Essay writing guidelines
University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice Faculty of Arts Institute of English Studies
General expectations for essays written for courses
The academic writer considers him or herself as part of the academic community. As part of that community, the writer seeks to make a contribution to the progress of knowledge in the field and act as a "good citizen" by adhering to standards or academic honesty and ethics.
The writer contributes to the field by creating and communicating a unique insight that fits into the context of the research done in the field. This fully applies to university students: they are academics.
The genre that is expected for essays in courses in this Institute is an academic literary analysis essay. The essay is a particular genre, an academic essay is a more specific genre, and an academic literary analysis essay is even more specific.
- Genre: academic literary analysis essay
- General academic reader
- One main idea for each essay
- Effective thesis statement: debatable and specific
- Contains an argument: something one could disagree with
- Body of points using explained evidence and examples to support the thesis
- References to literary works should be explained and cited correctly
- Use only high-quality outside sources
- Use MLA citation and referencing exactly correctly
- Plagiarism is unacceptable.
The essay should be written for a general academic reader, not the teacher or any other specific person or group. Anyone in academia should be able to pick up the essay and understand it, without knowing that it is an essay for a course. The essay should be written assuming that the reader reads the essay one time from beginning to end.
Each essay should have one main idea. This is a characteristic of the essay genre. Essays can be 10 or 20 or 200 pages long, but still focus on one main idea that serves as the focus for everything in the essay. It should be clear in reading the essay what that one main idea is.
Each essay should have an effective thesis statement. A thesis statement is defined in this way:
- From one sentence to one paragraph long, depending on the length of the whole essay.
- Located near the beginning of the essay, usually after an introduction.
- Has to be debatable.
- Has to be specific.
- The thesis statement should prepare the reader to understand and consider the rest of the essay.
- The thesis statement is the main thing that you want the reader to remember after reading your essay.
The beginning of the essay should be an "introduction" of the essay's argument to the reader. The introduction should contain whatever information the reader needs or can benefit from in order to understand the thesis statement. The introduction should therefore be more general than the rest of the essay.
The essay should make an argument. An argument is a position that a reasonable person could disagree with. If a reasonable person cannot disagree with the main idea of the essay, that means that it does not contain an argument. The argument is probably also the main idea, and it also needs to be the core of the thesis statement.
The essay should contain a body of multiple paragraphs that support the argument explained in the thesis statement. Each point addressed in the body should clearly support the thesis. The thesis statement states the argument, but the body of the essay convinces the reader of the argument by providing different kinds of relevant support that are organized in a careful way.
The points in the body should provide evidence and examples and detailed connections between this evidence and examples to the argument expressed in the thesis statement. There should also be an internal syllogistic logic expressed in the body of the essay that supports the argument. This is why the body is the largest part of the essay. Literary analysis essays almost always contain references to literary works, which should be introduced, correctly quoted and cited, and explained in terms of the point being made.
The essay should end with a conclusion that re-states the argument and emphasizes in a summarizing way the most important supporting points. The conclusion is a reminder of the argument that the reader has just read, and therefore should not contain new arguments or information. It is possible that the conclusion contains some information on what the impact of the argument would be.
If outside sources are used, they should be chosen carefully, and only high-quality academic sources should be included. The reader will consider anything less than this as hurting the argument and therefore the overall quality of the essay. The MLA format of in-text citation and a Works Cited section should be used with exact precision. There are many guides on the internet to using the MLA citation and referencing system; one good one is the Purdue University OWL (Google it). Other citation systems other than MLA should not be used.
Outside sources must complement and support your arguments. Outside sources cannot replace your own ideas.
The essay should have a descriptive title that reflects the topic and argument in the essay.
Plagiarism or academic dishonesty of any kind is absolutely unacceptable. If you are unsure about whether you might be plagiarizing in your use of a source, you are required to ask your teacher about it before handing in the essay. Any academic dishonesty appearing in an essay that you submit is your responsibility.