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Essay Writing and the "Big Picture"

Essay Writing and the "Big Picture"

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson details the "big picture" of an essay and how to use this concept during the writing process.

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Welcome back to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

What are we going to learn today? Today we're going to be looking at writing essays-- the big picture-- rather than focusing on each individual aspect to the exclusion of others. First we'll talk about claims and support, then we'll look at outlines and how they work before focusing on paragraphs. And finally, we'll talk about revising and editing.

The first things that any discussion about essays should cover are claims and support. Essays are driven to support a thesis, and they do this by making claims and supporting those claims with evidence, logic, rhetoric, and other techniques. This drive to support a thesis applies throughout the writing process, from outlining to drafting to revising and editing. The overall goal is to create a composition that is coherent and creates a unified flow of ideas. Keeping this-- what we call the big picture-- in mind can help sustain you throughout the writing process, and it'll almost certainly lead to a better end product.

Outlining is one of the most important steps in the writing process. A good outline includes, at a minimum, a working thesis-- one that's subject to change-- as well as an organizational plan for the body paragraphs and the primary claims it they will state and support. It's also a good idea, though not always necessary, for an outline to include information about supporting details for each main idea or claim. With all this, an outline will function as a scaffolding for the writing project. It provides a big-picture overview of how the essay will develop.

And since essays are made up of paragraphs, we can't talk about an essay without talking about paragraphs and how they're made. In an essay, each paragraph should tackle a single main idea or claim, and it should contain a topic sentence, which is like the thesis of the paragraph. It should also include expansion of the claim, or main idea, and evidence or information to support the topic sentence. And this topic sentence, as well as all the supporting sentences the make up the rest of the paragraph, should support the essay's primary thesis-- otherwise they have no purpose in the text.

It's a good idea for the paragraph to make it clear how and why it's supporting the primary thesis, and when in doubt, don't be afraid to make that connection explicit. It's easy when writing to get lost in the detailed work that is constructing an effective paragraph. So as you create your text be sure to keep your outline, and especially your working thesis, close to hand-- that way you won't easily lose sight of the big picture.

Revising and editing are two of the most critical parts of any writing process, because they are the stages they give the writer time to return to the big picture. During this point in the process, the writer should look over his or her drafts and determine whether or not the whole essay, including each paragraph, is supporting the primary thesis. While doing this, they should evaluate whether the draft is adequately supporting the thesis and if there any other forms of support or ideas or claims that the next draft should address.

Finally, writers should use this point in the process to make sure that all of the ideas, claims, and evidence are well organized and presented in an order that maximizes their support of the thesis.

What have we learned today? We learned a lot-- all about how to look at an essay in terms of the big picture. We talked about claims and support, and how outlines can help writers planned them out while keeping everything on track. And we saw how well constructed paragraphs can keep the focus on the thesis even before revising and editing, the steps in the writing process during which writers can make sure their projects are effectively supporting the thesis, which is literally what it's all about. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.