Define Elements Of An Essay

Notice how each of these objects are objective correlatives for the writer’s family. Taken together, they create an essence image.

Quick: What essence image describes your family? Even if you have a non-traditional family–in fact, especially if you have a non-traditional family!–what image or objects represents your relationship?

Based on the image the writer uses, how would you describe her relationship with her family? Close? Warm? Intimate? Loving? Quiet? But think how much worse her essay would have been if she’d written: “I have a close, warm, intimate, loving, quiet relationship with my family.”

Terrible.

Instead, she describes an image of her family "huddled in front of the fireplace while drinking my brother’s hot cocoa and listening to the pitter patter of rain outside our window.” Three objects--fireplace, brother’s hot cocoa, sound of rain--and we get the whole picture of their relationship. We know all we need to know.

There’s another lesson here:

Principle #2: Engage the reader’s imagination using all five senses

This writer did. Did you notice?

  • Fireplace (feel)
  • Brother’s hot cocoa (taste, smell)
  • Pitter patter of rain (sound)
  • Biggest photograph (sight)

And there’s something else she did that’s really smart. Did you notice how clearly she set up the idea of the scrapbook at the beginning of the essay? Look at the last sentence of the second paragraph (bolded below):

Cutting the first photograph, I make sure to leave a quarter inch border. I then paste it onto a polka-dotted green paper with a glue stick. For a sophisticated touch, I use needle and thread to sew the papers together. Loads of snipping and pasting later, the clock reads three in the morning. I look down at the final product, a full spread of photographs and cut-out shapes. As usual, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride as I brush my fingers over the crisp papers and the glossy photographs. For me, the act of taking pieces of my life and putting them together on a page is my way of organizing remnants of my past to make something whole and complete.

The sentence in bold above is essentially her thesis. It explains the framework for the whole essay. She follows this sentence with:

This particular project is the most valuable scrapbook I have ever made: the scrapbook of my life.

Boom. Super clear. And we’re set-up for the rest of the essay. So here’s the third thing we can learn:

Principle #3: The set-up should be super clear

Even a personal statement can have a thesis. It’s important to remember that, though your ending can be somewhat ambiguous—something we’ll discuss more later—your set-up should give the reader a clear sense of where we’re headed. It doesn’t have to be obvious, and you can delay the thesis for a paragraph or two (as this writer does), but at some point in the first 100 words or so, we need to know we’re in good hands. We need to trust that this is going to be worth our time.

Principle #4: Show THEN Tell

Has your English teacher ever told you “Show, don’t tell?” That’s good advice, but for a college essay I believe it’s actually better to show THEN tell.

Why? Two reasons:

1.) Showing before telling gives your reader a chance to interpret the meaning of your images before you do. Why is this good? It provides a little suspense. Also, it engages the reader’s imagination. Take another look at the images in the second to last paragraph: my college diploma... a miniature map with numerous red stickers pinpointing locations all over the world... frames and borders without photographs... (Note that it's all "show.")

As we read, we wonder: what do all these objects mean? We have an idea, but we’re not certain. Then she TELLS us:

That second page is incomplete because I have no precise itinerary for my future. The red flags on the map represent the places I will travel to, possibly to teach English like I did in Cambodia or to do charity work with children like I did in Guatemala. As for the empty frames, I hope to fill them with the people I will meet: a family of my own and the families I desire to help, through a career I have yet to decide.

Ah. Now we get it. She’s connected the dots.

2.) Showing then telling gives you an opportunity to set-up your essay for what I believe to be the single most important element to any personal statement: insight.

Principle #5: Provide insight

What is insight? In simple terms, it’s a deeper intuitive understanding of a person or thing.

But here’s a more useful definition for your college essay: Insight is something that you’ve noticed about the world that others may have missed. Insight answers the question: So what? It's proof that you’re a close observer of the world. That you’re sensitive to details. That you’re smart.

And the author of this essay doesn’t just give insight at the end of her essay, she does it at the beginning too: she begins with a description of herself creating a scrapbook (show), then follows this with a clear explanation for why she has just described this (tell).

Final note: it’s important to use insight judiciously. Not throughout your whole essay; a couple times will do.

So what can you steal from this for your essay?

  • Principle #1: Use objects and images instead of adjectives
  • Principle #2: Engage the reader’s imagination using all five senses
  • Principle #3: The set-up should be super clear
  • Principle #4: Show THEN Tell
  • Principle #5: Provide insight

Definition of Elements of an Essay

An essay is a piece of composition that discusses a thing, a person, a problem, or an issue in a way that the writer demonstrates his knowledge by offering a new perspective, a new opinion, a solution, or new suggestions or recommendations. An essay is not just a haphazard piece of writing. It is a well-organized composition comprising several elements that work to build an argument, describe a situation, narrate an event, or state a problem with a solution. There are several types of essays based on the purpose and the target audience. Structurally, as an essay is an organized composition, it has the following elements:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Paragraphs
  3. Conclusion

Nature of Elements of an Essay

An essay has three basic elements as given above. Each of these elements plays its respective role to persuade the audience, convince the readers, and convey the meanings an author intends to convey. For example, an introduction is intended to introduce the topic of the essay. First it hooks the readers through the ‘hook,’ which is an anecdote, a good quote, a verse, or an event relevant to the topic. It intends to attract the attention of readers.

Following the hood, the author gives background information about the topic, which is intended to educate readers about the topic. The final element of the introduction is a thesis statement. This is a concise and compact sentence or two, which introduces evidence to be discussed in the body paragraphs.

Body paragraphs of an essay discuss the evidences and arguments introduced in the thesis statement. If a thesis statement has presented three evidences or arguments about the topic, there will be three body paragraphs. However, if there are more arguments or evidences, there could be more paragraphs.

The structure of each body paragraph is the same. It starts with a topic sentence, followed by further explanation, examples, evidences, and supporting details. If it is a simple non-research essay, then there are mostly examples of what is introduced in the topic sentences. However, if the essay is research-based, there will be supporting details such as statistics, quotes, charts, and explanations.

The conclusion is the last part of an essay. It is also the crucial part that sums up the argument, or concludes the description, narration, or event. It is comprised of three major parts. The first part is a rephrasing of the thesis statement given at the end of the introduction. It reminds the readers what they have read about. The second part is the summary of the major points discussed in the body paragraphs, and the third part is closing remarks, which are suggestions, recommendations, a call to action, or the author’s own opinion of the issue.

Function of Elements of an Essay

Each element of an essay has a specific function. An introduction not only introduces the topic, but also gives background information, in addition to hooking the readers to read the whole essay. Its first sentence, which is also called a hook, literally hooks readers. When readers have gone through the introduction, it is supposed that they have full information about what they are going to read.

In the same way, the function of body paragraphs is to give more information and convince the readers about the topic. It could be persuasion, explanation, or clarification as required. Mostly, writers use ethos, pathos, and logos in this part of an essay. As traditionally, it has three body paragraphs, writers use each of the rhetorical devices in each paragraph, but it is not a hard and fast rule. The number of body paragraphs could be increased, according to the demand of the topic, or demand of the course.

As far as the conclusion is concerned, its major function is to sum up the argument, issue, or explanation. It makes readers feel that now they are going to finish their reading. It provides them sufficient information about the topic. It gives them a new perspective, a new sight, a new vision, or motivates them to take action. The  conclusion needs to also satisfy readers that they have read something about some topic, have got something to tell others, and that they have not merely read it for the sake of reading.

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