- The introductory paragraph: 1. An introductory sentence that acts as a hook, capturing the reader's interest. 2. Identification of the issue you will be discussing. 3. Your thesis statement.
- The body paragraphs: 1. Topic sentence that gives one reason to support your thesis. 2. Your explanation and opinion of the topic sentence. 3. Support from your sources that backs up the claim you just made. 4. Explanation of the significance of the source(s).
- The conclusion paragraph: 1. State further significance of your topic from the evidence and reasons you discussed in the essay. 2. A profound thought or thoughtful ending for your paper.
- Example/illustration. This may be a detailed recount, summary, or direct quote from your source material that provides major support for your point of view. You may use more than one example or illustration, if your paper calls for it. You should not, however, make your paper a series of examples at the expense of supporting your thesis.
- Straw man. With this technique, you present an argument opposed to the argument stated in your thesis, then show the weaknesses and flaws of the counter-argument. This format shows your awareness of the opposition and your readiness to answer it. You present the counter-argument right after your thesis, followed by the evidence to refute it, and end with a positive argument that supports your thesis.
- Concession. Essays with concessions are structured similar to those using the straw man technique, but they acknowledge the validity of the counter-argument while showing that the original argument is stronger. This structure is good for presenting papers to readers who hold the opposing viewpoint.
- Comparison and contrast. This structure compares similarities and contrasts differences between two subjects or sources to show the facets of both. Writing an essay with this structure requires a careful reading of your source material to find both subtle and major points of similarity and difference. This kind of essay can present its arguments source-by-source or by points of similarity or difference.
Cite your source material. For most papers, this means using footnotes to cite material in the body of your essay and a bibliography of cited works at the end. Footnotes and in-text citations should be used for any quoted, paraphrased, or cited material. If you are writing this essay for the AP test, you will not be using a specific style of citing but you will have to state which source you used after you cite it.
- Example of citing in an AP synthesis essay: McPherson claims "texting has changed the English language in a positive way--it has given a new generation their own unique way to communicate" (Source E).
- For college essays, you'll most likely use MLA format. Whichever format you use, be consistent in its use. You may also be asked to use APA or Chicago style.
Title your essay. Your title should reflect the point of view in your thesis statement and supporting arguments. Choosing your title last helps assure that the title fits your essay instead of writing your essay to fit the title.
- Example title:: English and the iPhone: Exploring the Benefits of 'Text-Speak'