The Study Dude – A Fire-Eating Essay

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to shush that argumentative essay.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s Study Dude explores Michelle McLean’s book Essays and Term Papers. McLean helps you write everyday essays?and argumentative ones.

Your Everyday Essay
When you write your essays, depend on your outlines.

When I wrote essays, I either used cue cards or Microsoft Word’s outline feature. I loved the cue cards. I could shuffle them, write themes at the top and bibliography references at the back, and type them all up?in perfect order.

I heard of mind-mapping. In fact, most books recommend mind-maps, but I didn’t see any benefit to them. That is, until I bought a large whiteboard.

What freedom. With an eraser, you can wipe away your words faster than a dripping tear from a failing grade.

And your erasable mind-map serves as a table-of-contents.

McLean gives great tips on writing your essay, from topic selection to outline:
– Before starting an essay, wherever possible, choose a topic that reflect your passions, your hobbies, and your struggles.
– Make a list of brainstormed ideas (on your whiteboard even). Jot down everything related off the top of your head. You can always fill in additional, researched ideas later.
– Once you start researching, store your findings on index cards or on a typed-up outline (and on your mind-map).
– Copy quotes word-for-word or paraphrase (or better yet, do both). Use one quote per cue card or one quote per Microsoft outline entry.
– Rearrange your cue cards according to themes.
– Once you’ve done your research, you can make a thesis. Ask the questions Who? What? When? Where? How? and So What? [What a revelation! Whenever I’m told to ask the Ws and H, my eyes droop.]
– Make an outline with major headings for intro, body, and conclusion. The intro for your outline should have some gripping statement, a thesis, and a summary of your key arguments. The body of your outline should list your arguments with supporting quotes, facts, and evidence. Your conclusion should restate your thesis in words with something slightly new (that could only be gleaned after reading your essay). End your conclusion with a summary of your key arguments.
– If you want to (optionally) end your essay with a snap, say why your essay matters to more than just you (and your mom).

Argue with Your Essay
Do you want to win your arguments? Then write argumentation/persuasive essays.

As a kid, when I asked Papa for money, he made me write a 500-word persuasive essay. Little did he know, but Papa prepped me writing argumentative essays.

In a past Study Dude, I talked about a book by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein called “They Say / I Say”: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. In their book, Graff and Birkenstein outline templates for inserting opposing views into your essays.

When I read their book, I wondered, when do you ever insert opposing views into an undergrad essays. Well, I’ve now got an answer: when writing an argumentation essay.

Let’s explore the argumentation essay?an essay that allows you to put forth?and destroy? opposing views.

In an argumentation essay, your view is always right. Just support it.
– An argumentation essay is also known as a persuasion essay.
– In an argumentative essay, you get to feature opposing views. But you must refute them all. Say why they suck.
– No side may be correct in reality. However, you will make your side seem like the correct choice by supporting it with lots of evidence, such as book and article sources, statistics, facts, national studies, advertisements, surveys, whatever.
– When selecting your topic, make sure lots of scholarly material discuss it. Don’t pick something that only Ed the furniture salesman knows firsthand.
– To select which side (pro or con) you will take, brainstorm a list of pros and cons.
– Then research the topic, seeking out pros and cons. Put them on cue cards (with full references on the back) or in an outline [or on your whiteboard mind-map].
– Your outline should start with the introduction that contains your thesis (with your position stated) and summary of your key arguments. Then your essay body should list all of your arguments. (Include citations from external sources, of course.) Then your body should follow with opposing arguments that you refute with external evidence. Lastly, conclude with a summary of your key arguments and a recap of your position.
– You can vary your structure with some imagination. For instance, if you have only two supporting arguments but have five refutations of opposing views, go with it. The more supporting arguments you have, the better, but you can flex your creativity, too. Teachers call that critical thinking.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

ReferencesMcLean, Michelle. (2011). Essay & Term Papers. Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press.

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