Doctors use tools like stethoscopes and blood work to diagnose their patients. How do teachers "diagnosis" their students' writing skills? The diagnostic essay is often assigned to assess areas of student strength and weakness so teachers can address writing issues or offer more individualized writing assignments. Writing the diagnostic essay thesis is similar to writing any essay thesis. The thesis statement is a clear, concise and authoritative sentence that provide the structure, organization and topic of the essay. Typically these essays are timed and students are given a prompt or are allowed to choose a prompt from a set of two or three. These types of essays are also used on standardized tests like the SAT to assess a student’s writing abilities.
Reading Prompts For Diagnostic Essays
The first step in writing a diagnostic essay thesis statement is simple: read the prompt. By reading the prompt, students take the first step in fully understanding what the question is asking. This is the first most crucial step. If students misread or misinterpret the prompt, the thesis and essay will not match with the prompt's intent. Even though each essay will be individualized in interpretation and writing skills, the prompt is what guides the thesis and the essay itself. Taking a few minutes to adequately understand what the question is asking can prevent unnecessary work or rewrites.
Answering the Prompt's Question
The second place that students can make a misstep when writing a diagnostic essay is in not answering the prompt's question. The first step in writing the diagnostic thesis statement is to write down a related and simple answer to the prompt's implied or obvious question. This becomes the beginning of the thesis statement. Because of the short time allotted for diagnostic essays, many students jump right into writing without taking time to formulate a thesis that will help them with their essay. If you don’t take the time to create a thesis statement for your essay, you could veer off course very easily. In the short time usually allotted to a diagnostic essay, that could lead to frustrations, rewrites and a teacher not getting a clear diagnosis of a student's actually writing skills. Within that vein, teachers are able to "diagnose" a student's actual writing skills and their time management skills as well.
Formulate the Thesis
Once you’ve read the prompt and answered the question, look at your answer and write down three reasons why you think your answer is correct. For example, if a prompt asks you if you think that working harder for things makes you appreciate them more, your answer might be a simple yes. That simple response is not a thesis; answering yes or no to an essay prompt question is not the basis of diagnostic writing. In the example, three reasons hard work is valuable might be: sacrificing, focusing and overcoming obstacles. While a yes or no response doesn't create an essay or thesis, the statement "Working hard for things makes you appreciate them more because you have to sacrifice, focus and overcome obstacles to get them," is a thesis statement. A diagnostic paragraph example would include writing based on each of the three reasons keeping your essay thesis as a focus. Adding an introduction and conclusion completes the diagnostic essay.
Considering Essay Writing Time Limits
Finally, make sure that you allot enough time for each of the writing steps. If you are given 20 minutes to complete the essay, break down the available time to allow time to complete each step. For example, you might allot two minutes to read and answer the prompt, five minutes for thesis formulation and planning and then the final thirteen minutes to write and edit the actual diagnostic writing for the essay.
Stacy Alleyne is a certified English teacher with a BA in English and graduate work in English, education, journalism and law. She has written numerous articles and her own dining column for the "Gazette."