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College Writing Skills Summary Report (Assessment)


An Introduction to Writing

In order to write clearly, it is essential to think clearly as well. Organizing one’s ideas is possible according to four logical steps. First, a clearly stated point (or a thesis) should be found. Second, the thesis should be provided with detailed logical support. Third, supporting material should be appropriately organized and connected in a logical whole. Finally, the paper should be revised and edited so that it is effective and free from errors.

In writing, any idea must be supported with reasons and details. Therefore, a paragraph opens with a point (topic sentence) and continues with a series of supporting sentences. In a traditional essay, the central idea is expressed in the introduction, in a thesis sentence. The latter may include major supporting points further developed in body paragraphs.

Supporting paragraphs begin with topic sentences, corroborated by details and examples. A concluding paragraph contains a summary of thesis and supporting ideas, as well as the final thought of the essay.

Learning to write a traditional essay has its benefits. Firstly, through learning to express a clear point and logically support it, one becomes a better writer. Secondly, through writing discipline one becomes a better listener and speaker critically aware of the other’s and own ideas. Thirdly, by paying attention to logical rules and keeping mental discipline, one becomes a stronger thinker.

Writing can be seen in different ways. On the one hand, it is a skill that can be learnt through practicing competent and intense thinking. On the other hand, writing is a process of discovering ideas and exploring thoughts during drafting. In addition, writing is a way of communication, where the purpose and the audience should always be kept in mind. Keeping a journal helps practise thinking on paper, and using a computer sufficiently facilitates the writing process.

The Writing Process

In order to achieve the four goals of essay writing — unity, support, organization, and error-free sentences — the writer has to complete three essential steps. Prewriting involves working out a thesis and appropriate support to it. Writing a first draft involves organizing thesis and supporting material. Revising and editing ensures the final result.

Prewriting can be done through five techniques. First, freewriting involves noting down all the ideas that occur in connection with a given topic. This is done in rough sentences and phrases to accumulate ideas and details to support them. Second, questioning helps to produce ideas and details by asking all kinds of questions about the topic. Third, making a list (or brainstorming) assists in collecting ideas and details that relate to the chosen topic.

No differentiation is conducted on this level, all ideas are treated as equally important. Fourth, clustering (or diagramming, or mapping) is a way to visualize the relationships among the ideas and details and to single out the main and secondary ones. Fifth, preparing a scratch outline is a step uniting the results of the previous ones. During this stage, the main point and supporting ideas are arranged in a neat outline. This stage is significant for a typical essay since it ensures its unity and integrity.

Writing a first draft enriches the essay with additional thoughts and details. A crucial stage for essay writing is revising, since it means rewriting the initial essay to make it stronger. To access the strengths and weaknesses of the essay, it is advisory to set the draft aside for some time, then print it out, read it aloud, and introduce all the necessary changes. Revision should concern content, sentence style, and editing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

The First and the Second Steps in Essay Writing

The first step in essay writing is starting an essay with a major point (or thesis). A good thesis is essential from the very beginning of writing an essay since, firstly, it provides the writer with a clear and workable main idea to develop, and secondly, it serves as a guide for writing the essay and not drifting away from the topic.

A thesis statement presented in the introduction to the essay performs two functions: on the one hand, it informs the reader of the essay topic; on the other hand, it outlines the writer’s attitude, opinion, idea, or point about the topic.

Producing a good thesis is possible when the topic is neither too broad, nor too narrow. There are three things to avoid when working on a thesis. Firstly, the writer should not simply announce the subject. Secondly, the thesis sentence should be neither too broad, nor too narrow. And thirdly, there should not be more than one idea expressed in the thesis.

The second step in essay writing is supporting the thesis with evidence. During this stage, it is highly advisory to make an informal outline to help the writer organize supporting evidence. On average, a thesis should be supported with three points. Those points should be developed through using specific and adequate details.

Specific details are beneficial for two reasons: firstly, they excite the reader’s interest by their sharpness; and secondly, they explain the writers intent by helping to share the writer’s experience. Adequate details ensure that there are enough details to fully develop and support the point. Good essay paragraphs should not be left underdeveloped or filled with vague generalizations.

The Third Step in Essay Writing

The third step in essay writing is organizing and connecting specific evidence in body paragraphs. The main objective of this stage is to make all the details cohere, or stick together in one logical whole.

This can be done using two methods. For one thing, there are common methods of organization, which include: a) time order (or chronological order), enlisting the details the way they occur in time; and b) emphatic order, which means mentioning the most significant point in the end, since the last things are usually remembered best. Those two methods can be combined.

For another things, coherence can be secured through transitions, which signal the direction of writer’s thought and are or three types. Firstly, there are common transitions of addition, time, space, change of direction, illustration, and conclusion. Secondly, there are transitional sentences (or linking sentences) that tie together two paragraphs by mentioning ideas from both of them. And thirdly, there are other connecting words, such as repeating words, pronouns, and synonyms.

A good essay should also have effective introduction, conclusion, and title. The introduction attracts the reader’s attention to the topic, supplies background information, presents the thesis, and provides a plan of essay development. Common methods of introduction involve narrowing a general topic to a concrete thesis; starting with a contrasting idea; explaining the importance of the topic; using an incident; asking questions; and using a quotation.

The concluding paragraph reminds the reader of the thesis idea and rounds up the essay gracefully. The main methods of conclusion are ending with a summary and a final thought; asking thought-provoking questions; and finishing with a prediction or recommendation. The essay title is a very brief summary (no longer than several words) of what the paper is about. It is better to write the title after the paper completion.

Four Bases for Revising Essays

Once the writer has learnt about the four essential steps in essay writing, it is crucial to be able to revise the essays on the basis of those four steps. In analyzing essays, one should take into consideration all of the four essay characteristics, since they by large secure the success or failure of an essay.

The first major essay characteristic to be analyzed is essay unity. One should pay attention to developing only one point in the essay and sticking only to it without unnecessary digressions. All the details in the paper should be directly related to the thesis sentence and to the topic sentences supporting it. Any irrelevant sentences should be eliminated since they break the unity of the essay.

The second major essay characteristic is essay support. Very specific evidence should be provided in support of each essay point. This secures that the reader’s attention is attracted and the reader is involved in writer’s experience. Care should be taken that there is adequate support, enough to illustrate all the major points of the essay.

The third major essay characteristic to be analyzed is coherence. The essay material should be organized clearly and logically. Such methods of coherent organization should be clearly used as emphatic and/or chronological order of events, transitional words, and linking sentences.

The fourth major essay characteristic to be analyzed is sentence skills. Care should be taken that there are no quotation mark around the title and that the first word of the title is capitalized. The areas to pay specific attention to are subject-verb agreement, agreement between nouns and pronouns, parallelism, absence of sentence fragments, tense agreement, and other issues of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Introduction to Essay Development

When an essay it assigned, it is always essential to understand the exact nature of the task and to know what is required. In addition, knowing the length of the assignment helps to define how detailed the writer should treat the subject. In order to write an efficient essay, the writer should possess certain active or passive experience with the subject.

Without any background information, it would be difficult to assemble adequate and specific supporting evidence. The writer should also clearly understand the purpose of the essay, whether it is to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. Although most student essays are written for general audience, it is worthwhile trying to write for specific audience and to adjust the vocabulary, the tone, and the point of view in an essay.

There are three types of point of view: a) first-person perspective is used for narrative essays involving personal experience; b) second-person perspective is applied for instruction and explanation; c) third-person perspective is the most widespread of all and is used to emphasize that information for the essay has been gathered through observation, thinking, and reading.

Peer review is an efficient tool for assessing essays. During peer review, one should read the essay, marking the problematic spots, then identify one’s name and draw a scratch outline of the essay. Comments should be provided on essay unity, support, and organization, as well as on the positive aspects of the paper. Personal review is another evaluation tool. While writing, one should constantly control the essay for unity, support, and coherence. After checking for sentence skills, a general revision and editing should be conducted.

There are nine patterns of essay development: description, narration, exposition (including exemplification, process, cause and effect, comparison and contrast, definition, division-classification), and argument.

Description

A descriptive essay presupposes the writer to provide a picture in words describing a person, a place, or a thing. It is therefore significant to provide as many vivid details as possible, appealing to the reader’s senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch). The details should be especially sharp and colorful, so as to produce a maximum impact.

Since the main purpose of a descriptive essay is to make the reader see, and/or hear, and/or taste, and/or smell, and/or feel what the author is writing about, it is advisory to choose topics that appeal strongly to some of the writer’s senses. The more senses are involved, the better.

In addition, it is important to realize, how much the audience knows about the topic, and to provide background information accordingly. When defining the goal of the essay, the writer should answer the question what message he or she wants to convey. The supporting details and main points should be chosen accordingly.

Beginning to work on a descriptive essay, the writer should involve in developing ideas and details through freewriting and revising. Once a thesis is defined, details should be chosen to support it and a scratch outline should be created. The process of revision for a descriptive essay is based on the four main essay characteristics. Revising for unity, the writer should check whether there is a good thesis and whether the dominant impression is well-conveyed.

All irrelevant material should be eliminated. Support should ensure that there are rich specific details appealing to as many senses as possible. Coherence check focuses on consistent organization through transition words and a concluding paragraph. Sentence skills should be obvious in maintaining a consistent point of view, using specific rather than general vocabulary, and employing varied sentences.

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