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Writing a three-step article

The article is a very important genre for exams. Every exam has one or more questions where you are asked to write an article.Here is a simple how-to and some characteristics of good and bad articles.

Your article can either be a one-sided argument or a for-and-against discussion.

Planning is very important. Use a mind-map, spider web or bullet points to generate ideas. Expand your ideas into topic sentences. Expand your sentences into paragraphs. You do not write an article from A to Z, you build it from ideas to interconnected paragraphs.

What you have to include in your article:

  • An introduction that presents the problem or question.
  • A main part that is either a balanced discussion of the issue (for and against) or a one-sided argument (this is what you normally find in letters to the editor in newspapers or in viewpoint articles).
  • A conclusion. After a balanced discussion, you may want to agree with one side, or maybe you look forward and consider possible solutions. The dilemma: you don’t want to repeat yourself, but you should not introduce new facts or arguments. Try to think of the conclusion as looking at the big picture.

In a good article you:

  • Introduce the problem effectively and efficiently. Get the message across with few words.
  • Use convincing arguments that are backed up with facts or examples.
  • Use one paragraph for each argument or new idea. Use examples or facts to strengthen your paragraphs!
  • Use the language effectively to express your ideas and your line of reasoning.
  • Have checked your grammar, spelling and vocabulary. Use the spellchecker in Word!
  • Manage to stay close to an Introduction – Main part – Conclusion ratio of 1 – 8 – 1.
  • Credit your sources (I prefer numbered footnotes because it interferes little with the reading).

A poor article:

  • Lacks a proper introduction or fails to present the problem clearly.
  • Is unconvincing due to a lack of facts, convincing examples or credible sources.
  • Is poorly structured and fails to clearly separate one argument from another.
  • Fails to express ideas clearly.
  • Lacks precision in grammar, word choice and spelling.
  • Is disproportionate (introduction or conclusion is too long compared to the discussion)
  • Lacks sources for information used in the text.
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