Teachers talk about essay structure and how parents can help, even if they're not familiar with the topic of the essay.
At a glance
- Determine 'what is the question asking?'
- Essays follow a specific formula.
- Introduction – state your response to the question and mention the points to be made in the body of the essay.
- Body – expand on the points introduced in the introduction. Don't introduce new thoughts at this stage.
- Conclusion – summarise the points discussed in the body.
- One idea per paragraph.
- Proofreading your child's essays helps them and lets you stay in touch with what they're doing at school.
Writing essays is a skill many of us have forgotten. Here are some reminders to help you and your child.
There are some really practical ways which a parent can help their child – it doesn't matter if they don't know the content themselves.
If they are writing essays, essays can be very overwhelming for students.
Parents can help children with their essay writing by organising their thoughts. To start with they need to discuss with their child, "What is the question and what is the question really asking?"
They need to carefully look at the questions they're being asked. The question should always have a key term – it's usually the first word of the question, it may be later, and they are things like explain, discuss, outline, analyze, identify.
Have a conversation around that and really nut out the key points and jot those key points down.
In each examination the verbs actually ask a really specific thing.
For example, if they're asking you to evaluate, what they're really doing is asking you to make a judgement about something.
If on the other hand they're asking you to just name and define something, they're asking you to name it and explain what that thing is about.
But they are different things, so a student really needs to understand what the verb of the question is asking for them to do it and be successful at responding to that.
Circle the important words in the question and make sure you focus on what they're asking you to do, not what you want to do.
Essays follow a very specific formula.
Practise your essay structure, so that you're following the introduction, body and conclusion.
They start with an introduction that introduces everything that's going to be discussed in the essay that will follow.
Really make sure you're addressing "What is the question asking?" and put forward your response to it.
And just in very key, short sentences, the points that you're going to be discussing in your essay to support your answer.
Those key points form your introduction and each point starts a paragraph.
Topic sentences which introduce what each paragraph is going to be about.
In each paragraph you need to expand on that point, to elaborate and explain – and draw upon the text or the sources – why it is that you are putting forward this point of view or this argument.
Knowing your language features – so metaphor, simile, personification.
You have an example from your text, and then you explain the effect of using that language feature because authors don't use language features just to pad, they use it to have an effect on the audience, so it's important that the students understand that and it's got to relate back to that question.
Every idea is a new paragraph so that they don't end up with gi-normous paragraphs. One idea one paragraph. Students should be learning that from primary school.
Then your conclusion needs to sum it all up, but you never include any new information because that shows you haven't planned.
So the introduction introduces all the points of an essay, and then each point is expanded on in the subsequent paragraphs and then all of those points are rounded up and brought together in the conclusion.
We say, essay writing:
- Introduction – say what you're going to say.
- Body – say it.
- Conclusion – say what you've said.
One thing that parents can do to help their children in high school is to proofread their homework.
By proofreading you'll not only help your child, and offer a sense of support, that can help them feel more confident with the work that they're then submitting, but it can really help inform the parent about where their child is at.
You get to learn more about their life in high school, as well as where they're at academically and ways that you can help them.
There are more videos, articles and glossaries to help your child with writing at www.schoolatoz.com.au
Below is a pdf link to personal statements and application essays representing strong efforts by students applying for both undergraduate and graduate opportunities. These ten essays have one thing in common: They were all written by students under the constraint of the essay being 1-2 pages due to the target program’s explicit instructions. In such circumstances, writers must attend carefully to the essay prompt (sometimes as simple as “Write a one-page summary of your reasons for wanting to pursue graduate study”) and recognize that evaluators tend to judge these essays on the same fundamental principles, as follows:
- First, you are typically expected to provide a window into your personal motivations, offer a summary of your field, your research, or your background, set some long-term goals, and note specific interest in the program to which you are applying.
- Second, you are expected to provide some personal detail and to communicate effectively and efficiently. Failure to do so can greatly limit your chances of acceptance.
Good writers accomplish these tasks by immediately establishing each paragraph’s topic and maintaining paragraph unity, by using concrete, personal examples to demonstrate their points, and by not prolonging the ending of the essay needlessly. Also, good writers study the target opportunity as carefully as they can, seeking to become an “insider,” perhaps even communicating with a professor they would like to work with at the target program, and tailoring the material accordingly so that evaluators can gauge the sincerity of their interest
Overview of Short Essay Samples
Geological Sciences Samples
In the pdf link below, the first two one-page statements written by students in the geological sciences are interesting to compare to each other. Despite their different areas of research specialization within the same field, both writers demonstrate a good deal of scientific fluency and kinship with their target programs.
Geography Student Sample
The short essay by a geography student applying to an internship program opens with the writer admitting that she previously had a limited view of geography, then describing how a course changed her way of thinking so that she came to understand geography as a “balance of physical, social, and cultural studies.” Despite her limited experience, she shows that she has aspirations of joining the Peace Corps or obtaining a law degree, and her final paragraph links her interests directly to the internship program to which she is applying.
Materials Sciences Student Sample
For the sample from materials sciences, directed at an internal fellowship, the one-page essay has an especially difficult task: The writer must persuade those who already know him (and thus know both his strengths and limitations) that he is worthy of internal funds to help him continue his graduate education. He attempts this by first citing the specific goal of his research group, followed by a brief summary of the literature related to this topic, then ending with a summary of his own research and lab experience.
Teach for America Student Sample
The student applying for the Teach for America program, which recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in underprivileged urban and rural public schools, knows that she must convince readers of her suitability to such a demanding commitment, and she has just two short essays with which to do so. She successfully achieves this through examples related to service mission work that she completed in Ecuador before entering college.
Neuroscience Student Sample
The sample essay by a neuroscience student opens with narrative technique, telling an affecting story about working in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Thus we are introduced to one of the motivating forces behind her interest in neuroscience. Later paragraphs cite three undergraduate research experiences and her interest in the linked sciences of disease: immunology, biochemistry, genetics, and pathology.
Medieval Literature Student Sample
This sample essay immerses us in detail about medieval literature throughout, eventually citing several Irish medieval manuscripts. With these examples and others, we are convinced that this student truly does see medieval literature as a “passion,” as she claims in her first sentence. Later, the writer repeatedly cites two professors and “mentors” whom she has already met, noting how they have shaped her highly specific academic goals, and tying her almost headlong approach directly to the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, where she will have flexibility in designing her own program.
Beinecke Scholarship Student Sample
The Beinecke Scholarship essay is written by a junior faced with stiff competition from a program that awards $34,000 towards senior year and graduate school. This student takes an interesting theme-based approach and projects forward toward graduate school with confidence. This writer’s sense of self-definition is particularly strong, and her personal story compelling. Having witnessed repeated instances of injustice in her own life, the writer describes in her final paragraphs how these experiences have led to her proposed senior thesis research and her goal of becoming a policy analyst for the government’s Department of Education.
Online Education Student Sample
Written during a height of US involvement in Iraq, this essay manages the intriguing challenge of how a member of the military can make an effective case for on-line graduate study. The obvious need here, especially for an Air Force pilot of seven years, is to keep the focus on academic interests rather than, say, battle successes and the number of missions flown. An additional challenge is to use military experience and vocabulary in a way that is not obscure nor off-putting to academic selection committee members. To address these challenges, this writer intertwines his literacy in matters both military and academic, keeping focus on applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), his chosen field of graduate study.
Engineer Applying to a Master’s Program Sample
This example shows that even for an engineer with years of experience in the field, the fundamentals of personal essay writing remain the same. This statement opens with the engineer describing a formative experience—visiting a meat packaging plant as a teenager—that influenced the writer to work in the health and safety field. Now, as the writer prepares to advance his education while remaining a full-time safety engineer, he proves that he is capable by detailing examples that show his record of personal and professional success. Especially noteworthy is his partnering with a government agency to help protect workers from dust exposures, and he ties his extensive work experience directly to his goal of becoming a Certified Industrial Hygienist.
Click here to download a pdf of ten short essay samples.