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Learning to write your first essay: Introduction

**Please follow instructions provided by your instructor first as they may have a template for you to follow, or specific instructions and expectations for format and level of sophistication. In the event you do not have guidance, use the following as a guide to assist you.**

Say what you are going to say (~150-250 words)

1) Introduce your topic. Highlight a central concept that the authors have discussed in their paper that has inspired you to investigate further. This concept introduction can be longer than one sentence.

Example: In McClurg and Chang's paper "Writing expectations in an engineering program" they assert that almost 70% of students have trepidation surrounding reading and writing assignments (156).

2. Provide 1-2 segue sentences that expand upon the article and leads into what will be your thesis - or topic- of your paper. These will probably involve some ideas from supporting scholarly papers. These papers help you form (and inform!) your ideas.

Example: In a recent study, engineering students at  college in Pandora echoed this finding when survey responses revealed that 30% of students had not had the opportunity to write papers in other courses by graduation and that 50% of the cohort "experienced feelings of isolation" in regards to their skills (Gill et. al. 72).  In a pilot study at the University of Whoville, researchers provided lab time where students were given 75 minutes a week to work on writing their final paper with the help of peers and teaching assistants (Spock 632). The average grade increased by 6 percentage points and students expressed that they felt "more confident about their essay" while others reported that "one course was not enough time" to hone their skills (Spock 634). Peer-to-peer mentorship and multidisciplinary teaching teams (professors, teaching assistants, writing coaches and librarians) are often used in other academic programs such as business and medical school. Whether they are informal grass roots initiates or built into the curriculum, these approaches been shown to "foster trust and a sense of community in a cohort" as well as celebrate diverse skills (such as writing) in student groups (McGillicuddy 23). 

3. Finally, conclude your introductory paragraph by detailing your thesis statement. This is your way of telling the reader what your paper will be discussing and any positions (if applicable) you are taking. Use action words such as "explore", "describe", "investigate", "argue", "compare and contrast", "discuss" etc.

Example: This paper will explore the role of peer-to-peer mentorship in writing courses in engineering programs, describe how courses with multidisciplinary instructors impact student learning, and suggest that writing in engineering programs produces engineering graduates with improved communication self-efficacy and creative thinking skills. 

Learning to write your first essay: Body

Say it. (1150-1250 words)

This is the section where you talk about the ideas presented in your thesis statement. For an undergraduate paper of this length, it is generally acceptable to introduce each idea as it's own section. Most thesis statements introduce 2+ ideas. My example above has three distinct ideas which I would translate into 3 separate paragraphs. However, formatting is still important. Introduce each new idea (even within the same section) as a new paragraph. This visually lets the reader know you're onto a new thought.

Even though you're introducing two or more unique (but connected!) ideas in your thesis, you still want the essay to read as a cohesive whole. Remember how I tried to use segue sentences linking the initial article to my thesis? "Weave a thread" through each paragraph so that you are transitioning effectively and logically from concept to concept. There shouldn't be an abrupt shift in ideas during the reading of your essay. 


"In the same vein, etc etc",

"Continuing with that, etc etc"

"XYZ is not the only way etc etc"

Finally, don't fret if each section isn't the same length. It is most important to attempt to give critical thought to each part of your thesis statement. 

Learning to write your first essay: Conclusion

Say what you said. (~100-150 words)

This is the part of your essay where you summarize and reflect. Be sure to make a good impression in this section because a strong conclusion leaves the reader feeling inspired and curious. Do not introduce any new concepts, definitions or ideas in the conclusion. If your topic allows it, perhaps frame your conclusion with a look to the future, a suggestion for practice/policy change or thoughts as to how to study or measure some of the concepts and ideas you've explored. 

Difference between In-Text and Reference List Citations

A citation are all the pieces of information that you need to provide your reader so they can quickly and accurately find the same source. This includes, but is not limited to Author, Title, Date, Title, Publication, URL/DOI, Page Numbers etc.

In-text citations refer to citing a source in the body of your essay OR a powerpoint presentation (etc)

1) General knowledge does not have to be cited. 

Example: In university, students are required to write essays.

2) Paraphrased knowledge does need to be cited.

Example: In Mackiewicz's article on writing tutors, she explains that tutors are not expected to have subject specific knowledge (318).

3) Direct quotations do need to be cited.

Example: When choosing writing tutors "no one, for example, expects a writing tutor to have in-depth knowledge of wind generators or wireless networks" (Mackiewicz 318).