Essays, such as critical analyses, argumentative essays, and research papers are a common assignment for many students. Following are the common challenges that students may face in writing these essays.
- Lack of evidence:
A mere statement of the argument is not sufficient unless relevant evidence is provided in order to make the claim valid and effective. If a lawyer does not use enough evidence in a court, he will not be able to support and prove his argument effectively. Similarly, a writer should have relevant evidence in his essay in order to persuade the readers and increase the validity of the argument. The best solution is to study well and get acquainted with the topic. While reading about your topic, take notes on the most relevant issues and store them for later use (for references and citations). There are various ways to use the evidence and persuade your readers:
- Provide evidence that agrees with your stance up to a point, and then add your own ideas to it.
- Present evidence that contradicts your stance, and then argue against (refute) that evidence to strengthen your position.
- Use sources against each other, as if they were experts on a panel discussing your claim.
Students sometimes include evidence that is not relevant to the main topic. This is a result of not spending enough time for planning the essay or trying to reach the word limit. It may also be the case that even relevant facts can seem irrelevant because students sometimes do not use appropriate wording and fail to link different paragraphs and ideas with each other. As a result, even relevant facts and arguments sound irrelevant. This problem can be avoided by following several simple solutions:
- Before you start writing an essay, make an outline and plan your essay carefully. Connect each part of your essay, arguments and facts to the main idea and the topic.
- At each stage of the essay, keep asking yourself “Is this relevant?”, “Am I answering the question?”, and “Does this relate directly to the subject I have been asked to discuss?”
- If you begin to introduce a new and separate problem or topic to discuss and prove a part of your argument, make sure that you return to the main subject and explain how these secondary facts are relevant to the main argument.
One of the key elements of a well-written essay is clarity. A reader can be confused about what exactly is being said in the essay. What is clear to you may not be so for the reader. Therefore, it is important to consider the audience. Some students may use ‘big’ words and complex language in order to sound “smarter” and more “academic”. However, good writing is to express, not to impress. General guidelines that presented here are useful for writing clearly:
- Assume that the readers do not have sufficient information about the topic and try to define the key words and give explanations for the main problems you are discussing in the essay.
- Explain the reader what you are going to tell them, and then remind them what you told. According to this formula, in the introduction you should explain what you are going to discuss, elaborate on your ideas in the body paragraphs, and then summarize and remind the reader of all your main arguments in the conclusion.
- Write cohesive paragraphs constructed around a single idea. All sentences in a paragraph should relate back to the main point. Try to put the main idea of the paragraph in the first sentence of the paragraph.
- Avoid jargon, slang, unfamiliar words, and complex language. It will only confuse your readers.
- Weak Analysis:
An essay with a perfect structure, organization, and grammar may get a low grade due to weak analysis. Analytical writing skills involve finding relationships of different facts and ideas, providing possible situations and alternative solutions, and comparing and contrasting. There are several ways to have strong analysis in your essay:
- Read critically. Take your material apart so that you thoroughly understand its contents and structure.
- Brainstorm a list of possible points, theories, and other’s views that you could analyze.
- Try to answer the questions of “Why?, “How”, “What if?”, “So what?”, and so on.
- Identify propaganda and bias.
- Investigate interrelationships of different issues and connect disparate pieces of issues.