We are hitting the home stretch on our research essays in my World Lit classes. It is a long haul for my seniors, writing that 4th research masterpiece in as many years. They drag their feet, hoping against hope that I will tell them what to do: and I do, really. We discuss the process, plan deadlines together and then even research for a couple of days in the Tech Lab. But it always seems that it comes down to at least half of the class attempting to write a significant essay overnight. So this is my first attempt at voicing what leads up to an A paper.
So how do you get an "A" from me?
Pass it in on time.
Do the easy stuff right--MLA, cite your sources appropriately, include the pieces I request in your final submission, follow directions on the original assignment sheet.
Don't distract me with typos, mechanical errors, format inconsistencies.
THE REAL DEAL:
Write me a real essay: so what did you really think about everything you have learned about your topic? Think before you write. Please.
You have a job to do: Use that thesis to guide your writing.
Aim for full paragraphs with authentic topic sentences, illustrate through example, use your resources in a logical fashion. Mostly I want to hear what YOU think, not what your sources told you.
Strategize your writing. Give me some variety in your paragraphing and sentence structure, try to interest me. Will I want to read what's next?
Don't worry about how many paragraphs it is. Worry about telling me the story of your topic.
ICING ON THE CAKE:
Consider me, the reader. In a better world, I would not be the only reader, but for now, regard your essay as communication. The words are not flying aimlessly into the ozone, they are flying to me. Will I want to read it?
Catch my interest. Set me up in the intro. Vie for my attention.
I'm sorry that this is not a concrete list of the steps to writing nirvana. It is not even close to my own best writing when I am inspired. But remember, you have never written a more informed, sophisticated piece of prose. You have been doing the school thing for 12 years: you are in charge.