English 1A
Gavilan College

Essay 1: Personal Philosophy

5-6 pages (1500-1800 words)

Purpose: To examine and articulate a deeply-held belief, to practice the conventions of the personal essay, to respond to the material from Modules 1 and 2, to practice the steps in the writing process, to create a polished academic essay in MLA format, to reveal something about yourself to your audience (in this case, your instructor). 

In seminar #2, you read about other people's personal philsophies. In this essay, you'll write about a principle, belief, or idea that guides you in your life.

1. Read the material and resources for Modules 1 and 2.

2. Review your response to Journal #1 to generate ideas.

3. Generate ideas for the essay. You can use any of the standard methods mentioned in A Writer's Reference or in the resources provided for Modules 1 and 2, or you can use any other method that is comfortable for you. You should try to generate more ideas than you might actually use, as this surplus of ideas will allow you to pick and choose the best among them.

Advice for choosing a topic: a topic may jump out at you after reading the instructions, but if it does not, don't despair. Even if you don't have any really deeply held beliefs, or if those beliefs are still developing, you could choose to take a slightly different approach. You could discuss a particular person, thing, place or hobby that's important to you, that has shaped your personality, attitude and outlook on life. You could discuss an event or a person that has inspired or influenced you. There are many ways to go with this assignment, so choose a focus that can provide you with 5-6 pages worth of material.

4. Organize your ideas. Your essay should include a thesis (main idea), in which you articulate your belief or cluster of beliefs. If you are writing about more than one belief or value, you should make clear how those different beliefs or values are connected. You will include evidence (details, examples, anecdotes and description) that will help develop and support that main idea. There are several ways to organize your ideas. You can write this as a fable with a moral that is stated outright. You could take a more narrative approach, by telling a story in which the thesis is implied rather than directly stated. You may have a whole other idea about how to organize. The important thing is that you have a clear thesis, whether stated or implied, and that all your evidence works to support that thesis.

4.  Write a draft

5. Revise your draft.  Look for areas where you could include more detailed evidence.  Look for areas where you get off track a bit, and either delete those areas, or find a way to link them to your main idea. Ferret out grammar errors, particularly sentence level errors like fragments, run ons and comma splices. (See your Hacker book for more information about these common types of errors.)  Make sure your essay sports proper MLA format - see the Hacker book, or the Module 1 reading for review. 

6.  Save your work as an attachment and submit.

7. Relax with your favorite beverage. Congratulations on the completion of your first essay!


  • Identify your thesis. What is your belief or beliefs, exactly? If you had to sum it/them up in one sentence, what would you say? If you are writing about an important, inspirational or influential person, place, thing or event, what is the main thing you want to say about this influential force in your life? What was the main way you were influenced or inspired?
  • Line up your evidence. How will you develop and support your thesis? What kinds of evidence will you use to illustrate how you feel to the reader? What kinds of examples will you use? What concrete, sensory details will you use to convey your principle, and how you came to adhere to that principle?
  • Target your audience. Who might benefit from or be interested in hearing your views? What is the best way to get them engaged and interested?  How will you capture and keep their attention?  What do you want to say to them?
  • Make your voice authentic. I want to know that there's a unique person behind this essay, that your belief was developed as a result of your own personal experiences, values and background. In this essay, the word "I" will be essential, and the tone and style should reflect your personality.