Back To CourseComprehensive English: Overview & Practice
14 chapters | 136 lessons
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Kelly earned her Master of Mass Communication from Arizona State and has taught consumer behavior and communication courses at the undergraduate level.
It's Sunday night and you're finding any way possible to procrastinate on your English homework assignment: to write an informative essay. 'It's gotta be easy enough,' you say to yourself, remembering your English teacher's simple explanation of an informative essay - to educate your reader on a topic. The only problem is, with a definition that broad, you're having a really hard time narrowing down what exactly you'd like to inform your audience about.
Flipping channels, you come across a music awards show. You hear the announcer say one of your favorite stars growing up, Smiley Virus, is set to perform next. As Smiley takes the stage, you're completely shocked. She comes out half-dressed in some kind of stuffed animal costume, and just keeps doing the same spastic dance moves over and over again. It just keeps getting more and more bizarre. It's obvious she's trying to be 'edgy,' but she just looks like a lunatic. As the camera pans the crowd, no one is sure how to react toward her 'cutting edge' performance.
As it all ends, you immediately start thinking of a way you can turn this into an informative essay - it's just too good not to write about. Your mind begins to fill with the different options your English teacher gave you.
'Informative essays come in many forms,' she said. 'They can define a term, compare and contrast something, analyze data, or provide a how-to.' 'No matter what form you choose, remember that an informative essay does not give the writer's opinion on the topic or attempt to persuade their reader to change their beliefs,' she said. Finally excited about writing your informative essay, you begin to brainstorm your options.
The definition essay is the most basic form of an informative essay. Its goal is to simply provide an explanation. Informative essays that define provide their explanation using one of three methods: They can use synonyms to explain what the new term is similar to, categories to help the reader see where the term fits in compared to others, or negation to allow the reader to understand the term by seeing what it isn't.
In addition to the three methods, there are several ways you can organize an informative essay that provides a definition. The most important thing is to present them in a logical order that makes sense, and there's not one method that's best in every case. Some organization schemes you might consider include presenting examples from most important to least or presenting them chronologically.
In your case, a definition essay might simply tell about who Smiley Virus is. You begin to work on a rough draft for a definition-focused informative essay. You know the introduction should contain a thesis along with a compelling way to draw the reader in.
'As the lights dim, the crowd waits in anticipation. Slowly a beat emerges, then, as if rising from the ashes of her child star persona, a shadowy figure appears in a cloud of smoke on stage, ready to give an infamous performance no one will soon forget. As she makes her way across the stage, the spotlight shines down, showing off a new woman. No longer a little girl, this is the new Smiley Virus, the adult pop sensation.'
'Not bad,' you think. You begin with a compelling description of what you just saw and tell your reader what you'll be defining: the new adult pop sensation, Smiley Virus. You also note how you've already started to provide your explanation, through negation - letting your reader know that Smiley is not a little girl or child star anymore - and categorizing - classifying her as an 'adult pop sensation.'
Although you think the definition of Smiley Virus, adult pop sensation, could make for a good essay, you also start to ponder some of the ways this performance is similar to other ones you've seen on the same awards show. An informative essay using compare and contrast would fit the bill here. It allows the reader to understand the topic by looking at similarities or differences compared to other subjects.
Writing a compare and contrast informative essay would allow you to focus on Smiley's performance at the awards show, rather than just simply defining her as a pop star. You could compare and contrast her controversial performance with others from the past that were also seen as scandalous at the time.
You start to craft a thesis statement for an informative essay using compare and contrast. 'Although Smiley Virus's edgy performance made top headlines Monday morning, it's not the first time a pop sensation turned heads with their awards show performance. In fact, it's nothing new at all. In 1984, rising pop star Mona Lisa shocked fans with her controversial performance.'
Organizing a compare and contrast informative essay like this is fairly straightforward. You can present your information by points of comparison - maybe comparing Mona Lisa and Smiley's outfits, then dance moves, then popularity - or just look at your topics, Mona Lisa versus Smiley, one at a time.
You're just not sure you know enough about the Mona Lisa performance to do a good job on the compare and contrast option, so you move on to another choice. You think about how Smiley ended up in that position in the first place. Perhaps an informative essay that analyzes data might work. You could look at whether life as a child star leads to outlandish behavior as an adult.
When using an informative essay to analyze data, you are simply explaining how something might have happened based on data you've gathered. It's basically like looking at cause and effect with no opinions presented. In this case, it's usually easiest to look at things in chronological order. This will help your reader best follow what you are trying to explain.
It's important to have lots of supporting data and statistics to explain the cause and effect situation in an analytical essay. Realizing you don't have much more than anecdotal evidence as to why many child stars end up the way they do, you move on to your final option, the how-to.
The how-to informative essay does exactly what the name says. It explains to your reader how to do something. It's most often presented in the order of the steps involved. It dawns on you - you could provide a how-to for the new, spastic dance move Smiley showcased, 'The Bizzerk.' Easy enough, if you were able to even put those spastic dance moves into words, let alone do it well enough to explain the Bizzerk step-by-step.
You pass on that option and go back to your first idea: to write your informative essay as a definition of Smiley Virus, adult pop sensation. 'Now to flesh out the body and wrap it up,' you think to yourself.
As you finish your informative essay, you start to expand on your explanation of who Smiley is. You give more background on the pop star category you put her in, and continue explaining how she is no longer the sweet, child star the public once thought her to be. You go through the basics your English teacher shared with you in class one more time.
An informative essay educates your reader on a topic. They can have one of several functions: to define a term, compare and contrast something, analyze data, or provide a how-to. They do not, however, present an opinion or try to persuade your reader.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to define an informative essay and explain the four formats they could be written in.
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Back To CourseComprehensive English: Overview & Practice
14 chapters | 136 lessons