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Finally, having followed her sketch outline and written her paper, Alex turns to writing a conclusion.From our handout on conclusions, she knows that a “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” conclusion doesn’t move her ideas forward.Furthermore—and for many high school teachers, this is the crucial issue—many mandatory end-of-grade writing tests and college admissions exams like the SAT II writing test reward writers who follow the five-paragraph essay format.
The third and fourth sentences say, in so many words, “I am comparing and contrasting the reasons why the North and the South fought the Civil War”—as the professor says, they just restate the prompt, without giving a single hint about where this student’s paper is going. ” After three such body paragraphs, the student might write a conclusion that says much the same thing as her introduction, in slightly different words. This time, Alex doesn’t begin with a preconceived notion of how to organize her essay.
The final sentence, which should make an argument, only lists topics; it doesn’t begin to explore how or why something happened. Alex’s professor might respond, “You’ve already said this! Instead of three “points,” she decides that she will brainstorm until she comes up with a main argument, or thesis, that answers the question “Why did the North and South fight the Civil War?
The United States broke away from England in response to British tyranny and oppression, so opposition to tyranny and a belief in individual freedom and liberty were important values in the young republic.
But in the nineteenth century, slavery made Northerners and Southerners see these values in very different ways.
The way college instructors teach is probably different from what you experienced in high school, and so is what they expect from you.
While high school courses tend to focus on the who, what, when, and where of the things you study—”just the facts”—college courses ask you to think about the how and the why.You can do very well in high school by studying hard and memorizing a lot of facts.Although college instructors still expect you to know the facts, they really care about how you analyze and interpret those facts and why you think those facts matter.” She does a little brainstorming, and she says, “Well, in class, my professor talked about the economy, politics, and slavery.I guess I can do a paper about that.” So she writes her introduction: A civil war occurs when two sides in a single country become so angry at each other that they turn to violence.” because the last sentence in the paragraph only lists topics. Her first sentence is general, the way she learned a five-paragraph essay should start.But from the professor’s perspective, it’s far too general—so general, in fact, that it’s completely outside of the assignment: she didn’t ask students to define civil war.If you’ve seen a lot of five-paragraph essays, you can guess what Alex will write next. ” Then she will decide how to organize her draft by thinking about the argument’s parts and how they fit together.Her first body paragraph will begin, “We can see some of the different reasons why the North and South fought the Civil War by looking at the economy.” What will the professor say about that? After doing some brainstorming and reading the Writing Center’s handout on thesis statements, Alex thinks of a main argument, or thesis statement: Both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, but Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their rights to property and self-government.Then she’ll have separate paragraphs about Northerners and Southerners, explaining in detail—and giving evidence for—her claims about each group’s reasons for going to war. She might have had three or two or seven; what’s important is that she allowed her argument to tell her how many paragraphs she should have and how to fit them together.Furthermore, her body paragraphs don’t all discuss “points,” like “the economy” and “politics”—two of them give background, and the other two explain Northerners’ and Southerners’ views in detail.