The Study Dude—Five Signs of a Great Essay

Good writing can jump a grade from a D to an A—and fast. The guy who just can’t get a C could easily get an A by taking action on tips for writing great essays.

With that said, here are five signs of a great essay that can bolster GPAs:

Great essays have a variety of punctuation. When we read a grammar book cover to cover, ideally before our first semester, we discover possibilities for improving our writing. And in many soft science faculties, grammar can make or break us.

If we want to take our essays to a higher plane, consider reading books on academic writing by Helen Sword, Joshua Schimel, Roy Stuart, Steven Pinker, and others. If our writing currently doesn’t get straight A’s, then reading a grammar book plus these authors’ books can boost our grades to the promised land.

Great essays use at least thirteen references inside the bibliography. Thirteen is the breakeven number, luckier than ever imagined. Gather mostly articles with a several books thrown in.

A friend of mine was on the wrong track. She signed out one book and read the entire book. She ended up with one reference in her essay—and bombed.

Instead, sign out at least five books on the topic. Ten is better. Better still, sign out every book on the topic, but be sure to hit the library on the same day the paper gets assigned.

And be sure to download at least thirty articles on the topic. Some of these articles won’t enter the bibliography as they won’t have anything directly relevant to your topic. Remember, you need at least thirteen bibliographic references.

A+ essays have quotes from a variety of sources (and not from just one source) within each paragraph.  But how do you do this? Learn how to skim or speed read articles. But be sure to highlight and add a one-to-three-word description to every relevant point. These descriptions will help you group similar descriptions together, which work to create paragraphs on a common theme.  These common themes end up as part of the three-point thesis statement. But make sure each of these three points within the thesis statement are somehow related so they can be tied together into an argument.

Great essays use book indexes for vetting topics. Books are great for searching the indexes for topics (or should I say, “Subtopics”?) with a lot of page references. A lot of page references means the topic has enough meat for an essay. We can combine three or more related topics into a thesis statement. The key is to tie together these topics into a single argument.

For instance, we could write, “poverty, sanctions, and a food crisis were the motivating reasons for voting in the tyranny of Adolf Hitler.” I don’t know if that’s the case, but if at least one book has substantial references to each of these subtopics (poverty, sanctions  and a food crisis), you might have a decent essay thesis.

Great essays answer the “so what” question.  In other words, they reveal how they better the world. For instance, the World War II essay thesis above could add another sentence to read as follows: “Poverty, sanctions, and a food crisis were the motivating reasons for voting in the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. Thus, the reigning governments of today must ensure at least a livable per capita income to avoid the possibility of replacement by despots waging war against the world.”

Alternatively, you could write the thesis, “the poverty, sanctions, and world crisis that motivated WWII have implications for leadership today,” and you could end your essay with the concluding remarks, “Poverty, sanctions, and a food crisis were the motivating reasons for voting in the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. As desperate times lend to desperate measures, a minimum per capita income is required to prevent despotic takeover bent on global warfare.”

So, what’s the “so what” of this Study Dude article?  It’s the A+’s bound to dominate our transcripts, if not already!

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