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Focusing on the topic

Once you have determined exactly what the topic requires of you and what your response will be, you'll need to ensure that this response is presented in a clear line of argument throughout your essay.

One of the most obvious ways to ensure a clear response to a topic is to very clearly tie in your introduction and conclusion to the topic itself. While this may seem self-evident, students nevertheless frequently lose marks because they have not linked the different sections of their answer back to the topic.

Once you have written your essay, it is a good idea to review your introduction:

  • Does it link directly to the question that was asked?
  • Does it accurately reflect the argument you present in the body of the essay?

It is sometimes a good idea to write your introduction after you have written the body of the essay. This way you can ensure that the argument you set out in your introduction is, in fact, the one that you ended up writing in the rest of your essay!

Analysing a sample topic and introduction

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

Let's now examine a sample topic and matching introduction to see how well the argument is presented:

A. Essay Topic

First, we need to analyse the topic in order to work out what is required. Read the following essay topic on the novel Wide Sargasso Sea:

On page 6 of Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette remembers, "Our garden was large and beautiful as the garden in the Bible - the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and the smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell" (p.6)

Comment on the way in which descriptions of landscape and environment in the novel mark stages in the spiritual and psychological journey of the heroine.

Which words or phrases do you think are particularly important in working out what the topic is about? Choose the keywords from the following list:

Check your answers

Feedback: Wide Sargasso Sea topic analysis

On page 6 of Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette remembers, "Our garden was large and beautiful as the garden in the Bible - the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and the smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell" (p.6)

Comment on the way in which descriptions of landscape and environment in the novel mark stages in the spiritual and psychological journey of the heroine.

The first paragraph consists of a quote that highlights the garden imagery employed throughout the novel. It also invokes the biblical imagery of the "original" garden (the Garden of Eden), and all that is implied by the events that unfolded there (eg. The innocence of Adam and Eve before the "fall" into sin; the banishment of Adam and Eve from the garden, etc.) It is provided as an example of a descriptive passage that can be interpreted as being parallel to the interior, mental life of the protagonist. Does the garden of Antoinette's family home represent her loss of innocence, etc?

The key words and phrases are in the second paragraph. The question asks you to discuss the relationship between the descriptions of the landscape and the environment and the mind of the protagonist of the novel.

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