A lot of times, I catch myself doing something that was drilled into my head in high school. Like five paragraph essays, for instance. I wrote an essay for my English class this week and found myself struggling-- and subsequently wasting time-- with how to divide the topic into three neat body paragraphs. It's a difficult habit to break.
The thing is, once you're in college, nobody actually cares about three distinctive body paragraphs. Well-- some professors care. But I've actually gotten points taken off for not dividing up my three "massive" body paragraphs into smaller, more specific paragraphs. So this is how I'm beginning to realize college papers should be written:
- You still need an introduction, obviously. Unless your professor is like my high school history teacher, who only wanted us to write thesis statements in the interest of saving time.
- Which, yeah, thesis statements are definitely still a thing that needs to be included, but it's not like you have to allude specifically to each of your main points within the thesis statement. It just needs to be an overall statement of your argument, and maybe a hint at how you plan on backing up your claim.
- It still helps me to subdivide my points into three main "paragraphs," but once I've written out giant masses of text that all refer to one point, I go back over it and break up the paragraph into smaller ones based on information that goes together. A new paragraph doesn't necessarily have to signal a change in topic.
- Conclusions are the trickiest part for me. You have to somehow restate your argument and tie everything together without sounding repetitive, but the good news is that I feel like most professors just look too see whether you even have a conclusion and don't give too much consideration as to how well-written it is.
- MLA format, double spacing, bibliographies, and all those other technical aspects of essays are still definite musts, unless your professor says otherwise (or unless you're only using one source-- like, writing an essay on Frankenstein that only cites Frankenstein probably doesn't warrant a bibliography).
I know some people struggle with breaking out of the five-paragraph essay mold, and I definitely have my moments, but hopefully this helps a little!