"How am I to not know who I think I might not be? Anyway?"
Even short essays need good organization--in fact, your essay's structure and organization is probably its most important part. Decide your major points in advance and list them in a logical order (according to age, magnitude, composition, whatever works...). If possible, use one paragraph for each of these points.
One technique that you may find useful: Before writing, decide on your illustrations--good illustrations will show your major points--then frame much of your text around them.
--The Main Body: Decide beforehand on your major points--then translate these into some clearly written general statements. Try to use one paragraph for each general statement. Then, use specific details, backed up by illustrations and references, to support the general statements.
--The Conclusion: The "conclusion" is the point of your paper. Just what is it that you want the reader to come away with? For example, in an essay on the Cascade Volcanoes, your main point (conclusion) might be that the volcanoes erupt frequently, or that they're hazardous--or that they're frequently hazardous! Or that they show a whole range of eruptive styles.
Besides the basic grammatical stuff (make sure each sentence has a subject and a verb etc.) try to use a combination of medium length and short sentences. When sentences get too long, they become extremely hard to follow; if they're consistently very short, then the writing becomes very choppy.
When you are reviewing your first draft, find your passive verbs. Then
try to rephrase the sentence so the verb is an active one.
For example: "Much seismicity in Oregon is driven by subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate beneath North America" --Passive
----> rephrase to: "Subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate beneath North America drives much of the seismicity in Oregon." --active
It is important to cite the references you use, within the text. Generally, when you present someone else's conclusions, you should cite them. If you are citing general knowledge (eg. Mt. St. Helens is a volcano), then don't use a citation.
Don't quote your written sources. They aren't your words. Don't use them--I won't read them.
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