Proper organization is the difference between a good essay and a weak one. An essay that is well organized is easier for the reader to understand and enjoy, while poorly organized essays force the reader to do extra work. Readers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a well organized essay; using simple organization techniques while writing will make the process easier for you as well.
Make a Plan
Before you begin writing, take some time to make a master plan fro your essay. Decide what information you want to cover and the method you will use to accomplish this. If your paper is a narrative, you might use pre-writing activities like brainstorming to come up with ideas. If you are writing a research paper, clustering to find a focus might work better for you. Though your plan may change as you research and write your paper, making a plan will help streamline the writing process by helping you focus on a final goal for your paper. Write your plan down and keep it near you as you write your paper to make certain that you are headed in the right direction.
Take Good Notes
Organized notes are essential for an organized essay paper. While conducting research for your paper, use your master plan to identify the topics you need to research and the questions you must answer in your paper. Write your notes on index cards; not only will they help you stay organized, but their small size forces you to condense information and keep your notes brief, which will reduce the risk of unintentional plagiarism. Carefully label each card with a topic and reference information.
Create an Outline
An outline is a kind of road map for your essay and is more detailed than your essay plan. The method you use to outline your paper will depend upon your style of writing and the type of paper you are writing; an outline for a personal narrative will probably be less detailed than the outline for a research paper. Use roman numerals or letters to organize main ideas, and then break those main ideas into smaller chunks of information.
Use topic sentences to organize ideas within your paper. These topic sentences can be used in your outline as main ideas. Begin each new paragraph or section of your paper with a topic sentence that outlines the main idea of that section. Then, use supporting sentences to expand upon or explain that topic sentence.
After you have written a rough draft, create a reverse outline, recommends the University of Toronto Writing Centre. To make a reverse outline, go through your paper and write down each main idea on a separate sheet of paper in the order in which they appear, leaving plenty of space between each topic. When you have finished, read through the main ideas to make sure that they make sense. Make sure that you have not left out key points or repeated topics. Make changes to your draft if needed. Next, go through your paper to find sentences that support your main topics, and jot these down below each topic on your reverse outline. This will ensure that you fully explain each main topic.
- Brainstorming is a good way to start the _____ stage of a reflective essay
- Which of the following is the most effective revision of the sentence below? When I write an essay I always go through these steps: brainstorming make an outline write a rough draft editing and revising
- It is best to _________ your sources when taking notes in order to reduce the risk of plagiarism
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The purpose of a character analysis essay is to not only demonstrate to your instructor that you have read an assigned story or novel, but also to enhance your knowledge and awareness of the psychological factors that make people “tick.” This, in turn, can lead to an analysis of your own attitudes and behaviors in similar circumstances and help you to recognize who or what influences the future choices you will make in school, at work or in relationships.
- Select a character who interests you. The opening paragraph of your essay should introduce who this character is, briefly explain what her role is in the story and why you have chosen to analyze her personality. Example: “The character I have chosen for study from Eileen Favorite’s novel, ‘The Heroines,’ is Penny Entwhistle, a rebellious teen whose mother runs a boarding house frequented by feisty females straight from the pages of fiction. Not only do I personally relate to what it’s like having parents who do weird things, but I’m also an avid reader and have often wondered what I’d say and do if my own favorite book characters ever came to life.”
- Define your chosen character in terms of whether he is the protagonist (hero), antagonist (villain), supporting player (a helpmate of either the hero or villain) or a catalyst. A catalyst character (also referred to as an agent for change) often does not participate directly in any of the action, but instead fulfills the role of inspiring the lead character to take up a cause or quest he might otherwise not have pursued (for example, Spider-Man’s kindly uncle who gets killed early in the story would fit this definition).
- Make a list of your character’s positive traits as well as the weaknesses and flaws that he must overcome throughout the course of the story. Keep in mind that heroes are never 100 percent “good,” and villains are never 100 percent “bad.” Accordingly, if you choose to analyze the personality of the villain (for example, Iago in “Othello”), identify specific influences and events that led this person down a path of evil.
- Identify your character’s core quest. The quest is what makes up the conflict, creates and fuels the friction between your character and her opponent(s) and drives the action forward. Quests are based on reward, revenge, escape or a combination of these. Explain why this quest is so important to your character (for example, avenging a loved one, getting a date to the dance, starting over in a new country) as well as (1) what she would be willing to risk or sacrifice to achieve it, and (2) what the cost will be if she is unsuccessful. Examine whether you think her actions are commensurate with the perceived value of the quest.
- Pay sharp attention to the subtext of your character’s actions and what they really say about him. Provide examples. For instance, a character who volunteers to take care of an elderly relative might seem on the surface to be generous and kind, but he actually has an agenda to put himself in a position of favoritism for the future disbursement of her estate. Another example is a character who won’t spend a dime on herself and yet is going into debt buying toys for her cats.
- Discuss the character’s interactions with others and whether the character treats them as superiors, peers or subordinates. Assess whether these interactions are consistent with or contrary to your expectations of their assigned roles. For example, the expectation might be that a lady’s maid would be respectful, quiet and meek in the presence of her employer, and yet the character has been written as someone who is arrogant, loud, and bossy and is able to get away with these behaviors without any reprimand.
- Look for the symbolism of objects associated with the character and discuss (1) why these objects are important, and (2) what they say about the owner’s personality, memories and vulnerabilities. For example, a woman who always wears a seemingly worthless locket might do so because it’s the only item she associates with her mother; to remove it would be to leave the comfort zone of still thinking of herself as a child instead of an adult.
- Evaluate the character’s actions and reactions in the context of the book’s historical or cultural setting. For example, you might explain that a person in the 21st century who doesn’t like the way something is being done has more freedom to change the situation than a character of the same age in your book who is living in the 16th century and is a girl.
- Describe the conflict’s resolution in terms of the character’s emotional or spiritual growth. This is called the character arc and refers to the ways in which the individual has evolved during the course of the story. Some characters don’t experience an arc at all and are basically the same at the end of a book as they were at the beginning. Others, however, are strengthened, inspired or humbled by the challenges they have faced. A farmer who has always been a pacifist, for example, might be transformed into an activist if horrific events suddenly cause him to question the cost of staying silent.
- Compare what you have learned about the character to your own personality profile in terms of what you admire, what you dislike and whether you would have followed the same course of action. For example, a character who betrays her best friend to get what she wants will have imparted a lesson to you about what’s really important in life. Address how the book has validated or changed your opinions.
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A literary essay explains the contextual meaning behind a piece of literature while paying attention to specific details, such as structure and style. This essay form also gives its author a chance to argue complex points in the text by comparing his viewpoint to critical analysis of the piece. The structure of a literary essay is a series of paragraphs stating, building upon, and proving, then reiterating your points in a conclusion.
Organizing a Literary Essay
- Read the piece of literature you will be writing about. Reread any sections that are confusing. Take notes on notecards about major elements of the text, including structure, style, point of view, plot and subplot.
- Read books and articles that discuss various aspects and opinions of the piece of literature you are writing about. Arrange notecards in front of your work area while you study these critical texts. Write down and even highlight any points in the critical texts that you want to incorporate into your essay.
- Arrange notecards in front of your after you are finished reading the text and any critical analysis of the text from other sources. Include the name of the author an title of the text you are citing on your notecards. Choose a point of view that you would like to expand on about the piece of literature.
- Write a topic, or thesis sentence, that makes it clear to your audience the text you are studying and the viewpoint you will be discussing. The scope and argument of your viewpoint, and whether it supports the critical analysis or refutes it, will determine the length and structure of your literary essay. Refer to your notecards about the text and the analysis as you write.
- Arrange your essay in a paragraph structure. Though similar to the more elementary five-paragraph essay form, the literary essay takes longer to explain and develop its point. Write two to three opening paragraphs about your viewpoint and to alert readers on what specific aspects of the text you will discuss in the body of the essay.
- Write multiple paragraphs, depending on the scope of your theme, to argue your viewpoint about the text. Analyze the analysis, deepen the reader’s understanding of the text, highlight specific plot points, argue for or against other analysis.
- Write concluding paragraphs to end the essay, making sure to reiterate your viewpoint and add an additional fact or two about the literary text. Include a works cited page at the back of your essay to list all the source materials researched for your essay.
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