Aug 18 2010
This is mainly aimed at high school and college English courses, but you might find this advice helpful in other subjects as well.
1. The first paragraph should introduce what you will be arguing and what sort of evidence you’ll be using to back up your assertion. In an English class, you’re not talking about every aspect of a book, so identify your focus. Do NOT merely provide a fact (“The Great Gatsby is a 20th century American novel set in West Egg, New York”). Focus on what you’ll need to make your argument. For example, “West Egg symbolizes the American dream” and then talk about what happens there and how that demonstrates what the author is suggesting about Gatsby’s attempts to break into the upper class.
2. Summarizing the book is usually besides the point. The teacher has already read the book, so the summary probably isn’t necessary. Do talk about plot events that advance your argument, though.