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قديم 16-06-2008   #1
brightman73
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new2 How to Write an Essay: 10 Easy Steps- step1

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How to Write an Essay: 10 Easy Steps

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Why is writing an essay so frustrating?
Learning how to write an essay can be a maddening, exasperating process, but it doesn't have to be. If you know the steps and understand what to do, writing can be easy and even fun.
This site, "How To Write an Essay: 10 Easy Steps," offers a ten-step process that teaches students how to write an essay. Links to the writing steps are found on the left, and additional writing resources are located across the top.

Learning how to write an essay doesn't have to involve so much trial and error.

Brief Overview of the 10 Essay Writing Steps

Below are brief summaries of each of the ten steps to writing an essay. Select the links for more info on any particular step, or use the blue navigation bar on the left to proceed through the writing steps. How To Write an Essay can be viewed sequentially, as if going through ten sequential steps in an essay writing process, or can be explored by individual topic.

1. Research: Begin the essay writing process by researching your topic, making yourself an expert. Utilize the internet, the academic databases, and the library. Take notes and immerse yourself in the words of great thinkers.

2. Analysis: Now that you have a good knowledge base, start analyzing the arguments of the essays you're reading. Clearly define the claims, write out the reasons, the evidence. Look for weaknesses of logic, and also strengths. Learning how to write an essay begins by learning how to analyze essays written by others.

3. Brainstorming: Your essay will require insight of your own, genuine essay-writing brilliance. Ask yourself a dozen questions and answer them. Meditate with a pen in your hand. Take walks and think and think until you come up with original insights to write about.

4. Thesis: Pick your best idea and pin it down in a clear assertion that you can write your entire essay around. Your thesis is your main point, summed up in a concise sentence that lets the reader know where you're going, and why. It's practically impossible to write a good essay without a clear thesis.

5. Outline: Sketch out your essay before straightway writing it out. Use one-line sentences to describe paragraphs, and bullet points to describe what each paragraph will contain. Play with the essay's order. Map out the structure of your argument, and make sure each paragraph is unified.

6. Introduction: Now sit down and write the essay. The introduction should grab the reader's attention, set up the issue, and lead in to your thesis. Your intro is merely a build-up of the issue, a stage of bringing your reader into the essay's argument.

(Note: The title and first paragraph are probably the most important elements in your essay. This is an essay-writing point that doesn't always sink in within the context of the classroom. In the first paragraph you either hook the reader's interest or lose it. Of course your teacher, who's getting paid to teach you how to write an essay, will read the essay you've written regardless, but in the real world, readers make up their minds about whether or not to read your essay by glancing at the title alone.)

7. Paragraphs: Each individual paragraph should be focused on a single idea that supports your thesis. Begin paragraphs with topic sentences, support assertions with evidence, and expound your ideas in the clearest, most sensible way you can. Speak to your reader as if he or she were sitting in front of you. In other words, instead of writing the essay, try talking the essay.

8. Conclusion: Gracefully exit your essay by making a quick wrap-up sentence, and then end on some memorable thought, perhaps a quotation, or an interesting twist of logic, or some call to action. Is there something you want the reader to walk away and do? Let him or her know exactly what.

9. MLA Style: Format your essay according to the correct guidelines for citation. All borrowed ideas and quotations should be correctly cited in the body of your text, followed up with a Works Cited (references) page listing the details of your sources.

10. Language: You're not done writing your essay until you've polished your language by correcting the grammar, making sentences flow, incoporating rhythm, emphasis, adjusting the formality, giving it a level-headed tone, and making other intuitive edits. Proofread until it reads just how you want it to sound. Writing an essay can be tedious, but you don't want to bungle the hours of conceptual work you've put into writing your essay by leaving a few slippy misppallings and pourly wordedd phrases..

You're done. great job. Now move over Ernest Hemingway — a new writer is coming of age! (Of course Hemingway was a fiction writer, not an essay writer, but he probably knew how to write an essay just as well.)

My Promise: The Rest of This Site Will Really Teach You How To Write an Essay

For half a dozen years I've read thousands of college essays and taught students how to write essays, do research, and analyze arguments, and so on. I wrote this site in the most basic, practical way possible and made the instruction crystal clear for students and instructors to follow. If you carefully follow the ten steps for writing an essay as outlined on this site — honestly and carefully follow them — you'll learn how to write an essay that is more organized, insightful, and appealing. And you'll probably get an A.



Now it's time to really begin. C'mon, it will be fun. I promise to walk you through each step of your writing journey.

Step 1: Research

Assuming you've been given a topic, or have narrowed it sufficiently down, your first task is to research this topic. You will not be able to write intelligently about a topic you know nothing about. To discover worthwhile insights, you'll have to do some patient reading.

Read light sources, then thorough

When you conduct research, move from light to thorough resources to make sure you're moving in the right direction. Begin by doing searches on the Internet about your topic to familiarize yourself with the basic issues; then move to more thorough research on the Academic Databases; finally, probe the depths of the issue by burying yourself in the library. Make sure that despite beginning on the Internet, you don't simply end there. A research paper using only Internet sources is a weak paper, and puts you at a disadvantage for not utilizing better information from more academic sources.

Write down quotations

As you read about your topic, keep a piece of paper and pen handy to write down interesting quotations you find. Make sure you write down the source and transcribe quotations accurately. I recommend handwriting the quotations to ensure that you don't overuse them, because if you have to handwrite the quotations, you'll probably only use quotations sparingly, as you should. On the other hand, if you're cruising through the net, you may just want to cut and paste snippets here and there along with their URLs into a Word file, and then later go back and sift the kernels from the chaff.

With print sources, you might put a checkmark beside interesting passages. Write questions or other thoughts in the margins as well. If it's a library book, use post-it notes to avoid ruining the book. Whatever your system, be sure to annotate the text you read. If reading online, see if you can download the document, and then use Word's Reviewing toolbar to add notes or the highlighter tool to highlight key passages.

Take a little from a lot

You'll need to read widely in order to gather sources on your topic. As you integrate research, take a little from a lot -- that is, quote briefly from a wide variety of sources. This is the best advice there is about researching. Too many quotations from one source, however reliable the source; will make your essay seem unoriginal and borrowed. Too few sources and you may come off sounding inexperienced. When you have a lot of small quotations from numerous sources, you will seem -- if not be -- well-read, knowledgeable, and credible as you write about your topic.

While the Internet should never be your only source of information, it would be ridiculous not to utilize its vast sources of information. You should use the Internet to acquaint yourself with the topic more before you dig into more academic texts. When you search online, remember a few basics:

Use a variety of search engines

The Internet contains some 550 billion web pages. Google is a powerful search engine, but it only reaches about 5 billion of those pages -- less than one percent! When you search the Internet, you should use a handful of different search engines. The Academic Search Engines above (collected mostly from Paula Dragutsky's Search ability) specialize in delivering material more suitable for college purposes, while the Popular Search Engines help locate information on less academic topics. Whatever your topic, use a variety of search engines from both menus. Once you go beyond Google, you will begin to realize the limitlessness horizons of the Internet. For example, a search string on www.wisenut.com results in hits different from www.turbo10.com, which also results in different hits on www.google.com and www.overture.com. Try it!

Look at the Site's Quality

With all the returns from your searches, you'll doubtless pull in a bundle of sites, and like a fisherman on a boat, your job will be to sort through the trash. The degree of professional design and presentation of a site should speak somewhat towards the content. Sites with black backgrounds are usually entertainment sites, while those with white backgrounds are more information based. Sites with colorful and garish backgrounds are probably made by novice designers. Avoid blog pages (online journals). Avoid "free-essay" pages. Avoid pages where there are multiple applets flashing on the screen. Also pay attention to the domain types. You should know that:

.com = commercial
.org = organization
.gov = government
.edu = education
.net = network
The domain type indicates a possible bias toward the information. Obviously an .org site on animal rights is going to be a bit slanted towards one side of the issue. And if the sites try to sell you something, like many of the "sponsored listings" that appear on the top of the hits list with search engines, avoid them.

Mix up your search words

If you're getting too many hits, enter more keywords in the search box. If you aren't getting enough hits, enter fewer keywords in the searchbox. Also try inputting the same concept but in different words and phrases. Overture has a keyword search suggestion tool that lets you know what the most popular search strings are for the concept you're searching for. Search Engine Watch also has a useful tutorial on how to enter search strings, explaining how to add + and - and quotation marks to get more accurate results.

Many search engines have advanced tabs that help you search with more detail. Google, for example, has an advanced search option that greatly increases accuracy of returns, though few use it. Finally, know that some search engines specialize in specific types of content, so if you don't have much success with one search engine, try another.

Don't Limit Yourself to the Internet

While it's fun to surf the net and discover new sites with information relevant to your topic, don't limit yourself to the Internet. By and large the Internet, because it is a medium open to publication by all, can contain some pretty sketchy information. If your essay is backed by research from "Steve and Kim's homepage," "Matt's Econ Blog," and "teen’s tuff online," your essay won't be as convincing as it would be with more academic journals. Academic journals and books have better research, more thorough treatment of the topics, a more stable existence (they'll still be there in a 10 years), and ultimately more persuasive power. Don't substitute Eddy Smith's "Summer Vacation to the Middle East" for Edward Said's Orientalism.

Step 1b: Researching the Academic Databases

The Academic Databases

Almost every college subscribes to a list of academic databases where more specialized, academic essays can be found. If you are an AUC student, go to the AUC Library Homepage and choose Electronic Resources to survey the 80+ academic databases that AUC subscribes to. Each of these databases specializes in a different kind of information. For a writing class exploring general research topics, the following four indexes are probably the most useful:

Academic Search Premier

CQ Researcher

JSTOR

LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe

(Note that at AUC, in order to search the databases from your home, you will need to request a dial-in account so that you can dial in directly to the AUC server. Otherwise, you must use a campus computer lab to access these databases.)

Academic Search Premier

Academic Search Premier is the most popular student database, and the most costly for schools. It is one of a handful of databases on EBSCO Host. After selecting Academic Search Premier, you will see a screen allowing you to specify more databases within EBSCO Host. Depending upon your topic, you may also want to check some of these boxes. On the search query screen on Academic Search Premier, you can control the kind of return hits your search retrieves.



On the Advanced Search tab, you can also search for keywords within a specific publication. This would be helpful if you knew a good journal or magazine, but were unsure of when an article was published on the topic in it.

CQ Researcher

CQ Researcher is a bit different than other journals. Every two weeks a new issue dedicated solely to one hot, current issue is published. One or two researchers produce all the content, and the articles are mainly informational rather than argumentative, giving readers an overview of the issue, of pro/con debates, a history, a bibliography of sources, and so on. CQ Researcher's bibliography is a great source for finding more sources -- you can plug some of the titles into other academic databases or even the Internet itself and often find the source. Because CQ Researcher is single-authored, you should careful that you do not over quote from it.

To cite a source from CQ Researcher, click on the nifty Cite Now, link on the top toolbar of the article and select MLA style.

JSTOR

A more academic journal, JSTOR has its articles stored as .pdf files. These .pds files can sometimes be large and therefore take a long time to download. However, all articles within the JSTOR database are quality academic articles, some perhaps beyond the scope of what you're looking for. To read a .pdf file you must have Adobe Acrobat reader, which you can download for free if your computer doesn't already have it. Before you search on JSTOR, you must first select which journals you want to search in.

The most common complaint students have about JSTOR is that the essays are too long and difficult to read. In fact, reading from JSTOR in contrast to the Internet will give you a good feel for the difference between academic and non-academic sources. When you use a source from JSTOR in your essay, your essay will be much more credible and scholarly.

LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe

If you're looking for news articles, LEXIS-NEXIS is the database to search. Keep in mind, though, that news articles aren't usually scholarly articles; they mostly give current information about topics. Some of the longer articles on LEXIS-NEXIS may be more scholarly. You just have to judge by the depth and research in the essay. The LEXIS-NEXIS database seems to contain almost every newspaper in the world. Hence specifying the search queries to get the returns you want can be a bit more complicated than usual.

First, select Guided News Search.


In the Guided News Search tab (rather than the "Quick News Search" tab) follow the four steps for making a more specific selection. Doing so will yield much better results than simply typing in general keywords into the Quick News Search.
Troubleshooting

If you're having trouble finding information on one database, try another. Mix up your keywords or use different ones. If you get too many hits, try searching with more specific keywords. If you don't get enough hits, search with a broader set of keywords, or even just one keyword.

Finally, remember that you are not limited to these four databases. There are dozens more that the library subscribes to. Scan down the list and see if any others might be useful. These five are perhaps worth checking out:

ERIC (EBSCO Host)

Oxford English Dictionary

Project Muse

Sociological Abstracts

World Cat



Step 1c: Researching in the Library

A common misconception among students is that the library is full of old, out-of-date, musty books -- probably none from this century -- and therefore any books found there would be so out of step with the current discussion on the topic that the books, and any effort to retrieve them, would be utterly useless.

Fortunately, all libraries have acquisitions departments with specialists from different fields of scholarship who constantly order up-to-date books on the contemporary issues in almost all fields. As a result, most libraries have books on all issues at least within the last ten years or so. So unless you're writing about something totally new, chances are a book has been written on it, and most likely that book is waiting for you in the library.

Retrieving books saves energy

Another misconception many students have is that even if they were to see a book listed on the electronic catalogues, it would be too much of a hassle to physically go to the library, hike the stairs, take elevators perhaps, wander among the stacks and corridors, skim through eternal Library of Congress call numbers, and so on.

While it is true that the physical exertion required (i.e., walking) to find the book is more than that required to click a mouse, once you find the book, it requires less energy to progress through the information than it does to fight the endless screens, non-linear progressions, and specious content on the Internet. In contrast, books are well-organized, logically progressive texts that usually contain abundant research, are written by scholars, and will provide excellent evidence for your essay.

The Internet is full of everything from porno to CIA reports, and it's all jumbled together like paint splattered on a wall. You'll have to sort through it like a homeless man foraging for food in a dumpster. Think about how nice it would be instead to read a chapter from a book while lying in bed.

Learn to skim books

Because books are so thorough and long (it may have taken the author years to write it, as opposed to an online article, which might have been written in under an hour), you have to learn to skim. Skim the table of contents to see if there is a chapter that is relevant. Read the introduction and the first pages of several chapters to see if the information is really what you're looking for.

Since you will still need to cite from a variety of sources, don't spend too long immersed in the same book. Take a little information from a lot of different books -- from an author here, an author there. It might be a good idea to photocopy the necessary pages rather than cart around a backpack full of books.

Library as sanctuary

The more you spend time researching in the library, the more you will come to see what a sanctuary the library can be. The loud, noisy traffic of the streets outside is blocked out as you sit comfortably surrounded by thousands of insightful books on important topics throughout the ages. A library can be a sanctuary to you -- a place to study, a place to escape your friends or other obligations, a refuge of peace and quiet. A good library is the heart of any academic institution, and the more time you spend in it, the more it will feel like hallowed ground. One student at New York University even decided to sleep permanently in his university's library (only superficially for financial reasons).
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