Students tend to be baffled when they receive an assignment to write a composition essay, for instructors often neglect to give a proper explanation of what it is. However, the difficulty is that of terminology, not of writing. A composition is merely a general term denoting any type of creative work: any essay is a composition, while not any composition is an essay. If your instructor assigned you with writing a composition essay, it simply means that you have to prepare an essay of an unspecified type.
There are four general essay types: narrative (telling a story), expository (conveying factual information), argumentative (proving a point) and descriptive (describing something). This is not the only classification, but other approaches often use the same categories under different names (e.g., persuasive instead of argumentative) and the categories in general retain most of the same characteristics.
You will have to choose not just the topic, but also the mode of writing that suits your assignment and your purpose best. As long as your instructor does not specify what mode of writing you should use, you can use any of them or any combinations thereof. For example, it may seem that narrative writing is out of place when you deal with human resources management. However, you can dedicate a part of your composition to recounting a personal experience relevant for the overall topic you discuss and then move on to generalizations.
- Choose a Topic
- Look for Information Sources
- Choose the Writing Mode
- Write a Thesis Statement
- Write an Outline
- Check the Use of Citation Format
- Check Your Grammar and Punctuation
- Read the Composition Aloud
- Avoid Weak Language
1. Choose a Topic
Depending on the amount of freedom your instructor gave you, the process of picking a topic will proceed differently. However, you will probably have to do a bit of brainstorming at some stage. If you do not have a clear idea of what you want to write about, start with jotting down the ideas on paper – do not keep them in your head. You may do it in a plain list or use a more visual technique, such as mind mapping. Do not be demanding on this stage – do not slow down to ask yourself if an idea is good or bad, simply write it down. After doing it for 10 or 20 minutes, look through the list of ideas you get and pick a few that look promising. Make preliminary checks of the existing literature to see if there are enough sources of information to write on these topics. Eventually, you should aim at a topic that is:
- Interesting. It will take some time to write a composition, so you should better be comfortable with spending it on working with this subject;
- Researchable. You should have access to enough sources of information to incorporate your work into the existing body of research on the subject matter;
- Original. There should not be other easily available recent works on the same or similar topic.
Here are a few examples so that you know what to look for:
- Equal Opportunity Employment and Its Role in Hiring Practices in American Companies;
- Team Building Strategies: Authoritarian vs. Non-Authoritarian Approaches;
- Role and Effectiveness of Performance Appraisals;
- Innovative Methods of Performance Management in the Workplace;
- Role of Different Factors in Retaining Key Employees.
2. Look for Information Sources
Research, especially in such a highly practical field as human resources management, never exists in isolation, by itself. If you want your work to be taken seriously, you have to prove that it has a place in the existing body of research. This means that you have to show that your conclusions are based on the authoritative works by other scholars and that you add something valuable to what is already known about the subject matter. So, how are you supposed to look for the sources to build upon?
- Compile a list of keywords defining your topic. You will use them when searching in libraries and online. Keep the core list permanent but be ready to add extra ones if you notice promising words and process while you look;
- In some libraries and research databases, sources have tags. See if they are relevant to your topic and, if necessary, add them to your search terms;
- Look for the sources appropriate for your topic and research question. For example, if you are writing about the general definition and evaluation of a certain human resource management practice, Wikipedia and other online publications may be enough. If you carry out deep research, you should focus on peer-reviewed articles;
- Take note of bibliographies and ‘Works Cited’ lists of the works you already found to be useful;
- Look through other works by the authors of particularly helpful works;
- Use online academic databases like Google Scholar or JSTOR.
3. Choose the Writing Mode
A composition is not a specific assignment type – it includes different types of essays. While the very fact that you received an assignment without a clear indication of its writing mode means that you can be creative about it, you still should decide what your essay will be like beforehand. Even if you are going to combine several writing modes (e.g., starting out with an expository section about a particular hiring practice and then moving on to explaining why you believe it to be inefficient), you should plan ahead. Decide which writing mode(s) you will use, how much space you will dedicate to each of them, how you will connect them to each other.
4. Write a Thesis Statement
The thesis of your composition is its central idea, the main reason why you wrote it in the first place. A thesis statement is this idea expressed in a single sentence and usually comes at the end of the introduction. A thesis statement fulfills two roles: it tells the reader what you are going to prove and how you intend to do it. So what should you keep in mind when writing it?
- A thesis should be debatable. A well-known fact or self-evident idea (e.g., ‘Human resources management plays an important role in the functioning of an organization’) cannot be a thesis;
- It is not a topic, an opinion or a question. ‘Role of Employee Appreciation in Improving Performance and Retaining the Best Employees’ is a topic. ‘Appreciating employees is much more important in improving their performance and retaining their services than salary’ is an opinion. ‘Is employee appreciation important for improving their performance?’ is a question. ‘According to multiple studies carried out over the last 20 years, employee appreciation significantly affects organizational performance’ is a thesis statement;
- A thesis statement should be clear and straightforward. Avoid vague terms and generalizations;
- Do no use superlatives. Evaluations like ‘the best’, ‘the highest’ etc. are almost impossible to prove.
5. Write an Outline
An outline is a very important part of academic writing, especially when you deal with an assignment as freeform as a composition essay. It performs two functions.
Firstly, it helps you organize your thoughts on the subject and the information you have at your disposal. If you are not sure how to proceed with your composition at this stage, writing an outline will help find your way.
Secondly, once it is written, an outline serves as a plan you can use while you write your composition.
Its actual contents will depend on the type of essay you decide to write, although usually you can single out more or less the same parts:
- Introduction: grasps the reader’s attention, provides background information, states your thesis;
- Body paragraphs: provide the meat of your argument, offer information, supporting details and evidence in support of your ideas;
- Conclusion: brings everything you said so far together, summarizes your thoughts and results of your work, points out potential future research venues.
1. Do not Over-Quote
While it is important to show that you know the background of your research and did a lot of reading to develop your topic, using too many quotes and paraphrases is just as bad as only using your own unsupported conjectures. Over-quoting makes it look as if you have no thoughts of your own and have to rely on other scholars. Make sure quotes support your arguments, not overshadow them.
2. Be Ready for Counter-Arguments
Human resources management is a peculiar discipline. On the one hand, it is highly practical as it deals with everyday functioning of organizations. On the other hand, its subject (people) is very fluid and hard to pin down. There are too many variables to be 100 percent sure that this or that practice is effective specifically for this reason and not because of a factor not accounted for at all.
This means that any statement you make can and probably will be contradicted, and you have to be ready for it. Try to look at your arguments from the opposing point of view and think of a few counter-arguments to what you said. Address them – either in a dedicated section of your composition or immediately after you introduce the point in question.
3. Stick to the Facts
As is true for any discipline that deals with practical issues of the real world, everything you say about human resources management should be supported with verifiable evidence: statistics, quotations from reliable sources. Make sure to use a fair share of primary sources – studies, surveys, reports and so on. This will help you prove that you are can analyze the information independently.
4. Use Topic Sentences
Topics sentences are common tools for structuring a composition and making it easier to navigate it. They are sentences that introduce the main point or topic of a paragraph (normally, each paragraph covers a single point). They show the relationship the paragraph has with the overall topic of the composition and other paragraphs. As a topic sentence is usually the first sentence of a paragraph, the reader can skim over the text and get a quick impression of the issues raised at each stage of the essay.
1. Check the Use of Citation Format
The attention universities and instructors pay to the proper use of citation formats may look excessive, but failing to comply with these requirements can seriously affect your grade. In addition to keeping the appropriate formatting guide nearby in the process of writing, dedicate at least one careful revision session to checking if you followed it in everything from margin sizes to bibliography format. If you are prone to mistakes in this area, an online citation generator can help.
2. Check Your Grammar and Punctuation
While different types of compositions call for different approaches to writing and styles, some things remain appropriate in all types of essays. Here are some universal tips related to grammar and punctuation:
- If you cannot make head or tail of the rules related to commas and semi-colons, try this rule of the thumb: read a sentence aloud and note where you naturally pause. A short pause usually means that you need a comma. A longer pause calls for a semi-colon. Thus you will be right 9 times out of 10;
- Try to avoid split infinitives. Although it is not a hard rule, usually you should try to avoid using structures like ‘to quickly follow’. However, do not do it mechanically – sometimes trying to keep an infinitive together at all costs looks even more stilted;
- Avoid passive voice. Again, sometimes it is appropriate, but not often. Students, on the other hand, tend to use it whenever possible to sound more serious and scientific. If you can replace it with active voice structure, do it;
- Make sure all your referents are obvious. When you say ‘this principle’ or ‘this approach’, always ask yourself if it is obvious to the reader what principle and approach you refer to.
3. Read the Composition Aloud
While we write and edit printed text, we often lose sight either of the bigger picture (how the sentences combine into a larger whole) or of the details (how each sentence reads). When you read your composition aloud, you can slow down and perceive the text from an unfamiliar perspective, noticing mistakes that otherwise could have avoided you.
4. Avoid Weak Language
Words like ‘almost’, ‘quite’, ‘fairly’ etc. rarely add anything to your argument, while making your writing look imprecise, vague and indecisive. If you make a claim, be confident enough to make it directly, without leaving yourself an escape route. Something cannot be ‘almost universal’ or ‘almost impossible’ – it is either universal or not, impossible or not. If it is not so, choose another word to express yourself.
Writing a composition essay in human resources management may look like a monumental task, but we believe that with the help of this guide you will be able to overcome it!