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Finally, having followed her sketch outline and written her paper, Alex turns to writing a conclusion.From our handout on conclusions, she knows that a “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” conclusion doesn’t move her ideas forward.Furthermore—and for many high school teachers, this is the crucial issue—many mandatory end-of-grade writing tests and college admissions exams like the SAT II writing test reward writers who follow the five-paragraph essay format.
The third and fourth sentences say, in so many words, “I am comparing and contrasting the reasons why the North and the South fought the Civil War”—as the professor says, they just restate the prompt, without giving a single hint about where this student’s paper is going. ” After three such body paragraphs, the student might write a conclusion that says much the same thing as her introduction, in slightly different words. This time, Alex doesn’t begin with a preconceived notion of how to organize her essay.
The final sentence, which should make an argument, only lists topics; it doesn’t begin to explore how or why something happened. Alex’s professor might respond, “You’ve already said this! Instead of three “points,” she decides that she will brainstorm until she comes up with a main argument, or thesis, that answers the question “Why did the North and South fight the Civil War?
It’s a simplified version of academic writing that requires you to state an idea and support it with evidence.
Setting a limit of five paragraphs narrows your options and forces you to master the basics of organization.
” because the last sentence in the paragraph only lists topics. Her first sentence is general, the way she learned a five-paragraph essay should start.
But from the professor’s perspective, it’s far too general—so general, in fact, that it’s completely outside of the assignment: she didn’t ask students to define civil war.Then she’ll have separate paragraphs about Northerners and Southerners, explaining in detail—and giving evidence for—her claims about each group’s reasons for going to war. She might have had three or two or seven; what’s important is that she allowed her argument to tell her how many paragraphs she should have and how to fit them together.Furthermore, her body paragraphs don’t all discuss “points,” like “the economy” and “politics”—two of them give background, and the other two explain Northerners’ and Southerners’ views in detail.In some cases, these reasons were the same, but in other cases they were very different.In this paper, I will compare and contrast these reasons by examining the economy, politics, and slavery.By 1860, the conflict over these values broke out into a civil war that nearly tore the country apart.In that war, both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, but Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their rights to property and self-government.High school students are often taught to write essays using some variation of the five-paragraph model.A five-paragraph essay is hourglass-shaped: it begins with something general, narrows down in the middle to discuss specifics, and then branches out to more general comments at the end.This is a classic five-paragraph essay introduction: it goes from the general to the specific, and it introduces the three points that will be the subjects of each of the three body paragraphs. She underlines the first two sentences, and she writes, “This is too general.Get to the point.” She underlines the third and fourth sentences, and she writes, “You’re just restating the question I asked. ” She underlines the final sentence, and then writes in the margin, “What’s your thesis? Well, no—she is trying to teach this student that college writing isn’t about following a formula (the five-paragraph model), it’s about making an argument.