The Basics of Effective Essay Writingby Becton Loveless
As you progress through school, you'll be required to write essays. And the farther along in school you get, the more complex and demanding the essays will become. It's important that you learn early on how to write effective essays that communicate clearly and accomplish specific objectives.
An essay is a written composition where you express a specific idea and then support it with facts, statements, analysis and explanations. The basic format for an essay is known as the five paragraph essay – but an essay may have as many paragraphs as needed. A five paragraph essay contains five paragraphs. However, the essay itself consists of three sections: an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
Below we'll explore the basics of writing an essay.
Select a TopicWhen you first start writing essays in school, it's not uncommon to have a topic assigned to you. However, as you progress in grade level, you'll increasingly be given the opportunity to choose the topic of your essays. When selecting a topic for your essay, you'll want to make sure your topic supports the type of paper you're expected to write. If you're expected to produce a paper that is a general overview, then a general topic will suffice. However, if you're expected to write a specific analysis, then you're topic should be fairly specific.
For example, lets assume the objective of your essay is to write an overview. Then the topic "RUSSIA" would be suitable. However, if the objective or your essay is to write a specific analysis, then "RUSSIA" would be far too general a topic. You'll need to narrow down your topic to something like "Russian Politics: Past, Present and Future" or "Racial Diversity in the Former USSR".
If you're expected to choose your own topic, then the first step is to define the purpose of your essay. Is your purpose to persuade? To explain how to accomplish something? Or to education about a person, place, thing or idea? The topic you choose needs to support the purpose of your essay.
The purpose of your essay is defined by the type of paper you're writing. There are three basic types of essay papers:
- Analytical - An analytical essay paper breaks down an idea or issue into its its key components. It evaluates the issue or idea by presenting analysis of the breakdown and/or components to the the reader.
- Expository - Also known as explanatory essays, expositories provide explanations of something.
- Argumentative - These type of essays, also known as persuasive essays, make a specific claim about a topic and then provide evidence and arguments to support the claim. The claim set forth in argumentative (persuasive) essays may be an opinion, an evaluation, an interpretation, cause-effect statement or a policy proposal. The purpose of argumentative essays is to convince or persuade the reader that a claim is valid.
Once you have defined the purpose of your essay, it's time to brainstorm. Don't choose just one topic right of the bat. Take some time to consider, contrast and weight your options. Get out a piece of paper and make a list of all the different topics that fit the purpose of your essay. Once they're all down on paper, start by eliminating those topics that are difficult or not as relevant as others topics. Also, get rid of those topics that are too challenging or that you're just not that interested in. Pretty soon you will have whittled your list down to just a few topics and then you can make a final choice.
Organize Your Ideas Using a Diagram or OutlineSome students get scared to start writing. They want to make sure they have all their thoughts organized in their head before they put anything down on paper. Creating a diagram or outline allows you to put pen to paper and start organizing your ideas. Don't worry or agonize over organization at this point, just create a moderately organized format for your information.
Whether you use a diagram or outline doesn't really matter. Some people prefer and work better with the flowing structure of a diagram. Others like the rigid and logical structure of an outline. Don't fret, once you get started, you can always change formats if the format you chose isn't working out for you.
The following are useful steps for developing a diagram to organize ideas for your essay.
- Get started by drawing a circle in the middle of a paper just big enough to write in.
- Inside your circle, write your essay topic.
- Now draw three or four lines out from your circle.
- At the end of each of lines, draw another circle just slightly smaller than the circle in the middle of the page.
- In each smaller circle, write a main idea about your topic, or point you want to make. If this is persuasive (argumentative) essay, then write down your arguments. If the object of the essay is to explain a process (expository), then write down a step in each circle. If your essay is intended to be informative or explain (analytical), write the major categories into which information can be divided.
- Now draw three more lines out from each circle containing a main idea.
- At the end of each of these lines, draw another circle.
- Finally, in each of these circles write down facts or information that help support the main idea.
The following are useful steps for developing an outline to organize ideas for your essay.
- Take a page of paper and write your topic at the top.
- Now, down the left side of the page, under the topic, write Roman numerals I, II, and III, sequentially.
- Next to each Roman numeral, write the main points, or ideas, about your essay topic. If this is persuasive essay, write your arguments. If this an essay to inform, write the major categories into which information will be divided. If the purpose of your essay is to explain a process, write down each step of the process.
- Next, under each Roman numeral, write A, B, and C down the left hand side of the page.
- Finally, next to each letter, under each Roman numeral, write the information and/or facts that support the main point or idea.
Develop a Thesis StatementOnce you have an idea for the basic structure of your essay, and what information you're going to present in your essay, it's time to develop your thesis statement. A thesis statement states or outlines what you intend to prove in your essay. A good thesis statement should be clear, concise, specific, and takes a position.
The word "thesis" just sounds intimidating to most students, but a thesis is actually quite simple. A thesis statement (1) tells the reader what the essay is about and (2) what points you'll be making. If you've already selected an essay topic, and developed an outline or diagram, you now can decide what points you want to communicate through your essay.
A thesis statement has two key components. The first component is the topic, and the second is the point(s) of the essay. The following is an example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:
The life of a child raised in Pena Blanca is characterized by little playing, a lot of hard work and extreme poverty.
An example of an analytical thesis statement:
An analysis of the loan application process for citizens of third world countries reveals one major obstacle: applicants must already have money in order to qualify for a loan.
An example of an argumentative (persuasive) thesis statement:
Instead of sending tax money overseas to buoy struggling governments and economies, U.S. residents should be offered tax incentives for donating to companies that provide micro loans directly to the citizens of third world countries.
Once you're done developing a thesis statement that supports the type of essay your writing and the purpose of the essay, you're ready to get started on your introduction.
IntroductionThe introduction is the first paragraph of the essay. It introduces the reader to the idea that the essay will address. It is also intended to capture the reader's attention and interest. The first sentence of the introduction paragraph should be as captivating and interesting as possible. The sentences that follow should clarify your opening statement. Conclude the introduction paragraph with your thesis statement.
BodyThe body of your essay is where you explain, describe or argue the topic you've chosen. Each of the main ideas you included in your outline or diagram will become of the body paragraphs. If you wrote down four main ideas in your outline or diagram, then you'll have four body paragraphs.
Each paragraph will address one main idea that supports the thesis statement. The first paragraph of the body should put forth your strongest argument to support your thesis. Start the paragraph out by stating the supporting idea. Then follow up with additional sentences that contain supporting information, facts, evidence or examples – as shown in your diagram or outline. The concluding sentence should sum up what you've discussed in the paragraph.
The second body paragraph will follow the same format as the first body paragraph. This paragraph should put forth your second strongest argument supporting your thesis statement. Likewise, the third and fourth body paragraphs, like the first and second, will contain your third and fourth strongest arguments supporting your thesis statement. Again, the last sentence of both the third and fourth paragraphs should sum up what you've discussed in each paragraph and indicate to the reader that the paragraph contains the final supporting argument.
ConclusionThe final paragraph of the essay provides the conclusion. This paragraph should should restate your thesis statement using slightly different wording than employed in your introduction. The paragraph should summarize the arguments presented in the body of the essay. The last sentence in the conclusion paragraph should communicate that your essay has come to and end. Your concluding paragraph should communicate to the reader that you're confident that you've proven the idea as set forth in your thesis statement.
Having the ability to write effective essays will become increasingly important as you progress through high school and into college. If you'll internalize the format presented above, you'll develop the ability to write clear and compelling essays.
The five paragraph order or five paragraph field order is a style of organizing information about a military situation for a unit in the field. It is an element of United States Army, United States Marine Corps and United States Navy Seabees of small unit tactics, and similar order styles are used by military groups around the world. An order specifies the instruction to a unit in a structured format that makes it easy to find each specific requirement. The five paragraphs can be remembered with the acronym SMEAC: "S" Situation, "M" Mission, "E" Execution, "A" Administration/Logistics, "C" Command/Signal.
There are a number of subtypes of these field orders, based on knowledge patterns specific to individual military branches. Each subtype has its own acronym. Most are based on a METT-TC analysis (Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, Time Available, and Civilian considerations). In addition, the Marines use the BAMCIS process (Begin the Planning, Arrange Recon, Make Recon, Complete Planning, Issue Order, Supervise) while the Army uses the eight Troop Leading Procedures (Receive the Mission, Issue a Warning Order, Make a Tentative Plan, Start Necessary Movement, Reconnoiter, Complete the Plan, Issue the Operations Order, Supervise) prior to potential enemy engagement.
Supervision is the most important step from the BAMCIS acronym. It provides a structure for the unit to be able to understand and execute the mission of the unit leader. It is different from other instruction from higher authority in that it is given orally, instead of being issued as written orders. Officers and non-commissioned officers also use it informally to communicate relevant information prior to a non-combat movement (e.g. administrative travel/convoy, field exercise movements, weapon re-qualification, liberty, etc.).
Outline of five paragraph order:
- A. Enemy Forces
- Enemy's Composition, Disposition, Strength
- Enemy's Capabilities & Limitations:(DRAW-DG) Defend, Reinforce, Attack, Withdraw, Delay, Gas
- Enemy's Most Likely Course Of Action (EMLCOA)
- Enemy's Most Dangerous Course of Action
- B. Friendly Forces
- Higher's Mission & Intent
- Adjacent Units
- Same Echelon
- C. Attachments/Detachment
- D. Civil/Terrain considerations
Who, What (Tactical Task), Where, When, and Why?
- A. Commander's Intent
- Center of Gravity
- Critical Vulnerability
- Exploitation Plan
- Desired Endstate
- B. Concept of the Operations
- Scheme of Maneuver
- Fire Support Plan
- C. Tasks
- D. Coordinating Instructions
IV. Administration/Logistics (Service Support in the Army version)
- A. Administration - "Bad Guys & Bandages": EPW & Casevac Plans
- B. Logistics - "Beans, Bullets, & Batteries": Food, Ammunition, Supply, Communications, Pyrotechnics, etc.
V. Command/Signal (Command and Signal in the Army version)
- A. Signal
- B. Command
- Location of Key Leaders
- Succession of Command
Since Marines and soldiers work in small teams, it is important that each member know and understand the order in its entirety so as to be aware of which parts of the order apply directly to them and the subordinate unit to which they belong without being exceedingly aware of minute details provided for general situational awareness.
The British armed forces use a similar system subdivided into:
- Preliminaries - This involves the orders group going to the platoon commander and receiving their orders for their section and finding out about their commanders plans for the platoon as a whole. This stage also involves the second-in-command of a section preparing them for battle. This includes all ammunition checks ensuring all of the sections equipment is in working order and that the section is camouflaged and hydrated. This is done from the mnemonic:
-P rotection -A mmunition -W eapons -P ersonal Equipment -E quipment -R adios -S pecialist Equipment -O rders (this is done by the section commander)
If the second-in-command has any spare time after this he will prepare a detailed model for the briefing of the troops.
- Ground - Now that the section commanders have received orders from the platoon commander they return to their sections to deliver their briefing. He or she will use the model provided for by the second-in-command to give a brief description of the ground on which the mission will take place. He will explain contours and possible cover for the route in and how it will be exploited to avoid enemy detection.
- Situation - This is similar to the American system in that it includes the enemy situation as well as friendly forces situation. When This part of the briefing is given possible enemy-locations, forces, strength, ammunition, weapons, supply routes, watering points, patrol routes, objectives, morale, and motivation.
- Mission - This is a one sentence statement that summarises the mission objectives. For example, The mission to is to conduct a fighting patrol in order to eliminate any enemy positions so that the platoon can keep advancing into enemy territory safely. The mission statement is extremely important as it is more than likely the only bit of the briefing squadies are bothered to listen to. So make it short sharp and to the point. You must always repeat the mission twice so that any squadies not paying attention have a chance to catch what it is they are meant to be doing.
- Execution - If a briefing is considered to be a sandwich this would be considered the filling. It should be the longest part of the briefing and will explain in detail exactly what is going to be done under all conditions. This means the first plan of attack and any thing that will be done if the plan is compromised in any way for example if something unexpected happens.The section commander will explain the plan in a series of logical commands. it starts as follows
- Platoon HQ is located on the model
- Enemy position located
- Patrol Form up point located
- Bearing for departure located
- Time out given
- Route to enemy position pointed out
- Any RV points are given according to the ground
- Advanced information on Enemy is given
- Plan of Attack is given
- Location of possible ReOrg given
- Route back in pointed out (always different from route in so not ambushed by enemy)
- Bearing of way into Patrol harbour or Platoon HQ given
- Time Back Given
- Actions on given e.g. action on light during night is to get to ground
- Actions on Vehicle-Light-Ambush-Fire-Separation-Lost-No Comms-Pinned Down-Weapon Stoppage-Run Out Of Ammo- etc
- An Official list does exist and it is much longer however these are the major features.
- Service Support - This is to do with all equipment that is needed specifically for the mission this ranges from Personal clothing to technical possibilities of any possible support weapons. This is a quick section which allows each member of the section to know exactly what to bring. Remember if you are giving orders for a recce patrol remind your section to wear warm kit because if they die from the cold it is on you. This should have all been prepared by the second-in-command during the prelims but you have to check.
- Command and signal - This section involves mainly two things everything to do with radios and all passwords and code names and signals which may be used during the patrol.
The radio section involves radio checks and ensuring the frequency is correct and that any change in frequency happens at exactly 23:59 right before midnight. Call signs for the radio network are handed out just remember that the platoon commander is always zero. the majority of the time the sections go in alpha numerical order e.g., section 1's point man is 1,1 second person is 1,2 and the third is 1,3 and so on through all three section for the platoon. It is important that voice procedures are followed so that no information can be gained by the enemy over the radio waves.
The password and code name section for the command and signals orders involves giving out the password for the return journey so that the sentry does not shoot you when you return. This should only be a last resort as if the enemy hear it they could pretend to be a part of the section. Generally a sentry knows roughly what time you are coming back at due to the platoon commander informing him.
- Questions - These are to and from the patrol to ensure they understand what you said. Remember when asking a question post pause pounce. So give them a question see who looks like they know the answer then ask someone who looks nervous because they were not paying attention.
- Field Training Manual - Student Handout, United States Marine Corps.
Video of General Sheehan explaining the origins of SMEAC. Includes an explanation of why the Marine's refined the Mission section after Vietnam.