Good referencing allows us to check the foundations of your additions to the structure of knowledge in the discipline, or at least to trace them back to a level which we judge to be reliable.
Good referencing also tells the reader which parts of the thesis are descriptions of previous knowledge and which parts are your additions to that knowledge. In a thesis, written for the general reader who has little familiarity with the literature of the field, this should be especially clear. It may seem tempting to leave out a reference in the hope that a reader will think that a nice idea or an nice bit of analysis is yours.
I advise against this gamble. The reader will probably think: The reader can probably find out via the net or the library. If you are writing in the passive voice, you must be more careful about attribution than if you are writing in the active voice. Style The text must be clear. Good grammar and thoughtful writing will make the thesis easier to read. Scientific writing has to be a little formal — more formal than this text.
Native English speakers should remember that scientific English is an international language. Slang and informal writing will be harder for a non-native speaker to understand. Short, simple phrases and words are often better than long ones. Some politicians use "at this point in time" instead of "now" precisely because it takes longer to convey the same meaning.
They do not care about elegance or efficient communication. On the other hand, there will be times when you need a complicated sentence because the idea is complicated. If your primary statement requires several qualifications, each of these may need a subordinate clause: Some lengthy technical words will also be necessary in many theses, particularly in fields like biochemistry. Do not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of brevity.
An advertising copy writer would love it. The longer example would be fine in a physics thesis because English speaking physicists will not have trouble with the words. A physicist who did not know all of those words would probably be glad to remedy the lacuna either from the context or by consulting a dictionary. Sometimes it is easier to present information and arguments as a series of numbered points, rather than as one or more long and awkward paragraphs.
A list of points is usually easier to write. You should be careful not to use this presentation too much: One important stylistic choice is between the active voice and passive voice. The active voice "I measured the frequency The passive voice "The frequency was measured If you use the passive voice, be especially wary of dangling participles. For example, the sentence "After considering all of these possible materials, plutonium was selected" implicitly attributes consciousness to plutonium.
This choice is a question of taste: I prefer the active because it is clearer, more logical and makes attribution simple. The only arguments I have ever heard for avoiding the active voice in a thesis are i many theses are written in the passive voice, and ii some very polite people find the use of "I" immodest. Use the first person singular, not plural, when reporting work that you did yourself: On the other hand, retain plural verbs for "data": Just say to yourself "one datum is..
Presentation There is no need for a thesis to be a masterpiece of desk-top publishing. Your time can be more productively spent improving the content than the appearance.
In many cases, a reasonably neat diagram can be drawn by hand faster than with a graphics package, and you can scan it if you want an electronic version. Either is usually satisfactory.
A one bit i. While talking about the size of files, we should mention that photographs look pretty but take up a lot of memory. There's another important difference, too.
The photographer thought about the camera angle and the focus etc. The person who drew the schematic diagram thought about what components ought to be depicted and the way in which the components of the system interacted with each other. So the numerically small information content of the line drawing may be much more useful information than that in a photograph.
Another note about figures and photographs. In the digital version of your thesis, do not save ordinary photographs or other illustrations as bitmaps, because these take up a lot of memory and are therefore very slow to transfer.
Nearly all graphics packages allow you to save in compressed format as. In vector graphics as used for drawings , compression is usually unnecessary. In general, students spend too much time on diagrams — time that could have been spent on examining the arguments, making the explanations clearer, thinking more about the significance and checking for errors in the algebra. The reason, of course, is that drawing is easier than thinking.
I do not think that there is a strong correlation either way between length and quality. There is no need to leave big gaps to make the thesis thicker.
Readers will not appreciate large amounts of vague or unnecessary text. Approaching the end A deadline is very useful in some ways. You must hand in the thesis, even if you think that you need one more draft of that chapter, or someone else's comments on this section, or some other refinement.
If you do not have a deadline, or if you are thinking about postponing it, please take note of this: A thesis is a very large work. It cannot be made perfect in a finite time. There will inevitably be things in it that you could have done better. There will be inevitably be some typos. Indeed, by some law related to Murphy's, you will discover one when you first flip open the bound copy.
No matter how much you reflect and how many times you proof read it, there will be some things that could be improved. There is no point hoping that the examiners will not notice: So set yourself a deadline and stick to it. Make it as good as you can in that time, and then hand it in! In retrospect, there was an advantage in writing a thesis in the days before word processors, spelling checkers and typing programs. Students often paid a typist to produce the final draft and could only afford to do that once.
Talk to your adviser about this. As well as those for the examiners, the university libraries and yourself, you should make some distribution copies. These copies should be sent to other researchers who are working in your field so that: This realisation could be useful if a post- doctoral position were available in their labs.
Even having your name in their bookcases might be an advantage. Whatever the University's policy on single or double-sided copies, the distribution copies could be double-sided paper, or digital, so that forests and postage accounts are not excessively depleted by the exercise. Your adviser might also help by funding the copies and postage if they are not covered by your scholarship. A CD with your thesis will be cheaper than a paper copy.
You don't have to burn them all yourself: I would never have thought of doing that as I just couldn't imagine what they would do with it. I'm very glad to have taken that advice as my parents really appreciated receiving a copy and proudly displayed it for years.
My mother never finished high school and my father worked with trucks - he fixed 'em, built 'em, drove 'em, sold 'em and junked 'em. Nevertheless, they enjoyed having a copy of my thesis. This may be bad for your physical and mental health.
Typing Set up your chair and computer properly. The Health Service, professional keyboard users or perhaps even the school safety officer will be able to supply charts showing recommended relative heights, healthy postures and also exercises that you should do if you spend a lot of time at the keyboard.
These last are worthwhile insurance: Try to intersperse long sessions of typing with other tasks, such as reading, drawing, calculating, thinking or doing research. If you do not touch type, you should learn to do so for the sake of your neck as well as for productivity. There are several good software packages that teach touch typing interactively. If you use one for say 30 minutes a day for a couple of weeks, you will be able to touch type.
By the time you finish the thesis, you will be able to touch type quickly and accurately and your six hour investment will have paid for itself. Be careful not to use the typing exercises as a displacement activity. Exercise Do not give up exercise for the interim. Lack of exercise makes you feel bad, and you do not need anything else making you feel bad while writing a thesis. I find that if I do not get regular exercise, I sleep less soundly and longer.
How about walking to work and home again? Walk part of the way if your home is distant. Many people opine that a walk helps them think, or clears the head. You may find that an occasional stroll improves your productivity. Food Do not forget to eat, and make an effort to eat healthy food. You should not lose fitness or risk illness at this critical time. Exercise is good for keeping you appetite at a healthy level.
I know that you have little time for cooking, but keep a supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and bread. It takes less time to make a sandwich than to go to the local fast food outlet, and you will feel better afterwards. Drugs Thesis writers have a long tradition of using coffee as a stimulant and alcohol and, in the old days, marijuana.
Used in moderation, they do not seem to have ill effects on the quality of thesis produced. Excesses, however, are obviously counter-productive: Others Other people will be sympathetic, but do not take them for granted.
Spouses, lovers, family and friends should not be undervalued. Spend some time with them and, when you do, have a good time. Do not spend your time together complaining about your thesis: If you can find another student writing a thesis, then you may find it therapeutic to complain to each other about advisers and difficulties. Coda Keep going — you're nearly there! Most PhDs will admit that there were times when we thought about reasons for not finishing. But it would be crazy to give up at the writing stage, after years of work on the research, and it would be something to regret for a long time.
Writing a thesis is tough work. One anonymous post doctoral researcher told me: It's a tough period for almost every student. It is also an important rite of passage and the satisfaction you will feel afterwards is wonderful. On behalf of scholars everywhere, I wish you good luck! A suggested thesis structure The list of contents and chapter headings below is appropriate for some theses.
In some cases, one or two of them may be irrelevant. Results and Discussion are usually combined in several chapters of a thesis. Think about the plan of chapters and decide what is best to report your work. Then make a list, in point form, of what will go in each chapter. Try to make this rather detailed, so that you end up with a list of points that corresponds to subsections or even to the paragraphs of your thesis.
At this stage, think hard about the logic of the presentation: If you make a plan of each chapter and section before you sit down to write, the result will probably be clearer and easier to read. It will also be easier to write. In any case, this standard page gives the university library the right to publish the work, possibly by microfilm or other medium. Make sure that you consult that for its formal requirements, as well as this rather informal guide. Declaration Check the wording required by your institution, and whether there is a standard form.
Many universities require something like: Abstract Of all your thesis, this part will be the most widely published and most read because it will be published in Dissertation Abstracts International. It is best written towards the end, but not at the very last minute because you will probably need several drafts.
It should be a distillation of the thesis: An abstract must be self-contained. Usually they do not contain references. When a reference is necessary, its details should be included in the text of the abstract. Check the word limit. Acknowledgments Most thesis authors put in a page of thanks to those who have helped them in matters scientific, and also indirectly by providing such essentials as food, education, genes, money, help, advice, friendship etc. If any of your work is collaborative, you should make it quite clear who did which sections.
Table of contents The introduction starts on page 1, the earlier pages should have roman numerals. It helps to have the subheadings of each chapter, as well as the chapter titles. Remember that the thesis may be used as a reference in the lab, so it helps to be able to find things easily.
Introduction What is the topic and why is it important? State the problem s as simply as you can. Remember that you have been working on this project for a few years, so you will be very close to it. Try to step back mentally and take a broader view of the problem. How does it fit into the broader world of your discipline?
Especially in the introduction, do not overestimate the reader's familiarity with your topic. You are writing for researchers in the general area, but not all of them need be specialists in your particular topic. It may help to imagine such a person — think of some researcher whom you might have met at a conference for your subject, but who was working in a different area.
The introduction should be interesting. For the first paragraph or two, tradition permits prose that is less dry than the scientific norm. If want to wax lyrical about your topic, here is the place to do it. Go to the library and read several thesis introductions. Did any make you want to read on?
Which ones were boring? This section might go through several drafts to make it read well and logically, while keeping it short. For this section, I think that it is a good idea to ask someone who is not a specialist to read it and to comment.
Is it an adequate introduction? Is it easy to follow? There is an argument for writing this section — or least making a major revision of it — towards the end of the thesis writing.
Your introduction should tell where the thesis is going, and this may become clearer during the writing. Literature review Where did the problem come from?
What is already known about this problem? What other methods have been tried to solve it? Ideally, you will already have much of the hard work done, if you have been keeping up with the literature as you vowed to do three years ago, and if you have made notes about important papers over the years.
If you have summarised those papers, then you have some good starting points for the review. If you didn't keep your literature notes up to date, you can still do something useful: When you start reading about a topic, you should open a spread sheet file, or at least a word processor file, for your literature review.
Of course you write down the title, authors, year, volume and pages. But you also write a summary anything from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages, depending on the relevance. In other columns of the spread sheet, you can add key words your own and theirs and comments about its importance, relevance to you and its quality. How relevant do they have to be before you include them?
Well, that is a matter of judgement. On the order of a hundred is reasonable, but it will depend on the field. You are the world expert on the narrow topic of your thesis: Middle chapters In some theses, the middle chapters are the journal articles of which the student was major author.
There are several disadvantages to this format. One is that a thesis is both allowed and expected to have more detail than a journal article. For journal articles, one usually has to reduce the number of figures. In many cases, all of the interesting and relevant data can go in the thesis, and not just those which appeared in the journal.
The degree of experimental detail is usually greater in a thesis. Relatively often a researcher requests a thesis in order to obtain more detail about how a study was performed. Another disadvantage is that your journal articles may have some common material in the introduction and the "Materials and Methods" sections. The exact structure in the middle chapters will vary among theses. In some theses, it is necessary to establish some theory, to describe the experimental techniques, then to report what was done on several different problems or different stages of the problem, and then finally to present a model or a new theory based on the new work.
For such a thesis, the chapter headings might be: For other theses, it might be appropriate to discuss different techniques in different chapters, rather than to have a single Materials and Methods chapter. Here follow some comments on the elements Materials and Methods, Theory, Results and discussion which may or may not correspond to thesis chapters. Materials and Methods This varies enormously from thesis to thesis, and may be absent in theoretical theses.
It should be possible for a competent researcher to reproduce exactly what you have done by following your description. There is a good chance that this test will be applied: Please write for the benefit of that researcher. In some theses, particularly multi-disciplinary or developmental ones, there may be more than one such chapter. In this case, the different disciplines should be indicated in the chapter titles.
Theory When you are reporting theoretical work that is not original, you will usually need to include sufficient material to allow the reader to understand the arguments used and their physical bases.
Eventually, because of low expectations, because of poor literacy training, because of convenience or some combination, these five parts became five paragraphs. And writing became boring and predictable. The thesis or argument in the traditional five-paragraph essay doesn't lend itself to debatability or originality. It's a trap that students can never escape.
Over and over, if a student used the rudimentary three-part "argument," there was no way he or she could demonstrate success in the analysis essay--even though we were all supportive readers.
Students were trapped into only writing about three aspects of the text instead of starting at the top, ending at the bottom, and going through the text with a critical eye that revealed an insight to the reader. In competitions such as history fairs, students cannot compete with the rudimentary three-part argument.
When I started a Writing Center at a selective-enrollment high school a couple of jobs ago, the history teacher came to me and said she needed something to help students succeed. Over and over, she was getting arguments with blank, blank, and blank. If students want to get really fancy, they can use a subordinate phrase at the beginning to de-emphasize common beliefs:. The image above is the handout I use with students thanks to the conversations with my mentor Robin Bennett, a fondly remembered theater and history teacher.
Another damaging aspect of using five paragraphs is that students find it almost impossible to do anything but write in expository paragraphs. We'll have more modes to teach; students will have more options. Aristotle's form, however, is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
This form doesn't work for science lab reports. For that, we should follow the example of the science tradition. Lab reports are not argumentative. This form should also not be the form for a narrative essay. While personal essays do carry a subtextual argument, they are not intended to persuade. They are written so we can experience what we have not or find solidarity through what we have. Aristotle's form works only for persuasive essays--which need to be part of our educational system more often.
We just need to make sure that we are presenting students with persuasive prompts that have more than one reasonable response. I'm hearing, "But how are students going to learn organization without learning the five-paragraph essay?
Effective cover letters aren't written in five-paragraph essays. We don't expect a news article to follow a five-paragraph format. Quite simply, there aren't always three reasons to prove our point. Students need to write for a specific rhetorical context. How much time to you have to write this? Who will read this? What do they believe about the subject? Are they a supportive or skeptical audience? What is the job of this essay? What specifically do you want the audience to realize?
Students and teachers can use this to deconstruct prompts. Finally, the SOAP format, when combined with Aristotle's form, can help students write one or ten page essays effectively. Aristotle called the last part of the persuasive event the epilogue. Unlike the five-paragraph essay that begins with "As you can see. It's a good opportunity for students to make inferences or predictions.
If teachers and students move away from the rudimentary, unengaging, and useless five-paragraph format, students will be able to think for themselves and understand that writing can really challenge people's views. Students will create persuasive essays that incorporate information in un-identical ways to everyone else. Furthermore, rhetorical limits won't be obstacles; they'll become guidelines for success. These were essays written by two of my students. Due to the popularity of this post since May, in October I wrote about strategies for effective narrative writing --especially for personal statements--that avoid the traditional five-paragraph form.
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I couldn't agree more—we need to actively teach students out of using the five-paragraph essay, which is little more than an organizational framework. To that end, I have created a framework that encourages original thinking, close reading, and connecting core texts to the contemporary world. Mastering the Common Core Standards. I am former classroom teacher and now a curriculum developer for a large education company and I want to thank you for sharing this great resource!
I have been teaching the art of good writing to students since and outside of class I help students create successful college and scholarship essays. I first saw the five-paragraph format when I arrived in CPS in My first observation was "Well. We have a huge amount of students who can barely write a coherent paragraph, let alone a complete essay. These students need to start with the easiest essay format to understand, remember and use. I have no problem with the five-paragraph essay, as long as students are exposed to the idea that this format is only the beginning of good writing; it is functional but mediocre.
Liberace was once asked how he had become such an outstanding pianist. His reply was that he learned to play "by the rules" and once he had mastered the basics, added embellishments that represented him and his personality. From my perspective, a student can start from any format with which he feels comfortable.
My rules, in additional to this basic format, are simple - that one should: Also, when appropriate, one should give opposing viewpoints and explain why they are incorrect. Any format can create uninteresting and ineffective essays. At each step of the writing process we have to ask our students if we're involving the reader in some way.
Why begin an expository essay with a boring "My parents brought me to this country when I was five years old" when one could engage the reader's interest with a tantalizing "I was too young to understand what was hapenning, but my grandmother's tears told me that my life was about to change forever.
There are many ways to skin a cat I started in '95 and I remember sitting watching a long-time veteran casually walking me through some binder he was a leader behind the 5-paragraph movement and I thought, "Who the hell writes likes this?! The rules Liberace followed were guidelines that lead to success. Yes, we have students who struggle to write. But we have lots of students who don't. At my neighborhood Southwest Side high school, we just raised the average English ACT score by 2 points in one year--all because we truly believed students could learn and because we targeted our instruction on real writing skills.
The 5-paragraph essay traps students; it does not liberate them like Liberace's piano-playing exercises. While agree that any format can be engaging or unengaging, I know that students will succeed if they are taught the importance of audience.
They need "hooks" that fuction in the professional world outside of the classroom. Too often, students are told, "Begin with a question. If students learn to keep real people in mind besides the teacher as audience , they will develop into engaging writers capable of making effective rhetorical decisions.
Finally, I cannot agree that we should focus less on format. I see too many times how students are given a good prompt but no guidelines. This leaves them wasting lots of time fishing for the "right answer. I'm interested in how you help students make effective, independent decisions as they write their college essays? Are there strategies you can suggest to readers here?
I meant to say that we should worry less about the type of format used and more on the end product achieving its goal. I guess we will have to agree to diasgree about the 5-paragraph essay format for CPS students. However, I can see where teachers who only have one or two decades of experience may not have developed the skill set necessary to see the value in or to deal effectively with a variety of formats. As a starting point, the F-PF works as well for my students as any other format.
It's what they do later that makes the difference. What strategies do I use? They vary according to the type of essay, etc. Here are a few. And I need to stress this point: If there is a prompt, I have the student break the prompt into its various parts and put each part at the top of a separate page.
After dealing with each part of the prompt, they can join the various sections. This way they are assured they addressed the entire prompt. I teach them to overwrite, expecially in the beginning. They ask me how much more. My response is always the same: Because my students tend to hide what I call their "gems" well into their writing.
When I find the "gem" I show them how this small piece of what they've written is what's going to turn a hum-drum essay into something that stands above the crowd. If they can't defend it, kill it. At later stages we look at flow and some obvious items that shouldn't exist in formal writing, e.
And of course we look at just about every word to see if it adds value to the writing or simply occupies space. All the writing done in my classes is done with a specific purpose, so writing to that audience is a given. I show them every step of the way exactly how the reader will react to what they've done. They shouldn't just write that they babysit children; they should list the various skills needed to babysit well organize activities, prepare healthy meals, deal with minor crises, etc.
They should never assume that the reader will assume they have those skills. I am hiring accepting only five people from each level and those people with earn an automatic bonus: Believe me, they're writing with a purpose! I agree that we need to be able to use a simple format to help students learn organization. In elementary school they have graphic organizers that look like hamburgers glued together to represent paragraphs.
I have used Oreo cookies and other foods to help drive the point that paragraphs are fully of meaty information. This year I incorporated materials produced at Mississippi State to help my seventh graders with a catch phrase "Bing, Bang, Bongo.
This simplification of Aristotle's rhetorical device for thesis statements can become another tool for developing young writers. When I first started teaching 16 years ago, I was told that I had to teach the five paragraph essay format because it was part of the curriculum at my school. I didn't think it was particularly useful and had some other ideas, but I was smart enough to see that this format was really being pushed at my school and that it would be politically unwise for me to speak out against it.
Instead of pointing out its flaws, I marveled at its sparkling as my superiors held it up to the light as a key tool in a successful teacher's repertoire. Now, the buzz is that the five paragraph essay is "out", and my superiors at school none of whom were around in the old days have begun to repeat the buzz they, too, have been hearing about how awful the five paragraph essay is.
I can see that it is most advantageous for me politically to join in their chorus, and so I have. Down with the five paragraph essay! Until the flow shifts again, anyway. The advantage that we now have as experienced, tenured teachers is that we can and should speak up when our school leaders make unwise decisions.
We can do this without ruining our relationship with our bosses as long as we ground our feedback and resistance in professional judgement that benefits students, not in petty temper tantrums or personal attacks. As experienced, tenured educators we must fulfull our responsibility to our students and our profession. That's why tenure was established--to allow teachers to speak as professionals, not to sit back and wait for things to come and go.
We need to rememeber that, as teachers, we have more control over instruction than we think we do. I hope you don't join the chorus because it's convenient; instead, I hope you speak out in the best interests of students. Things are going to change. The medical profession advances; lawyers enact new policies; my tax guy adapts to new rules each year. I wouldn't fill out my taxes with someone who kept complaining about how much things change.
It's his job to keep up with new tax laws. It's our job to keep up with new instructional strategies and to push for those that are best for students. Which colleagues or leaders are you following? Are there other colleagues who would agree that the 5-paragraph essay is ineffective?
If not, how can you lead this change in perspective? Nevertheless, it is difficult to speak out when you know they are looking for younger teachers to take your place each day. Ok I agree that this old format is now what is best for students, however, no one has spoken of the process for another. Is there a website or book I can read? The reason the 5-paragraph essay made its return was because teachers needed in-depth education and ongoing support in how to teach writing well.
Without serious training in the art of writing, students' growth as writers is not likely. Writing is thinking and even the most innovative approaches to writing will fail if our teaching of writing is built on anything other than the belief that writing begins with a thought -- a deep thought that has pluses, minuses, and interesting implications.
Also, the true craft of writing reflects what readers know -- how to use words and conjure images to make one's writing readable. Again, if the teacher cannot make this thinking visible, we will make no progress in an area where improvement is sorely needed. This is perfectly stated. Thank you for commenting. It sounds like you have a strong writing background.
How did you develop this and what suggestions do you have for others to do the same? I would like to see a writing endorsement available. We have all kinds of other endorsements, but we need one in writing. This will push more people to see writing as a complex field instead of something we just do on paper in 46 minutes--or less.
A question that has come up a lot is how to use this with English-Language Learners. We must remember that they can and should be given opportunities to think critically even though they don't speak English fluently. One option is to have students use key terms or vocabulary in English e. This, of course, only works if it's a bilingual classroom. Another option, especially for ESL students, is to use sentence stems to get their ideas going after an appropriate brainstorming exercise.
I've used stems with even my AP students when we take on a new type of writing. The vision is to then take away the stems. Most of the time we can. Thanks to Response to Intervention, though, we don't have to for the really struggling students. Here's an example I suggested for a friend who teaches 4th grade:.
The significance to the audience can be put on hold 3. It's still 5 parts that can be 5 paragraphs. That's OK because it's getting students to think of opposing views and logic. The five-paragraph essay does not develop logic or the understanding that writing is about entering a larger conversation. It promotes an isolated, one-sided view.
Law school turned my writing upside down. I could no longer write simple, five paragraph persuasive essays. Not all legal writing is designed to be persuasive. However, every single brief, motion and petition needs to be beyond persuasive.
In fact, it needs to be utterly free of a reasonable counter-argument. In law school, I learned the infamous IRAC format issue, rule, application of the rule, and conclusion. I love this idea of leaving the five paragraph essay behind us! I would really like to read a sample of one of your student's essays, so I could share it with my colleagues who are stuck in the five paragraph essay mode.
Hi Jeannie, thanks for posting. An easy way to get some samples is to check out my journalism students' blog on Chicago Now: Some of the pieces are narrative; some are news stories. However, some good examples of argumentative essays are on Affirmative Action and homeless hotspots. I hope this helps. I agree -- the most valuable writing I learned in college was the conciliatory essay. I think in our diverse, fragmented world, it's important for people to be able to show they understand opposing viewpoints, and then be able to persuade others to see their own.
It's a valuable skill in any format from a brief conversation to comprehensive business proposals. There seems to be a fundamental flaw to the argument. The blogger writes, "The problem is this format doesn't encourage thoughtful persuasion. It's WHO encourages thoughtful persuasion I wrote it that way because there are times when we evaluate the text's impact.
We'll say, "The speech was not convincing. As we teach our students to read, write, and think, we need to also teach them and remind ourselves how to listen. We've been saying this same thing at National Writing Project as well as the multiple local writing project sites, but it's still a wonderful message to continue to convey. I think teachers are so overworked and battle weary that the 5 paragraph essay is sometimes a mindless, and easy choice. I've observed English teachers in my area who just give up and don't ask the kids to write anything but short answers and journals.
If there is a writing project site at a university near by, it's a worthy way to spend the summer in professional development. It transformed my teaching and opened up leadership opportunities for me. Thanks Ray from another endangered species - a native Hawaiian English teacher.
Thanks for commenting, Mrs. Aloha and fellow white rhino. It's an easy trap for teachers. It's tough keeping up with longer essays. Most NWP-affliated satellite projects usually tethered to a university will run multiple week-long Summer Institutes, where teachers write, research and teach as part of teacher-led PD.
The NWP website can be easily navigated to find those local projects. You present a persuasive argument for the abandonment of the 5-paragraph essay and suggest a new format for presenting an argument However, you did not provide much information on what is expected to go in between your introduction and conclusion? Any piece of writing needs some structure and main ideas that are then supported with various pieces of evidence whether you are writing a historical thesis or a persuasive essay If you are abandoning a "main idea followed by supporting evidence" format, what do you propose should take its place?
Or perhaps my understanding of the 5-paragraph essay you are speaking of is incorrect? Thanks for commenting, Nicole. Part 2 after the intro is background: What does the audience need to be reminded of?
Part 3 is the confirmation. This is the evidence that supports the argument. It's the stuff that supports the writer's view. I think you have answered your own question by example: I'd say that about the rest of the comments as well--thanks people!
Preaching to the choir! You asked in the comments how to teach this to ESL students. Well, that's my job, and the answer for me is to teach genres not modes, which is essentially what you did with the history professor you mentioned. Find good models, deconstruct them to find the stages of meaning, and then scaffold the writing, leading to independent mastery.
This answers the question posted above about what goes "in the middle. Students need the skills to analyze and respond in multiple genres, not the "limited literacy" Linda Flowers' term of the 5-paragraph pseudo-genre. Nigel Caplan, Delaware http: Nigel, thanks for commenting. It's good when a choir soloist finds a chorus to join.
I'm motivated by all of the comments. It's interesting that this post is getting more comments in favor than against. We throw around the word "essay" too much. Thanks for your insightful explanation of genre not mode. I'll check out your blog. One of the worst outcomes of the 5 paragraph approach is that it pounds the voice out of the text, even for the better writers.
All the essays sound alike, as if the teacher could shuffle them and assign them to random students. We must approach writing as a generative process. The first sentence generates the second, which generates the third, in a logical chain.
Teaching paragraphing should be delayed. It is easy to teach students to recognize paragraph breaks later on. Any classroom teacher who has experimented with quick-writes will recognize the benefit of this approach and the authenticity of the voices heard in each text.
Check out my blog: Very true, Jack--"writing as a generative process. Students need to learn that writing can change directions appropriately to engage the audience and themselves in deeper thinking. I am a tenth grade student and I completely agree that the 5-paragraph essay limits creativity and originality.
I enjoy learning and have been researching the modern writing style. I wish I could be taught how to persuade people in writing in the same way that I persuade people with words. In reference to your example of Liberace, I also agree that rules should be learned and then broken. Hi Stephen, thanks for speaking up. I'm glad to have some student voice here. If you're good at speaking your ideas, record yourself with your phone.
Many of the persuasive ideas will be there. We like to have real conversations with students--especially about writing. Maybe ask, "How did you learn to convince people with your writing?
Here's what I'm thinking. Then, try the variations on your own. Experiment with writing for you, not for the grade. Hey Ray, the five paragraph structure teaches you to use evidence to back up your arguments.
Something you fail to do in your essay. You make a bunch of specious claims and then never support them. Instead we get a rambly mess of an argument that doesn't really go anywhere. The biggest bone I have to pick with you is the old saw you repeat that I keep hearing from curriculum faddists- that this structure is never used in "real life. There is a value in learning a writing technique that is used to train good mental habits- such as supporting information with evidence.
Mostly I hate this real life argument because we do use it out side of school. I used to write for newspapers and magazines and used it in a mutated form all of the time. This method is used in debates and in writing college acceptance essays to name a few formats. To put down the five paragraph work horse is a fad. Students need to know how to structure thoughts and this is one very useful method.
One last point, not teaching this to students sets kids up for failure in college, where - like it or not- they are expected to know this formula. Ignatz, if we're not preparing student for real life, we should just turn off the lights, close the doors, and go home. The five-paragraph essay is useless outside of the classroom.
There are so many other ways to teach persuasion--and to persuade. There are many "real life" applications of the 5 paragraph essay. One is to read carefully for evidence, the others are outlined above. Think and read before you comment. No, they don't owe it all to me. I just make sure I fulfill my responsibility of being an good writing teacher.
They work to ensure their own success. What you are describing is much like something that has been coined the "enthymeme" http: George Guthridge has done a lot of work developing this method for use with student writing - based on Aristotle http: Our teachers have used his work with the enthymeme to teach writing http: I start even more simply.
There are two kinds of questions, What questions and Why questions. What questions always have objective answers, and can't be made into essays because they have essentially one sentence responses.
Why questions are debatable by their nature, which gets to your excellent points about creating a thesis which requires explanation as well as proof in opposition to another position. They cannot be made in to "Why" essays, this is true. And "Why" essays teach a deeper kind of thinking, however it is a mistake to say that "What" essays are valueless and should be done away with.
David, this makes sense. Five-paragraph essays usually end up answering "what" questions instead of "why" and people mistake exposition for persuasion. I like this approach. Thanks for the tip. Looks as if notice of the death of the five-paragraph essay has, at least for now, been somewhat exaggerated.
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