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How to Write an A Essay in 50 Minutes
  1. Title Slide
  2. What to Do Before the Essay
  3. What to Do Before the Essay, Part 2
  4. The Importance of Attitude
  5. Starting the Race Reading the Topic
  6. Starting the Race Part 2 Planning the Essay
  7. Running the Race Your Thesis and Time Allocation
  8. Running the Race Part 2 Preview of Ideas
  9. Running the Race Part 3 Organizing Paragraphs
  10. Running the Race Part 4 Wrting Style
  11. Running the Race Part 5 Specific Support
  12. Running the Race Part 6 Getting to the Front of the Pack
  13. Running the Race Part 7 What to Do if Time Is Running Out
  14. Reaching the Finish Line Proofreading and Citing Sources
  15. A Word about Distractions
  16. Credits
  17. Credits Continued
  18. One Final Note
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College) What to Do Before the Essay Know your subject matter! (In-class essays are seldom “pop,” so come prepared.) Get sufficient rest the night before. Know what resources teachers will allow you to use, and bring them with you on the day of the essay. If you don’t have a working clock in the room, be sure to wear a watch. What to Do Before the Essay, Part 2 (Wait! There’s More?) Know your audience. While teachers do have basic criteria for essay grading, they also have particular preferences about what they want in an essay. Use the LOA method (Listen-Observe-Ask). Make sure you have writing supplies! How would your coach feel if you always need to borrow a jock strap or sports bra before an athletic competition? The same way your teacher feels when you never come with pen and paper. The Importance of Attitude Think of the writing process as a kind of race. You don’t get a prize for finishing first, but you do have to get to the finish line within a certain time. If you were a runner, you would get yourself “psyched” in whatever way works best for you. A good time pressure writer does the same thing. Starting the “Race” Read the topic (or topics, if you are given a choice) carefully. If you misunderstand what you are supposed to do, you have already lost the race. Ask your teacher if you have questions. Starting the “Race,” Part 2 Always plan before you start writing. Planning in the long run saves you time by avoiding changes of mind, which often lead to lots of cross-outs, insertions, and arrows to relocate text. At minimum, know what your thesis and major arguments will be. Five minutes is not too long to spend on planning. Running the “Race” Always follow your teacher’s instructions, but if your are not explicitly told to do otherwise, use the following guidelines. Make sure you get your thesis out there early, preferably in the opening paragraph, though for some persuasive topics it could fall as late as the beginning of the second paragraph. Budget your time—don’t spend too long on any one part of the essay. Running the “Race,” Part 2 Make sure you preview your ideas (briefly summarize your arguments) either as part of your thesis statement or in the following sentence. This advice helps your reader to know where you are going, and it ensures that you as a writer know where you are going, as well. This advice also helps you to budget your time (a reminder from the previous slide!) Running the “Race,” Part 3 There is no magic number of paragraphs, but probably five (thesis paragraph, three body paragraphs, concluding paragraph) is the most you can reasonably develop in fifty minutes. The number of body paragraphs should be determined by the number of major arguments you have. Each paragraph should have a single, clear focus. Running the “Race,” Part 4 You must experiment with different styles to grow in sophistication as a writer. Time pressure essays, however, are not the right time to do that. The best style for time pressure is typically simple, clear, and easy for you to sustain without thinking about it. Since most people achieve speaking fluency before writing fluency, try to write an idea as you would explain it verbally. Running the “Race,” Part 5 Make sure that every general idea has at least one specific example to support it (more, if the idea is important and if you have the time). For multi-part topics like compare-contrast essays, make sure that you are providing specific support for each of the parts—some people tend to flesh out only one part. Running the “Race,” Part 6— Getting to the Front of the Pack The previous advice can be followed by everyone, but this next part may require lots of practice. If the essay is based on a subject discussed in class, be sure to include at least one idea and one or more examples that did not come up in class. To the extent you can on a particular assignment, write in your own authentic voice. These are the most common methods to make an essay “jump out of the pile.” Running the “Race,” Part 7— What to Do if Time Is Running Out Don’t panic—this kind of situation happens to the best of us, even if we have budgeted our time properly. The concluding paragraph is usually the most expendable. Unless your teacher demands a conclusion, drop it rather than cut body development. It is good to allow a little time to proofread, but let that go too before cutting body development. Reaching the Finish Line If you have time, proofread your essay. In an ideal world, I would recommend the 5:45 rule (five minutes to plan, forty to write, five to proof), though this time allocation is not always possible. If you have used any outside sources, be sure to cite them. Fail to do so, and you could forfeit the race (get busted for plagiarism). A Word about Distractions Distracted during the writing process? Don’t be! Don’t think about this… or this… until later! Is It Later Yet? (Credits) Photographs are licensed from and represent the work of the following photographers: Yuri Arcurs (slides 1 and 16-18) Kachalkina Veronika (slides 2 and 3) Mark Herreid (slides 4 and 6-10) Brenda Carson (slide 5) Shawn Pecor (slide 11) (Credits Continued) Photographs are licensed from and represent the work of the following photographers: Melinda Fawver (slide 12) Michele91 (slide 13) AISPIX (slide 14) Bogdino and Vladimir Wrangel (slide 15) One Final Note: Look for the video version of this presentation at