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Online Guide to Writing and Research

The Writing Process

Writing

Getting from Notes to Your Draft

By now, you’ve gathered enough opinions on your topic, engaged in some prewriting strategies, and decided on a rough structure for your essay. Now, it’s time to begin writing the different parts of your essay, first using your own voice and opinions to establish the structure and flow. 

A first draft—your initial attempt to organize your thoughts in prose writing—is more complete than an outline and elaborates on your ideas in complete sentences and paragraphs. From your thesis statement and notes, you should write at least one draft. For now, disregard spelling, punctuation, and grammar, which are writing mechanics. In this draft, you want to focus on getting your ideas down in a way that reflects your outline and your proposed plan. Focus on the content.

Recognizing the Balance

Remember, an essay contains your own position plus the work of experts. It’s important to recognize this balance so that when you begin writing your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, you are aware of how much of your essay should be your own writing and how much should be drawing upon experts whom you’ve researched.

Writing Your Introduction from Beginning to End

The purpose of an introductory paragraph is to engage your readers and set the tone of your essay. When writing your introduction, think of an inverted pyramid. At the widest part, you will start with broad information about the topic. As you progress to the point, you will narrow into your thesis statement, which is the main point of your essay.

Click on the tabs below to see what your introductory paragraph should contain from the first sentence to the last sentence. Click on the last tab, "Sample Introduction," to see an example.

STRONG INTRODUCTIONS BEGIN BY

  • Offering a noteworthy statistic or fact: There are over 500 known species of marine sharks (Smithsonian, 2018). 

  • Introducing a question that makes the audience think: Are great white sharks the most dangerous predators in today’s oceans, or are humans?

  • Citing an interesting quote with an explanation about how it connects to the main point: "French fries kill more people than guns and sharks, yet nobody is afraid of French fries” (Kiyosaki, 2021, p. 2). 

  • Presenting an issue or telling a story: A lone surfer wades into cloudy water. The posted warning, “Sharks Sighted,” foretells disaster.

  • Defining concepts (without using the dictionary, but just explaining meanings): Sharks are marine fish and feed on marine life and plankton, just like other fish. 

Whatever strategy you use to begin your introduction, remember to always elaborate on its meaning after presenting it. Your readers need to know how the attention-grabber is relevant to the topic and main point. 

The middle of your introduction is the place to provide your readers with context and background about the topic in your own words. After connecting your attention-grabber to the relevance of the topic, offer the audience more information about it. If your instructor has asked you to write about an issue in your field of study, this is where you would include information about the issue and explain why it is a problem. You are preparing your readers for the big reveal and stance: your thesis. Click on the next tab to learn more.

YOUR THESIS

The tip of your pyramid is where you reveal to the readers why they are here. This is where you present your thesis statement or main argument.  Click on the next tab for a sample introduction. The last sentence is the thesis statement.

The CDC, citing the Kaiser Family Foundation, states that "kids ages eight-eighteen now spend on average, a whopping seven and a half hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day” (CDC, 2022, para. 1). Advancements in technology have made knowledge and entertainment accessible to all, allowing for connections between people worldwide. Recently, technology has provided a reliable means of communication in a time when a global pandemic forced drastic changes to lifestyles. On the other hand, the habits of many people have normalized technology as a replacement for face-to-face interactions, and children are among those paying the price. While some argue that daily technology use has little effect on wellbeing, research shows that physical, mental, and social repercussions are undeniable and drastic actions need to be taken to help young people find balance.

Formal Writing Habits

Five-to-eight sentences is the typical length for an introductory paragraph. 

Body Paragraph and Sentence Development

Topic Sentences

Topic sentences are like mini-thesis statements that begin single paragraphs or groups of paragraphs. It is a topic sentence’s job to reveal what that paragraph will be about. The words you use in your topic sentences should be your own. You can look at your thesis statement to plan out what your topic sentences will say. This helps you organize the structure of your essay. Below, notice the sample topic sentences are linked to the thesis statement.

Thesis Statement Connected to Each Topic Sentence

THESIS STATEMENT: While some may argue that daily technology use has an insignificant effect on wellbeing, research shows that physical, mental, and social repercussions are undeniable and drastic actions need to be taken to help young people find balance.

TOPIC ONE: Physical effects of too much internet/technology

TOPIC SENTENCE ONE: Although it isn’t always apparent immediately, excessive use of technology and the internet can have devastating physical repercussions on the human body.

TOPIC TWO: Mental effects of too much internet/technology

TOPIC SENTENCE TWO: While poor mental health is often linked to many different causes, society overlooks the impact overuse of technology can have on psychological wellbeing.

TOPIC THREE: Social effects of too much internet/technology

TOPIC SENTENCE THREE: Even though the use of the internet can bring individuals together socially in a positive manner, the severity of the negative outcomes are glaringly obvious.

It is important to recognize that each of the topic sentences has an angle, just like the thesis statement, but on a smaller scale because you are supporting a part of the main point. Not all paragraphs will have a topic sentence, because sometimes several paragraphs will support just one topic sentence if you have a lot of different points to make regarding the one topic. If that is the case, it is smart to use transition words to begin paragraphs that support a main topic sentence. Doing so provides a smooth flow to your writing, and everything appears more cohesive. 

Transition Words

Below are some transition words you can use for your topic sentences. Click on the tabs for various words you can use depending on the meaning you are trying to convey.

In addition

Moreover 

Also

Likewise 

Similarly 

Furthermore 

Although

Whereas 

Nevertheless

Above all 

Despite

Whereas 

While 

Since 

Whenever

Unless 

In case

So as to 

Notably

Including Like 

Namely

Chiefly 

To clarify

Consequently

Therefore

Accordingly

Hence 

Thus

For

Ultimately

In essence

Altogether

Overall

Usually

In brief

Before

Then

Since

When 

After

Now 

Beyond

Nearby 

Wherever

To the rear 

Below

Beneath 

Formal Writing Habits

After Topic Sentences, What is Next?

Building an Entire Body Paragraph

It helps to know what parts of your body paragraphs will be your own words and where you will include outside research.  It also helps to know that each body paragraph focuses on one topic only, which usually supports a part of your thesis statement. The order in which the information below is presented is the order you should follow when building your body paragraph. Also, keep in mind that a body paragraph is typically five to eight sentences long, and try not to exceed half of a double-spaced Microsoft Word page.

Sample Body Paragraph

SAMPLE THESIS STATEMENT: While some argue that daily technology use has an insignificant effect on wellbeing, research shows that physical, mental, and social repercussions are undeniable and drastic actions need to be taken to help young people find balance.

BEGIN WITH INTRODUCTION, THEN...

SAMPLE BODY PARAGRAPH ONE: Although it is not always apparent immediately, excessive use of technology and the internet can have devastating physical repercussions on the human body, both in the short and long term. When humans are spending excessive amounts of time staring at their screens, eye strain, posture issues, obesity, and health issues from lack of sleep can begin to wreak havoc on the body. According to Bowman (2022), doctor visits for a myriad of physical issues from overuse of the internet and social media sites have risen dramatically in the last five years and it is becoming alarming how many hours are spent in awkward bodily positions, wreaking havoc on backs and necks.  She comments that “many of [her] patients blame their weight gain on diet only when they should be considering how sedentary they are while they check their phones eight hours a day” (2022, p. 2). Many avid internet users do not even consider the physical side effects that can arise from focusing so much on their devices; becoming obese from inactivity can lead to high blood pressure, depression, and heart issues. Acknowledging how much time is spent on the internet and changing it can prevent these devastating physical issues from transpiring. 

PLEASE NOTE:

Do you notice how the first topic the writer chose to talk about is the first issue listed in the thesis (physical repercussions)? If possible, always present your body paragraphs in the same order they are presented in the thesis statement.

In addition, all of the information in a bold-faced font in the sample body paragraph above is the writer's own writing.  It's important to see that balance. You are the voice of your paper and you use the research to support your own argument. Many students struggle with this concept, but you came up with your argument/thesis, you have some knowledge about the topic and feel passionate about it, and the organization of your paper will be carried by you. 

 

Writing Your Conclusion Paragraph

When you have reached your conclusion paragraph, you are probably feeling accomplished and proud of how far you have come. Even though you are close to the finish line, remember that an effective conclusion should wrap up your essay and main points without repetitive language and accomplish the following:

Your thesis, or controlling idea, should be reiterated but not restated in your conclusion.

If your thesis is this:

Because human habits are causing drastic climate change, society needs to take actions to reduce carbon footprints and save our planet. 

A revisit could look like this:

Recognizing society’s part in climate change is important but taking that knowledge and changing daily habits will make the biggest difference. 

It’s important to summarize your main points without presenting any new information.

Instead of, The first action humans can take to reduce carbon footprints is to stop buying brand new clothing because it is hurting the environment.

Try, Because research points to an environmental issue with brand new clothing purchases, changing to vintage is a helpful solution.

By revisiting a startling statistic, you are driving the point home, urging action, and allowing your audience to soak in the big picture perspective.

You wrote this in your intro: Research concludes that there is a “95% probability that human-produced greenhouse gases have caused the increase in temperatures over the past 50 years” (Nasa, 2021, para. 17). 

Revisit it in the conclusion like this: The shocking facts about societal habits uncover a sense of urgency; our nation must act now to reverse climate change.

By recommending a course of action in your conclusion, you are helping your audience think further about the topic and what might need more research or action. 

For example, if you are arguing that we can make positive changes to our climate, reiterate the actions that can be taken to do so. 

Connecting to a larger theme in your conclusion can link your thesis statement to the overall big picture. For example, if you were asked to write about an issue in your field of study, and you wrote about climate change, you might discuss the field of Climatology and how the two connect for future research. 

Formal Writing Habits
 

Key Takeaways

  • Think of the inverted pyramid when constructing your introduction. Start with broad information and then begin to narrow into the thesis. Five to eight sentences is the ideal length for an introductory paragraph.

  • Topic sentences begin paragraphs in your own words, using transitions, supporting the thesis, and revealing the main topic of the paragraph or section. 

  • Planning your topic sentences around supporting your thesis from the beginning can help you structure your writing in a cohesive way.

  • Your voice and opinion will guide your body paragraphs, and each one will support part of the thesis statement. 

  • Moving from general information to more specific, and including the evidence in the middle, is a solid formula to remember when constructing body paragraphs.

  • Conclusions should reiterate the main points, but not restate them, and allow your audience to think further about the topic.

 


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