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Research Essay Suggested Structure 2020

ENGL140 Research Task: suggested basic structure

You are required to develop your own argument or thesis and justify it by using a either one or two texts (illustrated and /or chapter books) written for younger readers.

You might find it helpful if you develop a research question that you then answer in your essay, e.g.: Do books for younger readers challenge the idea of a singular or stable gender identity? Or How do (two) literary works for children deal with an ethical concern such as poverty / racism / refugees and what ethical questions to they pose for the reader to consider? etc…

Read the Assessment Two Guide (on LEO) for further information.

Note: You may want to have a thesis statement ready to clarify what you are doing. This is a very brief summary of the topic you have chosen, the books you propose to examine and the argument you intend to advance.

The following structure may help you organise your thoughts for your essay.

1. Introduction
An introduction generally has four parts:

• a general introductory statement
• a definition of key terms (if needed)
• your thesis statement / claim
• an outline of the areas the essay will discuss.

Start with a sentence such as: “This essay will address the subject of (e.g. the interaction between words and illustrations in children’s literature) so it is very clear (to you and the marker) what topic you will be addressing. You may want to say, briefly, why the subject is important.

Define your terms if necessary, e.g. if you are talking about gender identity, what do you mean by the term? If you are talking about books for younger readers, do you need to say what age group this encompasses? Do not use dictionary definitions – this is a very tired approach.

State the point you are arguing in the essay – it should be a direct response to the research question you have developed, based on your reading of children’s books and scholarly literature: e.g., “This essay will argue that….. “. It’s your position on the topic.

Give a very brief outline of what follows in the essay – the areas you will be discussing in the order you will be discussing them. It will help if you draw up a structure for the essay ensuring that each paragraph links to the next, and then check, after you’ve written the essay, to see whether this essay outline matches what you’ve written.

You don’t have to do all of the things above – these ideas are just to help you if you’re a bit stuck.

2. The body of the essay

Each paragraph should offer a reason in support of your argument or thesis. At this early stage in your academic career, each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that tells the reader what point the paragraph will make. Make sure the points (and the paragraphs) relate back to your argument / thesis statement.

Each of your reasons / points should be supported by an academically reputable source (usually a book or peer-reviewed article). Try for a minimum of one scholarly reference per paragraph (around 6 different scholarly sources in the essay overall). You will also need to illustrate your points by reference to the children’s books you are basing your argument on (the primary works).

You should have a series of topic sentences in your essay, all building your argument. Make sure the points are arranged logically so the reader can follow what you are doing (maybe ask yourself, “what does the reader need to know to be convinced” – anticipate the reader’s need for information).

3. Conclusion
A conclusion usually has three parts and links back to the introduction:

  • Restatement of thesis statement/claim/argument but in different words (e.g. “This essay has argued….”)
  • Summary of main points used to defend the thesis statement (you can base this on the topic sentences in the body of the essay)
  • Final statement (e.g. “the consequences of what I have just argued are…”) Use third person, rather than first person in this assignment.

    Quotes: for this assignment, no more than 10% (150 words) of direct quotation. Otherwise paraphrase.

    Referencing: use APA referencing. Useful site: Purdue University On Line Writing Lab https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/10/

    PROOFREAD!!! Read your essay out loud – you’ll pick up grammatical mistakes and failures of logic in your argument.

    Remember: In your essay you are making and justifying an argument – you’re not writing a summary of a couple of children’s books or describing what happens in them. Use your argument to shape your essay.

    Possible useful sources on essay writing:

    ACU Academic Skills Unit, Academic writing: https://leo.acu.edu.au/mod/book/view.php?id=1888062

    University of Melbourne Academic Skills Unit, Tertiary Essay Writing: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/468867/5299ASU_TertiaryEssayWritin gWeb.pdf

    University of NSW, Writing your essay: https://student.unsw.edu.au/writing-your-essay

Harvard College Writing Centre: https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/essay-structure

Assessment criteria for this essay:

  • ability to place text(s) analysed within historical and social context
  • ability to mobilise critical terms and concepts in order to generate insights about particular works
  • ability to take up a position within a debate
  • clarity of writing, structure and argument


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