A research essay is basically the same type of assignment as a research paper, only more limited in terms of size. While a research paper is not limited by anything but direct instructions of your teacher or professor, an essay is a form of writing that is defined, among other things, by its word count – in school or college environment, it is rarely larger than 1,500 to 2,000 words. This means that you have to present your point, offer arguments and evidence in favor of it and draw conclusions in as concise and efficient a manner as possible, which places significant restrictions on how and what about you can write.
When writing a research essay in family and consumer science, in addition to concerns common for all essays of this type, you have to be particularly attentive because of the holistic nature of this discipline. As it incorporates such often disconnected things as life management, career planning, employment, nutrition, health maintenance and ethics, it demands an all-encompassing approach that would consider all aspects of human life and treat them as equally important for the creation of successful and happy existence. If, in addition, you consider how different the role of these individual factors can be in different family, community, cultural and work environments, the scope of the task becomes truly staggering.
This guide will lead you through the writing of a research essay on this discipline and give some useful tips that will help you find your own voice.
If you are allowed to choose your own topic, use this opportunity to its fullest, as it can make your job either easier or significantly harder. Unless you already have a clear idea of what you want to write about, the process usually goes as something like this:
Eventually, you should end up with something like this:
Most people start reading any piece of writing, essays included, with quickly scanning it and trying to get the basic idea of what it is about. The role of a thesis statement is just this – to tell the reader what the essay is about, what is the primary point you try to make and what you try to prove. A thesis statement is both an important part of an essay and an important stage of your research work. When writing it, you:
As for the contents of a thesis statement, it should:
An outline is a graphic scheme or plan or your essay. Most experienced writers suggest that you should have one to help yourself think and organize your thoughts both before and during writing. Depending on the size and complexity of your essay, an outline may also be different – from a few informal notes on the most important points (so that you do not forget to mention them), to a detailed plan describing each paragraph, logical connections between parts and specific evidence to mention in this or that place.
Transition words are words and phrases used to emphasize the connection between ideas. Their purpose is to ensure that the text flows smoothly and the audience can easily follow your reasoning. Without them, even a completely logical text looks stilted and disconnected. Transition words can express all kinds of relations between parts of your essay: contrast (although, nevertheless), addition (again, moreover), logical connection (therefore, consequently), etc. Use them whenever you move from one idea to another, be it between sentences, paragraphs or larger sections of your essay.
Things like verb tense, number and point of view should remain consistent throughout individual units of text: certainly within a single sentence, and preferably within a single paragraph. Constantly shifting between ‘you’ and ‘one’, from past to present tense, from ‘I’ to ‘we’ and so on makes your writing confusing, incoherent and hard to follow.
The body of the essay, i.e., the part where you express all the original findings and describe your research per se, has to be structured in a way that would ensure the coherence, completeness and relevance of the information you present. You cannot just expose your readers to your stream of consciousness – instead, you have to follow a strict structure. It may seem limiting at first, but eventually you will see the merits of this approach.
Every paragraph should consist of:
You should do everything you can to enhance the overall coherence and cohesion of your essay, and one way to do so is to organize some of your paragraphs using parallel structures. It means that you build two or more closely located sentences using the same grammatical structure and the same parts of speech. E.g., ‘One can improve one’s energy levels and health in a variety of ways. One can religiously adhere to a regular sleep routine. One can take pains to limit one’s diet to healthy foods. One can follow a strenuous physical training regimen. But the only way to reach an optimal condition is to do all of it’. Structuring your paragraphs in such a way makes them easier to read and follow, helps the reader see connections between ideas.
An essay is a small assignment (usually no more than 1,500 to 2,000 words). Therefore, you should be careful with repetitions lest you overload the text with them, which often looks artificial and annoying. However, referring to some concept or idea that is crucial for understanding your argument a few times across the essay can significantly improve its cohesion. For example, if you discuss various aspects of successful career development, you can finish each paragraph referring to the practical implications this or that practice has on one’s professional growth.
Everybody has at least a few ‘pet’ mistakes he/she makes again and again. You can figure out your own tendencies in this respect by looking through your previous marked works and noticing what rules and words tend to give you the most trouble. Make a list of these mistakes and keep it nearby when proofreading – when you know what are you looking for, you are much more likely to find it.
By changing the means of perception, you can detect many mistakes that elude you when you simply read the text. By pronouncing each word, you activate the listening centers in your brain and can analyze the text from a different perspective.
Read the essay from the end to the beginning, one sentence at a time. This approach breaks the logical flow and allows you to focus on the internal structure of each sentence and the spelling of individual words instead of perceiving the text as a whole.
If you are not 100 percent sure what a word means or how it is spelled, look it up in the dictionary. English language is full of misleading words like homophones (those that are pronounced similarly but have completely different meanings). Even native speakers make such mistakes (arguably, even more often than many ESL students because they are primarily used to spoken English and can spend years writing certain words incorrectly).
You may think that spelling checkers of word processors and online services like Grammarly make manual checks unnecessary, but the reality is quite different. While these tools can help you notice obvious misspellings and incorrect grammatical structures, they are helpless when things get a little bit more sophisticated. And they will not help you, for example, to differentiate between ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’. All three spellings are correct but are used in different circumstances, and grammar checking algorithms are quite poor at distinguishing between them.
While writing a research essay in family and consumer science can sometimes be even more difficult than with some more ‘serious’ subjects, this guide will help you set your priorities straight and find the right approach to your work!