The Final Essay Project
The final essay project for the seminar combines the well-established format of the research paper with the affordances of Web media. The final essay can be the key learning project in a graduate course, enabling you to synthesize concepts, methods, and approaches in your own way, and the essay will be used to evaluate how you can work the major topics and concepts of the seminar.
You will follow the argumentative essay structure for presenting your argument and hypotheses with the evidence, examples, research data, and cases that you can interpret and analyze to support your points and overall thesis. (Disciplines and sciences vary in the specifics of expected form, but follow the same expectations for argument and interpretation.) Unlike using a flat text, however, you will also be able to support your argument and ideas with “rich media” content for references, links, and embedded media (images, graphics, video, music).
What you are NOT Doing
You are not writing a “blog post” or a Wiki article. (WordPress is our content platform, not a blog.)
What You are Doing in the Final Essay
Like all research papers, your essay must be motivated by a research question or thesis with your own argument and interpretive framework supported by evidence, examples, cases and/or research data.
It’s always good to begin with the motive to figure something out, go deeper into the research, problems, questions, and interpretive frameworks for a topic that we began exploring in the seminar.
In your Bibliography or Works Cited / Works Consulted at the end, document all sources, references, and background on your topic, examples, and evidence. Your reference “bibliography” can include any relevant form of media that supports your argument. (Use embedded media only to support your argument or as key examples in your research.)
Using the approaches, theories, and methods in the seminar, develop a topic for an extended essay with examples or cases to interpret or apply your ideas. Your essay should present evidence and argument that draws on the research literature(s) of the relevant fields. Interdisciplinary work requires a statement of methods being used and combined.
In developing your thinking as a graduate student, it’s especially important to work out your own synthesis of theories, methods, approaches, and concepts that allow you to make discoveries and connect your work the larger conversation and questions that define the research communities you participate in.
Your essay should be about the equivalent of about 15 pages of traditional writing, and with a fully developed set of references and links to relevant sources. Be as creative as possible with the Web environment of your essay.
Required Structure for Presenting Your Argument
For the structure of your argument in a professional research essay (in any format), refer to my Writing to be Read: A Rhetoric For Writing in the Post-Digital Era. Follow the guidelines there for a successful structure to the presentation of your argument and research. This is the main required structure:
- Abstract: Most journal articles in all fields now require an abstract for a summary view of main points and findings. It’s good practice to get into the habit of writing an abstract for every paper. (Writing the abstract comes toward the end of the research and writing process for a project, and will help clarify your thinking and tighten up the written presentation.)
In 5-6 sentences, state your (1) your research question in a brief context of the field(s) you are working in; (2) your main point(s) or hypothesis, (3) key concepts, methods, and/or approaches you use; (4) the evidence, examples, and/or research data you will interpret.
- Introduction: establishing your topic and approach, stating your research question, and your main thesis [what the essay is about]. It’s good practice to summarize your main sources and methods that provide the framework for your thesis. Your thesis is a summary of your conclusion.
- Main body of the essay: paragraphs organized to support your argument with analysis, interpretation of cases, examples and/or evidence.
- Conclusion: wrap up your main point and significance of your work, how it connects to questions in the field you are working in.
- List of Web sources and links (you can combine with the whole bibliography if preferred)
- Bibliography, References, or Works Cited/Consulted List: all the relevant materials you have considered or want to reference to support your essay in a standard citation style (see below).
References and Citations
Like all research papers, you must use research sources that would be recognized in the field. This means, you cannot cite or quote Wikipedia articles or a non-specialist’s personal blog as references. (Wikipedia may be OK for basic fact checking, but it is not a primary source for research.)
Use the documentation format of either the humanities or social sciences. Refer to the following online guide for a quick summary of citation styles:
The Web Space for Your Essay
To set up your essay, simply create a new “post” and choose the “Final Essay” Category for your final project. Read other students’ essays from earlier semesters for good models: the essays that stand out will be those with a good structure to the argument and good use of research material and sources. You may also find references that you can use in your own research.
Using and Maintaining Your Essay After You Finish the Course
Your essay and the fixed URL for your page will remain available for reference, for linking (blogs, social media), and for job or academic applications in the future. You will be able to update and revise your essay for as long as you have access to the Georgetown Digital Commons with your GU NetID and password.
Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.
According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:
1. Pick a topic.
You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.
If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?
Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.
Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.
2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.
In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.
To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.
If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.
3. Write your thesis statement.
Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?
Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”
Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”
4. Write the body.
The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.
Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.
5. Write the introduction.
Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.
Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.
6. Write the conclusion.
The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.
7. Add the finishing touches.
After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.
Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.
Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.
Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.
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