3.1 Introduction

A bridge over a river
Photo by Håkon Sataøen on Unsplash

Learning Objectives

The student will be able to do the following:

  • Write an essay with introductory, supporting, and concluding paragraphs.
  • Formulate a thesis statement.

A Student’s Story

As it was Isabels first day of college, she was excited but nervous about returning to school after 30 years outside of the classroom raising children and taking care of the normal family needs. Butterflies took up residence in her stomach. She headed to the campus food court to get a coffee so as to see her through the early morning course

She walked across campus, found the correct classroom, and took a seat. Without any bell to signal the start of class, the instructor entered, introduced himself and shared general information about the English 100 course. Then, he passed out the syllabus and other handouts. After discussing the syllabus and expectations, the instructor discussed how one of the handouts was something called a writing diagnostic.

When the instructor said the word “diagnostic,” Isabel repeated it with heart racing a bit because it seemed like such a loaded word. She settled herself and glanced around the classroom. Some students looked relaxed while others began to sink in their seats. Questions floated about in her head: “How does one write a diagnostic? What are the actual components of an essay? How am I going to get started?” Instead of tangling with these questions on her own, she decided to be brave and ask one of these questions out loud. She raised her hand.

The instructor acknowledged her, so Isabel spoke, “Could you please repeat the instructions? I’d like a better understanding.”

Her instructor explained, “You will have one hour to read the article and write an effective essay that has an introduction, body, and conclusion. At the end of the term, you will complete the same assignment, and I will compare your writing to evaluate your improvement. Please consider this diagnostic to be a means of assessing how I, as the instructor, am able to help you develop your writing over the course of this semester. Are there any more questions?”

Isabel felt more at ease when she thought about the essay assignment from this perspective. The diagnostic was no longer a means of proving what she did not know about essays; she understood that it was designed to measure her learning over the next 15 weeks. She looked forward to delving into the process of enhancing the skills she already possessed. This was the reason she enrolled in the class—so that she could gain the skills to progress to a managerial position at her job, help her family, and be a role-model for her children and their children.

In college, students are required to write various types of essays and reports. These types of college-based compositions are written for many reasons, and their respective purpose will determine the type of essay that is written. Regardless of the type of essay, there are general qualities that all essays have, and there are guidelines on how to write an essay.

A paragraph is a collection of sentences related to a main point. An essay is a combination of paragraphs that can be divided into three major sections: an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Thus, paragraphs function in a variety of ways.

This chapter provides guidelines for how to structure college-level compositions, but these guidelines are meant to be used as a starting point for essay and report writing. There are various ways of writing at any level of one’s education or within the professional world. Formats for essays and reports in college change depending on the course, the instructor, and the overriding goals of the assignment. Thus, writers are encouraged to expand the structure, to be creative, and to find their own writing styles.


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