Chapter 5: Maintaining Focus and Purpose: The Body Paragraphs
Writing the Essay
Now you have arrived, finally and purposefully, to the writing of your interpretive, analytical essay. You have read the article you are analyzing several times, you have gathered information that you have decided is interesting and relevant, you have analyzed the article’s many aspects, you have crafted a thesis that encapsulates your interpretive claim and analytical purpose, and you have plotted your potential course in your essay outline.
The actual writing of the essay is challenging, but it is a task that has been made a little easier by your thorough analysis and preparation. The writing should still be a little difficult, however, as you must continue to question and interpret, even as you draft and revise the essay. It would be a mistake at this point to think the analytical process is over and you need now just plug your observations into your outlined paragraph structure. Your essay is still very much a living and evolving thing and you must remain active and engaged as you create your final product. Keeping in mind your goal to be an active analyst rather than a passive conduit, it is important to complete this checklist before you begin writing to make sure you have equipped yourself with the tools you need to complete this task:
Take a survey of your immediate area as you prepare to write your essay, then answer the following questions:
Do you have a hard copy of your three-storey thesis at hand?
Do you have a hard copy of your outline ready for easy access and alteration?
Do you have a hard copy of the article you are analyzing, complete with your annotations and marginal comments?
Do you still have hard copies of the lists you compiled during your initial and subsequent analyses of the article?
Do you have a more refined list in hard copy of what you believe to be the most important and interesting moments from the text?
If you replied “No” to any of these questions, you are not prepared to begin writing your essay. Just because you have done all this work does not mean the sentences will now just flow from your brain onto the page. It is important that you have your accumulated claims and observations at hand as you work through the final stages of producing your essay. At many times during this process you will find yourself returning to the notes and lists and claims you have made. You may even find yourself questioning your earlier work, adding to it, or revising it. This is fine. Better to be questioning what you have written than to disengage your brain and start simply plotting points on the page.
The thesis you produced through your work in the previous chapters is still in many ways a working thesis that will be further complicated as you bring it more closely into contact with textual evidence. For this reason, it is vital that you do not yet place your thesis into your essay. Better to have it exist for now on a piece of paper separate from your essay so you can reflect upon it as you write your body paragraphs. Through this repeated obvious contact between your thesis and the textual evidence, you will be able to produce topic sentences for each of your body paragraphs.
As for the annotated version of the original article and your lists of observations, these never lose their crucial importance to your writing process. Remember, you compiled more information than you would be able to include in your essay. Now you can select from your best ideas rather than struggle to find points and evidence as you write. The outline you have planned is an important tool, but you may need to alter your roadmap as you write your essay. You may even need to select different evidence from what you had planned on using. So, keep all your annotations, lists and notes handy. You don’t want to lose creative momentum while searching for new material.
If you can now answer “Yes” to each of the questions in the checklist above, you are ready to begin writing.