Just as the introduction must give both the topic and the thesis of the paper, the topic sentence must give both the topic and the point of the paragraph. In other words, the topic sentence should be a “mini-thesis.” Everything your thesis does with respect to your paper, your topic sentence should do with respect to your paragraph.
The most important guideline, therefore, that I can offer concerning topic sentences is the same as the first guideline I have proposed regarding your thesis: like a thesis, a topic sentence cannot be a statement of fact. Rather, it must present the point or idea that your paragraph needs to make within the logical progression of your argument. Make sure you understand the difference between a fact and a point: a point needs to be demonstrated; a fact does not. (Often, if your first attempt at a topic sentence merely conveys a fact, you can figure out what your point is by asking yourself, “What is important for my argument about that fact?”)
Hint #1. After you’ve written a first draft, go back, look at each paragraph you’ve written, and ask yourself the following two questions: “What is my point in this paragraph?” “How exactly does that point support my thesis?” On a separate piece of paper or in a separate document, write out your answers. Next, take two equally essential steps: integrate your answers to those two questions into a new topic sentence, and then revise the whole paragraph in keeping with your newly articulated point.
In addition to presenting the point or idea of the paragraph, your topic sentence should provide a clear and specific transition from the preceding to the present paragraph. As in an outline, paragraph A must lead clearly and logically into paragraph B, paragraph B into paragraph C, and so on. In order to clarify your logical progression from one paragraph to the next, therefore, every topic sentence should contain a transition that explicitly connects the point of the preceding paragraph to the point of the present paragraph.
Hint #2. In order to craft effective transitions, try the following, using the results from Hint #1: write out the point of the preceding paragraph and then write out the point of the present paragraph; now write out the connection between the two. That connection is your transition! Integrate it into the topic sentence that you’ve already begun to revise by following Hint #1.
As you revise, then, check every topic sentence against the following three guidelines:
1. The topic sentence cannot be a statement of fact; rather, it must present a point or idea within the logical progression of your argument.
2. The topic sentence must clearly and explicitly relate to your thesis, the larger argument of your paper. If it is unclear how a topic sentence relates to your thesis, either the topic sentence, the paragraph, or the thesis itself needs to be revised!
3. The topic sentence must provide a clear and explicit transition from the point of the preceding paragraph to the point of the present paragraph.
Body II: Analysis (Interpretation through Close Reading)
Your main goal in every English paper is to analyze the work(s). In other words, your aim is to discover, refine, and support your own interpretations — not summaries or translations! — through a technique that we will call “close reading.” Please remember, then, that the heart of every paper you write for this course should consist of careful, detailed, and nuanced close reading.
In order to become a good writer of literary criticism, you will have to make the important distinction between summary and translation, on the one hand, and analysis or interpretation, on the other. When you summarize, you repeat what the text actually says; when you translate, you explain to your audience in some detail many of the points
an astute reader would reach on his or her own — think of translating something from French into English for a person who speaks both languages too. Neither summary nor translation is really a worthwhile endeavor in that neither tells the reader anything he or she did not already know. By contrast, when you analyze or interpret literature, you produce your own ideas about how the text creates meaning. In order to produce these ideas, you will need to perform close reading, to look closely at the language of the text in order to demonstrate not just what you think the text means, but more importantly how it means what you think it does. See the difference? It’s an important one.
How, then, do you go about interpreting and analyzing rather than merely summarizing or translating a text?
● Quote the text and perform close readings of every passage you quote: discuss in concrete and specific terms the words, metaphors, images, and/or tone of the passage you are analyzing. What work do particular words or metaphors in the passage you’ve just quoted perform, and how do they perform that work? And remember, the purpose of your close reading in each paragraph is to support the point of that paragraph, which should be clearly articulated in the topic sentence.
● In carrying out your close readings, then, your goal is always to do two things:
1. to demonstrate to your audience how you read the passage that you have quoted; in other words, by paying close attention to the language of the text, to explain how the passage means what you say it means
2. to show how your reading supports the larger point of the paragraph.
● As you reread your paper during revision, when you come to each quotation, ask
yourself: “Do I interpret the language of my quotations in detailed and specific terms?” “Is it clear how my close readings support the topic sentence of the paragraph, and thus the thesis of the paper?”
● The next rule is as simple as it is helpful: always analyze literature in the present tense. Because you are interpreting a given piece of literature in the present rather than summarizing what “happened” in it, you should always stick to the present tense when interpreting. Literature, indeed, although written in the past, is still happening as you read and discuss it, right? Historical background and biographical information should be discussed in the past tense, but when writing about the literary text itself, stick to the present, which will almost force you to interpret rather than summarize.
Summary and translation reproduce what the text says. Persuasive interpretation says what the text means by showing, through close reading, how the text means what you say it means.
Conclusion: Larger Implications of Literary Analysis
Literary critics often conclude their studies by considering how their reading of a text enriches or complicates our understanding of a larger literary, social, historical, or cultural movement (the Enlightenment, neoclassicism, sensibility, Romanticism) or our appreciation of the status of a significant issue (reason, emotion, class, death, sexuality) in a particular cultural context. As you conclude an English paper, you may find it helpful to reflect on how your reading of a given text or texts pertains to some of the larger issues you have addressed in either our class or related ones. You may want to gesture to some of these connections briefly in your conclusion. This will make your paper feel less like an exercise and more like an important contribution to literary studies.
Some Miscellaneous Reminders and Suggestions
● “Its” is possessive; “it’s” means “it is.”
● “Cannot” is one word.
● When “the eighteenth century” stands on its own as a noun, do not use a hyphen.
When the century serves as a modifier, as in “eighteenth-century literature,” use a
● Keep number constant. If you are writing about one person, do not switch to a
plural pronoun, “they” or “their.” Use “he or she,” “one,” “his or her,” etc.
● No spelling errors: use your spellcheck, and proofread.
● When writing about texts, avoid the words “use,” “utilize,” “employ,” etc. Do
authors really “use” things in their writing? For example, does Keats really “use” a nightingale? Invariably, your sentence will be stronger if you take out the author and the word “use” and just start with the thing itself. Instead of “Keats uses the nightingale to represent …,” just start with the nightingale: “The nightingale represents …” (Authors do “use” metaphors, images, &c., but especially in short papers that don’t involve research, it’s almost always best to leave the dead author out of it and just focus on the living text.)
Your papers will be graded on content (including the strength and persuasiveness of your argument and close readings as well as your familiarity with and knowledge of the work[s] in question), organization (logical progression, topic sentences, transitions,
etc.), and style (forceful writing, effective integration of quotations, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.).
When you receive your graded paper back, please read it over carefully. Take time to review my marginal comments, which primarily focus on technical aspects of your writing. Do you understand why I’ve crossed out a particular cluster of words or drawn arrows from one word to another? Are you clear as to why I’ve written “vague,” “wordy,” or “awkward” in the margins? Do you have a sense of how to rectify these problems? If you don’t understand such marginal comments, can’t read my handwriting, or aren’t sure what a particular symbol (e.g., a check mark) stands for, please ask me for clarification immediately. In addition to these marginal notes, you will usually receive a more lengthy comment at the end of your paper. This comment will point out the strengths and weaknesses of your current paper and offer advice for your future writing. In order to avoid repeating the same mistakes, you should always refer back to both kinds of comments on previous papers as you work on subsequent assignments for the class. When calculating your final grade for the course, I will refer to your papers and my comments on them to ascertain the progress you’ve made over the course of the semester.
Grading, as we are all aware, is an inexact science. If you feel you have been assigned an unfair grade, I will be happy to reread your paper and reconsider your grade. However, you must explain your reasons to me in written form–preferably via email. This means that you provide specific examples of your own writing and explain how your assessment is preferable to mine. I will not discuss grades unless this crucial step has been taken. I recommend that you consider your paper and my comments carefully before requesting a review of your grade.
In an effort to demystify the grading process, I have listed below the characteristics associated with each paper grade. If you fail to proofread, I will return your paper to you and ask you to resubmit. Your paper will be considered late and will be marked down by 3% for each day until you resubmit.
● insightful thesis that demonstrates thorough understanding of work(s)
● persuasive and graceful argumentation: strong topic sentences and smooth
● careful, detailed close reading of key textual passages to support argument
● concise, even elegant writing unmarred by proofreading errors, grammatical
problems, spelling mistakes, or typos
● convincing thesis that demonstrates basic understanding of text(s)
● coherent presentation of argument
● citation and discussion of relevant textual passages to support argument
● some difficulties with technical aspects of writing, but readable nevertheless C (70-79)
● absence of clear argument and/or lack of comprehension
● difficulty in developing, supporting, or illustrating stated thesis in body of paper;
topic sentences that are statements of facts; absence of transitions
● summary rather than interpretation of text
● insufficient quotation of text(s) and/or failure to perform close readings of
● difficulties with fundamentals of writing: basic punctuation, spelling, sentence
● usually applies to egregious examples of the grade just described
● failure to complete assignment fully (i.e., inadequate paper length, failure to
address assigned topic, etc.)
● usually reserved for uncompleted assignments
● Does the first paragraph clearly and gracefully introduce the topic and present the thesis?
● Does the thesis statement set forth an argument or a statement of fact? Could someone potentially disagree with your thesis? If not, you have probably set forth a statement of fact.
● Is your argument specific, or general?
● Does your thesis matter to you? Would it matter to other members of the class?
● Does the thesis give the reader a sense of what the structure of the paper will be?
● Look at each paragraph. What is its main idea or point? Is that point clearly stated at the beginning? Does the topic sentence serve as a “mini-thesis”?
● Is the topic sentence a statement of fact? If so, revise!
● Does the topic sentence support and work with the thesis statement of the paper?
● Does each paragraph flow logically from the preceding paragraph and into the
succeeding paragraph? Does the topic sentence provide a transition that clearly
WRITING AND REVISING CHECKLIST
and explicitly connects the point of the preceding paragraph to the point of the
● Are the quotations introduced clearly and integrated smoothly into the paper?
Are there any free-standing quotations?
● Do you perform close readings of every passage you quote, and do your close
readings clearly and explicitly support your larger argument, both within the
paragraph and in the paper as a whole?
● How does the draft hold together? Are there places where the argument feels
rushed or unclear? Does the essay lose its focus or shift its focus at any point?
● Does the essay contain any unnecessary summary?
● Are there instances of vague language? (Look out for buzzwords: “certain,”
“specific,” “different,” “various,” “many,” “true,” etc.) Whenever possible, be
● Does it pull ideas together, restate a key idea in a new way, and/or suggest how your reading relates to larger issues of interest to you and your readers?
● Or is it merely repetitive? OVERALL:
● Does the essay successfully address the specific subject it sets out to analyze?
● Does the essay interpret the text, or merely paraphrase and/or summarize? Have
you merely translated what the text says, or have you analyzed how the text says
what you think it says?
● Does the essay fully develop the thesis it sets forth in the beginning?
● Are there alternative ways the paper could be structured in order more effectively
to argue the thesis?
● Does the thesis need to be changed to reflect the actual argument of the paper?
_______________________________________________________ The Counter-argument
What is a counter-argument? When you write an academic essay, you make an argument: you propose a thesis and offer some reasoning, using evidence, that suggests why the thesis is true. When you counter-argue, you consider a possible argument against your thesis or some aspect of your reasoning. This is a good way to test your ideas when drafting, while you still have time to revise them. And in the finished essay, it can be a persuasive and (in both senses of the word) disarming tactic. It allows you to anticipate doubts and pre-empt objections that a skeptical reader might have; it presents you as the kind of person who weighs alternatives before arguing for one, who confronts difficulties instead of sweeping them under the rug, who is more interested in discovering the truth than winning a point.
Not every objection is worth entertaining, of course, and you shouldn’t include one just to include one. But some imagining of other views, or of resistance to one’s own, occurs in most good essays. And instructors are glad to encounter counter-argument in student papers, even if they haven’t specifically asked for it.
Counter-argument paragraph template
1. Turn away from your argument with a phrase that signals the counter argument, such as, One might object here that…It might seem that…It’s true that…Admittedly,…But how…? But why…? But if this is so, what about…? Some might claim…
2. Explain this argument and give examples (not quotes) from the text.
3. Now turn back to your argument in a transition sentence using a “pivot word”:
but, yet, however, nevertheless, still.
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Editing and Proofreading
Our academic writers and editors make the necessary changes to your paper so that it is polished. We also format your document by correctly quoting the sources and creating reference lists in the formats APA, Harvard, MLA, Chicago / Turabian.
If you think your paper could be improved, you can request a review. In this case, your paper will be checked by the writer or assigned to an editor. You can use this option as many times as you see fit. This is free because we want you to be completely satisfied with the service offered.