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Writing an Essay in English 101: The Guide for Beginners

English 101 course is a specific discipline which every foreign student should take to familiarize with the culture of the university and generally the student’s life. Nonetheless, the course often changes its direction, meaning that each student can take English 101 as an additional opportunity to improve their skills in writing and critical thinking. Commonly, a professor presents challenging literature to allow the students to work on the controversial issues and ideas. The main activity which the subject focuses on is extensive writing that allows the students to practice their critical thinking. As a result, the students become able to use their developed writing skills in other university disciplines which also require the performance of writing.

The Main Types of Essays in English 101 and Their Components

One of the writing activities in English 101 is an essay. The latter is probably the main type of writing activities as it is usually short, yet requires concise and well-explained statements, and also well-structured. There are various types of essays which the discipline encompasses, however, all of them are similar in their structure and the core elements. Additionally, the most common essays in the English 101 discipline are persuasive and argumentative ones as these types of essays require significant argumentation and the presentation of strong analytical skills. Usually, the argumentation is based on the course readings, which, in turn, make the significant part of the writer’s List of Literature.

While writing an essay in English 101, one should remember that this writing activity demands the presentation of facts which support the writer’s claim but also serve as valid evidence for the thesis. Another necessary component of the English 101 essay is the construction of the argument which usually means placing the facts in a specific sequence that allows the reader to trace the thread of the writer’s thoughts. The facts should also be set in a proper order which resembles their importance. Meanwhile, the writer is supposed to present the sources which prove the reliability of the facts.

Choosing a Topic for the Essay and Other Pre-Writing Tips

While thinking about a topic for writing an essay in English 101 course, one should choose a topic which may offer many arguments as well as counterarguments at first. Secondly, a student should familiarize with the topic well in order to be able to make strong argumentation. Thirdly, it is advisable to choose a topic which one would consider meaningful and interesting to explore. For instance, if a student is more interested in learning the sociological issue, then he or she should not try to defend a notion in the field of politics. The last advice is to choose a topic in which a student is confident.

The following list of topics contains some examples of ideas which may be interesting and challenging to explore:

  • Community service: an obligation of free choice?
  • School uniform and the student’s identity.
  • The legalization of marijuana.
  • The pros and cons of using the tablets instead of textbooks in the university surroundings.
  • Immigration laws: what should be changed for better conditions in a democratic country?
  • Prostitution: should it be legalized?

One can continue the list of the topics as there are many controversial ideas for argumentation. However, while choosing a topic, a student should remember that he or she should take a one-sided view of a problem, be ready to defend it and later think about the possible counter arguments to refute. For instance, the title of the essay which defends a notion of the school uniform that destroys the student’s identity should sound like the following “Modern School Uniform and How It Destroys the Student’s Identity.” From the title, the reader already knows the writer’s point of view, yet is prepared for the ideas which he or she will learn from the paper. On the contrary, such a vague title as “School Uniform and Modernity” only distracts the reader from the writer’s point.

The Structure of the English 101 Essay: Introduction and the Thesis Statement

An essay in English 101 usually shares the same structure with other types of essays. The structure includes five parts with different purposes. At the same time, the number of the parts may vary depending on the extent of knowledge which the task requires. The main element of any task is a thesis statement or in other words, the claim which the writer is going to defend. Anyway, the thesis may be a combination of some claims as it is shown in the Pic 1. The main characteristic of the thesis statement is that it is placed in the Introduction or the Introductory paragraph. The main idea is that a student must be sure of their ability to defend such number of statements.

An appropriate thesis statement is concise and valid. For instance, the thesis statement for the topic “Modern School Uniform and How It Destroys the Student’s Identity” may sound as following: “In the modern school life, clothing, especially for teenagers, has turned into a way of self-expression due to which students can construct their own identities and lifestyles.” The thesis statement will sound wrong if it does not explain the writer’s point of view, “The schools should reject the idea of school uniforms.” In the second case, the reader cannot familiarize with the essence of the writer’s statement or in other words, the facts which support it.

The Essay Structure: Sections with Arguments

As it has been already mentioned, the first part includes the thesis statement, while other parts aim to defend it. With that in mind, the following sections of the essay contain the well-developed evidence for the claims and the counterarguments. The supporting facts for the claim “clothing styles have turned into a form of teenagers’ self-expression” may be the following: “Clothing styles serve as a form of self-expression for teenagers due to the way they resemble the individualistic spirit of a teenager”; “The clothes are also considered a language in the teenagers’ groups as being dressed in a specific way implies being a part of a certain group”; “Being a social instrument, the clothing styles allow the teenagers to initiate relationship with others”; “The informal clothing style creates friendly surroundings and contributes to the socialization among the students,” etc.

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?

After having proved the claims which correspond to ones in the thesis statement, one should think about the counterarguments which may appear in the reader’s mind, yet be ready to refute them. Meanwhile, the sections which present the claims for the thesis statement and the evidence for the counterarguments construct the Body of the paper. For the topic “Modern School Uniform and How It Destroys the Student’s Identity,” the possible counterarguments may be as following: “School uniform reduces the peer pressure regarding the clothes in the school surroundings,” “School uniform creates a different identity of one being a student,” and “School uniform does not distract one from his or her responsibilities.”

The Essay Structure: Sections with Counter Arguments

Though the statements above are hard to refute, the writer should think about the disadvantages which the statements present. For instance, school uniform does not prevent the peer pressure as the latter always exists in the school surroundings. Moreover, not all students can afford to have a school uniform. Further, school uniform does not create a “special” identity: instead, it makes the students similar and does not allow them to be creative and search for their own identity. At last, school uniform does not always make the students less distracted.

To search for additional reliable arguments, one should use databases which offer scholarly sources, for instance, JSTOR, Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, etc. For instance, the article Rationales and Strategies for Amending the School Dress Code to Accommodate Student Uniforms has been published in the American Secondary Education journal and presents many counter arguments which a writer should familiarize with in order to see a problem from a different angle (https://www.jstor.org/stable/41064330). Additionally, it is advisable not to forget about the in-text citations to avoid plagiarism.

The Essay Structure: Conclusion

The last part which is Conclusion contains the results of the argumentation in the essay. The Conclusion should not present any kind of information which is new to the reader and also should not continue the process of argumentation. Instead, the conclusive paragraph generalizes the information which the reader has already familiarized with. As an example, the conclusion for the essay “Modern School Uniform and How It Destroys the Student’s Identity” may start with such summarized statement, “Psychologists argue whether school uniform should be obligatory in the school surroundings. However, various reasons prove that school uniform deconstructs the student’s identity and creativity. Also, school uniform is considered an obstacle in the process of socialization among the students. Though it is said that school uniform reduces the peer pressure as well as the level of student’s distraction, it still does not eradicate the whole phenomenon of pressure or distraction associated with the school environment.” From the passage above, one may understand that the conclusion contains not only the arguments and their evidence but also the counterarguments.

The Structure and Subheadings

As a result, the main parts which construct the outline of the essay and the paper itself are the following:

  • An Introductory paragraph which contains a Thesis Statement;
  • The Body of the essay which encompasses two or more sections where the writer presents the facts and ideas for the valid argumentation as well as refutes the possible counterarguments;
  • Conclusion. This part contains the generalized arguments or in other words, the conclusions which the writer came to during the argumentative process.

The subheadings should resemble the essence or in other words, the ideas and aims of each section. As an example, the sections of the essay “Modern School Uniform and How It Destroys the Student’s Identity” may be as following:

  • Introduction;
  • Arguments: The Reasons for Not Wearing a School Uniform;
  • Why School Uniform is Inappropriate in the Modernity (Counterarguments);
  • Conclusion.

Additional Guides on Writing an English 101 Essay

There are various book guides aimed at advising on writing academic papers. Among the most popular ones are such guides as The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach by Rowena Murray and Sarah Moore; How to Succeed in Academics by Linda L. McCabe and Edward R.B. McCabe; A Guide to Academic Writing by Jeffrey A. Cantor; Writing at University by Phyllis Creme and Mary R. Lea, and Get Great Marks for Your Essays by John Germov. The books above will be significantly helpful for one’s writing as they explain the essence of the academic writing with clear examples. Also, if a student is willing to improve their style of writing or learn about the academic writing more, then he or she should visit a writing center in the university.

Post-Writing Tips

It is advisable to pay attention to the quality of the paper – not only the information or ideas but also to make sure that the essay does not contain grammar mistakes. In order to provide a high-quality essay, a student should use anti-plagiarism software and grammar-checkers. Among the best anti-plagiarism programmes is Turnitin. The latter checks the document and then creates a report where one can familiarize with the plagiarism frequency and grammar mistakes. The programme is not free, and this fact is probably the only reservation about using the programme. Another programme which is less effective if compared to Turnitin is Grammarly. The latter has been created recently as a free tool for everyone who wants to improve their writing skills and grammar knowledge. Grammarly mostly focuses on improving one’s grammar more than detecting plagiarism. Nonetheless, the programme is helpful as it also improves one’s academic writing style. For instance, Grammarly encourages a writer not to use Passive Voice and not to make the sentences cumbersome.

Having completed the previous step, which is detecting plagiarism and correcting the grammar mistakes, it is advisable for a writer to follow the next English 101 tips:

  • The re-reading of the paper. Grammar-checkers usually skip some mistakes, that is why double-checking is a must.
  • Checking the structure of the essay. This step is important as sometimes a writer may change places of the passages or forget to mention some important facts.
  • Checking the structure of the sentences. It is strongly recommendable to write in simple sentences as the complex ones may confuse the reader and make the meaning of an idea vague.
  • Checking the in-text citations. This step is important as properly written in-text citations allow a student to keep academic integrity.
  • Checking the language. Using informal language is inappropriate in academic writing. With that in mind, one should avoid slang words.

The steps in the article were aimed to help one familiarize with what academic writing generally means and how to write an English 101 essay particularly. It is also advisable to find more information in the guiding books for more specific knowledge concerning the academic writing and one’s further improvement of academic writing skills.