An essay is a written work that expresses an opinion or shares information. Such compositions are written for many purposes and are often used in academic settings so that students can communicate their research and opinions. An essay can follow many formats depending on the nature of the report, the level of academic study, the required format that a professor assigns, personal preference, and more. Therefore, an essay can be a rather flexible written work.
Despite the fact that an essay format can be rather flexible, most professional or standard essays follow the following format: introduction, body, and conclusion. The report itself is laid-out like an inverted pyramid in that a broad essay topic is addressed in the beginning of the document and the exact conclusion (or point of the report) is included at the end. Each paragraph within the article is also organized like an inverted pyramid, as the general purpose of the paragraph is introduced in the first sentence and the conclusion of the paragraph is included in the last sentence.
The introductory paragraph of the report needs to explain the purpose of the report and briefly describe the conclusion. Each introductory paragraph needs to conclude with a thesis (though some professors prefer that introductory paragraphs begin with a thesis). A thesis is a one or two sentence statement that describes the purpose. Many professors recommend that students use "if-then" statements when writing their theses. For example, if a student were writing an essay on the effects of video games on students, a thesis might be, "If people play video games for three or more hours a day, then they will lose track of time, have weaker muscles, and not pay attention to their homework."
Each paragraph in the body of the document should defend the thesis statement. For example, the first paragraph might defend why the author believes (or has found it to be true) that people who play video games lose track of time. The author may include observations, surveys, research, or opinions when defending his or her thesis.
Essays can be written for many different reasons. Some essays are meant to share research. Other reports are meant to share opinions. Therefore, it is important to understand the purpose of the report prior to beginning it. For example, if a professor assigns an article that should describe the conclusions that a student has come to based on research, then the professor will probably not want to read too much about the student's opinions. Instead, the professor would probably prefer to see actual research, statistics, citations, and analyses in the body of the work.
An essay is a unique type of writing requirement. The term is often used synonymously with the term "paper", which is accurate according to most definitions. However, a report is not the same thing as a thesis or a reference project. Theses and dissertations are intended to describe a problem, outline methods used to address a problem, and defend the research. However, an author may write an essay about a dissertation or thesis in which the author describes the methods used, shares his or her opinions about the research, or analyzes the problem. Such compositions are generally shorter than dissertations as well.
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