Hey everyone! First-timer to this forum. Was wondering if anyone can help me out? I recently wrote an essay for my Critical Writing class (English 102) at college. Unfortunately, it didn't do too well. My instructor said that it was too vague and didn't have very good examples. He likes the following format:

Thesis statement, forcast, definition paragraph, example paragraph, definition paragraph, example paragraph, etc. to conclusion.

Would anyone be willing to read it and give me some advice on how to raise this from a C+ to a better grade? ***

Thanks in advance!

P.S. The works cited page was removed below because it has no bearing on the grade (but I left the inline cites).

--- Begin essay ---

Joseph Smith – Religious Hero

Such an interesting topic for an essay – what classifies as a hero? And determining if a specific individual satisfies this criteria. The word “hero” can potentially be applied with a very wide and indiscriminate brush. For my audience, I would address my fellow classmates in my English class. The reason for this is quite simple – the individual that I would measure up to this is a religious figure. Most discussions about religion in general are either not well received by a closed-minded or intolerant audience or can be considered “preaching to the choir.” This class can look past the religious undertones and focus instead on the criteria for what a hero is, and if my choice measures up to this criteria.
So what is a hero? Let's start with the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, it states that a hero is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage.” The Wikipedia Encyclopedia tells us that courage is “the ability to confront fear in the face of pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation.” Niall Richardson, a PhD student at the University of Ulster, writes an article in the Journal of Popular Culture defining Superman as having the qualities of a hero because “he is self-sacrificing; he performs good deeds simply for the benefit of mankind and not for personal benefit.” Finally, George Manning and Kent Curtis, both professors at Northern Kentucky University, have written a book entitled The Art of Leadership in which they label a hero as “one who inspires through manners and actions; an individual who leads through personal example and accomplishments requiring bravery, skill, determination, and other admirable qualities.” So, in short, a hero is one who is courageous, noble, self-sacrificing, performs good deeds, and inspires others.
During the nineteenth century Joseph Smith, Jr., under God's direction, founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and translated The Book of Mormon. Does Joseph Smith satisfy the above requirements that define a hero? Was he courageous? Noble? Self-sacrificing? Did he perform good deeds? Does he inspire others? Let's look at each of these requirements and see how Joseph measures up.
Joseph Smith was an exemplar of courage. He was repeatedly in situations where he was surrounded by danger and was constantly harassed and threatened by men who wanted to take his life. Yet, he never wavered in his convictions. Jusat days before he was assassinated he turned himself in at Carthage, Illinois he said, "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me – he was murdered in cold blood.” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:4)
A person who is noble is one who has fine personal qualities. An example of these fine qualities came to light in a story related by David Whitmer, a friend of Joseph, in which he said, “one morning when he was getting ready to continue the translation [of The Book of Mormon], something went wrong about the house and [Joseph] was put out about it... something that Emma... had done. Oliver and I [David] went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything... he went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour – came back to the house, and asked Emma's forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went alright. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.” (Bushman 104) Evidentially David Whitmer was so impressed by this act of nobility that he went so far as to write it down for future generations.
The level of self-sacrifice that Joseph exhibited is astounding. He was repeatedly arrested and jailed for numerous trumped-up charges – none of which ever produced a guilty verdict in a court of law. He could have easily hidden from the law, but he often submitted himself to these arrests and imprisonments to protect the members of the church. One time that he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail he stated, “all the world is threatening my life, but I regard it not, for I am willing to die any time when God calls for me.” (Esplin 298)
Joseph's entire life abounded with good deeds. Example after example can be written about all of the characteristics of what a hero is and how Joseph measures up. Thus far, I've only given one example of each. Coming up with just one example of the good deeds Joseph has done is difficult considering his history. Yet, I will narrow it down to one single example that not only exemplifies his good deeds, but how he encouraged others to do good deeds as well. With so many members joining the church and immigrating to be with the other members at such a rapid rate, poverty and want were running rampant. Joseph established a Law of Consecration in which Joseph says, “that every man who has need may be ample supplied... Now for a man to consecrate his property ... to the Lord is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, the sick and afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord.” (Smith 3:231)
Finally, we reach our last criteria – does Joseph Smith inspire others? The short answer to this is 'yes.' Just as with Joseph's good deeds, pinning down one example of how he inspires others is a daunting task. However, I think that Dr. Richard Bushman of Columbia University accurately sums it up by when he says, “I think anyone who studies the life of Joseph Smith, whether or not they believe he was divinely inspired, has to acknowledge him as a bold innovator. He was a man of immense power in creating new religious ideas and in attracting people to them. That I think is a simple historic fact.” (Swinton 128)
For those who are members of the church, there is a tremendous amount of awe and respect for what Joseph Smith accomplished during his life. He is revered for more than just his courage and nobility. They wonder at the love he had in being self-sacrificing and performing good deeds for others. These acts alone have inspired millions of church members world-wide as they come to know and love him.
To conclude, allow me to quote John Taylor, third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was with Joseph Smith when he was martyred on June 27, 1844 in Carthage, Illinois. Mr. Taylor said, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness (sic) of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood”. (Doctrine & Covenants 135:3)

--- End essay ---

Stay tuned... I'm about to post my "Comparison Essay" for advice as well. ***

Again, Thanks in advance!

Rob
1 2
Rob,
Hi, thank you for a great question. So far, you are close to the top of the class so far as giving enough information to tackle an essay topic. I am not a teacher but you can judge for yourself whether my comments are useful.

Every critical essay needs to have a few fundamentals
definitions
facts
evidence
context
opinions
authorities

I’m scratching my head to think of the others. Whenever I’ve had to write a paper, I map it out like a flowchart. I draw all the connections first then describe my plan in an essay. It’s important to see the big picture clearly (that’s your basic argument) and create all the connections you need to make in order to justify it.

Here’s the trick. Writing a good essay is mainly about raising the most relevant issues for discussion, asking the best questions, the sorts of questions that an intelligent person would be thinking of when presented with the same question.

Here’s another trick. Begin your essay by reading a good encyclopaedia or general reference book. This type of resource helps you to get a feeling for the big picture. Once you can see the view from the hill, you can begin to answer the question from your gut feelings. Begin to ask questions and answer them by finding relevant facts. If other people are likely to argue with your position, then you need to quote relevant authorities, people who believe the same as you.

That is basically how to write a credit essay. If you plan on hitting the distinctions, you may have to change your lifestyle! Live in the library, spend pocket money on academic journals, be up to the minute on ‘current awareness’ debates and controversies…

I’m joking about that Rob, best wishes to you.

By the way, I enjoyed reading about Joseph Smith. If you want to keep posting, people here can chat a little more about the essay itself.

Maybe I should add something about writing a classification essay. In a sense, every essay is a classification essay. Beginning with definitions of terms to weighing up the evidence/authorities supporting your facts. For me, your essay lacks a mature perspective. I doubt that you see the big picture about Joseph Smith the way a secular academic marker would.
Rob, I remember adding to another essay thread just like this. May I copy the first paragraph from that essay for you. This is possibly how a better classification essay could begin (I don’t mean to be rude).

“A hero is a person noted or admired for nobility, courage, and outstanding achievements. (From The Oxford American Dictionary of Current English) If one
Considers what ‘hero’ means to most, it’s clear that popular imagination turns to tales of old & stories read to one in childhood. The knight of the realm
is both hero in literature and hero in fact. Though modern day knights in Britain for example don’t wear shining armour, they are honored for extraordinary
courage and are drawn from many fields of endeavor. More often than not, they are persons of refinement, men and women who have cultivated their skill
to an extraordinary level. Samuel Johnson encapsulated this shift in the appreciation of the character of the hero beautifully, “Claret is the liquor
for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero (smiling) must drink brandy”.”

This is the opening paragraph of an essay about a violinist who is also hero. My first reaction to this topic was to identify what seems to be a paradox. The popular stereotype of a hero is a mighty fighting man. Notice how I acknowledge the stereotype and move on to it’s refined and modern version. I use a literary authority to make my point (and show off a little bit too)! Notice that my first paragraph is about 150 words long whereas yours is 300. Where space is at a premium, brevity is beauty!

Joseph Smith is not a likely hero. Perhaps you should say so in the first paragraph and try to convince the marker that in fact, he is a hero. My argument is very clear from the beginning and I would attempt to expand on my basic idea throughout the essay.


To see the whole thread
If you use English Forums search box, type
Hero
Click on the thread called
Help with paragraph please!

Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Wumanfu wrote:
“Every critical essay needs to have a few fundamentals
definitions
facts
evidence
context
opinions
authorities”

& a heart too I’m sure. Thank you by the way, I certainly respect your ability to get to the essential form of a problem. Maybe though, just maybe, this essay needs be a little different.

Rob wrote: "During the nineteenth century Joseph Smith, Jr., under God's direction, founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and translated The Book..."

If a critical analysis style essay is a good all-purpose fit for most situations, it doesn’t always work on every occasion. To me, this essay needs be more like an essay discussing basic theology. See the difference? The first is essentially scientific whereas the second needs take an arbitrary form dependin’ on the context of the authorities. It’s neither history nor philosophy, it’s not journalistic nor is it critical in the usual sense.

Darlin’ could you please take all this away, discuss our comments with your lecturer and tell us how you feel about it all? Very interested.

Interesting. May I make a note of our guidelines?

English essay
Comparison essay
Preferred format:
Thesis statement, forecast, definition paragraph, example paragraph, definition paragraph, example paragraph, etc. to conclusion.

Granted, Aileen, Rob has made faith statements and indicated that they are as basic as definitions in the essay. Without wanting to be rude, I believe that this is Rob’s misunderstanding or at least a limitation he places on the subject matter himself. There is no indication that theology is involved. This is, as the heading suggests, a classification essay.

With regard to the format, thesis statement, forecast etc, I would suggest that this is an arbitrary form that the lecturer is using to guarantee uniformity amongst the students' answers. It is not a good structure for any essay topic necessarily. Your own comment about expanding upon definitions is much closer to an effective technique. Class = definition. Layering definition over definition drawing appropriate connections etc.
Hmm. But that is the form prescribed for the essay and it suits theology and not an exercise in deduction (philosophy). I’m backing theology… LOL Wouldn’t it be funny if Rob just wanted help to lift his grade to a credit without the drama?

Anyway, Rob, we can keep bangin’ our heads together till you give us some happy news: you’ve sat down with a tutor and worked through particular issues relevant to your course of study!

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Excuse our good humor on a party night Rob. We’re handling this between snacks and sparkling wine. The weather’s picked up and we’re enjoying the evening (but on the job too).

To be of some use to you, I guess we should take the markers criteria one by one and see if you’ve measured up.

OK, first, let’s look at the structure

Thesis statement
Forecast
definition paragraph
example paragraph

Thesis statement
How do you understand your task. Spell it out, tease it out. Think aloud about all the interesting ways you might discuss this issue, consider if there are ambiguities. I should really find a reference book and give you a short tutorial on writing the thesis statement. Have you made friends with the college librarian?

Sadly, your thesis statement doesn’t amount to much at all and then you contradict the power of your definition immediately. Very bad luck for you.
Interesting topic, “what classifies as a hero? And determining if a specific individual satisfies these criteria. The word “hero” can potentially be applied with a very wide and indiscriminate brush”

As soon as you say wide and indiscriminate, you’ve committed academic suicide. Let’s laugh about that together – who hasn’t made a blooper.

And then for forecast, well, hmm. There is no forecast really.

Is this good enough for starters? Wumanfu has provided you with an intelligent first paragraph. It’s actually very elegant. Maybe skip back a few posts to find it.
Hello everyone! Thanks for your input! Your comments definitely helped!

Thesis Paragraph - Agreed. It was MUCH too wordy and didn't get right to the heart of the matter. That has been changed.

Theology-related - Nope. My intent is not to introduce religion or to convert anyone. My intent is to introduce Joseph Smith (who happened to be a religious leader) as a hero for what he did, not just for what he represents. It just so happens that much of what he did was while he was leading his church (hence, the title).

In talking with several of my classmates, I've discovered that on my previous essay (Definition Essay) I received the only "A" that anyone has gotten in this class so far. Most students are averaging about a "C". Armed with that information, I took my latest draft in to my teacher's office and cornered him to ensure I knew EXACTLY what he was looking for in an essay. What follows is the result of that meeting:

--- Final Draft (turned in couple days ago) ---

Joseph Smith – Religious Hero

Such an interesting topic for an essay – what classifies as a hero? Determining if a specific individual satisfies the criteria can be quite a challenge because the word “hero” can potentially be applied with a very wide and indiscriminate brush. Despite this wide brush, Joseph Smith, Jr. founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and translator of The Book of Mormon, clearly fits the characteristics of what a hero is. A hero is one who is courageous, noble, self-sacrificing, performs good deeds, and inspires others.
Let us look closer at the definition of a hero by starting with the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, it states that a hero is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage.” The Wikipedia Encyclopedia tells us that courage is “the ability to confront fear in the face of pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation.” Niall Richardson, a PhD student at the University of Ulster, writes an article in the Journal of Popular Culture defines a hero as “[one who] is self-sacrificing; [one who] performs good deeds simply for the benefit of mankind and not for personal benefit.” Finally, George Manning and Kent Curtis, both professors at Northern Kentucky University, have written a book entitled The Art of Leadership in which they label a hero as “one who inspires through manners and actions; an individual who leads through personal example and accomplishments requiring bravery, skill, determination, and other admirable qualities.” Let's look at each of these characteristics and see how Joseph Smith measures up.
Courage – the ability to confront fear in the face of pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. Fear can come in many forms such as the fear of getting hurt or embarrassed, or even killed. A hero will often face many types of fear that must be overcome.
Joseph Smith was an exemplar of courage. He was repeatedly in situations where he was surrounded by danger and was constantly harassed and threatened by men who wanted to take his life. Yet, he never wavered in his convictions. Just days before he was assassinated he turned himself in at Carthage, Illinois he said, "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me – he was murdered in cold blood.” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:4)
Noble – one who has outstanding personal qualities. These qualities can include, but are not limited to, traits such as being humble, virtuous, high-principled, and righteous. Heroes are often judged by those around them. They're judged, not only on their 'heroic acts,' but also on their everyday actions on how they treat others.
Over and over Joseph Smith exhibited many of these noble qualities with those he came in contact with. One such example comes to light in a story related by David Whitmer, a friend of Joseph Smith, in which he said, “one morning when he was getting ready to continue the translation [of The Book of Mormon], something went wrong about the house and [Joseph] was put out about it... something that Emma... had done.
Oliver and I [David] went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything... he went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour – came back to the house, and asked Emma's forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went alright. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.” (Bushman 104) Evidentially David Whitmer was so impressed by Joseph Smith's willingness to be humble and virtuous in admitting to his wife that he was wrong that Whitmer wrote it down for future generations.
Self-sacrifice - performs good deeds simply for the benefit of mankind and not for personal benefit. It is easy to be a 'hero' if you expect to be rewarded for your actions, but a true hero is willing to do go so far as to even lay down their life to help those around them without any thought to personal gain or reward.
The level of self-sacrifice that Joseph exhibited is astounding. He was repeatedly arrested and jailed for numerous trumped-up charges – none of which ever produced a guilty verdict in a court of law. He could have easily hidden from the law, but he often submitted himself to these arrests and imprisonments to protect the members of the church. One of the many places that Joseph Smith was imprisoned was in Liberty Jail. He spent several months in a cold, dark cell and during that time he stated, “all the world is threatening my life, but I regard it not, for I am willing to die any time when God calls for me.” (Esplin 298)
Good deeds – doing something without expectation of any outcomes or rewards except for just feeling good inside. Like self-sacrifice – good deeds are done without expecting something in return. Heroes have reached a level where they are constantly thinking of others and how they can help those around them.
Joseph's entire life abounded with good deeds. He constantly did things for others without thought of remuneration. Not only did he often do good deeds, but he also encouraged others to as well. With so many members joining the church and immigrating to be with the other members at such a rapid rate, poverty and want were running rampant. Joseph established a Law of Consecration in which Joseph says, “that every man who has need may be ample supplied... Now for a man to consecrate his property ... to the Lord is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, the sick and afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord.” (Smith 3:231)
Inspire others – to exert an invigorating, motivating, enlivening influence on. The true test of a hero is whether or not they continue to have an impact on others, even when they are not around. Plus, that impact must be a positive influence – encouraging them to better their own lives.
Dr. Richard Bushman of Columbia University accurately sums it up by when he says, “I think anyone who studies the life of Joseph Smith, whether or not they believe he was divinely inspired, has to acknowledge him as a bold innovator. He was a man of immense power in creating new religious ideas and in attracting people to them. That I think is a simple historic fact.” (Swinton 128) For those who are members of the church, there is a tremendous amount of awe and respect for what Joseph Smith accomplished during his life. He is revered for more than just his courage and nobility. They wonder at the love he had in being self-sacrificing and performing good deeds for others. These acts alone have inspired millions of church members world-wide as they come to know and love him. One tremendous example of how Joseph Smith inspires others was penned by John Taylor, third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was with Joseph Smith when he was martyred on June 27, 1844 in Carthage, Illinois. Mr. Taylor said, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness (sic) of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood”. (Doctrine & Covenants 135:3)
Joseph Smith was truly a hero. He clearly fits every criteria that defines the characteristics of what a hero is. While there may be those who have issues with the impact he has had on the religious world, there can be no argument that he was courageous, noble, self-sacrificing, performed good deeds, and still continues to inspire others.

--- End Draft ---

Rob

P.S. Stay tuned... I still have two more essays due this week. I'll post them for your enjoyment.
By the way - a note on having another teacher look at my essay and/or working with a tutor:

Neither will be successful because -

1 - One of my classmate's dad is a retired English teacher. He has helped her extensively with her essay and the best she can pull down is a "C+" on her essays so far. It would seem that my teacher has a set of guidelines that are unique to his class and teaching style.

2 - In most of the classes I take, I end up being a sort of 'unofficial' tutor for others - even in other classes! Sucks being at the upper end of the Bell Curve sometimes. (that's a joke, albeit a lame one! ***)

When I throw my essays out for your enjoyment it's mainly to help catch any glaring errors as well as advice on how to help it flow within the guidelines outlined by my teacher. Ya'll have done great so far!

Rob
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