The key to consistently getting good grades on essays is writing as clear ideas in as clear language as possible. Professors and instructors are so tired of grading all the poorly written papers, that sometimes they don’t even want to assign them, and even choose to do extra quizzes and exams instead. Because educators are so easily frustrated with badly written essays, a paper that is fairly clear and easy to understand is such a breath of fresh air for them, that they will gladly give an excellent grade to the author.
So, let’s first take a look at what frustrates instructors the most. It’s four main things:
First, they often can’t find the thesis stated anywhere in the essay. It is very frustrating to read a paragraph after paragraph, trying to understand what the main point of the essay is, and never to find it stated. Of course, your instructor can extract the main point by himself; after all, he has a higher degree of education and should be able to do that. But it’s so much harder. Making the instructor work extra hard at understanding a paper won’t make him want to give the writer a higher grade.
Second, the evidence to support the thesis (even if it’s stated) is often disorganized. Not only does the instructor not see how the student structures the evidence to support the main point, but the evidence seems to jump from place to place and from point to point, again making the reader’s life harder than it has to be. This, again, doesn’t induce or inspire the instructor to give the writer a good grade.
Third, very often the paper veers off on a tangent and contains a lot of stuff that has barely anything to do with the thesis. This happens all the time. The instructor only has to wonder where it all came from, because the essay is just not about that! For example, the main point could be about elderly women who need special care. And, all of a sudden, somewhere down the line, the writer devotes a whole paragraph to teenage mothers. Well, it’s true that this group also needs special care. And it could definitely be a subject of an interesting paper. But the essay is simply not about this group. It is only about the elderly women. It is easy to slip into making this sort of mistakes. But it is also easy to keep the essay focused, especially if the writer is well-trained.
The fourth mistake many students make is that they include evidence that is contradictory to the main point. So, consider the following thesis: “Elderly women who need special care don’t receive enough attention from the local government.” All the evidence in the paper must support this point. Sometimes, however, the student will include an example or two of how local government and authorities actually gave personal attention to some of the elderly women, thus disproving the main point. Now, it’s okay to provide a balanced perspective. But then the thesis itself must be balanced. Otherwise it sounds as if the student first says, “A + B = C,” but then in the next sentence says, “Well, sometimes A + B = D.” This can also be frustrating to the professor or the instructor.
So, can a student avoid all of these mistakes without spending years learning how to do it? Definitely. It is a matter of taking three simple steps.
First, it is necessary to write out a clear thesis sentence or sentences. This is the main point. In fact, it’s easier to come up with a thesis statement first, and then write the entire paper to support it than to just start writing without the thesis ready at hand and keep writing until the main point is arrived at. A clearly stated thesis that is introduced as early as possible in the essay is a breath of fresh air for professors and instructors. For example, the sentence “Elderly women who need special care don’t receive enough attention from the local government” should appear as soon as possible. This will tell the reader that the writer (thank Heaven) knows exactly what he’s talking about.
Second, right after the thesis should come the summary of the evidence. What is that? It is simply the description of ways in which the writer intends to prove his point. For example, if the thesis is that from the previous paragraph (about the elderly women who need special care), then right after the thesis the writer should include something to the effect of:
“These women need X, Y, and Z, which only the local government can provide. However, the local government can’t provide X, Y, and Z because of A and B.”
Now it’s clear what the paper is going to be about. The first main section will be devoted to what these women need that only certain authorities can provide. And the second main section will be about why these authorities can’t provide it. By the way, the thesis sentence followed by the summary of all the evidence is called a Thesis Statement.
The third and final piece of the puzzle is the actual evidence, which constitutes the body of the paper. It must reflect what the writer has said in the thesis statement. In other words, if the writer says that these women need X, Y, Z, but the authorities can’t provide it for reasons A and B, then all of the evidence must support just those points and nothing else.
The first section should be devoted to X, Y, and Z, in that order. And the next section must focus on A and B (you guessed it) in that order.
A student who learns how to do this will not only consistently get good grades for her papers, but will have lots of fun expressing her thoughts in clear language and impressing the instructor.