Self Understanding Essay Structure

"Self-construction" redirects here. For other uses, see Self-construction (disambiguation).

Not to be confused with Self-awareness, Self-consciousness, Self-esteem, Self-image, or Self-perception.

One's self-concept (also called self-construction, self-identity, self-perspective or self-structure) is a collection of beliefs about oneself[1][2] that includes elements such as academic performance,[3][4][5][6][7]gender identity, sexual identity,[8][9][10][11] and racial identity.[12] Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to "Who am I?".[13]

Self-concept is distinguishable from self-awareness, which refers to the extent to which self-knowledge is defined, consistent, and currently applicable to one's attitudes and dispositions.[14] Self-concept also differs from self-esteem: self-concept is a cognitive or descriptive component of one's self (e.g. "I am a fast runner"), while self-esteem is evaluative and opinionated (e.g. "I feel good about being a fast runner").

Self-concept is made up of one's self-schemas, and interacts with self-esteem, self-knowledge, and the social self to form the self as whole. It includes the past, present, and future selves, where future selves (or possible selves) represent individuals' ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, or what they are afraid of becoming. Possible selves may function as incentives for certain behavior.[13][15]

The perception people have about their past or future selves is related to the perception of their current selves. The temporal self-appraisal theory[16] argues that people have a tendency to maintain a positive self-evaluation by distancing themselves from their negative self and paying more attention to their positive one. In addition, people have a tendency to perceive the past self less favorably[17] (e.g. "I'm better than I used to be") and the future self more positively[18] (e.g. "I will be better than I am now").

History[edit]

Psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow were heavy influences in popularizing the idea of self-concept in the west. According to Rogers, everyone strives to reach an "ideal self". Rogers also hypothesized that psychologically healthy people actively move away from roles created by others' expectations, and instead look within themselves for validation. On the other hand, neurotic people have "self-concepts that do not match their experiences...They are afraid to accept their own experiences as valid, so they distort them, either to protect themselves or to win approval from others."[19]

The self-categorization theory developed by John Turner states that the self-concept consists of at least two "levels": a personal identity and a social one. In other words, one's self-evaluation relies on self-perceptions and how others perceive them. Self-concept can alternate rapidly between the personal and social identity.[20] Children and adolescents begin integrating social identity into their own self-concept in elementary school by assessing their position among peers.[21] By age 5, acceptance from peers has a significant impact on children's self-concept, affecting their behavior and academic success.[22]

Model[edit]

The self-concept is an internal model that uses self-assessments in order to define one's self-schemas.[23] Features such as personality, skills and abilities, occupation and hobbies, physical characteristics, etc. are assessed and applied to self-schemas, which are ideas of oneself in a particular dimension (e.g., someone that considers themselves a geek will associate "geek-like" qualities to themselves). A collection of self-schemas make up one's overall self-concept. For example, the statement "I am lazy" is a self-assessment that contributes to self-concept. Statements such as "I am tired", however, would not be part of someone's self-concept, since being tired is a temporary state and therefore cannot become a part of a self-schema. A person's self-concept may change with time as reassessment occurs, which in extreme cases can lead to identity crises.

Parts[edit]

According to Carl Rogers, the self-concept has three different components:[24][25]

Development[edit]

Researchers debate over when self-concept development begins. Some assert that gender stereotypes and expectations set by parents for their children impact children's understanding of themselves by approximately age 3.[26]However, at this developmental stage, children have a very broad sense of self, typically, they use words such as big or nice to describe themselves to others.[27] While this represents the beginnings of self-concept,others suggest that self-concept develops later, around age 7 or 8.  At this point, children are developmentally prepared to interpret their own feelings and abilities, as well as receive and consider feedback from peers, teachers, and family.[1] Despite differing opinions about the onset of self-concept development, researchers agree on the importance of one’s self-concept, which influences people’s behaviors and cognitive and emotional outcomes including (but not limited to) academic achievement, levels of happiness, anxiety, social integration, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction.[21][28][29]

Academic[edit]

Academic self-concept refers to the personal beliefs about their academic abilities or skills.[21] Some research suggests that it begins developing from ages 3 to 5 due to influence from parents and early educators.[26] By age 10 or 11, children assess their academic abilities by comparing themselves to their peers.[30] These social comparisons are also referred to as self-estimates.[31] Self-estimates of cognitive ability are most accurate when evaluating subjects that deal with numbers, such as math.[31] Self-estimates were more likely to be poor in other areas, such as reasoning speed.[31][clarification needed]

Some researchers suggest that, to raise academic self-concept, parents and teachers need to provide children with specific feedback that focuses on their particular skills or abilities.[32] Others also state that learning opportunities should be conducted in groups (both mixed-ability and like-ability) that downplay social comparison, as too much of either type of grouping can have adverse effects on children's academic self-concept and the way they view themselves in relation to their peers.[21][28]

Cultural differences[edit]

Worldviews about the self in relation to others differs across and within cultures.[33]Western cultures place particular importance on independence and the expression of one's own attributes[34] (i.e. the self is more important than the group). Asian cultures, however, favor an interdependent view of the self:[33] interpersonal relationships are more important than one’s individual accomplishments, and individuals experience a sense of oneness with the group.[33] Such identity fusion can have positive and negative consequences.[33] Identity fusion can give people the sense that their existence is meaningful (e.g. Japanese nuclear plant workers expose themselves to radiation to help fix the plant after a tsunami); and this type of mindset is associated with a high quality of life.[citation needed]

A small study done in Israel showed that the divide between independent and interdependent self-concepts exists within cultures as well. Mid-level merchants in an urban community were compared to those in a kibbutz (collective community). The collectivist merchants valued the interdependent self more than the urban ones, who held more value to independent traits. The individualists described themselves largely in terms of personal traits, while collectivists used more hobbies and preferences. When the individualists did give interdependent responses, most responses were focused on work or school; individualist responses from interdependents focused most on residence.[35]

Gender differences[edit]

Research from 1997, inspired by the differences in self-concept across cultures, suggested that men tend to be more independent, while women tend to be more interdependent.[36] A study from 1999 showed that, while men and women do not differ in terms of independence or interdependence, they differ in their types of interdependence. Women utilize relational interdependence (identifying more with one-to-one relationships or small cliques), while men utilize collective interdependence (defining themselves within the contexts of large groups).[37]

Gender differences in interdependent environments appear in early childhood: by age 3, boys and girls choose same-sex play partners, maintaining their preferences until late elementary school.[38] Boys and girls become involved in different social interactions and relationships. Girls tend to prefer one-on-one (dyadic) interaction, forming tight, intimate bonds, while boys prefer group activities.[38] One study in particular found that boys performed almost twice as well in groups than in pairs, whereas girls did not show such a difference.[39]

Girls are more likely to wait their turn to speak, agree with others, and acknowledge the contributions of others. Boys, on the other hand, build larger group relationships based on shared interests and activities. Boys are more likely to threaten, boast, and call names, suggesting the importance of dominance and hierarchy in groups of male friends.[38] In mixed-sex pairs of children aged 33 months, girls were more likely to passively watch a male partner play, and boys were more likely to be unresponsive to what their female partners were saying.[40] The social characteristics of boys and girls as they develop throughout childhood tend to carry over later in life as they become men and women, although characteristics displayed as younger children are not necessarily entirely reflective of later behavior.[38]

Media[edit]

Why do people choose one form of media over another? According to the Galileo Model, there are different forms of media spread throughout three-dimensional space.[41] The closer one form of media is to another the more similar the source of media is to each other. The farther away from each form of media is in space, the least similar the source of media is. For example, mobile and cell phone are located closest in space where as newspaper and texting are farthest apart in space. The study further explained the relationship between self-concept and the use of different forms of media. The more hours per day an individual uses a form of media, the closer that form of media is to their self-concept.

Self-concept is related to the form of media most used.[41] If you consider yourself tech savvy, then you will use mobile phones more often than you would use a newspaper. If you consider yourself old fashioned, then you will use a magazine more often than you would instant message.

See also[edit]

Main article: Outline of self

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ abLeflot, Geertje; Onghena, Patrick; Colpin, Hilde (2010). "Teacher–child interactions: relations with children's self-concept in second grade". Infant and Child Development. 19 (4): 385–405. doi:10.1002/icd.672. ISSN 1522-7219. 
  2. ^Flook, Lisa; Repetti, Rena L; Ullman, Jodie B (March 2005). "Classroom social experiences as predictors of academic performance"(PDF). Developmental Psychology. 41 (2): 31–327. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.41.2.319. ISSN 0012-1649. PMID 15769188. 
  3. ^Bong, Mimi; Clark, Richard E. (1999). "Comparison between self-concept and self-efficacy in academic motivation research". Educational Psychologist. 34 (3): 139–153. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3403_1. ISSN 0046-1520. 
  4. ^Byrne, Barbara M. (1 September 1984). "The General/Academic Self-Concept Nomological Network: A Review of Construct Validation Research". Review of Educational Research. 54 (3): 427–456. doi:10.3102/00346543054003427. ISSN 0034-6543. JSTOR 1170455. 
  5. ^Byrne, Barbara M.; Gavin, Darlene A. Worth (January 1996). "The Shavelson Model Revisited: Testing for the Structure of Academic Self-Concept across Pre-, Early, and Late Adolescents". Journal of Educational Psychology. 88 (2): 215–228. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.88.2.215. ISSN 0022-0663. 
  6. ^Shavelson, Richard J.; Bolus, Roger (1982). "Self concept: The interplay of theory and methods"(PDF). Journal of Educational Psychology. 74 (1): 3–17. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.1.3. ISSN 1939-2176. 
  7. ^Shavelson, R. J.; Hubner, J. J.; Stanton, G. C. (1 January 1976). "Self-Concept: Validation of Construct Interpretations". Review of Educational Research. 46 (3): 407–441. doi:10.3102/00346543046003407. ISSN 0034-6543. JSTOR 1170010. 
  8. ^Hoffman, Rose Marie; Hattie, John A.; Borders, L. Dianne (2005). "Personal Definitions of Masculinity and Femininity as an Aspect of Gender Self-Concept". The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development. 44 (1): 66–83. doi:10.1002/j.2164-490X.2005.tb00057.x. ISSN 2164-490X. 
  9. ^Wade, Jay C. (1998). "Male reference group identity dependence: A theory of male identity". The Counseling Psychologist. 26 (3): 349–383. doi:10.1177/0011000098263001. ISSN 0011-0000. 
  10. ^Hoffman, Rose Marie (2004). "Conceptualizing Heterosexual Identity Development: Issues and Challenges". Journal of Counseling & Development. 82 (3): 375–380. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2004.tb00323.x. ISSN 1556-6676. 
  11. ^Larson, Paul C. (21 March 2012). "Sexual Identity and Self-Concept". Journal of Homosexuality. 7 (1): 15. doi:10.1300/J082v07n01_03.  
  12. ^Aries, E; Olver, R R; Blount, K; Christaldi, K; Fredman, S; Lee, T (June 1998). "Race and gender as components of the working self-concept". The Journal of Social Psychology. 138 (3): 277–290. doi:10.1080/00224549809600381. ISSN 0022-4545. PMID 9577721. 
  13. ^ abMyers, David G. (2009). Social psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. ISBN 0073370665. 
  14. ^Ayduk, Ozlem; Gyurak, Anett; Luerssen, Anna (November 2009). "Rejection sensitivity moderates the impact of rejection on self-concept clarity". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 35 (11): 1467–1478. doi:10.1177/0146167209343969. ISSN 1552-7433. PMC 4184908. PMID 19713567. 
  15. ^Markus, H.; Nurius, P. (1986). "Possible selves". American Psychologist. 41 (9): 954–969. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.41.9.954. 
  16. ^Wilson, AE; Ross, M (April 2001). "From chump to champ: people's appraisals of their earlier and present selves". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 80 (4): 572–584. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.4.572. ISSN 0022-3514. PMID 11316222. 
  17. ^Ross, Michael; Wilson, Anne E (May 2002). "It feels like yesterday: self-esteem, valence of personal past experiences, and judgments of subjective distance". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 82 (5): 792–803. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.82.5.792. ISSN 0022-3514. PMID 12003478. 
  18. ^Wilson, Anne E.; Buehler, Roger; Lawford, Heather; Schmidt, Colin; Yong, An Gie (2012). "Basking in projected glory: The role of subjective temporal distance in future self-appraisal". European Journal of Social Psychology. 42 (3): 342–353. doi:10.1002/ejsp.1863. ISSN 1099-0992. 
  19. ^Aronson, E.; Wilson, T.; Akert, R. (2007). Social Psychology. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 113. ISBN 9780132382458. 
  20. ^Guimond, Serge; Chatard, Armand; Martinot, Delphine; Crisp, Richard J.; Redersdorff, Sandrine (2006). "Social comparison, self-stereotyping, and gender differences in self-construals". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 90 (2): 221–242. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.90.2.221. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 16536648. 
  21. ^ abcdTrautwein, Ulrich; Lüdtke, Oliver; Marsh, Herbert W.; Nagy, Gabriel (2009). "Within-school social comparison: How students perceive the standing of their class predicts academic self-concept". Journal of Educational Psychology. 101 (4): 853–866. doi:10.1037/a0016306. ISSN 1939-2176. 
  22. ^Gest, Scott D; Rulison, Kelly L; Davidson, Alice J; Welsh, Janet A (May 2008). "A reputation for success (or failure): the association of peer academic reputations with academic self-concept, effort, and performance across the upper elementary grades". Developmental Psychology. 44 (3): 625–636. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.625. ISSN 0012-1649. PMID 18473632. 
  23. ^Gerrig, Richard J.; Zimbardo, Philip G. (2002). "Glossary of Psychological Terms". Psychology And Life. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  24. ^Rogers, C. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework. In (ed.) S. Koch, Psychology: A study of a science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the person and the social context. New York: McGraw Hill.
  25. ^McLeod, S. A. (2008). Self Concept. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/self-concept.html
  26. ^ abTiedemann, Joachim (2000). "Parents' gender stereotypes and teachers' beliefs as predictors of children's concept of their mathematical ability in elementary school". Journal of Educational Psychology. 92 (1): 144–151. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.92.1.144. ISSN 1939-2176. 
  27. ^C., Broderick, Patricia. The life span : human development for helping professionals. Blewitt, Pamela. (Fourth edition ed.). Boston. ISBN 9780132942881. OCLC 858749675. 
  28. ^ abPreckel, Franzis; Brüll, Matthias (October 2010). "The benefit of being a big fish in a big pond: Contrast and assimilation effects on academic self-concept". Learning and Individual Differences. 20 (5): 522–531. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2009.12.007. ISSN 1041-6080. 
  29. ^Marsh, Herbert W.; Martin, Andrew J. (2011). "Academic self-concept and academic achievement: Relations and causal ordering". British Journal of Educational Psychology. 81 (1): 59–77. doi:10.1348/000709910X503501. ISSN 2044-8279. 
  30. ^Rubie-Davies, Christine M. (May 2006). "Teacher Expectations and Student Self-Perceptions: Exploring Relationships". Psychology in the Schools. 43 (5): 537–552. doi:10.1002/pits.20169. ISSN 0033-3085. 
  31. ^ abcFreund, Philipp Alexander; Kasten, Nadine (1 January 2012). "How smart do you think you are? A meta-analysis on the validity of self-estimates of cognitive ability". Psychological Bulletin. 138 (2): 296–321. doi:10.1037/a0026556. PMID 22181852. 
  32. ^Craven, Rhonda G.; Marsh, Herbert W. Marsh (1991). "Effects of internally focused feedback and attributional feedback on enhancement of academic self-concept". Journal of Educational Psychology. 83 (1): 17–27. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.83.1.17. ISSN 0022-0663. 
  33. ^ abcdSwann, William B.; Jetten, Jolanda; Gómez, Ángel; Whitehouse, Harvey; Bastian, Brock (1 January 2012). "When group membership gets personal: A theory of identity fusion"(PDF). Psychological Review. 119 (3): 441–456. doi:10.1037/a0028589. PMID 22642548. Archived from the original(PDF) on 13 April 2015. 
  34. ^Markus, Hazel R.; Kitayama, Shinobu (1991). "Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation". Psychological Review. 98 (2): 224–253. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.98.2.224. ISSN 1939-1471. 
  35. ^Somech, Anit (1 March 2000). "The independent and the interdependent selves: different meanings in different cultures". International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 24 (2): 161–172. doi:10.1016/S0147-1767(99)00030-9. ISSN 0147-1767. 
  36. ^Cross, Susan E.; Madson, Laura (1 January 1997). "Models of the self: Self-construals and gender". Psychological Bulletin. 122 (1): 5–37. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.122.1.5. PMID 9204777. 
  37. ^Gabriel, Shira; Gardner, Wendi L. (1 January 1999). "Are there 'his' and 'hers' types of interdependence? The implications of gender differences in collective versus relational interdependence for affect, behavior, and cognition". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 77 (3): 642–655. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.3.642. PMID 10510513. 
  38. ^ abcdMaccoby, EE (April 1990). "Gender and relationships. A developmental account". The American Psychologist. 45 (4): 513–520. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.45.4.513. ISSN 0003-066X. PMID 2186679. 
  39. ^Benenson, Joyce F; Heath, Anna (March 2006). "Boys withdraw more in one-on-one interactions, whereas girls withdraw more in groups". Developmental Psychology. 42 (2): 272–282. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.2.272. ISSN 0012-1649. PMID 16569166. 
  40. ^Jacklin, Carol Nagy; Maccoby, Eleanor E. (September 1978). "Social Behavior at Thirty-Three Months in Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Dyads". Child Development. 49 (3): 557. doi:10.2307/1128222. ISSN 0009-3920. JSTOR 1128222. 
  41. ^ abCheong, P., Hwang, J., Elbirt, B., Chen, H., Evans, C., & Woelfel, J. (2010). Media use as a function of identity: The role of the self concept in media usage. In v. M. Hinner (Ed.), The role of communication in business transactions and relationships, Vol. 6: Freiberger Beiträge zur interkulturellen und Wirtschaftskommunikation: A Forum for General and Intercultural Business Communication (pp. 365 - 381). Berlin: Peter Lang.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

One's self-perception is defined by one's self-concept, self-knowledge, self-esteem, and social self.
One's self-concept is made up of self-schemas, and their past, present, and future selves.

Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.

The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.

Answering Questions:  The Parts of an Essay

A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don't. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it's relevant.

It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)

"What?"  The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration" section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.

"How?"  A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.

"Why?"  Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.

Mapping an Essay

Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.

Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:

  • State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it's important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you're anticipating your answer to the "why" question that you'll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
  • Begin your next sentence like this: "To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . ." Then say why that's the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the "what" question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
  • Begin each of the following sentences like this: "The next thing my reader needs to know is . . ."  Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you've mapped out your essay. 

Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.

Signs of Trouble

A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or "description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or "listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Although they don't always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil").

Copyright 2000, Elizabeth Abrams, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

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