Using Sample Essays as Examples: Tips from 5 Experts

Using Sample Essays as Examples: Tips from 5 Experts

An essay sample is a full or partial essay text that is distributed to students or other new writers so that they can become familiar with and adopt the conventions of report composition.  Essay samples are distributed by professors, writing centers, educational resource organizations, and professional writing services.

Essay samples are different from most assignments a student will write in that they are often not written by students, but by teachers or professionals.  Sometimes, an essay sample will be a former student text, but when it is, it is typically the text of a strong writer.  When students use essay samples, they should not be discouraged if they feel that the level of writing displayed in the sample is beyond their capacity; essay-writing is a skill that is developed through practice, and all advanced writers begin as novice writers.  

There are two primary types of report samples: annotated and un-annotated.  Annotated essay samples have notes in the margins that point out and comment on important elements of the text.  Such annotations are provided so that students can learn how to identify essay conventions and, by becoming familiar with these conventions, learn to use them in their own texts.  These annotations will often note the thesis statement of the report, the structure of the report, the ways in which the writer explores or defends the thesis, the ways in which the writer makes use of secondary sources, and the style in which the writer writes.  All of these are important aspects of essay writing, and a student can gain tremendous knowledge simply by examining how other writers incorporate these aspects into their texts.

An un-annotated essay sample does not have notes highlighting certain aspects of the text.  In these samples, the student is intended to identify these elements herself.  It may therefore be advisable for a learner to first use annotated essay samples and then progress to un-annotated samples.  Un-annotated essay samples are particularly helpful after a student has become somewhat familiar with the important conventions of essay writing, because these samples will implement those conventions in a variety of ways that are often more complex than the basic examples presented in an annotated sample.  This is important because the report form is very flexible, and is intended to be adapted according to the particular objectives and style of each individual article.  It is very helpful for students to see how other writers use this flexibility to their advantage so that they themselves can learn to write essays in a variety of styles.

Viewpoint of Author #2

It can be extremely beneficial for new or inexperienced writers to study and analyze essay writing examples.  An essay writing example is a full or partial article that is presented as a model text on which students can structure their own documents.  Essay writing examples will often be provided by course instructors as indications of what a particular instructor is looking for in a student article.  Essay writing examples are also available in composition textbooks and on online writing resource websites.

Among the most important of the insights provided by an essay writing example is the article's structure, or organization.  Many students struggle with the organizational aspects of essay writing, so analyzing the structure of academic document writing examples and then modeling that structure can greatly improve a student's own document.  When analyzing essay writing examples for structure, learners should note the order in which the information appears in the document and see if they can determine how the report builds its point or argument.  Frequently, essays will progress in a general-to-specific order.  Students should observe if the report writing examples they study do this, and if so, how they do it.  They should also look for structural details such as the average length of paragraphs—particularly the introduction and conclusion paragraphs—and the number of paragraphs or amount of space devoted to the development of each point.  Students should further note the ways in which the report writing example transitions from one topic to the next, introduces paragraphs, and attempts to engage the reader.  All of these are important elements of essay writing, and elements learned best by observing and practicing.

Essay writing examples can be excellent guides on how to incorporate secondary sources into texts.  Students should observe the various ways in which an essay writing example includes secondary sources, noting how and where the example uses quotes instead of paraphrases and the way in which these quotes and paraphrases are introduced and discussed.  Students should also pay close attention to the way these sources are cited.  Students who are learning how to follow APA, MLA, or Chicago Style will find essay writing examples particularly beneficial because they allow a learner to see the stylistic guidelines of these style sheets put into practice.  

Essay writing examples are examples—not prescriptions of how essays must be.  Students should feel free to innovate on the structure and methods of these examples as the needs of their own documents require.

Viewpoint of Author #3

A sample essay is one that a professor or service provides to a student for reference.  Sample essays give students an idea of what a report looks like, what it might include, and information that may be related to a particular topic.  There are many different types of example reports and many different uses for sample essays.

In order to find the example essay that a student can get the most use from, students need to understand why they need a sample essay in the first place.  Many professors will provide students with example essays that help to illustrate something that the student needs to improve.  For example, if a student does not have good paragraph structure in his or her assignments, a professor might provide the student with a example essay that demonstrates effective paragraph structure.  Students should ask their professors for feedback if they are looking for sample essays to help them improve.  

Students may also use a sample essay if they are not familiar with report composition.  For example, a student who is new to college might want to understand the difference between a high school-level report and a college-level article.  Reviewing a sample essay could help him or her get a good idea of how to craft his or her own documents for college-level courses.  

Some students may use sample essays as a basis for their own documents.  For example, if a student needs to write about Pride and Prejudice, the student may review example essays that other students have written about the book.  The student may use these reports to write his or her own document or the student may use these sample essays for research purposes.  

Whether a student uses sample essays to create a basis for their own documents, research a topic, or learn about the proper document structure, students need to be certain that the example essays that they are using are accurate and well-written.  One way to get this sort of sample essay is to approach a professor or an on-campus writing center.  Another method is to look for example reports provided by legitimate writing companies or universities online.  However, students may want to verify information in the example reports before they use them.  

An example report is different from a model reference project.  Reports have their own particular writing style and purpose, which usually helps students express a point-of-view.  However, example reference projects provide facts and information without providing too much commentary.  The lay-out and structure of the two papers are also different.  Therefore, learners should always ensure that if they are looking for a sample essay, they use an example report and not a model reference project.

Viewpoint of Author #4

An essay example is a partial or complete article that is intended to be used as a model.  Essay examples are commonly available from instructors, academic assistance resources such as university tutoring services and writing centers, writing instruction textbooks, and online academic reference sources.

An essay example is not a template.  Every essay will be different, depending on its content, intent, and audience.  Therefore, an essay example should not be interpreted as the only correct way to construct and execute an article.  An essay example is merely a model—a text that can be used to offer guidance and insight on the various ways an essay can be composed.

Some of the most helpful essay examples available are those that come with annotations, or explanatory notes.  Such annotations will point out important elements of the article's structure and method so that student writers can begin to have an idea of the elements that must be included in their own documents.  It is likely that such annotations will point to various elements of the article's structure, style, and content.  The structure of a report is the organization.  Annotations regarding an article's structure will likely point out the introduction and conclusion paragraphs, as well as the middle section of the report, which is known as the development.  Within this structure, the annotations will likely indicate the content that belongs in each section.  For instance, the introduction example will feature background or contextualizing information on the assignment topic, as well as the article's thesis statement.  The development section of the report will feature multiple paragraphs that contribute to the support or defense of the topic, and the conclusion will provide a closing insight on the thesis.  Annotated essay examples will also point out the style of a report.  For instance, the annotations will note how the writer transitions from paragraph to paragraph and idea to idea, how the writer cites outside sources, and how the writer constructs his sentences.  

Other extremely helpful essay examples are those that are distributed by a student's instructor.  Every instructor has different preferences regarding writing style and execution.  Instructors who provide their students with an essay example are giving their students a general idea of what type of essay they are looking for.  Studying the structure, content, and style of these essay examples can help learners to deliver the product their instructor is seeking.

Viewpoint of Author #5

Example essays are model texts intended to provide inexperienced writers with an idea of how to construct an effective project.  Example essays are often found in textbooks, and frequently provide attached commentary with tips on each aspect of the writing process.  An example essay can be understood as a template—it models thesis structure and conventions so that a writer can adopt and adapt that template in order to effectively express his or her own thoughts.  There are example essays for all types of projects and all kinds of project topics.

An example essay is different from most assignments a student will write and turn in to class because an example essay will typically present every accepted convention of that type of assignment writing.  Most student compositions will adapt that template to their topic and the requirements of their course.  Therefore, a student should not be concerned if his assignment deviates somewhat from the format of an example essay.  Remember—an example essay is a template, not a formula.

An example essay on any topic will present the standard conventions of academic document writing and feature them prominently.  For instance, an example essay will have a strong thesis statement in the first paragraph.  A thesis is the point or argument of an academic assignment.  Example essays will often underline or point to the thesis statement in order to call students' attention to it.  The body of an example essay will develop each aspect of the thesis in a separate paragraph or set of paragraphs, each of which begins with a strong topic sentence.  A topic sentence is simply a sentence that presents the main idea of that paragraph, and is typically the first sentence in a paragraph.  The body of the text will include evidence and examples to defend the thesis statement, sometimes incorporating the use of external references.  The example essay will end with a strong conclusion paragraph that provides insight on the thesis statement.

When using example essays as a model on which to compose their own documents, learners should not attempt to mimic the example essay line by line—to do so would result in an unoriginal and perhaps even poorly-written article.  Every assignment is different because every assignment is on a different topic.  Therefore, learners should simply use the example essay as a structural model.

Rigor Purpose and Methodology

Pros of a Representative Sample

Final Project Analysis of Student Work Samples

Sampled, and the Various Types

View 990 other related papers  >>

Helpful Video on How to Write . . . Effectively