scholarly essay format
Now that you have your outline, it’s time to flesh out the text and start writing your academic essay. Begin with your introduction. This paragraph should include your thesis statement and some general text explaining your thesis statement. This text can include background information for your argument, the context in which you have approached your examination of the thesis, and how the rest of your essay is organized.
When considering how to write an academic essay, don’t wait until the last minute to begin your research. You may find that the information you need isn’t readily accessible online, so you might need to visit your local library or conduct more in-depth searches online. The staff at your local public library or the library at your school are happy to help, but it’s never a good idea to go in the night before your essay is due expecting to quickly find all the information you need.
move up and down the “ladder of abstraction” from generalization to varying levels of detail back to generalization
to add your points up, to explain their significance
My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.
I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.
- State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it’s important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you’re anticipating your answer to the “why” question that you’ll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
- Begin your next sentence like this: “To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . .” Then say why that’s the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the “what” question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
- Begin each of the following sentences like this: “The next thing my reader needs to know is . . .” Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you’ve mapped out your essay.
“How?” A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is “how”: How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you’re making? Typically, an essay will include at least one “how” section. (Call it “complication” since you’re responding to a reader’s complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the “what,” but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.
“Introductions” and “conclusions” exist only in the abstract. When you write a scholarly essay, you shouldn’t be thinking in terms of producing a module called “introduction” or “conclusion.” Like everything else, they should be manifest in the orderly way you present your ideas. Introductions introduce and conclusions conclude. An appropriate analogy may be that of lawyers “introducing” their case and its evidence to a jury and then, after laying it all out in detail, “concluding” by ensuring that the audience now knows why what’s been said is important. Use whatever rhetorical strategies come to mind when you think about making a persuasive case and underscoring its importance.
A clear style evolves easily if you know your subject sufficiently well when you start to write. Usually sentences don’t convey an idea clearly because the writer doesn’t fully understand the nebulous idea in his or her mind. Once you can precisely articulate what that idea is, simply write it out in a clear and full way. Remember: do not get bogged down in the creativity of expression.