THE STRUCTURE OF AN ESSAY DRAFT

 As you rough out an initial draft, keep your planning materials (lists, diagrams, outlines, and so on) close at hand. In addition to helping you get started, such notes and blueprints will help you to keep moving. Writing tends to flow better when it is drafted relatively quickly, without many starts and stops.

For most kinds of writing, an introduction announces a main idea, several body paragraphs develop it, and a conclusion drives it home. You can begin drafting, however, at any point. For example, if you find it difficult to introduce a paper that you have not yet written, you can draft the body first and save the introduction for later.

DRAFT AN INTRODUCTION THAT INCLUDES A THESIS.

For most writing tasks, your introduction will be a paragraph of 50 to 150 words. Perhaps the most common strategy is to open the paragraph with a few sentences that engage the reader and to conclude it with a statement of the essay's main point. The sentence stating the main point is called a thesis. For information on thesis development, click here.

Ideally, the sentences leading to the thesis should hook the reader, perhaps with one of the following:

Such hooks are particularly important when you cannot assume your reader's interest in the subject. Hooks are less necessary in scholarly essays and other writing aimed at readers with a professional interest in the subject.

AS YOU DRAFT THE BODY, KEEP YOUR THESIS IN MIND.

Before drafting the body of an essay, take a careful look at your introduction, focusing especially on your thesis sentence. What does the thesis promise readers? Try to keep this focus in mind.

 It is a good idea to have a plan in mind as well. If your thesis sentence outlines a plan or if you have sketched a preliminary outline, try to block out your paragraphs accordingly. If you do not have a plan, you would be wise to pause for a moment and sketch one. Of course it is also possible to begin without a plan, assuming you are prepared to treat your first attempt as a "discovery draft" that will almost certainly be tossed (or radically rewritten) once you discover what you really want to say.

 DRAFT A CONCLUSION.

The conclusion should echo the main idea without dully repeating it. Ideally, your conclusion should discuss the broader implications of the ideas you have presented. In addition to echoing your main idea, a conclusion might pose a question for future study, offer advice, or propose a course of action. To make the conclusion memorable, consider including a detail, example, or image from the introduction to bring readers full circle; a quotation or bit of dialogue; an anecdote; or a humorous, witty, or ironic comment. Whatever concluding strategy you choose, avoid introducing wholly new ideas at the end of an essay. Also avoid apologies and other limp, indeterminate endings. Do not preface your conclusion with "In conclusion" or other tag phrases because your conclusion speaks for itself. The essay should end crisply, preferably on a positive note.


 

Adapted from Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000), 23-29.