What exactly is an essay?
An essay is a piece of writing, especially in prose, in which the writer expresses their opinions on a particular subject. The topic the writer discusses may be anything. It may be very important topic or not so important.
Writing a good essay is one of the most difficult of writing tasks.
There are two situations in which you may have to write an essay –
1) When you have enough time to prepare, and
2) When you have to write an essay without any time for preparation for example, in an exam, or in an essay writing contest, when you get a topic which you have not prepared.
First, let us know how to go about the task, when you have enough time.
For your essay to be good, you need to have
* a thorough knowledge of the topic
* a clear idea of the different aspects of the topic
* dividing into paragraphs the ideas to be discussed – a paragraph for each aspect of the topic
* a wide vocabulary including the vocabulary connected with the topic of the essay, and,
* most importantly, the ability to write it to the required word limit
1. A thorough knowledge of the subject:
First of all study the meaning of the topic. Suppose you have to write a three hundred-word essay on the topic, ‘Reality Shows Featuring Children on the TV.’
i) Think, what exactly is ‘a reality show?’ If you do not know what it means look up the dictionary. Then note down all the ideas that you have got about the topic from
a) your own knowledge and experience,
b) from books, newspapers and magazines, and
c) from Google, net and websites, if you have a computer.
Note down in the form of points all the information you have collected about the topic.
Now, think about the topic: what is a reality show on the TV? If you know it, it’s OK. If you don’t know refer to the dictionary. You will find that a reality show is a TV programme showing real events with people who are non-TV / movie actors. Now our topic is, reality shows which feature children, that is, programmes in which children participate. Which age children? Let us say children below the age of ten. We now know what our essay is about. It should discuss what happens to children who participate in them, and who watch them – whether it is good or bad for them. Is the information we have enough for a three hundred-word essay? If we don’t have enough information about it, let us get it from newspapers and magazines. If that is not enough, let us go to Google and the internet.
We now have enough information about the topic.
2. Analyze the topic:
a) How many kinds of reality shows are there? There are music and dance shows, game shows, knowledge shows, etc. Which of these are good, and which, bad for the children?
b) What do the participating children gain from these shows? (How are the programmes good for them?), and b) What do they lose? How are the programmes bad for them?
3. Frame your thesis:
By now you have an idea whether the good and the bad are equal, or whether there is more good than bad or more bad than good. With this idea, you frame your thesis, that is, state your opinion about the subject. For example, after thinking of all aspects of the topic, suppose you think that they do more bad than good to the children , state that clearly and forcefully, in just a sentence or two.
4. The next step is the outline of the essay. That is, a list of points you wish to discuss in the essay. Remember, they must be in the form of points only. The outline may be something like this:
a) Definition of the topic – Define / explain what reality shows are (in the form of points).
It may be like this: programmes showing real events in which non-cine/TV actors participate
b)TV shows showing real events with children as the participants.
c) kinds of shows: music, dance, game, knowledge (quiz, etc) and other shows
d) Which of the above are OK for children – knowledge and game shows are OK – they help children to get knowledge and skill (from game shows) and prizes (cash and kind) as well.
e) Dance shows and music shows – benefits for children –
i) Stage experience
iii) success – they get to know their abilities and talent
iv) the prize money may help some not so rich children with money for their studies.
f) The harsh comments of the judges – lose their self-confidence – they get depressed – they can’t bear the strain, stress and pressure – cases of illnesses and suicides.
g) Most important cause – the greed of the parents – the prize money they get because of their children.
j) Most importantly their studies are affected – their poor performance at school may force them to drop out of school – they may end up without the minimum education – can’t lead a decent life later, and
k) Even if they become experts in their later life, there may not be enough opportunities for all of them in the movies and other shows.
These are the points which you can include in the essay. As the disadvantages appear to be more than the advantages, your thesis at the beginning of this exercise is well supported.
You have done the ground work for the essay. You can begin the essay now.
Give a title to your essay. In this case the title could be, ‘Reality Shows Featuring Children.’
Now you begin your essay with a paragraph of introduction. In a short paragraph state what the essay is about. The first sentence of the introduction paragraph should be short and attract the attention of the readers; it may be something like this:
Reality shows involving children are quite frequent and popular on the Indian TV. (Add the definition here.) A number of channels compete with one other to air these shows. The most popular among them are the music and dance shows. Children are attracted to these shows and waste time watching them. A number of children participate in these shows. How good is it for them, and how bad? They are both good and bad for them. However, a careful study shows that they do endless harm to the children. Compared with this, the good they do to children is very little. So the earlier they are banned, the better for the children. This is your thesis.
Now you divide your essay into paragraphs, allotting a paragraph to each point in the outline.
Para 1: Different kinds of reality shows involving children – Knowledge shows, games shows, dance and music shows. Age limits prescribed – the number of channels telecasting them – mostly prime time programmes.
Para 2: Knowledge and games shows are ok – useful for the children – test the intelligence of children and sharpen their thinking – helpful in exams too, and later when they take competitive exams – improve their skill too. (Expand all these ideas). Even here sometimes the children are put to a lot of strain because of the competition.
Para 3: Dance and music shows – shows conducting dance and music competitions with attractive cash and kind prizes – their good aspects first – stage experience for the children – help develop their self-confidence – bring out their talent and abilities – help them in their later life choose careers after their heart – the cash prizes may help the not so rich children in their pursuit of higher studies.
Para 4: the bad side of the reality shows – even the knowledge shows and game shows are good, they are a strain on the children – not winning may depress them – the strain on their bodies and mind – may stir their envy against the winning candidate – the pressure to perform might be harmful.
Para 5: the bad side of music and dance shows – the endless hours of practice Vulgarity of the shows – children dancing with adults sometimes – sexual abuse of children – putting ideas of sex at a premature age in children’s mind too early in their life.
Para 6: The harsh comments of the judges – lose their self-confidence – they get depressed – they can’t bear the strain, stress and pressure – cases of illnesses and suicides.
Para 7: Most importantly their studies are affected – their poor performance at school may force them to drop out of school – they may end up without the minimum education – can’t lead a decent life later, and
Para 8: Even if they become experts in their later life, there may not be enough opportunities for all of them in the movies and other shows.
Para 9: Most important cause – the greed of the parents – the prize money they get because of their children. They don’t mind the ruining of their children’s career for the sake of the money.
Conclusion: Disadvantages are far more than advantages – so they should be banned.
Build up these points into paragraphs with neat sentences. Add any other information you wish to. Your essay is ready. See how easy it is!
Situation 2: writing an essay off the cuff (that is, without the time to prepare, for example, in an exam or in a essay writing contest):
When you have to write an essay without the time to prepare, you can’t have the help of the dictionary, the newspaper, or any source book for the material. You have to write spontaneously.
Suppose the topic is, ‘Women’s position in India.’ You are given this topic for the essay. How do you go about it?
Think for five minutes why this topic for essay writing? Subject matters for essays usually are those that affect a large group of people, or the society as a whole. Take for example the present topic: Death Punishment. What about it? You start thinking, and as you think, you note down your points in any order that comes to you mind. Perhaps this is how you think:
First stage of thinking: What is death punishment? Putting a person to death for committing the worst of all crimes – killing another person. That is, if somebody kills another person, the court sentences the killer to death, and the government, through the prisons executes the sentence. Are there different opinions about it?
If there were no different opinions about it, it wouldn’t be a topic for essay writing exercise. Some support it and others oppose it.
Points in support of death / capital punishment:
1. A person who takes the life of another person has no right to live.
2. Death sentence will prevent others from committing murders, for fear of being put to death.
3. It is a kind of tit for tat situation. A killer should be killed; they should not be allowed to live.
4. The members of the victim’s family feel that justice is done when the murderer is put to death.
Points against death sentence /capital punishment:
A number of people feel that capital punishment should be abolished, because,
1. The government, by putting to death a killer, is committing the same crime – killing a person. This is murder by the state (government)
2. That death punishment reduces murders is not correct. Death punishments have not much reduced killings in society.
3. Life-long or prolonged imprisonment, say, for 15 to 20 years is a more severe punishment than death punishment. This is in force in a number of countries which have abolished death sentences. This will prevent people from committing murders.
4. There are a number of examples of innocent people being punished and real murderers escaping. The judgments of the courts are not always correct. Judges also make mistakes.
Note down the points like this. If you think with concentration you can get a number of ideas. Sometimes the points may not strike you in the proper order. Write them down as they come to you, and study them. Then rearrange them in a logical order. Then follow all the steps that have been suggested in the first example, that is, the essay on ‘Reality Shows Featuring Children.’