School of Literature, Communication, and Culture
Regents' Testing Program
Organizing the Essay List of Approved Essay Topics
Effective essays are generally divided into three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. All three parts are important, but you should spend most of the time and space given to you working on the body paragraphs. The following is a review of what each division should include.
Your essay needs one (and only one) separate paragraph of introduction. Its purpose is to catch the readers' attention (making them want to continue reading the essay), to focus and narrow the subject, and to provide a thesis (your answer to the question or take on the topic). Most interesting introductions begin with:
- an example
- a personal anecdote
- a series of very brief examples
- some general (though NOT vague, obvious, or clichéd) observations on the topic's significance
- a rhetorical question, or
- an attack on conventional wisdom
Using two or three sentences, try to give an ordinary topic an original or interesting slant. Then, after you have attracted your readers' attention, narrow to a thesis statement.
If you sometimes have trouble organizing your thoughts or staying organized while you write an essay, the introduction is a good place to establish a basic organizational pattern. In addition to your thesis, try listing your subtopics or main points that support your thesis -- the reasons, causes, effects, etc. -- in your introduction. Although you may be most familiar with the practice of listing three subtopics or points to support your thesis, two well developed and well presented points can also be effective and, at times, four points can work well too.
Many introductions can be structured around some simple contrasts. For example, "Many students (people, etc.) believe/say . . . but my experience tells me B."
Always try to provide a clear thesis and adequate mention of your main points in your introductory paragraph. Make sure your thesis directly answers the question being asked.
For additional tips, see the following links:
Generally, a strong Regents' essay will have at least two body paragraphs and may have as many as four body paragraphs if you have four distinct points you wish to fully develop and you are able to compose effective paragraphs quickly. If you write more slowly, though, or if you are worried about time constraints, try writing only two, well developed body paragraphs.
Each body paragraph should start out with a topic sentence -- in effect a mini-thesis statement -- that will be the focus of the paragraph and will support your over-arching thesis. If possible, stick to only one topic per paragraph. If you listed your topics in your introduction, be careful not to repeat them word for word in the topic sentences. In other words, do not be mechanical or repetitious.
In each body paragraph, after you provide your topic sentence, follow that sentence with a substantial amount of specific supporting detail and evidence. Think of your topic sentence as a claim. Once you make that claim you need to support and/or prove it.
- State Your Claim
- Provide reasons why the claim is valid/sound
- Offer proof -- examples, facts, and/or observations that support your claim and illustrate your point
- Explain why and how the claim supports your thesis statement
Examples from your personal experiences or observations are valid and can be used. The more specific details you can provide, the stronger your argument will be; never try to fill a body paragraph with only generalizations.
Body paragraphs are usually longer than the introduction or conclusion in your essay, and if the body of your essay has only two paragraphs, each of these paragraphs should include more support than a body paragraph in an essay with, say, four or five body paragraphs.
For additional tips, see the following link:
Since the Regents' essay is relatively short, you should avoid repeating exactly what you have already written, especially the thesis statement or the subtopics. Try to end with a few sentences that aren't repetitive but do highlight your thesis and the points you've been making. You might, for example, end with an anecdote which illustrates your thesis.
The concluding paragraph is important, but if you don't have enough time to write a fully developed paragraph, don't panic. If an essay is sound enough, it will pass anyway even if there is only a simple, one or two sentence conclusion.
For additional tips, see the following link:
Additional Information and Resources:
Organizing the Essay
Developing a Thesis Statement
Writing the Essay Introduction Part I
Writing the Essay Introduction Part II
Developing the Body Paragraph
Writing the Conclusion
Practice Reading Test with explanation of the answers
Please direct any other questions regarding the Regents' Exam or RGTR 1098/RGTE 1099 to
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