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Author Topic: Expository Essays  (Read 7239 times)  Share 

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Vexna

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Expository Essays
« on: June 02, 2015, 11:04:13 am »
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For my context SAC, I have decided to write an expository essay on the prompt "It is not always easy to distinguish the innocent from the guilty in situations of conflict".
Now the thing is, I'm not familiar with this type of writing and would like an tips for this form.
So any pointers on the structure, word choices and linking the context in would be highly appreciated.

Thank you!

starlord

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Re: Expository Essays
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2015, 11:01:43 pm »
+3
For expository essays, I think the most important thing to remember is to be concise! Signpost your paragraphs with clear topic sentences that tell the reader/teacher/examiner what your main points are and then in the core of the paragraph, explain your point in more detail. For example, the structure of a body paragraph could be as follows:

- Topic sentence (e.g. The capacity for an individual to encounter and endure conflict is unending – regardless of status, circumstance and state of mind – and as a result, no party ever enters and leaves a conflict unscathed.)
- Overview of the idea raised in topic sentence (The root of conflict, after all, is never so simple as to be categorized as ‘evil’, but it is in a clash of values and principle that conflict occurs; proving that neither wealth nor power can save from the overwhelming destruction that a moral war can potentially wreak.)
- Example, either from the text you're studying or from a real-life example (such as a historical event or global issue, or even an anecdote of sorts) and DISCUSS THE EVIDENCE.
- (Optional, but should be included in the introduction/opening) Indication of an underlying contradiction to your idea (or more specifically, what can be argued against your topic sentence? How is that idea flawed and how can it be challenged? Remember an expository is not persuasive, so you have to consider both sides.)
- Link (basically make links back to the prompt, and if possible, to your next paragraph).

... and so on and so forth.

For word choices and vocabulary, it would mostly just depend on the tone of voice you've adopted - though a majority of expository essays are written in a formal tone - and hence, use rather sophisticated language choices to demonstrate their point. If you wish to opt for a more casual tone, you can include anecdotes and persuasive devices (but then it would no longer be expository, but more of a hybrid essay).

I hope this is (somewhat) helpful!

literally lauren

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Re: Expository Essays
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2015, 04:18:07 pm »
+8
For starters: Context is essentially a big open ended pit of 'do what you want so long as you do it well' much to the displeasure of basically everyone. So the easiest way to explain the style is to explain the criteria and then the common ways students try to meet them:

1) Relevance (+exploration)

Cannot stress this enough. What you write must be relevant to the prompt - not just the Context - the prompt! By my estimates this would account for at least half of the mistakes people make when writing Context pieces. The most frequent pitfall is to fall into the mindset of 'ooh, look, the prompt is about innocence and guilt. Perfect! I wrote a practice essay on that yesterday; I'll just write the exact same thing' with no consideration of the overall message that the prompt is giving you.
Let's take your example and then list a few more using the same terminology, but giving a vastly different message/implication:
- It is not always easy to distinguish the innocent from the guilty in situations of conflict.
- One cannot remain innocent by refusing to encounter conflict.
- The lines between innocence and guilt are always blurry in times of conflict.
- It is our intentions that determine our culpability in times of conflict; not our actions.
- Those who are guilty of perpetuating conflict are often unaware that they do so.
Approaches that limit themselves to unpacking a few key words and just writing about those words and not their overall suggestions are very, very risky (and straight-up wrong in my opinion.) Putting aside thoughts of essay structure for the moment, you should always go into a piece with the understanding that the prompt rules everything.

You're not writing on the context (eg. 'Conflict' in your case,) but on the prompt itself. So it's not enough for a piece to just address the words in the prompt and relate them to the overall study - it's about using what you know, choosing the most relevant ideas and discussions, and then tailoring them to suit the framework that you're given.

This category also technically includes 'exploration' as well, and this is where the idea of a contention comes into play. Whilst you're not expected to cover all, or even most of the ideas that the prompt raises, you are expected to have an appropriate balance of depth and breadth, by which I mean:
a) your piece has to have enough depth to the ideas/points you raise - if you're given a prompt like 'Fear is at the heart of conflict,' your essay can't just be arguing 'yes.' This is a really common mistake; many students get stuck at the hurdle of providing evidence to show why the prompt is true, and they'll never consider things on an idea-level.
eg. an un-exploratory breakdown might look like:
P1: fear of hurting other people can cause conflict
P2: fear of consequences can cause conflict
P3: fear of harm or death can cause conflict
         *cue assessor yawning*

vs. a piece-that-does-actually-properly-explore-the-prompt breakdown:
P1: fear is often linked with the 'flight or fight' phenomena, so conflict can come about when we feel afraid, and feel that we have little to no choice but to fight
P2: however, this fear often comes about because of a conflict, so there's not a simple cause--->effect relationship; it's more like a chicken<-->egg scenario
P3: ultimately, fear can be responsible for both causing and exacerbating a conflict, but this isn't always a bad thing - sometimes fear and conflict are necessary.
         *cue assessor applauding originality* 

Notice how this second plan allows for way more interesting and broad discussion? That's because it's got sufficient breadth. We've covered more ground than just 'YES.PROMPT IS RIGHT.HERE ARE THREE DIFFERENT POINTS THAT ALL SAY THE SAME THING.I AM RIGHT.'

Think of it like a kiddie-pool. If there's too much depth, the kiddies are going to drown. There'll be way too much water, and it won't be an enjoyable experience to read/swim in. But you could take that same amount of water and spread it out really thin so it's nice and safe... but then it's just a puddle, shallow and unfulfilling. The perfect inflatable essay will have just the right circumference (read: the right breadth/ amount of ideas covered) and just the right water-level (read: the right depth/ amount of discussion about each idea.)
Yes I'm equating Year 12 assessors with non-waterproof toddlers. So sue me.

2) Textual links

Unlike a Text Response essay, you won't be limited to the text you're studying (should be either Every Man in this Village, Life of Galileo, The Lieutenant, or A Separation for Conflict.) Instead, you should be using other sources in order to aid your discussion. The kinds of examples you draw from and the degree to which you stick with the set text are entirely up to you, and most of this stuff falls under the 'just do it well, we don't care how' mentality. Some students are adept at pulling apart intricate details of their set text and using them to further discussion; others simply get the textual discussion out of the way, and then move on to other examples and discussions that they find more interesting.

It mostly comes down to how much you enjoy the text, or how many interesting ideas you think it contains. Personally, I found both of mine hellishly dry and bland, so I tended to tick this criteria as soon as possible, and then go back to making my piece interesting again :p

Importantly, though; there is no requirement to give a sense of the full text. If, in a T.R. essay, all you talked about was a single character or a single scene, you obviously couldn't score well - but Context works differently. In fact, it's often more efficient to just latch onto a couple of good characters/ideas/moments and make sure you can tailor those discussisons to suit some different prompts. You don't need to know your Context texts anywhere near as well as you're meant to know your T.R. texts. Quotes from the latter should be etched into your memory before the exam, but you don't even need textual quotes for Context...

...but as a testament to just how subjective Context is...
Okay, so in Assessor's Reports/ Study Designs etc. there is absolutely no mention of whether quotes are necessary in Context. You can use them if you wish, but it's not like they're a requirement for doing well. Nevertheless, I've heard some teachers say 'you must use at least 5 quotes in every paragraph to show you have enough evidence' and other say 'never use quotes - they're clunky and unnecessary - you're not allowed to use them.'
-.-
So like basically every Context post I've posted: consulting your teacher is your best bet for scoring well in SACs. If you're lucky, they'll be sane and flexible, but most teachers are partial to certain styles or ways of integrating the text, and it's in your best interests to cater to their interests. In the exam, however, you don't have to bend to anyone's rules - you're just trying to write what is objectively safe in the eyes of assessors.

(Another cautionary tale...) There are still some hard-and-fast rules though, and they're kind of deceptive about this, unfortunately. *TECHNICALLY* you only have to incorporate *the ideas of a set text* into your piece. So if you're studying a novel that's about the unintended consequences of conflict, then so long as you mentioned that concept, (ie. without necessarily mentioning the text by name like you would in T.R.) you *should* be in the clear.
But as you've probably inferred from my *sarcastic disclaimers* that's not actually the case.

Put simply, some assessors are dolts, and won't pick up on the subtleties in your piece.

And if you haven't got a solid, overt, and sensible textual link, you cannot score well!!!

In SACs you can be as subtle as you want, because you know exactly who your audience is (= your teacher, unless you're school cross-marks essays, but even then, your actual teacher will still probably get a say in your final mark.) Plus, you usually get the chance to write a Written Explanation / Statement of Intention where you can reveal your thought processes and make the link super clear. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't panic, some schools (illegally, but w/e) bypass this requirement because in all honesty it is a fairly pointless exercise.

Suffice it to say that Id advise every expository writer to make a very overt: 'This idea can be seen in >set text< eg. Ernest Gaines' novel 'A Lesson Before Dying' when...' just to be on the safe side.

Anyway...
3) "Writing"
The official and ridiculously long-winded version of this criterion is
Quote
"the development in the writing of a coherent and effective structure in response to the task, showing an understanding of the relationship between purpose, form, language, and audience"
but if you're a normal human being that probably just sounds like jargon. I kind of lump this under the banner of 'writing quality,' even though it's fairly generic, but at least it's easier to explain.

Your piece needs to be well-written. But this can mean any number of things. It has to have coherence, for one. The assessor should be able to read your piece without getting lost or confused, or having to reread sections over and over again just to work out what you're trying to say. They should be able to get through it nice and quickly, and by they end they'll have a solid grasp on  what your contention was, and how you explored it. You also have to ensure that it is cohesive, meaning it holds together properly. Does your essay feel like a bunch of separate discussions tenuously glued together to form an "essay?" Do you feel like the ideas aren't building off each other, they're just taking your argument in three/four separate directions? Do you feel an emptiness where your soul used to be? Well you need COHESION now available in six easy payments of $23.99

The way VCAA "explain" this is that you shouldn't think of the task as an "essay" so much as a "writing piece." I'll touch on this later in the next sections, but basically it means you don't have to treat your writing as a
>Intro outlining contention and general arguments
>Body paragraphs with clear topic sentences and evidence, wrapping up at the end
>Conclusion summing up main points and ending on a high note
sort of thing.
If that structure appeals to you, and you believe you can write it well, then by all means go ahead. But just be aware that you're also free to change things up if you want.
 
For instance, you could kick off with an example and then gradually work back around to your overall contention. You might have a common thread through all of your examples, giving your piece and example-based focus as well as an idea-based one. Or you may want to do a hybrid piece where you combine imaginative or persuasive elements into your work for the sake of jazzing this up a bit... which leads us to...

4) Language

Often misinterpreted as 'use of big words,' the Language criterion is all about how well your writing suits your ideas. Your language must be appropriate for your discussion. That's all. Broadly, this could be broken up into
       a) Syntax: sentence structure, grammar, flow, sentence length, and variation
and b) Vocabulary: word choice, use, and variation

If you are able to reach a level of proficiency in changing up your sentence structure and using a variety of language, then you don't automatically have an advantage in writing better ideas, but you will be able to write better if you understand the thinking behind these criteria. There's a reason they're set out in this order. You can be the greatest writer in the world, but if you're not writing something relevant, then good luck scoring about a 2/10. But if you're writing great, relevant, interesting ideas... and your writing is just passable... you can still score well. The first two criteria are critical for scoring highly. These last two are necessary for scoring really highly (8+) but often isn't something people focus on.



That was something of a theory-dump, but hopefully that'll provide you with some background understanding as to what Context 'is' ...sorta.

To answer your questions directly:
- Structurally, maybe stick with a regular essay for now and see how you go. Break up the prompt into a couple of different areas, and from there you can begin to construct body paragraphs and support each idea with the relevant textual and external evidence.
- Word-choice-wise: http://www.thesaurus.com/
Broaden your vocab and write down heaps of synonyms for common words (eg. things like 'easy,' 'distinguish,' 'innocence,' 'guilt' for this prompt - even if you don't end up using them in this piece, these sorts of themes could very easily crop up in a different prompt, and you want to be prepared for whatever is thrown at you.) It'll also allow you to deal with more nuances... for instance, is there a difference between being 'guilty' and being 'liable?' What about 'remorseful' or 'responsible?' How might the subtle differences in meaning help facilitate your discussion?
- Don't think of it as 'linking the Context in;' think of it as 'saying something about the Context by talking about whether it is easy to distinguish guilt from innocence.' By the end of the essay, the point you should be angling for is: 'so what does this say about people and conflict?' If you can answer that huge and excruciatingly open-ended question with confidence by the end, then you've done good :)

Best of luck!

heids

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Re: Expository Essays
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2015, 04:30:26 pm »
+2
Just wow.  Just.  Wow.



Hooray my first chance at mod-editing the English Resources and Sample High Scoring Responses page!
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Re: Expository Essays
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2015, 04:41:09 pm »
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Just wow.  Just.  Wow.



Hooray my first chance at mod-editing the English Resources and Sample High Scoring Responses page!
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literally lauren

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Re: Expository Essays
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2015, 04:46:45 pm »
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Hooray my first chance at mod-editing the English Resources and Sample High Scoring Responses page!

Oh yeah, that thing I always forget to update that no one ever visits :(
I sometimes forget how many resources are actually in that thing - I know it's stickied and therefore paradoxically invisible but ya'll should venture through one day. Just open up 20 tabs and feast your eyes on ~5 years worth of help and advice.

heids

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Re: Expository Essays
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2015, 04:55:32 pm »
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Oh yeah, that thing I always forget to update that no one ever visits :(
I sometimes forget how many resources are actually in that thing - I know it's stickied and therefore paradoxically invisible but ya'll should venture through one day. Just open up 20 tabs and feast your eyes on ~5 years worth of help and advice.

I didn't visit AN much during year 12, but I will say this is the one page I remember looking at (it came up in a Google search) and I'm very glad I did.

ALL ENGLISH STUDENTS READING THIS, I HAVE THREE THINGS FOR YOU TO DO.  Throughout the year, please read and take copious notes on:

a. Posts from English Resources and Sample High Scoring Responses.

b. English Q&A and its forerunner, 50 in English, available for queries :).

c. Essay feedback in the English Work Submission and Marking board, especially the TR and LA stickied compilation of feedback threads.
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Vexna

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Re: Expository Essays
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2015, 01:22:36 pm »
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Thank you everyone this has been a big help!