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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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Essays begin with planning, research

The deadline is close and the computer screen is blank. The procrastinator wonders if he will finish his paper. As he rubs his fingers together and digs his fingers into his eyes, he leans back in the chair and begins to brainstorm. Suddenly an idea pops into his head and without delay his fingers begin to type.

The key to writing an English essay is research, brainstorming and creating a formal outline. While students may repeat this process over and over again in high school, many have not mastered it.

Papers may be written in classes ranging from English to Bible; however, often the writing process is not learned but belated until the last minute and shaky essays are the result.

Some ways for a student to brainstorm include working with a classmate under the direction of a teacher, working with a study group, or talking to older people or others who have knowledge of the subject being researched.

“It is important to narrow down one’s topic before compiling research information,” Molly Sargent, English teacher, said. “Entire books have been written on some of the topics my students have selected over the years, and the amount of information available can be overwhelming. It is far better to learn as much as possible about a narrow subject than just barely scratch the surface of a broad subject.”

An important aspect of writing a research paper is spending time looking for resources. There is not a set amount of resources to use– it depends on the material and how in depth a student wants to go.

A favorite source of research information for many students is the Internet. The problem with the Internet is that students often use a summary source instead of original material. They need to make sure the writer is addressing the subject they are working on and not a broad summary of different subjects.

“Students need to put in a little work; they need to sweat a little,” Jon Endicott, vice principal, said. “Not all the research should be done on the Internet; most professors demand multiple sources. Most students just do not know how to get to good sites, or they just don’t have access to them. Students should go to a public library or Fresno State to do research.”

When writing a thesis, students need to determine their position on the topic. The thesis must state an opinion along with the subject. Sargent said it wise to state the thesis without phrasing it as an announcement.

A well-written thesis is specific, not vague or general; plus, a thesis sounds intriguing, compelling the reader to venture past the introduction.

Body paragraphs must have a topic sentence that supports the thesis, and quotations, which support the topic sentence. However, this writer assumes students can create an appropriate research paragraph. Yet often students are not aware of common pitfalls in essay writing.

A formal paper should never have contractions, slang, misspellings, mechanical errors, or first person pronouns. The only way these things are acceptable are if they are in a quote. According to Sargent, students need to make sure that they give attribution to the original writer of research material if it is quoted verbatim, summarized or paraphrased.

Both Sargent and Endicott strongly recommend that students have their papers reviewed by another student before turning in their final copy.

“Most students finish typing their paper, print it out, and turn it in without revision,” Endicott said. Good writers revise and edit their papers. Taking that “extra step often can increase your paper a whole grade or more.”

Developing writing skills is a crucial part of a high school education. These skills will be utilized extensively in college and often in real-life careers as well. Being able to successfully communicate through the written word is a mark of a well-educated, capable individual, and is a goal well worth achieving.

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