Writing an Essay
Deciding the Purpose

Deciding the purpose

Now that you have chosen your subject and narrowed it to a manageable size, you need to decide on the purpose of your essay.

  • Is it to provide background information about capital punishment in your country?
    [Not recommended because it is not controversial]
  • Is it to provide information about the methods of capital punishment?
    [Not recommended because it is not controversial]
  • Is it to provide arguments for the reinstatement of capital punishment?
    [Recommended because it is controversial]
  • Is it to provide arguments for the abolition of capital punishment?
    [Recommended because it is controversial]

Once you decide the purpose of writing an essay on your chosen topic, your need to articulate your purpose by stating it on paper.

The purpose of this essay is to prove that capital punishment should be reinstated in Canada.
The purpose of this proposal is to prove that having flexible work hours is a good business practise.

In this way you will never lose track of your purpose when writing your essay. Otherwise, it is easy to make the mistake of discussing matters that are not related to your purpose.

Reminder: Your purpose will never be included in your essay. The purpose is to remind you why you are writing the essay. Your thesis, which is similar to the purpose, will be stated in your essay. The purpose of the thesis and the guidelines for writing a thesis statement are discussed later in this unit.

Three kinds of essays

Expository essay: one in which you provide evidence about the subject without showing bias for or against the subject.

Argumentative essay: one in which you try to convince your audience that your view on the subject is the correct one.

Persuasive essay: one in which you try to not only convince your audience that your view in the correct one but also get your audience to take some action on the issue. Action by the audience could mean writing letters to the politicians, writing letters to the newspapers, or using some other form of protest.

Note: The kind of essay that you normally will write is argumentative because it lends itself to a clearly defined thesis. However, some language courses require that you write one of each of these essays.

This unit deals mainly with writing argumentative essays, since this kind is required for most language and literature papers.


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