Sunday, September 14, 2008

How To Answer An Essay Question

FIRST, read the essay question carefully to gain a complete understanding of what is being asked. Consider all parts of the question when formulating an answer that should consist of five paragraphs.

FOCUS- In the introductory paragraph, find a creative way to catch the reader's attention. Write a thesis statement to clearly state the purpose for the paper. The thesis will introduce three main points that will be supported or further explained in the body of the paper. One main point will be developed in each paragraph within the body. Focus is important because it lets the reader know what the paper is about and helps him to understand which ideas that the reader wants to convey. The focus in the introductory paragraph should be maintained throughout the essay.

The most evil character in Arthur Miller's play, THE CRUCIBLE, is a young girl named Abigail Williams. Abigail is a mean-spirited person who threatens revenge against anyone who opposes her. She wrongfully accuses others of practicing witchcraft in an attempt to save her own life. Jealousy of Elizabeth Proctor causes her to manipulate others in a vain attempt to win John Proctor's affection. Abigail is the antagonist because her actions are directly responsible for the deaths of many innocent people who are wrongfully convicted by her false testimony.

SUPPORT- Specific support is necessary to prove the thesis statement. To develop ideas for support, brainstorm to create a list of details, facts, or examples that can be used as main points to explain why the thesis statement is true. If the thesis relates to a literary work, go back into the story to find specific details that strengthen the thesis. Use this information to write supporting statements and present them logically within the body of the essay. These major points must be further developed by using additional explanations to give depth to the primary support used in the body of the paper.

ORGANIZE ideas into a paragraph format. Organize supporting sentences for each paragraph in the order that best suits the topic and purpose. Include only information that is essential to supporting the main idea of the paragraph. Unnecessary information can divert the reader's attention from what is really important.

Use TRANSITIONAL WORDS to show logical relationships and to provide a smooth transition from one idea to the next. Words like however, then, finally, or for example can serve as a tool to help the reader discover relationships between categories of information.

End the essay with a CONCLUDING paragraph. The writer may restate the ideas presented or summarize his thoughts about the topic. A conclusion tells the reader that the essay is complete.

REREAD the paper to check for correct grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. Be sure that there are no sentence fragments or run-on sentences. Handwriting must be legible. Check to be sure that ideas are presented logically.


I. INTRODUCTION (first paragraph)

Catches reader's attention
Tells what the essay will be about
Begins or ends with a thesis statement

II. BODY (three paragraphs)

Develops the thesis statement
Includes a topic sentence and supporting
evidence in each paragraph
Contains sufficient support to prove the
thesis statement

III. CONCLUSION (final paragraph)

Restates the thesis statement
Summarizes the main idea
May give personal response to work

Example- Essay Question and Response

Read Acts I and II of Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible. Then, write an essay that predicts Mary Warren's behavior in Act III of the play. Will Mary support John Proctor's cause in the Salem court or will her courage fail? Use examples from the play to support opinions.

Mary Warren is an important character in Arthur Miller's play, THE CRUCIBLE. Much of the action in Act III revolves around Mary's testimony in court. She is a kind and basically honest girl who tries to do the right thing, saving her friends from harm. However, throughout Acts I and II, Mary is a follower who allows Abigail Williams to negatively influence her good judgment. To make matters worse, Mary is terrified of Abigail's threats. Because of her weak will, the reader isn't certain if Mary will maintain the courage to help John Proctor to win his court case in Act III.

Mary Warren's basic goodness is demonstrated on many occasions. She has been hired by John Proctor to help his wife Elizabeth with household chores. Mary proves to be a kind girl who gets along well with Mrs. Proctor. Although Mary has become a court official in Salem, she still gets up early in the morning to clean the Proctors' house. While in court, Mary passes the time by making Goody Proctor a present of a small rag doll called a poppet. Upset by the court proceedings, Mary tells Mr. Proctor that she is 'all shuddery inside' because Goody Osburn will hang. When the poppet becomes false proof of witchcraft against Elizabeth, Mary willingly explains that the poppet is hers. She also makes a vain attempt to comfort John Proctor as the court officials drag his wife away in chains.

A basic sense of honesty is another of Mary Warren's traits. In Act I she goes to Salem to convince Abigail to tell the truth about what really happened in the woods. When the witchcraft scare gets out of hand, Mary joins Abigail and the other girls in falsely accusing women of being witches. These false accusations are motivated by hysteria. There is evidence that Mary really believes that the women in court are bewitching her. She tells the judge that she thought she saw spirits. The other girls were screaming, and before she knew it, Mary was screaming with them. When she realizes that there are no spirits, Mary is willing to be truthful. After Elizabeth Proctor's name is brought up in court, Mary Warren defends her against the accusation. At the end of Act II, the reader hopes that the basic sense of honesty will remain strong enough to allow Mary to testify on behalf of the accused women in Act III.

Mary's dominant character trait is her weak will. She is easily influenced and allows herself to be intimidated by Abigail. In Act I Mary knows that Betty is not really sick. When Abigail threatens to kill anyone who tells the truth about Betty's condition, Mary remains silent. She is terrified of Abigail. She also fears John Proctor because she has gone to Salem against his orders. For a time, Mary becomes more assertive in Act II because she has gained attention as an official of the court and feels important. She demonstrates her new forcefulness by telling John Proctor that he cannot stop her from going to Salem each day. By the end of Act II, however, she is reduced to tears again, crying 'I cannot, I cannot' when Proctor asks her to testify against Abigail.

Mary Warren is one of the major characters in The Crucible. In the first two Acts, Mary joins Abigail in accusing innocent people of witchcraft. In Act III, however, Mary may have a change of heart. If she can remain strong, Mary's testimony in court may save the lives of Elizabeth Proctor and her friends. The reader will have to wait and see what happens.

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