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Essay writing has always been a challenge that many students of all level and degrees face every once in a while. It is a part of their academic life, a test to determine their literacy, fluency and analytical skills. For some who likes writing a lot, essay writing can be a friend they enjoy to be with. But for those who are having difficulty with it even in just constructing a simple decent paragraph, it is indeed a foe – a very cruel one that would cause them a red mark or a flat 5 in their report cards. Often times, these students are those who have no idea what they are doing. They would write an essay because their instructor required them to.  They write without a purpose. They start with their essays without knowing why they are writing in the first place.

What is a Purpose?

A purpose is the sole reason why you are writing an essay or article. It is your definite aim; how you would want your paper to communicate with the readers. Discovering this is one of the many basic challenges you will encounter when writing an essay or article. A purpose of an essay can either be one or more of the following: to inform; to persuade; to call readers to action; to change attitudes; to analyze; to argue; to theorize; to summarize; to evaluate; to recommend; to request; to propose; to provoke thought; to express feelings; to entertain; or to give aesthetic pleasure.

To know the purpose of your paper is tricky. Fortunately, instructors often specify first-hand what type of paper they expect from their students. However, when your instructor gives you the freedom to write any type of essay, you might have problems identifying or choosing a purpose. The following tips below will guide you and help you with this problem.

Ask yourself the basic questions

Many students fall prey to misjudgment and misconception when trying to determine the purpose or purposes of their essays. The reason for this is because they often overlook the instructions their professors gave them, or they lack the vision for identifying purposes. Fortunately, the difficulty of identifying the purpose of an essay can be lessened by asking these simple basic questions: who; what; when; where; how; and why.

First, ask yourself: “who are my readers?” Your readers can be anyone from fellow students, professors to community citizens. For instance, when your teacher asks you to write an essay about ethnic discrimination in school, it is fitting enough to assume that your readers would be your fellow students, specifically those who belong in the ethnic minority group. By having an idea who your audiences are, you will have more opportunity and confidence developing a purpose for your essay as you can easily determine what you want to communicate or to share with them.

Next, you should ask yourself: “what do I want to communicate with my readers?” Do you want to share with them the prevalence of ethnic discrimination within your campus? Or do you want to talk about the causes and effects of ethnic discrimination? Basically it’s up to you to decide, but always remember to take your readers into consideration – what they want to know or what they find interesting.

Then there is the question “when”. Basically, “when” refers to the time a certain event took place, is taking place or will take place. In other words, you have to know which specific timeline your essay will focus into. For example, are you going to focus on previous discrimination cases that took place within the campus years ago? Are you going to investigate for current cases? Or are you going to predict or analyze ethnic discrimination within the campus in the next five years? Your decision here will basically affect how you would come up with your purpose.

The next important thing to determine is the setting. In other words, ask yourself “where” your information will be obtained, and where your audiences are located. Are you going to focus inside or outside the campus? By knowing or deciding a specific setting, you will be able to help yourself develop a purpose that is limited only within that location.

After determining “where”, you should now determine “how” you will write your paper. Reflect deep in your thoughts and ask yourself how you can obtain the information you are planning to share or discuss, how you are going to reach and relate with your readers using that information, and how you are going to approach your paper. Are you going to investigate through survey or are you going to rely on previous literatures? Knowing these things will basically help you decide a purpose for your study.

Finally, after asking yourself and answering the questions, who, what, when, where and how, it’s time for you to answer the most important question – why? Think deeply and ask why do you plan to reach a group of readers, why you want to share with them specific information, and why do you want to search for literatures or to survey for opinions. Do you want to inform them? Do you want to persuade them? Is your information sufficient enough to build an argument? It is basically your call to decide the purpose of your essay but always remember that before asking the question why, you should first ask and answer who, what, when, where and how.

Final words

A purpose is one of the few important factors to consider when assessing the writing situation. Identifying a purpose for your chosen subject is like giving it a straight path that leads directly to the thoughts and hearts of the readers. By knowing your purpose, your readers will easily understand what you are trying to convey and why you are trying to reach or communicate with them. Remember, when identifying your purpose, analyze and ask the questions who, what, when, where, how, and why.

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