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A Simple and Effective Essay Writing Formula: TEEL

Updated on August 2, 2016
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Why Use a Formula?

As a university tutor I have spent many hours trying to bash good essay writing skills into my students. To what avail I am never quite sure.

One of my biggest obstacles appears to be convincing students that sounding important is not the aim. A great essay should be as clear and understandable as possible.

Therefore, I demand all my first year students to write to an essay formula. Yes, it is ‘formulaic’ but that is much better than ‘drivel’. Once you have the formula so deeply embedded in their skull that they can taste it every time the word ‘essay’ is mentioned, then, and only then, will I let them be a bit freer in their writing style.

Essay formulas are great. They are fantastic. They stop you making a complete flop of your essay and allow you to focus on the important bits of showing your knowledge. Essay formulas make sure you include all the important parts, none of the unimportant bits, and they ensure that the essay is readable, something students seriously underrate.

Yes, they can get repetitive, but better repetitive than wrong.

So, presented for all the world is an easy and understandable essay writing formula.

Please use. Always. Thanks.

How To Use a Formula

Essays should always be in at least three parts:

Introduction.

Main Body.

Conclusion.

These can be explained as: tell me what you are going to say, say it, tell me what you have said.

Sound too simple? Maybe, but sadly people generally need to be told something at least three times to make sure they get a concept. Maybe more if you are dealing with adolescent males.

In The Introduction:

I cannot state this clearly enough (and neither can you) you must directly address the question and state in no uncertain terms how you are going to answer it.

This is called your contention/thesis/hypothesis etc.

The introduction can also include some beginning material about why this is an important/interesting/controversial topic, and should then explain how you are going to go about proving your contention. This so that when you forget to follow the formula later, I will have at least half a chance of guessing why you structured your essay how you did.

In The Conclusion:

Similarly, you conclusion should indicate what you set out to do in your introduction, point out how your main body did this, and conclude that your contention has been therefore been supported.

In The Body:

Now, the hard(er) part.

The body should have one paragraph per main idea.

To ensure that this happens, stick to TEEL.

T: Topic sentence. Always start with a sentence stating the main idea and how it answers the essay question/topic. I should be able to read only your first sentence of each paragraph and know exactly what your arguments are, and therefore how strong your essay is. In some cases, tutors WILL only read the first sentences, because if you couldn't get this right, it is unlikely the reading more of your essay will impress them. (We are time-pressured creature.)

E: Explain/expand. explain or expand on this sentence for another few sentences, introducing the people who have made this point before, etc.

E: Evidence. Every major point should have evidence to support it. If not, it’s not a strong enough point to be in your essay.

L: Linking sentence. This can link back to the topic and/or lead into the next sentence.


To give you a very quick example of a paragraph in this method to the topic 'all essays should use a formula when writing'.

T: One of the major reasons an essay should use a formula when writing is that it facilitates clarity.

E: scholars from Aristotle to (current lecturer) have complained about the difficulty of following student’s essays. Prof. Smith has particularly pointed out the lack of structure generally noted in essays that do not follow a formula. (footnote, reference) Using formulae such as the TEEL approach ensures that ideas are constructed in a logical order.

E: The effectiveness of using this formula has been demonstrated by the research of Smith and Smith, who studied 500 student essays that did not use a formula and found that only 1 in 5 had a discernible logical order. All other essays lost up to 20/100 marks for lack of clarity. On the other hand, with a formula 4 in 5 essays were deemed 'logical' and were generally a grade higher than their non-formula counterparts. Smith and Smith concluded that the use of a formula significantly increased clarity.

L: Using a formula not only increases the clarity, but can also increase the ease of writing for the student.

(next paragraph on why formulae make it easier to write an essay).

Ta Da!

Essay is clearly structured, and even if you stuff bits up at least your marker is more likely to guess what you wanted to say.

So, get yourself comfortable with formulae and it will not only make it easier on your reader, but also on yourself.

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    • joanwz profile image

      Joan Whetzel 

      5 years ago

      Freat ideas here. Concise and to the point.

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