Prove the thesis from your research analysis with evidence from the story itself, supplemented with evidence from your research. No quotes over four-lines long.
Be sure to provide parenthetical citations for ALL outside information even if you’re not quoting directly. Consider this model. Remember, it is essential that you focus on the primary source (the story itself) rather than regurgitate the information from the research analysis.
I. Introduction: A. Get the reader interested with something startling, daring, or provocative.
B. Introduce the title of the story and its author
C. Introduce your topic—maybe, but not necessarily, your thesis, which could come at the end of your second paragraph in which you give background.
For example: First Introductory Paragraph: Draw the reader in with a compelling opening line. Introduce the topic. Bombs, booby traps, and blood have young soldiers running for their lives: tonight’s news about the war in Iraq? It could be, or it could be one of Tim O’Brien’s stories about his service in Vietnam. From there, I would begin to turn the discussion toward my topic, making the transition to my second introductory paragraph that will narrow the discussion from a topic to my specific thesis.
Second Introductory Paragraph: Define any terminology or background that will be discussed in the essay. Here, I might discuss some historical info about Vietnam, or talk about the lingering psychological effects of war. I would use my introduction to gracefully set up my thesis statement. Often the thesis statement is the last sentence of the introduction. Put the author’s name and the story title in (or near) the thesis statement.
Make sure you spell the writer’s name correctly; make sure the title is in quotation marks and all words of the title are spelled correctly. Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story” is not really about Vietnam; it is about the effect of war—any war–on the minds of those who survive it.
Body of the essay: Stay focused on primary source, i.e., the story or stories listed in the thesis. It’s your analysis of the work that is important. Research should be used sparingly, only in places where it can absolutely help you make a point.
The essay should not be a rehash of the research analysis. The purpose of the research analysis was to make you learn more than you’ll really need to write this essay. Body paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that define what the paragraph will be about. Each paragraph should provide specific examples from the story that support your thesis.
When quoting specific phrases, follow with a citation, e.g.: (O’Connor 361). Conclusion should restate major points of the essay and close with a return to the opening statement. Example: Topic Sentence 1: O’Brien’s focus is on the way the stories are remembered and retold rather than the chronology of the events. Provide two or three specific examples from the story that prove this point.
If you’ve found something perfect while doing research, gently weave it in, too. Topic Sentence 2: O’Brien uses violent and graphic imagery in the story to invoke the horror forever etched in the minds of those who’ve served in a war zone. Topic Sentence 3: O’Brien juxtaposes point of view of his first-person narrator to move between the soldier serving active duty and the writer who later attempts to tell the tales. For each of these, I would find details from the story to prove the accuracy of my stance. When needed (but only where a paraphrase wouldn’t do it justice), I might add an exact quote or quoted description to point something out. Always introduce quoted material, and don’t use a long quote when a snippet would serve the purpose.
Conclusion: It’s been said that war is hell. Certainly, O’Brien makes it clear that not only the war itself is hell, but also the memory of it. (review main points). So next time the nightly news shows young soldiers struggling to survive the latest skirmish, remember the battle will not be over for them, even if they make it home alive. Notice how I’ve returned to my opening about the news in my concluding line. Remember, no more than 20% of the essay should be quoted material. Instead, the paper is the writer’s analysis of events. Be sure to include your sources on Works Cited. Also provide a page of Sources The story itself should be cited on Work Cited. Even if you never quote from it directly (which you likely will), you will be referring to it, so it is a Source even if it is not Work Cited.