Am I explaining too much or too little? Finding the middle ground

Your main goal for most of your assignments is to answer a question, and that question is asking you to state an opinion / make an argument / take a position. While there may be a great deal of information you need to convey to answer your essay question, you are not writing a report. You are not neutrally describing the pros and cons. You are supporting a particular claim, and everything you write in the body of your essay supports that claim.

Something to help with finding this middle ground between explaining (giving context or background information) and arguing (analysing and interpreting information in connection to your thesis) is to imagine your audience.

Pretend that you are writing to any undergrad at this university. Go to the Hub and pick out any student passing by. That person is your audience. She is clearly intelligent, as she is attending this university. But she hasn’t researched the topic of your essay (carbon tax, ancient Greece, censorship of rap music) in the way that you have. You are trying to convince her of your argument. What does she need to understand in order to be persuaded by your argument? What reasons will convince her that your position is correct? You need to try to convey as much context as you think she will need in order to understand your argument and enough reasons to be persuaded by it.

Study Skills Support is for first year undergraduate students studying in the Faculty of Arts.

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