Open Form to Closed Form Writing Styles

Essay organized around a question rather than a thesis

Writing the open-form prose essay - Prezi

Despite what you may have been told, a thesis can appear anywhere in an essay. If it appears near the beginning — typically at the end of the first paragraph, though longer essays can sometimes require introductions longer than a single paragraph — the essay is closed form. Each paragraph then offers evidence to support the thesis, and the conclusion ties the essay back to the thesis (sometimes re-stating it, but not in a way that seems repetitive) and hopefully adds something to it so it isn’t merely repetitious. The essay takes on the tone of a legal case. The advantages to closed form essays are that the argument of the essay is clear from the outset, and that the reader can connect every piece of evidence you present along the way to the thesis immediately. The disadvantage is that the tone can be somewhat didactic and confrontational. Also, it can be difficult to write a conclusion to a closed form essay that is not repetitive. If your introduction and conclusion could swap positions in your essay with no loss of comprehensibility, you have written a bad conclusion.

If an essay is open form, in contrast, the thesis appears near the end, typically in the first half of the final paragraph. The introduction establishes the issue under consideration, usually by stating the issue directly, although one can also set up an open form essay with a question. The issue or question is left open at that point; your reader should not be able to guess your answer by the way you have raised the issue or phrased the question. The essay is thus potentially more inviting because you are offering the reader the chance to explore an issue with you. It is as if you and the reader are thinking through the issue together, though in reality you are guiding the reader’s thoughts in the direction you want them to go. Also, the conclusion will automatically differ from the introduction, which eliminates a common problem of closed form essays. However, the disadvantage is that readers can easily become impatient if they think you are not doing enough of the work.

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How To Open An Essay Writing the open-form prose essay

But open form is not just a matter of leaving the thesis out. You must define the issue in an open form essay clearly at the outset. Usually this involves describing an area of controversy, but you should not in any way indicate which answer you favor at this point. For example, an introduction for an essay about Hamlet could end by saying,

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In an open form essay, the conclusion provides the answer to the question or settles the issue that the introduction presents. In a closed form essay, the conclusion returns to the thesis and reconsiders it in the light of the evidence the essay has presented, though the conclusion should never simply re-state the thesis. Again, if you can switch the introduction and conclusion without losing any comprehensibility, you have written a bad conclusion.

In an open form essay, the conclusion provides the answer to the question or settles the issue that the introduction presents