Gaining entrance to just about any college continues to get harder as more and more applicants are applying for a limited number of spaces. How can you improve your chances to being admitted to the college or university of your choice? By writing a stellar personal essay as part of your college application.
Writing a Great Introduction for a College Essay in the Humanities By Phyllis J. Jackson A well-crafted humanities essay has a clear, focused introductory paragraph that prepares the reader for what lies ahead. An effective introductory paragraph contains a thesis statement. A thesis statement is the central message of an essay. You must have one. _______________________________________________________________________________ A good thesis: • clearly states the essay’s subject. • accurately reflects the essay’s purpose. • includes a general statement--one that leads to a set of main ideas and supporting details. It is not merely a statement of fact that leads nowhere. • uses specific language, avoids vague words and sweeping generalizations. • may give the major subdivisions of the topic. _______________________________________________________________________________ Getting Started: Recognize and dismiss your “Fears” and “Doubts” Internalize the form: Know the difference between essays and reports or journal entries Analysis vs Opinion: Recognize the difference Respect your own analysis: Have a thesis statement. _______________________________________________________________________________ HELPFUL HINTS •Avoid using the personal pronoun “I,” unless specifically assigned to write about yourself. Use feelings to motivate your investigations and analyses. Write, however, about the intellectual subject and what you think--not your feelings (unless specifically assigned to do the latter). •Write assertively and critically, not defensively. Take a position and prove it, avoid appeals to sympathy and emotion (unless specifically assigned to write about emotions). This doesn’t mean that your feelings and emotions are not important. Your feelings and emotions just may not be the subject of your assignment. Recognize the difference. •In the introduction, don’t describe what you’re going to do. If your introduction has a sentence that begins: this paper is about, this paper will discuss, this essay will examine, etc. etc. etc., then you DO NOT HAVE a clearly stated thesis to argue. •If you don’t have a thesis to argue, the rest of your essay may become a simple regurgitation and paraphrasing of someone else’s analysis. Avoid this trap, by always putting forth your original ideas and analyses. •Organize your essay so that every paragraph following the introduction helps prove your thesis (argument). Each paragraph should have an engaging topic sentence. Each paragraph should provide examples and illustrations that help you build a convincing argument. Prepared by Professor Phyllis J. Jackson, Fall 1998 •Use the ”substitution exercise" to evaluate if your thesis is too general. For example, if you’re writing about a novel and the reader can substitute any title in place of the one you’re supposed to be writing about, your thesis may be too vague. •When you use a pronoun, MAKE SURE THE ANTECEDENT IS CLEAR. •Develop a creative title. Don’t bore the reader before they start. “A Review of The Color Purple” is a real snoozer ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ). •Format (type, font & size, margins, staple vs bind). Appearances matter--be professional. •Always paginate, proofread, run spell-check, have a peer review, and revise if necessary. Suggested Readings David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1993). Susan R. Horton, Thinking Through Writing (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982). Diana Hacker, A Writer's Reference, third edition (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995). OR Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers, third edition (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1996). Prepared by Professor Phyllis J. Jackson, Fall 1998