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How to Write a Composition Essay in Family and Consumer Science: Detailed Guidelines

If your instructor gave you an assignment to write a composition essay, it means that you get a significant degree of freedom. The thing is, a composition is not a particular type of an essay – rather, it is a general term denoting any kind of written creative work, essays included. What exactly you have to write depends on the rest of the instructions you get – it may mean a particular type of essay (e.g., an argumentative or a narrative one) or a freeform paper where you are free to express your opinions on the subject in any way you see fit.

It is of particular importance when you deal with a discipline with as uncertain boundaries as family and consumer science. Depending on who you ask, it may cover any number of things, from basic home economics to career planning, relationship management and the like. In other words, a composition essay in family and consumer science means a freeform assignment in a notoriously unspecific discipline. If possible, try to clarify what exactly your task is with your instructor. Otherwise, make your decision based on the contents of the course you are currently taking and the topics you covered so far.

Pre-Writing Stage

  1. Brainstorming a Topic
  2. Choose the Writing Mode
  3. Locate Sources
  4. Prepare an Outline
  5. Write a Thesis Statement

Writing the Essay

  1. Set Aside Time to Write an Introduction
  2. Keep the Structure of Body Paragraphs Consistent
  3. Use Transitional Words and Phrases

Revision & Proofreading

  1. Take a Break
  2. Get Feedback
  3. Check if Every Word Does Its Job
  4. Decide between Two Types of Revision
  5. Proofread

Pre-Writing Stage

1. Brainstorming a Topic

Unless you know what you want to write about from the very beginning, you will have to brainstorm your topic. Even if you have a clear idea of what direction you want your composition to take, you can benefit from spending some time polishing the topic and narrowing it down. Brainstorming takes many different forms, and it is impossible to single out a single optimal approach – try out different things and see what works for you. Some examples include:

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
  • Freewriting means letting yourself write everything that comes into your head, without any preliminary censorship. Set a time limit and promise yourself to keep writing without stopping, no matter what tries to interrupt you. Do not prevent yourself from writing something down because it is silly or nonsensical. Once the time runs out, check what you wrote and highlight what you can use;
  • Clustering/mapping is known under many other names and means that you write down one or several basic keywords on a sheet of paper (or using specialized software) and start adding any related keywords, connecting them to the original ones, creating a sort of map. After a while, you will get a visual representation of your field of study and will be able to get an idea of what you can write about;
  • Listing is a better approach for non-visual learners. Single out a basic idea and start writing down a list of ideas related to it, looking for useful supporting points.

Eventually, you should end with a topic that is interesting, researchable and not exhaustively covered by other scholars. Something like this:

  • Importance of Family History as Understood in Western Society;
  • Effects of Having Children on the Buying Habits of a Family;
  • Decline in the Number of Marriages in the United States: Causes and Consequences;
  • Health Concerns of Protein-Based Diets for Children;
  • The Tradition of Family Gatherings and Its Influence on the Child’s Psychological Development.

2. Choose the Writing Mode

There are four basic modes of writing (other classifications may offer a different number of different names for particular types, but the general pattern remains the same): argumentative, narrative, expository and descriptive. Each of them has vastly different purposes and structure – this means that you should consider your topic carefully and decide which mode better suits your goals. If you simply want to share the results of your research into a particular topic without proving a particular point, go for expository style. If you have a strong opinion that is not broadly accepted, choose argumentative approach.

3. Locate Sources

In academic environment, every paper exists within the context of everything else that has been written on the topic in question before. It is especially important in the case of family and consumer science, because this discipline deals with a subject that a) is highly dynamic and b) is closely interconnected with a variety of other sciences, such as psychology, sociology, nutrition science and so on. When you make a statement, you have to prove that it is not your unsupported conjecture but something connected with the existing body of research.

  • Start in your school or local library – they are specifically designed to help you in your studies. Most have electronic catalogs and search systems. Even if you cannot find the necessary book, usually you can request it to be delivered to the library;
  • Scholarly databases like Google Scholar, EBSCO, JSTOR and Microsoft Academic cover huge ranges of disciplines and count millions of sources. Most of them have very convenient interfaces, making searching for the necessary keywords a breeze;
  • Check the bibliographies of the sources you found, paying special attention to the names that crop up more than once.

4. Prepare an Outline

Preparing an outline is a crucial step when writing a composition. It helps you organize your thoughts at the pre-writing stage and prevents you from forgetting what you should mention while you write. An outline should mention:

  • How you intend to start the essay;
  • What background information you provide before going into the body paragraphs;
  • How you connect individual paragraphs and sections logically;
  • How you connect individual body paragraphs to the overarching topic of the composition;
  • Which quotations you will introduce and in what places;
  • What points you will cover in each body paragraph.

5. Write a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is what your entire composition revolves around. It contains the most important thought of your paper, all the rest is needed only to provide supporting details and back up your claim.

  • Make a claim. A thesis statement is not a topic or question. So, the correct approach is not, e.g., ‘Potential Health Risks of Protein-Heavy Diets in Children’ but ‘Protein-heavy diets pose a noticeable health risk when used for feeding children under 12’;
  • Do not be opinionated. Your claim should not contain emotionally colored language or evaluative connotations;
  • Be laconic and direct. Keep it short and avoid vague language.

Writing the Essay

1. Set Aside Time to Write an Introduction

An introduction may be the shortest part of a composition, but it is also the most important one, because you will not get another chance at making the first impression. Do not try to write it before you write the rest of the essay – in this case, it will not reflect the actual content of the text. If you are serious about your work, you will have to rewrite it from scratch once you finish the composition. Instead, set it aside and write it last of all.

The introduction begins with a ‘hook’ – a sentence or two aimed at attracting the audience’s attention, showing that you have something interesting to say and motivating them to read on. There is no universal formula to writing a good hook, especially in an open-ended assignment like a composition essay. However, some themes crop up in this position rather often:

  • An interesting example. Family and consumer science provides many opportunities to refer to real-life situations and events to illustrate a point;
  • A thought-provoking question – ask the audience something they probably did not think about before;
  • A shocking statement. It may be something self-contradictory, contrary to the popularly accepted belief etc. After reading it, the audience should be interested in finding out what you mean. E.g., ‘Breaking a leg in three places was the best thing that ever happened to me’;
  • A powerful quotation, especially if it seemingly has nothing to do with your topic. The audience will read on to find out how you are going to tie things together;
  • A personal narrative. People tend to be interested in personal stories.

2. Keep the Structure of Body Paragraphs Consistent

Body paragraphs are where you express your thoughts and ideas. They are what the reader came for. This is why you should pay special attention to structuring them consistently and making them as clear as possible. Consider using the following approach:

  • Topic sentence. Here you introduce the point you will cover in the paragraph and how it is related to the rest of the composition;
  • Supporting details. Here you offer evidence in support of your point. Make sure you use different types of evidence: quotations and paraphrases from sources, statistical data, results of experiments, surveys etc.;
  • Counterpoint. Here you address potential objections to what you said before and refute them;
  • Summary. If necessary, here you sum up everything said before and tie it back to the rest of the paper.

3. Use Transitional Words and Phrases

A composition should not just present facts, arguments and evidence, but also do it in a coherent manner. Structurally you achieve it by arranging the contents of your assignment in a logical order. However, you need something more to ensure the smooth flow of text, and this something is transitional words and phrases. They can be subdivided into many types, with the most prominent being:

  • Cause and effect (therefore, thus);
  • Sequence (furthermore, then);
  • Example (for example, that is);
  • Time/location (nearby, before);
  • Comparison/contrast (similarly, unlike);
  • Purpose (to this end, for this purpose).

Revision & Proofreading

1. Take a Break

Starting to revise a paper immediately after finishing it is never a good idea. Let it lie for a day or two and get back to it when you can see it from a fresh perspective. You will immediately start noticing issues you overlooked before.

2. Get Feedback

As a person who wrote the paper, you are never the best judge of its quality. Ask somebody, preferably more than one person, to read your composition and tell you what he/she thinks about it. Is it logical? Are there any grammar or spelling mistakes? Is it easy to follow? Did you miss anything?

3. Check if Every Word Does Its Job

Reread your composition focusing on removing unnecessary words. Ask yourself whether you really need this word, clause, sentence or even paragraph to prove your point. If you feel that it does not help your argument progress and you included it only to boost word count, remove or shorten it. This is why you should not try to fit into the word count with your first draft – unless you are a very good writer, you will have to remove plenty of text anyway.

4. Decide between Two Types of Revision

There are two types of revision. First (which is the meaning usually assigned to this word) means reading what you wrote and fixing problems to improve it. There is nothing wrong about it, but by focusing solely on correcting mistakes you can lose sight of the second type, i.e., singling out the primary purpose of your composition and looking for a way to achieve it better. If on rereading the final version of your composition you see that you could have done a better job if you approached the task from a different direction, do not hesitate to start over. It may be painful, but is likely to result in a much better paper.

5. Proofread

Proofreading should be the last stage of the revision process. By the time you get to it, you should get done with all the significant changes you make to the paper and focus on smaller issues. Make a list of your common mistakes and reread the composition several times, focusing on one type of mistakes at a time. If you doubt your knowledge of grammar and syntax, use online grammar checkers. Cross-check their findings – these tools are far from ideal. If you are not sure if the grammar checker is correct, better consult a professional proofreader or at least look it up in a grammar textbook.

Follow these instructions, and no composition essay will be too difficult for you!