Posts Tagged ‘background information’


How to Outline English Papers

As stated by “REA’s Handbook of English Grammar, Style, and Writing,” proceeding without an outline is like navigating a new city without a map. Unfortunately, most students new to essay writing are unfamiliar with how to outline an English paper. Students who neglect to use an outline often produce rambling, Faulkner-esque essays. Taking an hour to gather your thoughts and write an outline can save time writing the essay and lead to a better grade.

Acquaint yourself with an outline template. The Owl at Purdue states that most outlines use Roman numerals for essay sections (introduction, main points and conclusion) and, in descending order of specificity with indentations, capitalized letters, Arabic numerals and lowercase letters.

Start with the introduction. Include a fact or statistic to introduce the essay, or include background information on the issue or author discussed. At this stage in the writing process, listing the specific quote or tidbit of information is not necessary. Simply note its inclusion in the outline. State your thesis and list the three main points of the essay.

Outline the first theme of the essay in two or three words. For example, write “capitalism” if the topic of your paper is discussing themes of Ayn Rand’s book, “Atlas Shrugged.” List (as Arabic numerals within the template) three or more ways the book supports this theme, like “Dagney Taggart’s refusal of government assistance.” Because you will elaborate on these points upon writing the essay, keep the outline’s description of these points to one sentence. Repeat this process for the other two themes.

Gather supporting information. Go to the library, search the Internet or use your textbook to find credible sources that support your points. Color-code your themes to make the process easier: delegate one theme, “capitalism” in yellow, “individualism” in green and “objectivism” in blue. For all supporting quotes or page numbers, highlight it in a color that matches the theme to which it corresponds for easier reference.

On the outline, determine which point should be bolstered with the sources found. For example, the book’s metaphor for socialism found in the passage describing moldy government-subsidized soybeans would be placed in the theme, “capitalism” under the point, “Government failures.” Under this point (as a lower-case letter within the template), write the page number of the passage or write a short description of the source.

Write points for the conclusion. Dirk Siepmann, author of the book “Writing in English,” recommends using the conclusion to express outcomes of the issues discussed in the essay and give statements regarding open ends and unanswered questions.

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Types of Narrative Essays

Different types of narrative essays have one thing in common: each one tells a story. No matter which style of storytelling you choose, the format of a narrative essay will ensure that it is a story with a discernible beginning, middle and end. The narrative essay is a good way of exploring and expressing the writer in you, since it relies on the writer’s imagination as well as his vision and experience of the world. The best narrative essays have the personal element in them.

First Person Perspective

This type of narrative essay tells a story from the first person’s point of view — that is, the teller or narrator of the story is a character in the story. The essay narrates an incident or describes an event or tells of an experience that happens to this narrative voice, and in keeping with the rules of narrative writing, it must have a beginning, a middle and an end. But the essay itself derives its interest from the condensed action of the narrative, as seen from the single “I” perspective.

The “Framed” Essay

This type of a narrative essay starts at the end — that is — after the event that is the focus of the story has already happened — and then goes back to the beginning and ends at the middle — with the action returning to the opening of the story. In other words, the writer gives it a “frame” that holds the narrative together. This type of a narrative essay derives its interest from the suspense it creates — knowing the end at the beginning makes the reader more alert to the details of how it happened.

Beginning in the Middle

This type of a narrative essay thrusts the reader into the middle of the story. The writer begins in the middle — without providing any background information, so the narrative or story takes on an added interest since so much is unexplained. For an effective narrative essay of this type, the writer has to focus on the significant details of just that one event. Plot becomes more important than character development. The narrative itself becomes the main focus.

The Open-Ended Narrative

Instead of providing a neat resolution where the loose ends of the story are tied up and a conclusion or ending is offered, this type of a narrative essay leaves the ending “open” or inconclusive — leaving the readers thinking about the outcome. The narrative is written with enough clarity that the ending is clear, not ambiguous, but the ambiguity, if present, adds interest to the narrative. Such narrative essays rely on the writer’s and the reader’s imagination and creativity.

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