Guidelines for the layout

Introduction: (50-70 words)

Your first paragraph is the Essay’s INTRODUCTION; it should tell the reader what you intend to do. A commonly used and useful approach is to formulate this Introduction in the form of a QUESTION (or a series of questions) ending on a question mark “?” If you see your topic as a problem to solve, a quest for an answer (or answers), it gives you a solid starting point, and a clear line of investigation.

  • use the same wording as the topic statement. You must always rewrite it in your own words or define the key words to show that you have in fact understood the topic.
  • use set sentences such as “Esto es un tema que aparece mucho en los medios de comunicación y hay que considerar los dos lados del argumento para poder llegar a una conclusión satisfactoria” or “Es importante analizar los pros y los contras”. These sentences have no substance and you are just reciting them like a parrot.
  • list all the points you are going to make. If you do, the whole essays will be repetitive and you will run out of expressions in the main paragraphs.
  • state your verdict. Let the readers find out how you get to your conclusion instead of telling them your answers right away.

DO include a statement or two describing why it is an interesting topic worthy of discussion. You may generally talk about the situation in New Zealand or in other countries as long as it is relevant to the topic and it is true.

Planning. You now have your Introduction (i.e. a problem). You know the question(s) you have to answer. You are ready to start your investigation.

Draw two columns, one for each side of the argument (for and against). List all the possible viewpoints and question their validity. Ask yourself the following questions:

Why do people believe that? What evidence or examples would they give to support their ideas? Do you agree with them? Why do/don’t you agree with them?

By the end of your initial planning, you should have found some answer (or answers). There is no such thing as the one and only answer to any given topic, and your answer will be as valid as any so long as you never make any interpretative statement that you cannot immediately back by an explanation or examples. Saying what others think (without questioning its validity) is not an argument, and certainly not a proof!

Interpretation: (2 paragraphs totalling 200-260 words)

By now, you must have discovered whether the answer to the given problem is going to be “yes” or “no”. This is your “personal thinking” phase; where your personal interpretative role starts. You are going to organize your ideas in three steps: thesis, antithesis, synthesis (not necessarily in this order). The thesis answers “yes” to the question, the antithesis answers “no”, and the synthesis is your final settling of the matter.

The order in which Thesis and Antithesis come depends on your findings. If your synthesis is to give the answer “yes” to the question, start with the Anti-thesis (all the arguments which answer “no” to the question) then develop the thesis (all the arguments which answer “yes”), and state your affirmative Synthesis.

If your findings point to a “no” answer, give the Thesis first (all the “yes” arguments), carry on with the Anti- thesis (all the “no” arguments), and finish on your negative Synthesis.

Conclusion: (50-70 words)

You have found the answer(s) to your initial problem(s). You have watched that/those answers emerge from your planning, backed by explanations and examples. You have clearly stated the answer(s) in your final Synthesis. Your reader has been led to accept your findings by your precise examples and arguments, and if you have organised it logically he accepts your position on the topic. So, keep your conclusion short (about the length of your Introduction).


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