You’ve been given a term paper assignment and you want to get a good grade. Where do you start? The goal of effective essay writing is to guide your reader (and your essay grader) to a deeper understanding of the topic of your paper. One way you can do this is to imagine yourself as a GPS device, piloting your reader on a journey down your written page.
Give the reader direction in your term paper
The first thing a GPS device will give is an overview or a road map. What is your first position? What is your destination? What is the best route to get there? In the first paragraph of your essay, you’ll need to give your readers a summary look at where you will be sending them. Your essay writing should give them an indication of what lies ahead, as you guide them along the flow of ideas in your term paper. You only need a few sentences or a thesis statement. Consider the following example:
“The zebra and its habitat, distribution, and behavior will be discussed, focusing on the three main species found on the African continent.”
Gently guide your reader through transitions in your term paper
One important GPS instruction, you need to consider in your essay writing, is one that helps your readers to transition into a new paragraph. Your readers will not appreciate abrupt orders to “Take ramp right,” without a warning. Provide them with a “merge lane.”
Start your new paragraph with a sentence like, “Not only is the zebra endemic to almost all savannah regions of the African continent (the readers will recognize this as the “route” they were just on), but its distinctive stripes make it one of the most universally recognized zoo animals in the world (the readers will recognize this as the ‘on ramp’ merge to a new paragraph topic).” A sentence like this, placed at the beginning of a new paragraph in your term paper, will guide your readers to merge smoothly through the transition. thus, they’ll be confident in where they’ve been, and where you are now directing them.
Follow the Mileposts
A good GPS device will update often, pointing out mileposts. For example, it will count down “twenty kilometers” to your destination, and then a few minutes later, “ten kilometers” to your destination. Your essay writing should work this way too – each sentence should lead to the next in a clear, logical pattern in every paragraph. You don’t want your readers driving in stop-start traffic (or worse yet, having to back up), so keep your sentences flowing. Do not jump back and forth between ideas in your essay writing—stay on topic in each individual paragraph, from the time you enter its ‘on ramp’ until you exit to merge into the next. Follow the mileposts in a logical order. Your readers will be able to follow your thoughts and will appreciate this extra layer of organization. If we continue with our zebra example, you would include “milepost” sentences like, “There are three types of zebras found in Africa: Grevy’s, Plains, and Mountain zebras. Grevy’s zebras are the largest…. Plains zebras are… Mountain zebras, as their name implies…” and so on. This information will help your readers follow all the mileposts clearly and in proper order.
End your essay with a quick synopsis
Finally, if you have successfully piloted your readers through your prose, they will want to stop at the end of their trip and review where they’ve been. This is the time to give a synopsis—a summation of the route covered and now stored in the GPS memory. You might also want to suggest a new travel direction and future destination. For example, you could end your essay writing on zebras by saying, “Three distinct species of zebra can be found on the African continent. The zebra’s distinctive stripes and “horsey” ways also make it one of the most popular animals in zoos and Safari parks throughout the world. One unanswered question that might deserve further study is whether the zebra is a white horse with black stripes or a black horse with white stripes.”