The purpose of an informative essay is, quite obviously, to inform or educate the reader about a topic. At a glance it may seem similar to most other essay types – after all, isn’t it the point of almost any type of academic writing to give the reader some kind of information? However, informative essays have an important difference from, let us say, persuasive essays – they do not presuppose any point of view on the part of the author. That is, you have to describe something or present complete and comprehensive information about in a completely objective manner – without expressing your opinion, evaluation, criticism or arguments in favor or against something. You may analyze the subject, but you leave making conclusions to the reader. Informative essays usually consist of careful description and analysis of different aspects of the subject matter, possibly involving the use of analogies or references to other ideas, events or objects that are likely to be known to the reader.
When it comes to Shakespeare studies, instructors typically use informative essays to check the student’s ability to study and understand a Shakespearean text without outside help. The student adopts a role of an expert on the topic and has to explain it to the readers – and as we all know, explaining something to somebody is a very effective way to better understand it yourself. It may sound challenging, but with the help of this guide, you will be able to overcome this obstacle.
When it comes to informative essays, especially in such well-researched areas as Shakespeare studies, it does not really matter what you choose to write about. Your purpose is not to do research and unearth something previously unknown – anything purely informative you write about Shakespeare and his works is well-known to your instructor and probably most of your peers. Your job is to provide information about the subject in a logical, easy-to-digest, concise manner. Therefore, do not go out of your way to find a new and previously untried topic – it is impossible anyway. Instead, focus on the following:
Of course, what fits this description is different for everybody, but here are some examples of what you should be aiming for:
In addition to what you already know about your chosen topic, you can get information from a variety of sources:
Not all sources are created equal – their value significantly differs based on where they are published, whether their authors are authoritative and so on. Relatively narrow and well-researched disciplines like Shakespeare studies have established authorities on each topic, so it may be a good idea to start with them. Here are a few questions that can help you evaluate the value of a source:
Now that you have all your sources, systematize the information you gathered and prepare an outline of your essay. In it, you will cover what you intend to write in each part of the paper: what information to present, how to support it with quotes, how to connect individual parts with each other logically and so on. Do not skip this step – an outline both speeds up the process of writing and prevents you from both forgetting to mention important things and repeating the same things multiple times.
The introduction of an informative essay consists of two parts. Firstly, it is the “hook” – the first sentence or two that grab the reader’s attention and motivate him/her to read on even though he/she is seemingly already well-acquainted with the topic. It may be:
Secondly, the introduction contains your thesis statement – the primary point of your essay reduced to a single sentence. It should set the focus of your essay and define what it will be about. Understand the difference between the topic and the thesis statement. A topic is a short description of what your essay is about (e.g., “Elements of Aristotelian Philosophy and Logic in Shakespeare’s Work”). A thesis statement is a declaratory statement expressing your point about the topic (e.g., “Aristotelian philosophy and logic had a significant influence on Shakespeare’s writing, which is clearly seen in King Lear).
A thesis statement should be:
The body of the essay is where you present all the information you intend to share with the audience. Here you expound on your thesis statement and back it up with facts, quotations, statistics and other supporting details.
The body should be divided into several paragraphs – how many depends on the size of the essay (if you do not see the minimum and maximum word counts in the assignment you were given, consult your instructor), but usually no less than three.
Each body paragraph consists of the same elements:
Restate your original thesis (but do not repeat it word for word). Do not introduce any new information – if you feel the need to do so, get back to the body paragraphs and find a way to introduce it there. Reiterate what you learned about the topic and try to encourage the reader to learn more about the subject.
Remember that you are writing an informative, not a persuasive or argumentative essay. Do not try to persuade your audience – simply educate them about the topic, recount your findings, share your analysis without adding personal evaluations to the material.
Everybody has his/her own set of “favorite” mistakes – they can fall in any category, from mixing up two similar words to accidentally using informal language. Compile your own list of such mistakes (it will come in handy in other writing assignments as well). Ask your instructor if he/she can point out such mistakes to you. With the list ready, reread your essay multiple times, every time focusing on a particular type of mistakes.
When you change the channel through which you perceive your writing, you are more likely to notice flaws and mistakes. Other things you can try is printing it out, using different fonts and their sizes, reading the essay backwards one sentence at a time. Be creative and you will find your own ways of altering your perception.
It may be a professional proofreader, a friend or a fellow student. Ask if he/she sees any mistakes or has any suggestions on improving your text.
We hope that with the help of this guide you will be able to face your next informative essay in Shakespeare studies with much less trepidation than usual!