Example essays are the most typical kind of academic writing, and they come in all shapes and sizes. For this module, your assignment is to develop an example essay type known as a critique, which is when you judge something by a set of standards. Our example in the module you just read about Allison is this type of example writing; we used examples in order to persuade our audience that she is a “masterful cook.” In so doing, we also revealed exactly what a masterful cook “looks like:” remember, we showed that such cooks try creative new recipes and have a knack for (and understanding of) ingredients. These are the standards by which we judged our cousin, and she came out on top! Your assignment, then, is to write just such a critique by judging any movie, TV show, video game, book, product, service, job, or travel experience with which you are intimately familiar. Remember, this should be an opinion-piece – your purpose is to convince your audience to see the film or show, play the game, buy the product, use the service, or travel to the place.
Step 1: Pre-Writing (Questioning, Freewriting, and Mapping)
Any of the prewriting techniques we have discussed so far in the class are fair game for this assignment. You might use the reporter’s questions again: ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how in relation to the subject you want to critique.
You might also use freewriting (the process of writing freely without worrying about grammar, spelling, and sentence structure) to generate ideas about your subject, focusing on your feelings about it (positive or negative) and the specific parts of your experience that make you feel that way about it (these parts could become the examples you use to prove your point).
We also discussed mapping in this module; to map effectively, you would put the subject of your critique in a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper and then draw lines radiating out from it to other circles to represent examples related to it. For example, if your subject was going to be a restaurant, you might put “service,” “food,” and “cost” in these circles. For each of these subcircles, you could draw more lines to more circles that connect to each example (“prompt delivery of food,” “knowledgeable about menu,” “friendly and articulate” might all be in circles related to “service”). This kind of exercise can help you break your topic up into points and to discover exactly how to persuade your audience that your thesis is true.
Step 2: Focusing, Outlining, and Drafting
Once you’ve come up with your subject, your overall opinion of it (whether you are going to critique it positively or negatively; in other words, whether you are going to recommend it or not) and the examples that are going to help prove your point, it is very, very important for you to organize your ideas in an outline just the way we did in the module when we were discussing Allison’s cooking ability. An example essay succeeds or fails based on how well organized it is, and an outline will help ensure that your logic is sound and that you smoothly move from general to specific information.
As you fill out the outline, remember that you should move from your weakest idea and end with your strongest as if you were arguing to a jury. You want your reader to remember your most important point, and if you put it last, he or she will be most likely to have that point in mind as he or she considers your overall recommendation.
Here’s a basic outline to get you started; the idea is to write out a quick summation of the different sections on the lines provided. When you go to write a full draft based on the outline, you will add a hook at the beginning to flesh out your introduction (which should end in your thesis statement), and each of your general examples will become body paragraphs. You will also need to add a conclusion explaining why your overall point is important.
Remember that this outline is just a suggestion, for you can include as many examples and body paragraphs as you want as long as you stay within the assignment’s length requirements:
I. Thesis statement:
ii. General Example #1: a. Specific Detail: b. Specific Detail:
iii. General Example #2: a. Specific Detail: b. Specific Detail:
iv. General Example #3: a. Specific Detail: b. Specific Detail:
Once you’ve figured out your outline, you are encouraged to post it in the “Example Essay Outline” discussion board so that your instructor can give you
some feedback before you begin drafting. You can either attach it to a thread as a Word file or just type it into the thread itself.
After you’ve finished outlining and hopefully gotten some feedback, you are ready to draft the actual paper.
Step 3: Revising, Editing, and Proofreading
Once your draft is finished, step away from it for at least a few hours so you can approach it with fresh eyes. It is also a very good idea to email it to a friend or fellow classmate or otherwise present it to a tutor or trusted family member to get feedback. Remember, writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is meant to be read by an audience, and a writer can’t anticipate all of the potential issues an outside reader might have with an essay’s structure or language.
Whatever the case, after getting some feedback from others, read your essay over and consider what you might alter to make it clearer or more exciting.
Consider the following questions:
- Does the essay have a clear thesis that explicitly recommends the subject or dissuades an audience from it?
- Does each section of the body focus on a clear example that relates back to the main point?
- Does each example have plenty of specific details to back it up and make it convincing?
- Does the conclusion explain the essay’s importance and avoid repeating information?
- Are there any fragments, run-on sentences, or comma splices?
- Does the essay follow the formatting requirements?
Step 4: Evaluation
After completing these steps, submit the essay to the instructor, who will evaluate it according to the grading criteria. (1)