1. Utilize the Writing Process:  Brainstorm, Organize, Draft, Revise, Revise, Revise.

It is tempting to skip steps, especially if you consider yourself a good writer, but good writers grow into the process not out of it.  The graphic below accurately illustrates the writing process because it is not a sequential process, rather it is fluid– requiring the writer to go back to the text to generate and then refine ideas.

writing process 2

2.  The Graphic Organizer

Your organizer should reflect the type of thinking you are required to do in your essay.  For a prompt that asks you to explain, start with a matrix organizer that lists what you know (ideas from your head), how you know it (what is in the text), a quote to support textual evidence, and why it is important (connection to thesis).

3. Draft:  Incorporating Quotes 

  1. Selection
  2. Sandwiching
  3. Citing

4.  Revise for Content 

5.  Revise for Style 

introductory paragraph graphicThe Attention Grabbing Lead or HOOK
The introduction to an essay is as important as the exposition of a story. If it doesn’t grab the reader, you will lose your audience. No one wants to read something that is boring. Watch this video for tips for writing a that intriguing introduction to your essay.

  • Historical Context- should orient the reader to any relevant information related to setting that will help establish the credibility of yourthesis.
  • Anecdote– a short story that illustrates the thesis
  • Startling fact or statistic– be sure to identify the source of your information and the relevance to the thesis
  • Reference to an expert– very much like the startling fact but his strategy may use more than one fact or discuss a longer term studyrelated to the thesis.
  • Quote– like the startling fact, the source must be identified and his or her credibility established. The quote selected must relate to the thesis.
  • Definition of a key term- the term defined should be integral to the thesis

Selection of a lead strategy would depend on the topic of the essay but any strategy chosen must relate to the thesis.

Samples of Lead Strategies for an essay on the theme in Chains.  

contributed by Conrad T., Neejar P., Lima S-R, and Pradeep M. 

It was not just skill and luck that led the Fellowship to victory in The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. This courageous alliance of dwarf, hobbit, elf, and men succeed because they form bonds between and friendships with one another. They go out of their way to protect each other, all the way down to sacrificing their lives. True friends in  all plights will make sacrifices to keep others safe. This protective element of friendship also occurs in the novel Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Contributed by Don J., Hannah D., Julia S, Aasish J,, Anastasia G., 

On the 23rd of March in 1775, Patrick Henry proposed the idea to organize a volunteer company of cavalry or infantry in every Virginia county. In his speech he spoke the following famous words,“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” No matter the odds or the danger, the side that exhibits courage triumphs at the final battle, and its exhibitor reaps the sweetest rewards. In the novel, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, many characters boldly stand up for what they believe in, even at the cost of their own life. Three characters that display courage in this suspenseful novel are Isabel, Curzon, and Lady Seymour.

Definition of a Key Term
Contributed by Jack D., Meghan M., Maddie H., Jazmin H.

Chains are restraints that are meant to restrict freedom; only sometimes.  Chains can manacles that literally prohibit physical movement, or they can be more figurative prisons.  People who lack opportunity are often chained to their unfortunate status, and people who lack any voice are chained to silence.   In the case of slavery, the chains were both physical and emotional.  The absolute loss of freedom, of having a right to exist as your own person, was too much for many to bear and slaves often risked their lives in order to escape their cruel situation.  It takes a great amount of courage to do the impossible.  In the story, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, Isabel is most courageous, but Curzon and revolutionary factions also display immense amounts of courage in order to stand up for what they believe in, and to do it for each other as well as themselves.

 Effective Word Choice

Choosing the right words does not happen on the first draft.  Writers have to review their work with intentional effort to varying words and using vivid language.   In order to vary words, try using the thesaurus feature on your computer; it is as easy as a click away.  Just hover over the word you want to replace and right click for the pop up menu and choose your tool.  Using vivid language is a little more difficult, so here are a few tips:  

  1. Avoid over- usage of pronouns, and never use a pronoun in a topic sentence.
  2. Find another way to say a noun without using a pronoun.  For example, Zaroff from “The Most Dangerous Game” can be called the General or even “the psychotic murderer.”
  3. All verbs should be in the active voice.  Active voice is where the subject is doing the action, the action is not being done to the subject.  For example, the dog chases the cat, not the dog is chased by the cat.
  4. Avoid vague pronoun references like the phrase that begins “This shows that…”  This WHAT?

Watch this informative video on using vivid language and then go back and scrub your paper for vague and repetitive language.  Flat writing is boring.  Spice it up, but remember– “brevity is the soul of wit.”  Less wordy is more interesting.


conclusionsThe”So-What” Conclusion
An effective conclusion answers the questions, “So what? What does this have to do with me? Why do I care?”– a thought that lingers in all readers’ minds. In other words, “WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?”

To establish a connection between the subject of the essay and the reader, a writer draws on his knowledge of history, current events, or human nature.

problem solution essay

Military Service Essay Debrief

 4.  Revise for Conventions 

Rules of Formal Writing 

  2. Compose in third person (no “I” or “you”)
  3. Avoid contractions
  4. Avoid abbreviations or slang
  5. Adhere to final draft format
    1″ margins
    Heading containing name, date, period single spaced at left margin
    Double space text
    Indent paragraphs, no extra spaces between.
    Number pages for multiple page essays




Sample Research Paper

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