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Old Wednesday, December 13, 2006
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Post Essays on Essay Writing

Let's say you are assigned to write an essay, indeed a research paper, on the role of democracy in history (but it could be any topic -- and it could be any writing situation). Of course you begin by brainstorming to see what you "can come up with" to write about. You might begin your essay with a story, or anecdote, about life in a country where there is no democracy, and your purpose would be to make graphic and specific what it's like to live in an oppressive society. Your anecdote involves narration. Thereafter, you suggest what general form your essay will take, which completes your introduction. At this point, you may decide to say clearly and exactly what your central idea is. This means you will state a thesis.
What follows, that is to say the rest of your essay, will be an exercise in development of this idea.

In this case, after all your research, you decide that your thesis is that there are many forms of society where there is political freedom and that just because these are different from American democracy does not mean they shouldn't be called democratic. In fact, after all of your reading, you are convinced that we don't live in a "true democracy" at all.

Before you go too far, however, you need to make clear exactly what you're talking about. You start by defining some terms. But because of the complexity of your findings, you can't just leave it at that. You are going to spend some time in part of the essay in explaining something, perhaps a concept or maybe even more than one concept. In doing this, you resort to the use of some clever metaphor you have thought up to get your point across. In doing this, you, of course, are using figurative speech. You might also use an analogy to make your idea clearer.

As you work, it also becomes clear to you that you can best approach your subject by showing the ways in which American democracy and Athenian democracy are alike and how they differ. This involves comparison and/or contrast. As you talk about some aspect of these topics, you may need to tell exactly where the voting takes place under each system, which involves description.

If what you're describing is fairly complex, you might first be engaged in some kind of sophisticated analysis to help your reader get more deeply into your subject. One option you have, of course, is to show how the body politic in each polity is structured and how each functions. And because Athenian democracy is so different from ours, for example, in having every citizen serve in the assembly during his live, you might have to engage in process analysis, showing the various stages of the working out of each type of democracy.

You might even find yourself needing to show how democratic concepts were reflected in the various plays that have survived from the fifth century BC. The examples you use may or may not be obvious, but in any case, citing them and talking about them may require you to engage in literary analysis, especially if there is something subtle you have noticed, possibly even something no one else has argued before.

If part of your thesis is to show where various democracies stand in the world, you may find yourself categorizing them or putting them into groups, in other words, classifying them. This work could even involve your having to deal with a controversy over some aspect of scholarship, in which case you find yourself having to take a position, and therefore justifying your beliefs. it could even lead you to suggest a way to resolve the controversy, which would mean you are proposing a solution. Indeed, you may find yourself engaged in argument and persuasion as to some point or the other.

All of this, of course, involves detailed analysis, and the orderly presentation of your thoughts, which would mean the development of your idea. finally, of course, you will need to end your essay with an appropriate conclusion.
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