But Alex’s professor doesn’t want it. She underlines the very first two sentences, and she writes, “This is too general. Get to the point.” She underlines the next and sentences that are fourth and she writes, “You’re just restating the question I inquired. What’s your point?” She underlines the sentence that is final after which writes when you look at the margin, “What’s your thesis?” because the very last sentence when you look at the paragraph only lists topics. It does not make an argument.
Is Alex’s professor just a grouch? Well, no—she is trying to instruct this student that college writing isn’t about following a formula (the model that is five-paragraph, it’s about making a disagreement. Her first sentence is general, just how she learned a five-paragraph essay should start. But through the professor’s perspective, it’s way too general—so general, in fact, she didn’t ask students to define civil war that it’s completely outside of the assignment. The third and fourth sentences say, in a lot of words, they just restate the prompt, without giving a single hint about where this student’s paper is going“ I am comparing and contrasting the reasons why the North and the South fought the Civil War”—as the professor says. The final sentence, that ought to make an argument, only lists topics; it does not start to explore how or why something happened.
You can guess what Alex will write next if you’ve seen a lot of five-paragraph essays. Her first body paragraph will begin, “We can see some of the different reasons why the North and South fought the Civil War by taking a look at the economy.” What is going to the professor say about that? She may ask, “What differences can we see? What part of the economy are you currently referring to? How come the distinctions exist? Exactly why are they important?” buy essay After three such body paragraphs, the student might write a conclusion that says much the same thing as her introduction, in slightly different words. Alex’s professor might already respond, “You’ve said this!”
What could Alex do differently? Let’s start over. This time around, Alex doesn’t start with a preconceived notion of how to organize her essay. Instead of three “points,” she decides that she’s going to brainstorm until she comes up with a primary argument, or thesis, that answers the question “Why did the North and South fight the Civil War?” Then she’s going to determine how to organize her draft by thinking about the argument’s parts and exactly how they can fit together.
After doing some brainstorming and reading the Writing Center’s handout on thesis statements, Alex thinks about a main argument, or thesis statement:
- Both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, but Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their rights to property and self-government.
Then Alex writes her introduction. But rather of you start with a general statement about civil wars, she gives us the ideas we have to know so that you can understand most of the components of her argument:
- The usa broke far from England in response to British tyranny and oppression, so opposition to tyranny and a belief in individual freedom and liberty were important values in the young republic. But in the nineteenth century, slavery made Northerners and Southerners see these values in completely different ways. By 1860, the conflict over these values broke out into a war that is civil nearly tore the united states apart. For the reason that war, both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, but Northerners dedicated to the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their rights to property and self-government.
Every sentence in Alex’s new introduction leads your reader down the road to her thesis statement in an unbroken chain of ideas.
Now Alex turns to organization. You’ll find more about the thinking process she goes through in our handout on organization, but here you will find the basics: first, she decides, she’ll write a paragraph that gives background; she’ll explain how opposition to tyranny and a belief in individual liberty had become such values that are important the usa. Then she’ll write another background paragraph for which she shows how the conflict over slavery developed over time. Then she’ll have separate paragraphs about Northerners and Southerners, explaining in detail—and giving evidence for—her claims about each group’s reasons for planning to war.
Remember that Alex now has four body paragraphs. She might have had three or two or seven; what’s important is that she allowed her argument to tell her what number of paragraphs she must have and how to match them together. Furthermore, her body paragraphs don’t all discuss “points,” like “the economy” and “politics”—two of them give background, therefore the other two explain Northerners’ and Southerners’ views at length.
Finally, having followed her sketch outline and written her paper, Alex turns to writing a conclusion. From our handout on conclusions, she knows that a “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” conclusion does not forward move her ideas. Applying the strategies she finds into the handout, she decides that she can use her conclusion to spell out why the paper she’s just written really matters—perhaps by pointing out that the fissures within our society that the Civil War opened are, most of the time, still causing trouble today.
Will it be ever OK to write a five-paragraph essay?
Yes. Have you ever found yourself in times where somebody expects you to definitely make sense of a body that is large of at that moment and write a well-organized, persuasive essay—in fifty minutes or less? Sounds like an essay exam situation, right? When time is short and the pressure is on, falling back regarding the good old fashioned five-paragraph essay can save you time and give you confidence. A five-paragraph essay might also work as the framework for a speech that is short. Do not fall into the trap, however, of creating a “listing” thesis statement when your instructor expects a disagreement; when making plans for your body paragraphs, think about three components of an argument, in the place of three “points” to go over. On the other hand, most professors recognize the constraints of writing blue-book essays, and a “listing” thesis is probably better than no thesis at all.
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