Essay writing is the most important skill you need to develop in your HSC year. Success in HSC English will depend on your ability to write convincing, powerful essays that convey your understanding of both the Area of Study and Modules units. It’s understandably daunting to think that so much of your mark revolves around one skill but fortunately, with a bit of direction and structure, a Band 6 essay is achievable.
When marking an essay, teachers and HSC markers want to see that you’ve developed a complex and in-depth understanding of a text (or pair of texts, as the case may be) and in order to show them this, you need to express your ideas clearly. As such, nothing is more important than simplicity and structure!
The first is self-explanatory – if you misuse complex words because you think they’ll make your essay look more intelligent, you’re more likely to lose marks on account of their misuse. If you get a point across using straightforward language you’re guaranteeing that the marker will understand you and you’re more likely to get marks that way. If you are not confident about how to use a new word, it’s best to leave it out and replace with a word you are comfortable with.
Structure is another story altogether. A good essay is a circular (in that the conclusion always links back to the introduction), self-sustaining (in that all arguments put forward will be thoroughly explored in the essay) beast, one that gives the reader everything they need to know. In order to achieve this, you need to structure the following elements.
The introduction is the first impression your reader will get, so it’s the most important part of an essay. You need to answer the question asked within the thesis statement then expand on your thesis in the introductory paragraph by introducing the texts, the themes within the texts and their relation to your Area of Study or particular Module. You also need to give an overview of the key techniques you will discuss later.
Question: How does the comparative study of two texts from different times deepen our understanding of what is constant in human nature?
Introduction (the thesis is bolded):
The comparison of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s 1992 film Blade Runner the Director’s Cut facilitates the examination of transforming societal values and the human condition. An examination of the transition from early 19th century England when Romanticism was challenging aspects of the dominant Enlightenment discourse founded upon science and rationalism to late 20th century America, a period influenced by Reaganomics and rampant scientific development in cloning and technology, reveals a shift in societal values.
However, both texts explore similar aspects of humanity including humanity’s pursuit of progress and power, questioning of the human identity and refusal to consider the morality of their actions, albeit in different paradigms. Thus, as texts are a reflection of their context and its values, it is evident that aspects of human nature remain constant irrespective of context.
If you would like more detailed information on how to write introductions, you should look at our essay writing series. Read the first post How to Write a Thesis Statement – a step-by-step guide and we’ll explain why a thesis statement is so important, and walk you through the process of creating them.
Each body paragraph must deal with a particular theme or text, and must start with a topic sentence. A topic sentence, similar to a thesis statement, will tell the reader what you plan on discussing. From there, you must justify your statements with evidence. A basic tool you can use is the T.E.E. system – highlight a technique, identify an example and explain the effect – the effect will relate to your topic sentence, which in turn relates to your thesis! The conclusion of a body paragraph must sum up your argument for the paragraph and relate it to the thesis once again.
In terms of what should be in your body paragraphs, you should aim for analysis which is insightful and informed. It is not always easy to form an insightful opinion of a complicated text, so to get started, you will have to do some reading of critical analysis written by experts like academics, reviewers of plays or productions.
The T.E.E structure in practice has been indicated with the following colours:
In Frankenstein, Shelley explores the transgression of the natural order in the Romantic ideal by humanity’s ongoing pursuit for progress and knowledge, a consequence of the Enlightenment Era and the Industrial Revolution. Victor’s overreaching ambition to overcome the natural boundaries of mortality by taking God’s creator role is highlighted in the metaphor “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds… I should break through“.Victor’s hubristic ambitions criticises aspects of Enlightenment rationalism which attempted to control natural processes, exemplified in Galvani’s experimentation with “animal electricity”.
If you would like to know more about writing topic sentences, you should read our posts on How to Write a Thematic Framework and How to Write a Topic Sentence to see learn how the introduction and topic sentences work together. In addition, our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to write a body paragraph.
A conclusion can often be both the easiest and most difficult part of an essay. You must never introduce new arguments or information in a conclusion, nor can you merely restate the introduction. A conclusion must draw on the fundamental idea that you have extracted from the question, and which you have based your entire essay on – in essence, you need something reflective and thought-provoking to leave with the reader.
|Example: In the shift from 19th century England to Reaganite America, the foundation of power migrated from scientific knowledge to a greater focus on economics and capitalism. However, despite their differing contexts, both Frankenstein and Blade Runner suggest that humanity’s pursuit of power and progress has resulted in a continuous foregoing of the moral and ethical concerns of their actions. Thus the comparison of these two texts reveals how these fundamental flaws are ingrained in human nature and that they will paradoxically remain constant even as society and its values inevitably shift.|
For more detail on how to write a conclusion, read our step-by-step guide.
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Identity and Belonging
Identity and Belonging was part of the old VCE Context curriculum and is NOT included in the 2017 English curriculum from 2017 onwards. Please use this information on Identity and Belonging as a theme only.
The Main Issues around the Theme of Identity and Belonging are:
- Nature or nurture – what makes us who we are?
- Defining ourselves through others – the paradox of belonging
- The cost of belonging – sacrificing the self
- Challenging and developing our identity – our identity develops as we grow and change
- Choosing not to belong –being an outsider in mainstream society can be difficult
Here are my Essay Ideas for Identity and Belonging
Nature or Nurture
Ideas for an essay
Style and Purpose = persuasive essay / hybrid imaginative
Form = deliver a speech at the wedding of your brother
Audience = guests at the wedding
Language = personal tone, descriptive, simple sentences, some humour
Tell the guests about the relationship you share with your brother, what it means to you, what you have learned from your brother and the impact they have on the family.
Defining ourselves through others
Ideas for an essay
Style and Purpose = imaginative writing
Form = personal letter of refugee in Australia
Audience = relative back in home country of refugee
Language = personal tone, descriptive words used by family members
Write to an aunty left behind in the homeland about feelings of estrangement and alienation that came from being uprooted and transplanted on foreign soil. The perilous journey to get to Australia. Missing the sense of tradition and extended family. Remaining connected to the land and place where they once belonged.
The cost of belonging – sacrificing the self
Ideas for an essay
Style and Purpose = imaginative / reflective piece
Form = reflective piece in a diary entry
Audience = only the author of the diary
Language = personal tone, first person, anecdotes, unspoken feelings
Masking the true self in order to belong. Using a stream of unconscious and unspoken feelings never told to the family before. Pain at having to disguise true feelings so that the family group would not disapprove. Not wanting to go to university to study medicine like all the other family members. Having to be always the ‘good’ child but afraid of disappointing parents. Wanting another career totally different from parent’s expectations.
Some Other Ideas for you to Consider Writing Essays / Expository or Imaginative:
- Stolen generation children now adults loss of both identity and belonging in society. Not accepted as white or black and unable to relate to either groups.
- Being homosexual in mainstream society / multi-cultural society and coming out
- Realising you are trans-gender as a child or adult born in the wrong body
- Unemployed youth who are struggling to find employment and they feel that they lack a purpose and a sense of belonging
- Being subjected to racist principles that are “skin-deep”. Your feelings when white people cannot see beyond superficial aspects such as your colour or appearance.
Private Home Tutoring of English Not an On-Line Free Tutoring Service
I am NOT an on-line free tutoring service. My resources on this website are for general use only. I do not write student’s essays for them or give advice on how to answer a prompt. However, for more intensive tutoring in a specific area of English, I will visit students in their own homes for private tutoring sessions that are paid on an hourly basis.