Essay Format

We will have very high standards for our short essays for Empire’s Progeny and will spend considerable time editing and rewriting them. It absolutely will not do to simply hand in the first 300 words that come to mind. Instead, our essays will be succinct arguments that advance an interpretation of our sources.

To get started, think about a typical college paper. A standard 5 page essay in the humanities or social sciences has the following format:

          1. Introduction including a hook, context, and a thesis sentence
          2. Body consisting of several paragraphs, each including:
            1. a topic sentence (a main point for the paragraph)
            2. evidence (in this case, quotes or examples from the source)
            3. analysis (interpretation of the evidence)
            4. argumentation (working from evidence to a conclusion)
          3. Conclusion that…
            1. restates the thesis of the essay
            2. recaps the argument
            3. perhaps reflects upon the wider significance of the thesis or advances questions for further research

Your essay, which will be somewhere between 300 and 500 words, needs to include all or almost all of the above elements. There will of course not be room for several body paragraphs (and instead your essay will probably be one longish paragraph). It is also likely that you will not have room for a snappy hook or thoughtful reflection at the end. But you must include the red elements above.  

Sound impossible?  It’s not, but it will require a lot of focus.  Pedagogically, our goal is for you to use all (or almost all) of the writing skills that go into a 5 to 7 page paper.  By making our essays short, you will be able to hone these skills very sharply to produce exquisitely crafted phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.  

One hallmark of good writing is brevity. Any loudmouth can rant on and on in an online forum, saying nothing with an endless stream of blather. But to be succinct — that is, precise, sharp, to the point, and crystal clear in just the number of words necessary — is an invaluable intellectual asset no matter where you go in your life or career. This is what we are working towards.

For examples to help you, see the sample essays by Prof. Thurner titled “The Official Spanish Definition of Race” and “Base Map for Empire’s Progeny,” both of which are available on our Neatline map.