How to use three simple formulas to write the basic academic essay.

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BEFOREPLANNING AN ACADEMIC ESSAY

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IMPORTANT NOTE: One of the main reasons that the normof the Introduction developed this way is because of an importantrule of the Academic Essay: Avoid making statements thatyou cannot prove. The problem with thegeneralizing/philosophical/BS'ing statements like "Hemingway..."and "The Western..." is that they cannot be proventhrough reasoned discourse. Moreover, to even try and do sowould require voluminous amounts of discourse for something thatis not even your thesis: what you actually ARE setting out toprove. As a result, the genre of the Academic Essay hasevolved into the above norm. It still meets anintroduction's purpose of orienting the reader, it just does soin a very specific manner.

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The conclusion of your academic essay is as important as the introduction. This section ties up your entire arguments. It is here you make your final stand clear. You need to explain to your readers why you are closing with such a conclusion in these three sub-sections:

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The academic essay is merely a specific writing genre–asis the love letter, newspaper editorial, or pop-fiction. Asa genre, it functions within a set of norms, rules, andconventions. The purpose of this discussion is to makeclear to you what those rules and norms are, and how to use themto express your argument clearly. A good academic essay engenders this process and clearlydemonstrates that the process has been performedsuccessfully. With this in mind let's examinehow to write an academic essay.
The purpose of the academic essay is to persuade by reasoneddiscourse. Scholars use the essay amongst themselves toadvance ideas. Its value as an instructional tool is toassist students in developing their critical thinkingskills. As you recall, critical thinking is defined as: theability to read theory accurately, appropriate it meaningfully,apply it independently, generate results based on thatapplication, analyze the results, and form a clear argument basedon those results that can be defended with a specific line ofreasoning. Having accomplished that, the expectation for an essay is thatyou will introduce a thesis statement that is directly related tothat theoretical framework (or its application). As aresult, a major convention of the academic essay is that: Do you frequently find yourself struggling with theintroduction to your essays? Do you not know how to begin theessay? Do you find yourself searching for a generalizingstatement that will get things going, and trying to find adelicate balance between BS'ing and saying somethingmeaningful? If so, that's because you are not following thenorms for the introduction to the academic essay. Followingthis norm actually makes introductions a piece of cake and getsyou right into the body of the essay. Here is the norm: Making an Argument
As stated earlier, the academic essay is an exercise in reasonedpersuasion. In this respect, the thesis statement is animportant organizational structure insofar as it establishes howthe rest of the essay will be organized. Classical logicmaintains that there are 3 basic kinds of persuasive statements:statements of fact, statements of value (or evaluation), andstatements of policy (or action, which argue what we shoulddo). Unless otherwise specified, the first of these, thestatement of fact, is the form that the thesis statement for anacademic essay should take–the obvious exception being whenyou write evaluative criticism (which you will NEVER do in mycourse). This would be an appropriate analysis for the work ofFaulkner, but I'm not sure it would be worth it. To beginwith, it is not clear what the writer has to gain in terms ofproving BOTH of these aspects of the work rather than just theone. Instead, with this complex thesis, there are going to belong sections of the essay where half of what needs to be provedwill be left suspended while the other half getsdiscussed. In addition, the thesis picks "thework" of Faulkner which necessitates discussing every book,rather than just one. Thus it is that an importantconvention of the academic essay is that:

The impossible thesis statement is a kind of corollary ofthe banal thesis statement insofar as you want to stay away fromit. Rather than saying something which is evident ormeaningless, however, the impossible thesis statement putsforward something which cannot reasonably be proved, as a resultof there being no agreed upon or stable criteria from which torender conclusions. Examples of impossible statementsabound, but the one most related to this course would be "ThePlague is great art," or "The Plague isthe most realistic of all Camus' novels." In eachcase, there is no stable criteria. Take the firstone. What distinguishes between "good" art and"great" art? Furthermore, the essay would not beable to point to a stable definition of "art", aconcept that art historians, artists, and cultural critics havebeen arguing over for centuries. The latter thesis has asimilar problem since "realistic" is not a stableconcept with firm criteria. Meeting Criteria
Establishing the criteria by which the thesis statement will beproven leads to the next logical step: demonstrating how theobject under investigation meets those criteria. Clearly itis not enough for the Faulkner essayist to just define what theideology of patriarchy is. Their thesis is that Faulkner'swork criticizes that ideology. As a result, they will haveto point to specific things within the text and argue that theyrelate to those criteria IN A SPECIFIC WAY–in this casethrough a process of criticism. This process of relatingthe object of investigation back to the established criteria isanother fundamental component of the body of the essay. Without it, the proof is not complete. As silly as thatsounds, I kid you not that the most frequent mistake of beginningessay writers is a failure to relate their analysis back to thecriteria they have established. Thus it is that anotherimportant norm for the academic essay is: If you keep it clear to yourself that the purpose of theintroduction to your essay is to only INTRODUCE your theoreticalframework, and your thesis statement, then the function of thebody of your essay will also become evident to the reader. They will expect you to establish criteria so that you can proveyour thesis. As a result, another important norm of theacademic essay is: In each case, you are striving to close discussion by beingdefinitive, and you are taking caution not to violate rule #1 ofthe academic essay: avoid statements that you cannot prove.