Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
Organizing Your Argument Presentation
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This presentation is designed to introduce your students to the elements of an organized essay, including the introduction, the thesis, body paragraphs, topic sentences, counterarguments, and the conclusion.
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- Knowledge Base
The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples
An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.
There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.
The essay writing process consists of three main stages:
- Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
- Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
- Revision: Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.
Table of contents
Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.
The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .
For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.
Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:
- Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
- Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
- Do your research: Read primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
- Come up with a thesis: The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
- Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.
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The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.
1. Hook your reader
The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.
Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:
The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.
2. Provide background on your topic
Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.
3. Present the thesis statement
Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:
As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.
4. Map the structure
In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.
The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.
Write your essay introduction
The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.
Length of the body text
The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.
To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.
That idea is introduced in a topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.
After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.
Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.
See the full essay example
The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :
- Returns to your thesis
- Ties together your main points
- Shows why your argument matters
A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.
What not to include in a conclusion
To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:
- Including new arguments or evidence
- Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
- Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
Write your essay conclusion
My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).
My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.
My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.
I use paragraphs to structure the essay.
I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.
Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.
I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.
My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.
I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.
I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.
I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.
My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .
My essay has an interesting and informative title.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).
Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.
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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.
In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.
Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.
The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
- An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.
At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).
Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.
The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .
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Presentation Assignment Example
The following is an example of an individual presentation assignment and a group presentation. The individual presentation assignment explains that students will give two presentations over the semester on a topic of the student's choice. The student should submit a 1 to page paper explaining the presentation also. The group presentation provides four areas of focus: interpretive approach, important issues raised by the text, a comparison to another work, and using a scholarly source to further understand the work. A handout follows the assignment that clearly explains the criteria.
- You will each be responsible for giving two presentations this semester. The presentations should be between five and ten minutes long, and the topics will be of your own choosing. Along with each presentation, please submit a 1-2 page paper that summarizes your topic. I will return these to you with comments and a grade for your efforts. Please take these presentations seriously as we will often use them as starting point for our class discussions.
- The collaborative group presentation will require you to: 1) share your interpretive approach; i.e., explain how you accessed the text to make it “mean.” For example, was your interpretation influenced by one of the formal features of the novel (plot, point of view, etc.), by the presence of certain ideas or beliefs you related to, or a critical approach that helped you dis-entangle the complexities of the narrative? 2) identify, for discussion, the important issues and questions raised by the text; 3) contextualize the reading by relating it to another work by the same author, another contemporary text that invites comparison in terms of shared ideas, themes and "horizons" that respond in some way to the major concerns of the core text, or by locating it in some literary or paraliterary movement; 4) summarize a scholarly response to the work and try to identify the author’s critical approach.
Guidelines for Presentations
Equal Participation Each team member should contribute equally. Teams will compile a list of major topics to be covered in their presentation, and assign one to each member to research and present. Each member should speak for approximately three to five minutes. The presentation can reflect the diversity of viewpoints of the presenters. Designate one team member as the team leader. This person will be responsible for introducing the presentation as a whole, and each presenter. The team leader will also summarize the presentation at its conclusion, and lead a class discussion.
Grading Since grading is based on the presentation as a whole, team members should notify the professor before the date of the presentation if any member does not do their share. Shyness or stumbling do not negatively affect the grade.
Prepare Handouts Team members may decide among themselves how to distribute the work of preparing the following information sheets.
- Things to Know -- One to two sheets listing major facts relevant to your topic, significant concepts, key points, terminology with definitions, and other interesting points of information_
- Quotes -- One sheet containing salient quotes from your readings, with explanations of their significance.
- References -- A compilation of references used for the presentations, including two or more for each presenter, written in MLA style, with one sentence summarizing the content of the text.
Format Many students elect to use PowerPoint. This is not absolutely required, but provision of some visual aids is helpful.
Class Presentation Talk to us, don't read. You may use notes when you make your presentation, but you may not read from a fully written out text. Here is one way to make a successful presentation:
- Do plenty of reading and research. Explore the topic as fully as possible. Make notes.
- Read over your notes, and think over the results of your reading.
- Discuss your results with your team members. Tentatively plan the presentation in its general outlines.
- On your own again, and setting notes aside, brainstorm and write down all the interesting ideas that you have come up with.
- Organize these ideas into a coherent sequence. Return to your notes and add any information relevant to your major ideas which will illustrate or explain them..
- Add an introduction, which tells what you will talk about, and a conclusion which sums up what you have discussed and learned. Cut out any irrelevant or uninteresting material.
- Meet with your team members to organize and streamline the presentation.
- Visualize yourself giving a talk to the class, going through all these ideas, in a comfortable and relaxed fashion. If you wish, practice talking about your subject to a mirror.
- Using only brief notes, give your presentation to the class and have fun!
- The team leader will also prepare a short general introduction to the presentation, lead-ins for each individual presenter, and a very brief possible conclusion, which may change according to how the presentations unfold.
Discussion Topic Prepare three possible questions with which to lead a class discussion_ Designate one team member as the discussion leader. Other team members may contribute to the discussion, but the discussion leader will be responsible for organizing and controlling the discussion. Lead a discussion utilizing your prepared questions, along with any others which have occurred to you during the presentation. Conclude your presentation by opening the floor for questions and comments from the class audience.
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Sample written assignments
Look at sample assignments to help you develop and enhance your academic writing skills.
How to use this page
This page features authentic sample assignments that you can view or download to help you develop and enhance your academic writing skills.
PLEASE NOTE: Comments included in these sample written assignments are intended as an educational guide only. Always check with academic staff which referencing convention you should follow. All sample assignments have been submitted using Turnitin® (anti-plagiarism software). Under no circumstances should you copy from these or any other texts.
Annotated Bibliography: Traditional Chinese Medicine (PDF, 103KB)
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For Teachers: Sample Assignments
Below are suggested assignments for English 2000, drawn from past and current syllabi of LSU instructors. You'll find resources on teaching strategies (peer response, research, and designing in-class activities) here .
Annotated Bibliography : An annotated bibliography helps students think through a research topic. In addition to bibliographical entry, each source is followed by a concise analysis of its main points. Annotations may also include a short response or a statement of potential uses for the source. These annotations are intended to be tools for students as they work on their researched argument essays; annotations should be designed to help them quickly remember how each source might be useful in their writing. How to prepare an annotated bibliography (with example) | Assignment sheets 1 | 2 (collaborative)
Argument Analysis: Analyzing an argument can work to activate the analytical skills that students learned in English 1001 and introduce them to the genre of argument. These essays can proceed according to formal traditions, such as the Toulmin model or the Rogerian Argument, or they can work from a more general analytical frame, as the assignment on the right does, to uncover assumptions, evaluate claims and evidence, and identify logical fallacies. Assignment Sheet | Toulmin Analysis
Background Essay : The background essay asks students to fully investigate their own rhetorical situation by considering (1) their purpose for writing, (2) the audience for whom they write, (3) the situation in which they are writing, and (4) the larger context of their work. More specifically, the background essay asks students to answer questions about geography, demographics, history, and culture (among other relevant factors) and articulate these factors in four-to-six pages, thus exploring the context of their writing. Assignment Sheet | Audience Analysis guide | Sample Essay and Peer Review Sheet | Rubric
Causal Argument: An argument of cause can begin with an effect and make claims about underlying causes. Alternatively, it can identify a cause and make claims about effects that will result. It might trace a chain of such causes and effects. Causal arguments rarely offer absolute or single conclusions; they are usually complex and involve a great deal of analytical thinking. Causal claims are often part of a larger argument, such as a proposal, and often rely on arguments of definition. Assignment Sheet 1 | 2 | 3 || Causal Argument Rubric
Definition Argument: The question of definition is at the heart of most arguments; it hinges on the meaning of a contested term (examples from current events include the terms citizen, enemy combatant, and marriage). Such arguments offer a definition—often one that differs from or is more developed than popular understanding—provide examples to develop it, and argue that a particular term does or does not fit that definition. Lesson + assignment | Assignment 2 || Sample essays 1 | 2 Evaluation Argument: The writer establishes criteria by which to assert a positive or negative judgment, or to argue the relative merits of two or more ideas or things. Classical arguments of evaluation (or quality) ask “is it just and expedient?” Such arguments might also assert that a thing is (or is not) useful, effective, successful, innovative, valid, important, etc. The book or film review is a popular genre of evaluative writing. Evaluation Assignment 1 | 2 || Defense of Major Assignment
Issue Analysis : In an issue analysis, students are asked to explain the debate surrounding a contested issue. Because issues involve multiple perspectives, students must locate a wide range of sources in order to present each perspective fairly and thoughtfully. The ultimate goal of an issue analysis is to introduce the debate to an uninformed audience without favoring one argument. Find assignment sheets, scoring matrices, and sample issue analysis essays on the 1001 Assessment page.
Policy Argument: Also called a “proposal argument,” this assignment asks students to suggest a solution to a problem. This form of deliberative rhetoric addresses the question, “what are we going to do?” A successful proposal argument demonstrates not only that the problem is significant enough to merit attention, but that the proposed solution is the best one. Sample Student Essay
Presentation : For the presentation, students are asked to present their analysis of an issue, text, or image to the entire class. Some teachers ask students to work collaboratively, use technology such as Power Points, or use other visual media. Group Visual Presentation Assignment | Individual Oral Presentation Assignment
*Researched Argument (required final essay): The researched argument essay should include a debatable thesis and evidence to support each claim and sub-claim as well as a discussion that anticipates and addresses alternative points of view and/or counter arguments. Students should draw on six to ten sources with topic-appropriate mix of primary and secondary sources, including some scholarly ones. Because this is the essay that will be assessed, all sections should assign it as 1500 words, plus Works Cited (MLA). Students should turn in a digital copy to teacher in MSWord format. Click here for more information on the program's assessment model. Assignment Sheet || Sample student essays 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 (scored) || Peer Review Guide
Research Proposal : The research proposal is designed to help students select a topic of interest and narrow their research down to a specific question or thesis. By the end of the proposal, students should be able to articulate the ultimate goal of their research as well as construct a potential model for argument. The research proposal is best used in sequence with other research-oriented assignments, such as the background essay. Assignment sheets 1 | 2 || Sample student essays 1 | 2
Rogerian Argument: Named for psychotherapist Carl Rogers, the Rogerian argument focuses on resolving conflict by honestly considering opposing views and striving to find common ground. It offers students an alternative to the belief that the point of argument is to defeat one's opponents. The structure of this argument emphasizes understanding and concession by placing them first in the essay, followed by a statement of the writer's position. Assignment with Resources
Invention Presentation Organizing Your Argument Presentation This presentation is designed to introduce your students to the elements of an organized essay, including the introduction, the thesis, body paragraphs, topic sentences, counterarguments, and the conclusion.
Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay. Argumentative essay outline This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.
Come up with a thesis. Create an essay outline. Write the introduction. Write the main body, organized into paragraphs. Write the conclusion. Evaluate the overall organization. Revise the content of each paragraph. Proofread your essay or use a Grammar Checker for language errors. Use a plagiarism checker.
Presentation Assignment Examples Presentations enable students to practice their verbal communication skills. Students ‘become the professional' by sharing a project, lesson plan, interpretation, etc. with the class. Some instructors schedule presentations the last few weeks of the semester. Others spread them throughout the semester.
Presentation Assignment Example The following is an example of an individual presentation assignment and a group presentation. The individual presentation assignment explains that students will give two presentations over the semester on a topic of the student's choice. The student should submit a 1 to page paper explaining the presentation also.
Always check with academic staff which referencing convention you should follow. All sample assignments have been submitted using Turnitin® (anti-plagiarism software). Under no circumstances should you copy from these or any other texts. Annotated bibliography Essay Literature review Reflective writing Report
Sample Student Essay Presentation: For the presentation, students are asked to present their analysis of an issue, text, or image to the entire class. Some teachers ask students to work collaboratively, use technology such as Power Points, or use other visual media. Group Visual Presentation Assignment | Individual Oral Presentation Assignment