When completing a pros and cons essay, your goal is to provide the reader with an impartial paper that provides the positive and the negative information about a particular subject. Therefore, in order to get started on a pros and cons essay, you'll first need to brainstorm all of the pros and cons you can think of for the topic you'll be writing about.
When you brainstorm, you simply write down all of the thoughts that come to your mind. These thoughts may be in a random order, though you may wish to maintain separate lists of the pros and cons. This way, you'll be a bit more organized when the brainstorming session is complete. When brainstorming these ideas, try to think of a con to go with each pro you come up with and try to develop a pro for each con. Although there may not always be a counterpoint to a pro or a con, using this method can sometimes make it easier to come up with several pros and cons to discuss.
Once you have developed a list of the pros and the cons regarding the subject you're writing about, you can begin to write your rough draft paper. The first paragraph of your rough draft should be an introduction. In your introduction, you should make it clear that you'll be discussing the pros and cons of the subject that you'll be discussing. This sentence will be your thesis statement. In addition to your thesis statement, you might include a brief overview of the pros and cons you'll be discussing.
In the subsequent paragraphs, you'll go on to describe the pros and cons as they relate to the topic you're writing about. The limitations that have been put on your document length will determine how detailed you'll be in these paragraphs. If space allows, however, you should write at least one paragraph discussing the pros and another paragraph discussing the cons.
To wrap up your pros and cons essays, you'll need to provide the reader with your opinion. As you state your opinion, you should provide your reasoning for making this choice. For example, if you're writing about the pros and cons of owning a dog, your conclusion might include a sentence such as "I believe that the benefits of owning a dog far outweigh the cons. Although dog ownership is a big responsibility and can be costly at times, the love and companionship you get from a dog is far more valuable."
After completing the rough draft of your document, you should then reread what you have completed and check for grammatical errors and punctuation errors. You should also make sure that the report followed a logical order and makes sense throughout. Before writing your final draft, let the rough draft sit for a few days and then read it again. Often, after being a way from a paper for a few days, you can better see the mistakes that you have made.
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The Pros and Cons of the Three-Point-Five Essay
Since starting work at the UofL Writing Center, I’ve met a lot of students who have struggled with the “Three-Point-Five” or “Five Paragraph” essay, one of the most common formats taught in high schools right now. For anyone unfamiliar with this terminology, the Three-Point-Five, or Five Paragraph, essay encourages students to write an introductory paragraph with a clear thesis statement that outlines the arguments that will be made in the body, followed by a body of three paragraphs, one point (argument) each, which support the thesis, ending in a conclusion that restates the thesis and sums up the arguments made in each paragraph. Three points in five paragraphs; hence, the names.
For those of you who are more visual learners, this is what it looks likes:
Paragraph 1: Thesis
Paragraph 2: Point 1
Paragraph 3: Point 2
Paragraph 4: Point 3
Paragraph 5: Conclusion
Many students come to the Writing Center after receiving a less-than-satisfying grade on a paper of this kind, hoping that we can help with revision. Or, they turned in a paper like this and were told to do something else for the next paper, and they don’t know what to do. They are frustrated. This is what they did in high school, and they thought their high school classes were supposed to prepare them to write for college. They don’t understand why the professor said they needed to “do more.” Sometimes they’re afraid that they’ll have to throw out everything they learned in high school and re-learn how to write papers.
As a Writing Center tutor, I always try to stress that they don’t need to forget the Three-Point-Five essay; they just need to build on it. The Three-Point-Five essay provides a useful framework. When you build a house, you have to start with the foundation and the wooden frame. This frame gives the house shape; it’s what makes the house look like a house. However, the frame is bare, so you have to add the walls and the roof. The Three-Point-Five is like that frame. You can use it to get started in writing academic essays, but you may not want to stop there.
So what are the Pros and Cons of this type of essay? Let’s start with the Cons.
1) This format gives the reader the basic arguments three times, first in the thesis, then in the body, and then in the conclusion. This can feel repetitive, which is not a great rhetorical strategy. It may seem a little boring, or a little simplistic.
2) This is disjointed. Each body paragraph relates back to the thesis, but they don’t relate to each other. This means that the arguments stand by themselves, instead of working together.
3) A Three-Point-Five Essay is totally self-contained, meaning that it doesn’t connect with a broader topic or make room for more questions. It pretends to be the final word on the subject.
College professors generally don’t want to see this kind of essay because they want to read complicated and interesting papers. They don’t want to read the same thing three times, and they don’t want repetition to be the only strategy students have. Saying the same thing over and over again is not very convincing, after all. Professors would also like to know that their students can makes connections between the different parts of their arguments. So, instead of thinking of each paragraph as one separate argument that has nothing to do with any of the others, they want students to think of the paper as one argument with a lot of paragraphs providing support for that argument. Finally, professors want students to know that there is more to each subject than is given in the paper. No paper is the be-all and end-all of anything. It’s one side of a larger conversation about the topic of study.
Now that I’ve gone into the weaknesses in the Three-Point-Five format, let’s take a look at the Pros.
1) This format teaches students how to support a thesis. That’s an important skill to have. After all, the thesis is like the tip of a pyramid. It needs everything underneath it, like the body paragraphs, to hold it up.
2) The Three-Point-Five essay teaches students how to write a paragraph. It’s true that each paragraph has to connect with every other paragraph in some way, but each paragraph should discuss one idea. Otherwise, the reader gets lost, unsure of what evidence goes with what idea.
3) It teaches you not to bite off more than you can chew. In high school, three pieces of evidence can be enough to work with while learning the other skills I’ve already discussed. However, by the time students reach college, they can handle more. The workload gets bigger the farther in college you go because students get used to writing. However, you don’t want to try to take on more information than you can handle.
So, if you’re having trouble building onto the Three-Point-Five essay, here are some tips:
1) Make sure that your body paragraphs are connected. You can do this by looking for similarities or differences. You can say things like, “[My current point] is similar to [something I talked about earlier] because they both [mean the same thing]. Or, “Unlike [my last point], [my current point does something else].
2) In your conclusion, don’t just restate your thesis and summarize your argument. Bring in a new perspective. Think about new questions your arguments raise. Think about how your paper fits into a larger understanding of the topic you’ve been discussing. Maybe you question a long-held opinion, or maybe you support one. Sometimes writing teachers call the conclusion “the pay-off” because they see the conclusion as the writer’s chance to explain why it was an important use of the reader’s time. It’s the moment when the reader finds out what they’re supposed to take from this paper.
The Three-Point-Five essay is just one method of writing you’ve learned in the past that you can build upon as college writers. Writing for college can be challenging, and sometimes it will feel like past experience hasn’t really prepared you for it, but if you think about it, I’m sure you’ll see that the writing you’ve done in the past can be useful. Just like the Three-Point-Five essay, if you think about what each method has to offer, as well as what it doesn’t, you’ll find a way to use that method as a framework and build it up into a proper house…I mean, paper.
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