An essay is a composition that defends a position or opinion, also called a thesis, that has been put forth by the author. Not only should an essay demonstrate your overall knowledge of the broader subject, but it should demonstrate your insight into particular aspects of that subject. It also should show that you performed extra and relevant research outside the course material to broaden your knowledge and hone your argument.

Parts of an Essay

An essay is generally composed of three parts:

    • Introduction (hook, background information, and your thesis statement)
    • Body (usually, one paragraph for each main idea)
    • Conclusion

Introduction

The introductory part of the essay should be brief and effective. Avoid starting abruptly or too philosophically. It should define the title in a precise or specific way. Quotations, statements, dictionary meanings or sayings can be used to introduce the reader to the main idea. Avoid taking sides on an issue in your approach. Also avoid jargons, cliches and bombastic beginnings.

Body

In the development part of the essay, evaluate all the possible aspects of a problem, topic or issue. Give due importance to each aspect. Relate all the ideas to one another. Connect this part to the promises made in the introduction. Enable equality in the length and size of different paragraphs in this part of the essay. All the different aspects of the problem should be analysed exhaustively in this part. Use supporting materials to augment and develop ideas to make the text look comprehensive and authentic. Thus the main body should lead the reader automatically to the conclusion of the essay.

Conclusion

A conclusion is meant to reinforce the idea already illustrated and established in the main body of the essay. Avoid feeble endings. Let the conclusion naturally emerge out of the discussion. Keep the conclusion crisp and in cohesion with the other parts of the essay.

Features of an Essay

A good essay is a result of careful planning and selection of material. A well-written essay is comprehensive in its approach and vision. Though an essay is a reflection of the author’s perspective, it is considered most mature and relevant when written in an objective and detached manner. A good essay is normally well balanced and not lopsided. Coherence is another feature of a good essay. In a well-written essay, exaggerations and hyperboles have no role to play. The style is therefore direct, simple, vigorous and lucid. Just like the other components of an essay, its title is also chosen very carefully.

Stages in Writing

    • Collecting the material
    • Defining the scope
    • Making an outline
    • Making the first draft
    • Revising and editing

Elements of Composition

A good essay consists of three elements of composition:

    • Content
    • Structure
    • Mechanics

If the writer deals effectively with each of these, the result will be an essay that expresses the writer’s thinking in an effective, interesting and organized manner.

Content

The content of the essay is the writer’s message. Good essays develop the writer’s main points through thorough discussion and by the use of specific details. A good essay includes specific details to support the writer’s explanations.

Structure

The structure of the essay is its organization. An effective essay is organized with an introduction, main body, and conclusion. The introduction should begin in an interesting way that gains the reader’s attention; it should then lead the reader into the writer’s thesis statement: one sentence that states the writer’s position, what the writer will explain and support in the essay. The main body should consist of several well-developed paragraphs. The conclusion should ‘wrap it up’ by giving the reader a sense of closure. Finally, the writer should use transition words and phrases to move the reader smoothly from one idea to another within a paragraph and from one paragraph to another.

Mechanics

Mechanics refers to the use of language. A good essay is well written and carefully edited in terms of grammar, punctuation, word usage, and spelling.

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Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature for 14 years now. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, H.H. The Maharaja’s Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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