Describe an influential historical person. Through the supporting ideas you choose, show the reader how the person you selected has had an impact on the world in a significant way.
You may choose to focus your suppporting ideas on attributes, characteristics, actions, contributions, inventions, events, etc.
Remember to include adequate biographical information so that your teacher and classmates that read your essay will understand the context of the individual. This is especially important if the person you choose is from your home country, had a significant impact on a specific community, or if the person is from a long time ago (or is making a difference right now)
A Google search for "influential people" might be a good place to start if you aren't sure who you want to write about.
Choose people that you can find research on that is written in English and published in a trustworthy place. Research will be much more plentiful and easy to access if you choose someone who was recognized internationally instead of a local figure.
You may start thinking about types of people that you would be interested in writing about.
For example, you could look for:
As you brainstorm, you may also find it helpful to make an idea map like the one below.
Even though it may seem specific enough to have chose a name of a historical figure, you will need to narrow your focus even more. People have complex lives and are often known for many different things. The same historical figure may be viewed as a hero by some and a villain to others. In a 2-3 page essay, you don't have the space to try to give a complete biography for the person.
Focus your essay by deciding what attributes or accomplishments you will talk about. Those will be the focus of your essay even though there may be many other interesting things to say about that person.
Encyclopedias can be an excellent place to begin looking for information on a specific person. Remember that after you do enough preliminary research to brainstorm and choose your focus, you should do more detailed research about your topic so that you can make your outline.
Finding sources to support your ideas can be a challenge. Here is a list of the type of information you might want to find from a source:
Start with your topic sentences and thesis. Add questions or quotes to help you develop each of your ideas.
Thesis: Jimmy Ohnishi is the luckiest and funniest guy in the world because he succeeded as a comedian, painter, and comedian again.
TS1: Jimmy Ohnishi’s life is firstly well-known as a comedian.
TS2: Surprisingly, when Jimmy was thirty-two years old, he quit his career as a comedian and went to Spain to study painting, even though Jimmy’s fortune as a comedian was still lasting.
TS3: In 2015, Jimmy came back to the comedian world again and continued his art.
Restated Thesis: Jimmy Ohnishi’s life is something mysterious and can’t explain by logic. It is because his life is full of fortune and some destiny that Jimmy has been so successful in both careers.
Your introduction should start by describing any background of the person that will be important for the reader to know. For example, in the introduction paragraph for an essay about Martin Luther King Jr, you might explain the context of what was happening in the 1950's in the United States. A brief description of the racial discrimination of the time would help give your reader valuable background knowledge to understand the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights movement.
At the end of your introduction paragraph, you should give your thesis. The thesis should describe the person in very specific terms.
Sometimes when you are describing a person from history, you talk about the influence or impact of the person. Because you will write a cause/effect essay during this semester, try to focus this essay away from causes/effects.
Think about your topic in terms of adjectives. How can you describe your person? What qualities are unique to that person?
Parallelism is the grammar principle that words in a list should have the same structure. In other words, if you are making a list of your points in your thesis, you should use only nouns, verbs, or adjectives. You should not be mixing word parts or types of phrases.
Look at the examples below:
Your body paragraphs should explain how or why your thesis sentence is true. As you plan each of your body paragraphs, remember that using sources will make your writing more credible and interesting. Use sources properly so that you do not plagiarize. Each of your body paragraphs should have citations.
At this stage of writing, your "development" of the body paragraphs will be limited. For many students, this might be limited to a list of questions that relate to your topic sentences. It may be a bulleted list of phrases that represent ideas that you think would benefit your description of the impact of the person.
Be careful to not include questions that are not connected to your topic sentence. If you ask unconnected questions, your paragraph will lack unity. For example, these questions would not support that same topic sentence about Jane Goodall.
This does not mean that the information should not be included in your essay. These ideas just do not belong in this paragraph. They would be better at supporting the introduction.
Your conclusion paragraph should start by restating your thesis. Then, you should speak about the person/event in more general terms and apply their situation to the world more generally. End with a concluding statement.
Use the questions below to discuss this assignment before you begin.
Make a brainstorm idea map similar to the one above. Now that you have some options, choose your favorite. If aren't sure which one to talk about, consider the following questions:
Now that you have selected a person to write about, continue prewriting by deciding what aspects of that person you want to discuss. Create a T chart like the one below to help you organize potential major details:
|Personal characteristics, traits, attributes, etc
|Contributions, actions, events, discoveries, inventions, etc
You should choose your major details from only ONE side of the chart. Look at each list and decide which one is strongest or most interesting. Choose three of those points to include as your major details.
Use the list from Exercise 3: Narrowing the Focus to identify what type of information you need to learn from another source. You can do this by making a list of information you know off the top of your head and a list of things you need to learn (or double-check) to explain the points you chose.
Note: Wikipedia is an ok place to start. However, when you look for sources, try to make sure your source list is:
Revise these thesis statements to be more effective for a descriptive essay.
Cross out the developing questions that do not help develop the topic sentence.
Some of the developing questions below don't support the topic sentence or would be better to provide background information in the introduction.
Peyton Manning was a talented leader.
Revise the outline on a piece of paper. Make sure the topic sentences support the thesis.
Make an outline for the example essay in this chapter.
Think about what you have learned about outlines. Remember that the more details you include now, the easier it will be to create your first draft.
This content is provided to you freely by BYU-I Books.
Access it online or download it at https://books.byui.edu/academic_b_writing/prewritingV.