THE ACADEMIC ESSAY / FORMAL WRITING

January 10, 2018
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I. Is written formally:
A. Does not use I/me/my/mine, you/your/yours, we/us/our/ours, or related words.
B. Consists of complete sentences.
C. Uses “educated” diction and avoids slang or dialect.
D. Is grammatically correct.

II. Has five distinct parts, if using the five-paragraph model:
A. Introduction
1. Usually includes the thesis (one sentence that sums up the entire essay).
2. Has a transition between the introduction and first body paragraph.
B. Three body paragraphs
1. Each has a topic sentence and specific support. (Think of the topic sentences as “anchoring” each paragraph).
2. Each has a transition between the next paragraph.

 C. Conclusion
1. Restates the thesis using different words.
2. Stands out as the part of the essay the reader most remembers.

III. Normally uses outside sources in three possible ways:
A. Summarizing, or briefly restating the author’s main points (in your own words).
B. Paraphrasing, or restating one or a few of the author’s points (in your own words).
C. Quoting, or using the author’s own words.
1. Must be set off by quotation marks, or, if long, treated as a block quote
2. Must be exactly as in the original – if you make changes, you must indicate them with brackets or ellipses, as appropriate.

IV. Whether you decide to use summaries, paraphrases, or quotations:
 A. They are ALWAYS attributed with an in-text citation.
The best in-text citation is the author’s name and page number. Second-best is the title (or shortened version of it) and the page number. Only use this if your source has no author. Omit page numbers for sources that don’t have them, like most web sites. Avoid confusing your reader when you have two or more sources with similar or identical authors or titles. Distinguish between them!
B. You have to cite even if you only get an idea from a source.
C. Citations are ALWAYS accompanied by a “Works Cited” page (see MLA Guide).
D. They NEVER plagiarize (copy someone else’s words OR idea(s) without proper attribution). There is no “change one word” loophole!!

V. They are typed in a specific format:
A. Black ink on white paper, printed on one side *only,* double-spaced in a 12-point easy-to-read font.
B. First page has the title, your name, instructor’s name, course, and date.
C. All other pages, including “Works Cited,” have your last name and the page number at the top. A sample “Works Cited” is in your MLA Guide.

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