Why It Matters: Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay

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Why learn writing strategies that move beyond the five paragraph essay?

College writing is different from high school writing. College professors view you as independent junior scholars and imagine you writing with a genuine, driving interest in tackling a complex question. They envision you approaching an assignment without a pre-existing thesis. They expect you to look deep into the evidence, consider several alternative explanations, and work out an original, insightful argument that you actually care about. This kind of scholarly approach usually entails writing a rough draft, through which you work out an ambitious thesis and the scope of your argument, and then starting over with a wholly rewritten second draft containing a more complete argument anchored by a refined thesis.

In that second round, you’ll discover holes in the argument that should be remedied, counterarguments that should be acknowledged and addressed, and important implications that should be noted. That means further reading and research, more revision, and more drafting. When the paper is substantially complete, you’ll go through it again to tighten up the writing and ensure clarity, cohesion, and coherence. Writing a paper isn’t about getting the “right answer” and adhering to basic conventions; it’s about joining an academic conversation with something original to say, borne of rigorous thought. That’s why, as a college writer, you’ll need to move beyond the five-paragraph essay. This module will introduce you to strategies for doing just that as a writer.