If you consider that, generally speaking, an “illustration” is a drawing, then the intention of an Illustration Essay is brought into relief. The intention is to delineate a topic by presenting examples, and to use such examples to construct an overall point.
As with the majority of academic papers, you will need to begin with an Introduction with establishes a thesis statement. This offers the reader a general outline of the core themes you intend to cover, thus setting up expectations for what is to follow. The Introduction is very important for illustrative writing because it frames (provides the context and significance for) the illustrations you will present.
The argument body is where the illustration comes. Each paragraph should contribute by presenting an example which helps to illustrate the overall point. It is good practice to restrain each paragraph to a single key point, so not to obscure or dilute the message.
Remember, each illustrative point made needs to serve the thesis statement; in some way to add definition to the bigger picture you were trying to render. Make sure all the illustrations you give genuinely add to the conversation. An example which may be omitted without harming the overall flow of the work is almost certainly irrelevant and should be excised.
The conclusion should draw together the various strands presented in the argument body in such a way as reflects the outline established in the introduction. By this point, you should have met the expectations you built into the paper’s opening. Seeing as we are not engaged in an argumentation per se, we do not need to draw definitive conclusions in the traditional sense, but rather to reflect on how the various illustrations have resulted in a broader picture emerging.
The illustration essay requires a formal and neutral style of writing. As much as possible, you should try and be objective and sober, presenting relevant examples which enable the reader to form their own opinion.
You want to steer clear of overt argument or opinion; this is not the objective here. Instead, your intent is to help the reader to understand the issue clearly through the use of examples. The writer’s own point of view is outside requirements.
A Judicious Arrangement of Information
Seeing as you are limited in the amount of illustrations you can give, it is paramount that you select the most germane and complimentary examples. Think very carefully about the order in which these are arranged. Often times the chronology of evidence can bear the imprint on the way it is understood. As a rule of thumb, you want to get the most important and influential information front and centre, firmly located in the opening paragraph. This will serve to contextualise the succeeding examples, which in a sense add fine detail to the illustration being sketched.
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