Report Writing: Informative Essays
The purpose of an informative essay is to inform the reader. Regardless of the subject, the essay needs to present factual information on a topic that is likely to be unfamiliar to the reader. In other words, an informative essay should teach the reader something new.
Basic Structure of Informative Essays
- Introduction of the central idea or topic
- The controlling idea
- A hook (sometimes) to get the reader’s attention
- Background information about the topic
- Details about the topic
- Transitions from old information to new information (usually at the beginning of a new body paragraph)
- Words that let the reader know when the writer is certain and when he or she is hedging
- Use of specific tenses (simple present, present perfect, simple past, and past perfect)
- Restatement of the central idea or topic
- Satisfactory ending
In informative essays, it is important to let the reader know when details are facts. One way to do this is to use specific verb tenses like the simple present, present perfect, simple past, and past perfect.
Simple present – use to describe facts that are true now and in the future, and were true in the past:
Humans have only two legs.
Present perfect – use to describe a situation or trend that develops over time, from past to present:
Running has played a significant role in human life and culture.
Simple past and past perfect – use to report on past events:
Europeans travelling in Turkey admired the beautiful flowers.
Merchants in Holland had become very rich.
Writers can also let their readers know when they are certain about something by using expressions that indicate their certainty.
|Words or phrases that indicate certainty||undeniably, certainly, of course, without a doubt, definitely, always|
|Modal verbs||must, will, cannot, have to|
|Quantity words||all, no, whole, everyone, everything|
In academic writing, it is important not to overstate a point or make an absolute claim that you cannot support. Thus, it is important to be able to express degrees of uncertainty as well as certainty. When writers are not certain about some information, they hedge. Writers hedge to qualify what they are writing, to avoid making statements that are overly broad or making assertions that have not been fully proven or cannot be verified. There are many ways to hedge in English.
|Words that express probability or possibility||probably, perhaps, few, most, not often, not much, many|
|Reporting verbs||say, report|
|Verbs that express probability or possibility||seem, tend|
Model Text 1: Informative Essay (History)
It might come as a bit of a surprise, but A tulips, the vividly colored yet rather ordinary flowers, B have an extraordinary history. Today the country most commonly associated with tulips is Holland. However, that was not always true. C No one is sure where the first tulips came from, but we do know that it was not Holland. The first wild tulips probably grew thousands of years ago somewhere in the region between Northern China and Southern Europe.
2 Body Paragraphs
E Turkish rulers, called sultans, were fascinated by D the tulip. From the late 15th to early 18th centuries, tulips were associated with wealth and high social position in Turkey. There were special festivals to celebrate the tulip. On the night of the full moon, crystal vases filled with the most exceptional tulip varieties were placed around the sultan’s gardens. Crystal lanterns lit up the charming flowers. Songbirds in cages entertained the guests, who dressed in a wide range of colors to match the beautiful flowers. Access to the distinctive flowers was controlled by law. It was illegal for most ordinary Turks to grow, buy, or sell them.
E Europeans traveling in Turkey admired the beautiful flowers, and brought back descriptions of the extraordinary Turkish tulips. As far as we know, the first tulip bulbs from Turkey E were sent to the famous botanist Carolus Clusius (1526–1609) at the Royal Medicinal Gardens in Prague in the late 1500s. The bulbs arrived in Holland some years later, when Clusius moved to Leiden taking the Turkish bulbs with him. There he planted them in the Leiden Botanical Gardens.
D At that time, merchants in Holland had become very rich from trading with other countries. These Dutch merchants built large, luxurious houses to show off their wealth. D And like the Turkish sultans, they E wanted the most dramatic varieties of tulips for their gardens. But there was a problem. Clusius did not want to share his tulips. To get them, people had to sneak into the botanical garden and steal the bulbs.
D Because tulips were so difficult to get and so many wealthy people wanted them, E the flowers became very expensive. At first, only wealthy merchants could afford them. E But in 1630 a new profession emerged: tulip trading. Traders bought tulip bulbs and then resold them at a much higher price. It seemed an easy way to make money fast.
D Soon the obsession with tulips E had become widespread. Everyone was borrowing money to buy tulip bulbs. Ordinary farmers and workers risked their livelihoods to buy them. In 1633, one man traded his farmhouse for three bulbs. In 1636, one bulb sold for an astonishing 5,200 guilders. That was as much money as a rich merchant made in a year! The whole country was wild for tulips. Soon everyone had tulip fever.
D Today, we can see that the Dutch were not thinking clearly. They believed that tulip prices would rise forever. But, of course, that was an illusion. The traders came to their senses first. From one day to the next, they stopped buying tulip bulbs. The demand for tulip bulbs evaporated, and E the tulip markets crashed. Bulbs worth 5,000 guilders one day, were worth nothing the next. The lives of ordinary people were destroyed. They lost everything: their homes, their land, their farms, and their life savings.
F Tulip fever was a disaster for ordinary people in Holland, but the financial markets survived. Today, the tulip is a flower for everyone, not just the rich. G That is good news for the Dutch, who make hundreds of millions of dollars a year from tulip sales to ordinary people all over the world.
Model Text 2: Informative Essay (Social Studies)
Running Around the World
A If a cheetah, a wolf, and a well-trained human all entered a marathon, who would win? The cheetah would definitely take an early lead. The wolf would probably pass the cheetah after a few miles. But at the end of the 26 miles, the human would be the first to cross the finish line.
2 Body Paragraphs
B Humans have only two legs, but an incredible capacity for running. Our powerful lungs give us the stamina needed to run great distances. And because we can sweat, we can control our body temperature while we run. Why are we so good at running? Running was necessary for early human survival. Of course, we don’t often need to run for survival these days. All the same, C running continues to play D an important role in human cultures all over the world.
F Marathon running is perhaps the best-known example of E human running culture. That is because it is big business. Millions of people worldwide watch as elite runners compete for millions of dollars on television. And of course businesses promote products such as athletic shoes during the competition.
F How does someone become E an elite marathoner? The legendary runners of Kenya seem to have found the answer. Iten is a small farming town in Kenya’s western highlands. It is also home to seven of the world’s top ten marathon winners. Most of them are members of the Kalenjin tribe. The Kalenjini tend to have ideal bodies for running. Their slim bodies, long legs, and short waists concentrate power where a runner needs it most—the legs. And because Iten is 8,000 feet above sea level, the Kalenjini develop an enormous lung capacity. They need it to get oxygen out of the thin air. This gives the Kalenjini an important advantage when they compete in races at lower altitudes.
Thousands of miles away from E Iten, F in the mountains in western Mexico, live the Tarahumara. They call themselves the running people. The Tarahumara do not have much contact with the outside world. However, their amazing capacity for long-distance running has caught the attention of researchers. Unlike elite marathon runners, the Tarahumara do not compete for prize money. Instead, they run when playing traditional games and when competing in two- to threeday- long races over mountains. There is no million-dollar prize waiting for them. For the Tarahumara, running seems to be its own reward.
F A group of monks high in the mountains near Kyoto, Japan, run for a different reason. They run to reach enlightenment. The 1,000-day challenge of the monks of Hiei involves intense periods of running, as well as a period of extreme physical deprivation. The challenge takes seven years to complete. Only 46 monks have ever finished it.
A monk begins the challenge by running 40 kilometers every day for 100 days. The distance is similar to that of a marathon. The monk completes three of these 100-day cycles. There are periods of rest between the cycles. Next, the monk must run 40 kilometers a day for 200 days without a single day of rest. Then comes a different type of challenge. For nine days, the monk cannot eat, drink, or sleep. At the end of the nine days, he is often near death.
If the monk survives, he will go on to complete the final year of the challenge. There are two 100-day cycles in the final year. During each cycle, the monk runs 84 kilometers every day. He must complete the run within 18 hours. Then he must repeat it again the next day. That means that in each 100-day cycle, he is running two marathons a day.
The few monks who have completed the rigorous 1,000-day challenge say that they now see the world in a new way. They report that they experience things more intensely; they can see, hear, taste, and smell much better than before. They also say that they have a much greater appreciation for life.
It is undeniable that the running cultures of the Kalenjini, the Tarahumara, and the monks of Hiei are very different. However, they all remind us that G running has always played a significant role in human life and culture. H The tradition continues today as people all over the world continue to run for money, sport, exercise, enlightenment, or just plain fun.