How to Write a Diagnostic Essay (2019 Guide)

diagnostic essay
  • Published Date: March 12, 2019

 

Have you been asked to write a diagnostic essay but don’t know where to begin?

This diagnostic essay tutorial will tell you everything you need to get started on writing the best possible diagnostic essay.

While not the most common assignments, diagnostic essays serve a distinct purpose in your education, personal, and professional development.

Like any other diagnostic assessment, the diagnostic essay tells your teacher and other members of your education team where you are at right now.

A diagnostic essay can therefore help determine things like placement, or whether you need any special support services to help you boost your writing and communication skills.

If you are learning English as a second language, a diagnostic essay may be a critical part of you being able to improve your communication skills.

Likewise, if you have been struggling or have a specific learning disability like dyslexia, which affects your writing, then a diagnostic essay helps you to better access the financial and human resources you need throughout your education and your career.

This tutorial covers the definition and format of a diagnostic essay, offers you some creative, unique topic ideas that will impress your readers, and also gives you an example you can follow in your own work.

If you have any further questions after reading this tutorial you can always reach out to a writing tutor for assistance.

So let’s begin.

What is a Diagnostic Essay?

A diagnostic essay is exactly what it means: an essay that is used to diagnose your writing skills or aptitude in a certain course or subject.

Therefore, a diagnostic essay serves as a piece of writing that assesses your aptitude.

When you visit the doctor and receive a diagnosis, you learn that you have specific conditions based on your presenting symptoms and any medical tests you have received. In the same way, a teacher or instructor uses the diagnostic essay to see whether you have issues with things like grammar, vocabulary, sentence construction, reading comprehension, or subject mastery.

Do not let a diagnostic essay scare you. Most of the time, your instructor assigns a diagnostic essay to help you. Do the best you can with the materials and support we provide to you, and you will be well on your way to improving your academic performance.

Without writing a diagnostic essay, the teacher would never know that you were struggling. You would as a result not have easy access to support materials, a tutor, or even financial resources that are available to help you improve your writing. The diagnostic essay may be a formal or legal requirement for you to receive academic assistance.

A diagnostic essay may be used for the following reasons:

  • To assess your knowledge and use of English language.
  • To assess your grammar skills.
  • To determine how much history, philosophy, political science, or any other subject you already know.
  • To determine whether to place you in an advanced or general educational track.
  • To gauge your progress in learning English as a second language.
  • Transferring to a new school
  • Entrance or admissions examination
  • Job, grant, or scholarship application

Format for a Diagnostic Essay

The best format for a diagnostic essay is the one provided to you by your instructor. Your teacher will likely give you a time limit, a word count, a page limit, or some other means of planning out how to construct, format, and write your diagnostic essay. First take into account what the parameters of the diagnostic essay are, and then you will be in a better position to understand the format.

Also, the format may vary depending on the type of essay that has been assigned. Some diagnostic essays are going to be narrative in style, in which you have a great deal more creative freedom than you would in a compare/contrast essay.

A diagnostic essay is not a style of essay so much as it is a purpose-driven essay. That means a diagnostic essay can be about almost anything, and can be in multiple forms of expository or creative writing.

With few exceptions, your instructor will request that you use a traditional essay format with an introduction, body, and conclusion. You will also be asked to compose a thesis statement.

These types of formatting and structural rules actually help you stay organized and make for a much better diagnostic essay.

The format of the document will usually be with one-inch margins, using a standard typeface like Ariel or Times New Roman. Resist using cute, colorful, or creative fonts, which are not appropriate for use in a diagnostic essay.

You will want to follow the rules of grammar and punctuation. While narrative essays and creative writing assignments offer you more leeway, you usually want to stick to the ordinary and formal syntax and grammar used in academic writing.

To make your essay stand out, use strong nouns and verbs instead of relying on adverbs and adjectives to convey your ideas. Stick to the facts, and speak clearly because your teacher will be more impressed with organization and good ideas than by big words or purple prose.

Use the formatting guidelines given to you by your instructor. The most commonly used ones include:

Diagnostic Essay Outline

I. Introduction paragraph

A. Open the essay with a strong statement of fact, a powerful quotation, or shocking statistic. The opening sentence is what sets the tone for the rest of your writing, so choose it well.

B. Lead your reader into the crux of your ideas, showcasing what you will be discussing in the body of your diagnostic essay.

C. Conclude the introductory paragraph of your diagnostic essay with a thesis statement.

1. A thesis statement should ideally be one sentence in length.

2. The thesis statement should not play games with your reader, but rather it should clearly and succinctly outline the main points of the content of the essay, as you will present them in the body of the essay.

II. Body Paragraph One

A. Remember to start each of your body paragraphs with a topic sentence. A topic sentence is like a one sentence summary of what you will talk about in that paragraph. You can think of it as a sort of thesis statement for each paragraph.

B. Use quotations or paraphrases from reputable sources to substantiate all the claims you make in your diagnostic essay.

1. Learn to differentiate between a primary source and a secondary source.

(a) A primary source is the work of literature you are writing about, such as Wuthering Heights, rather than an article or book about the novel.

(b) Just because an article is written in an academic journal by elite scholars does not make it a primary source. Many students make this error and confuse these secondary sources with the primary sources they need to be referring to in the body of an essay.

2. Always clarify why you are using that specific quote or paraphrased material. To write a great diagnostic essay, do not orphan your quotes and paraphrases, but explain them in your own words.

3. Use the appropriate formatting style for citations for your paraphrase or quotation, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago.

4. If you cite your quotations and paraphrases properly, you will not need to worry about plagiarism, which can get you into trouble.

III. Body Paragraph Two

A. Topic sentence for the next big idea in your essay.

B. Follow the rules for Body Paragraph I here

IV. Body Paragraph Three

A. Topic sentence for the next big idea in your essay.

B. Follow the rules for Body Paragraph I here

V. Conclusion

A. The first sentence of your conclusion will be a restated thesis statement, the same one used at the end of your introduction.

B. Without offering any new or tangential information, wrap up your main ideas.

C. End on a positive and constructive note that helps your reader feel satisfied with your diagnostic essay.

Outline Example

Sometimes you will be asked to provide an outline for your diagnostic essay, in addition to the essay itself.

When you are asked to provide an essay outline, you can use the following example based on the prompt: Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

I. Introduction

A. “Hold your head up,” she said, after suffering my most massive defeat on the tennis court.

B. The most influential person in my life is my mother.

C. Throughout my childhood, my mother has always been the one who helped me through tough times.

D. (Thesis Statement) My mother has taught me to make my own luck through hard work, to persevere no matter what others say, and to always be grateful for what I have.

II. Body Paragraph One

A. Topic Sentence: Many people think success comes from luck, but I learned from my mother that all successful people work hard.

B. Even people who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths have to work hard to achieve their goals.

C. There is a saying, “All of us are self-made, but only the successful are willing to admit it.”

D. The meaning of that saying is that it is wrong to blame other people or our circumstances when we fail, and to only take credit for our hard work when we succeed.

III. Body Paragraph Two

A. My mother taught me to hold my head up when people make fun of me or put me down, something that has helped me to overcome my biggest obstacles.

B. If it was not for my mother, I would have succumbed to the sense that I was not good enough.

C. When I was in fourth grade, one of my teachers thought I should be held back a grade but my mother showed that I was just bored in the class and needed more stimulation.

D. Thanks to my mother, I learned that what other people think of me does not need to determine my reality.

IV. Body Paragraph Three

A. A good cheerleader is one thing, but ultimately we need to be grateful for what we have in order to be happy.

B. Throughout my life I have learned that the secret to success is capitalizing on our strengths and gradually improving on our weaknesses.

C. Last year I earned my first scholarship and now I am determined to find further ways of promoting my ideas in order to achieve my career goals.

D. Recognizing what I have has allowed me to contribute to my community through community service work.

V. Conclusion

A. The most influential person in my life is my mother, who taught me the importance of gratitude, self-confidence, and hard work.

B. Applying what I learned from my mother to my current academic career has enabled me to achieve what I have so far in life.

C. I look forward to contributing even more to my community through my work, and I hope to serve others just as my mother served me in my early years.

Diagnostic Essay Topics

A diagnostic essay can be about almost anything. When in doubt about what to write about, it is always best to ask your teacher directly instead of guessing. Sometimes you will be writing in a specific subject area like literature or history, to assess your prior knowledge.

You may be asked to write about something even more specific such as a work of art or music.

For example, if the diagnostic essay is in an art history class and the topic is Van Gogh, you may need to choose a topic about a specific Van Gogh painting like “Starry Nights.” You may also write a diagnostic essay about Van Gogh’s technique, such as his brush stroke and color palette.

In English composition and ESL/EFL classes, you may be asked to write about general topics. For instance, your instructor may request that you write an essay about what you did last summer or about some current event in the news. It is also common for diagnostic essays to be about your opinion on a controversial issue like gun control or abortion.

If the diagnostic essay is for an admissions application for college, a grant, a job, or a scholarship, you may be requested to write about things like leadership or a learning experience.

When you are given a more open-ended essay prompt, you may struggle a bit to come up with an appropriate topic that you can write about for the length of an entire essay.

Do not despair. For your convenience, here is a list of possible topic ideas for a diagnostic essay.

Literature and English

  • Describe the literature of the Romantic era, focusing on three specific novels or poems that encapsulate this time period.
  • Discuss three books that have had the greatest impact on you. Why have these three books been so important to you personally?
  • What is your writing process? Describe your process in a five-paragraph essay.
  • After reading Frankenstein, analyze one character from the book.
  • Has literature been important to your life? Why or why not?

History

  • Describe the causes and effects of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Choose three presidents of the United States and their impact on the union.
  • What does it mean to be American?
  • How have historical events impacted your personal life or your family history?

General Essay Topics

  • Describe a time you were outside of your comfort zone. What impact did it have on your character development?
  • What is your leadership style?
  • Who has been the most influential person in your life, and why?
  • If you could invite three people over to dinner, living or dead, who would they be and why?
  • Describe the gun control debate from multiple points of view, not taking sides but simply explaining the different perspectives.
  • Do you believe that healthcare (or higher education) should be universal in the United States? Why or why not?
  • Why is a free press essential to a democracy?
  • What do you think the biggest threat is to humanity right now?
  • If you had a billion dollars to start a business, what would you do and why?
  • Describe your short term and long-term goals.
  • What does the term “white privilege” mean to you?
  • Do you believe it is ethical to kill animals for human consumption? Why?
  • Is human nature essentially good or bad?
  • Does religion do more harm than good?

Diagnostic Essay Sample

Now we can see how you can construct a solid diagnostic essay based on the above essay outline.

Prompt: Who is the most influential person in your life and why?

I heard the ball hit the concrete and instantly knew it was in. My opponent won the shot, the game, the match: I had lost my first tournament. “Hold your head up,” said my mother after my most massive defeat on the tennis court. I had been a previously undefeated champion. Yet here I was, defeated by an underdog player from another school. I was ashamed of myself but my mother helped me to comport myself with dignity as I conceded the match. She helped me to recognize that there was always more I could do to improve, and to never rest on my laurels. I also learned how to be grateful for what I have rather than bitter due to my mother’s wise counsel. Throughout my childhood, my mother has always been the one who helped me through tough times. My mother has taught me to make my own luck through hard work, to persevere no matter what others say, and to always be grateful for what I have.

Many people think success comes from luck, but I learned from my mother that all successful people work hard. In fact, even people who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths have to work hard to achieve their goals. It may seem that rich people have it made from birth, but in reality, even those who have access to a wealth of funding can also fail if they do not utilize what they have and persist in achieving their goals. My mother would remind me of a saying, “All of us are self-made, but only the successful are willing to admit it.” Psychologists refer to this logical fallacy as the fundamental attribution error. The meaning of the fundamental attribution error is that it is illogical to blame other people or our circumstances when we fail, and to only take credit for our hard work when we succeed.

My mother taught me to hold my head up when people make fun of me or put me down, something that has helped me to overcome my biggest obstacles. The incident in which I lost my first tennis tournament was only one time that I had to maintain my composure and dignity in the face of a defeat. If it was not for my mother, I would have succumbed to the sense that I was not good enough. I had placed all my self worth in my skills as a player. The incident also reminds me of a time when I was in fourth grade and one of my teachers thought I should be held back a grade but my mother showed that I was just bored in the class and needed more stimulation. Thanks to my mother, I learned that what other people think of me does not need to determine my reality.

A good cheerleader is one thing, but ultimately we need to be grateful for what we have in order to be happy. Being grateful is not the same as being complacent. Throughout my life my mother would teach me that the secret to success is capitalizing on our strengths and gradually improving on our weaknesses. For example, last year I earned my first scholarship and now I am determined to find further ways of promoting my ideas in order to achieve my career goals. Recognizing what I have has allowed me to contribute to my community through community service work.

The most influential person in my life is my mother, who taught me the importance of gratitude, self-confidence, and hard work. Applying what I learned from my mother to my current academic career has enabled me to achieve what I have so far in life both on the courts and off. I look forward to contributing even more to my community through my work, and I hope to serve others just as my mother served me in my early years.

Conclusion

A diagnostic essay is useful for assessing where you are at as a writer. A teacher may assign you a diagnostic essay to determine what you already know about a subject. Likewise, you may encounter a diagnostic essay when you are practicing your English composition skills or learning English as a foreign language. In fact, if you are learning English as a foreign language, you will likely be asked to produce at least one diagnostic essay to determine your progress in learning.

A diagnostic essay assignment can become one of the most important pieces of writing you produce in your academic or professional career. You may need to write one when applying for jobs or scholarships. Likewise, the reader of your diagnostic essay may use your work to determine your eligibility for specialized services like tutoring, or whether to place you in a specific course or program. Because of how important a diagnostic essay is, we have prepared for you this guide and welcome you to seek further assistance through a writing tutor.

Mastering the art of written communication is one of the most important things you can do in your life. Therefore, take your diagnostic essays seriously and use this helpful guide to improve your writing.

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How to Write a Diagnostic Essay (2019 Guide). (2019, March 12). Retrieved from https://www.aceyourpaper.com/essay-writing/diagnostic-essay/

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"How to Write a Diagnostic Essay (2019 Guide)." Aceyourpaper.com. Student Network Resources Inc, 12 March. 2019. Web. 16 July 2019.

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Student Network Resources Inc. "How to Write a Diagnostic Essay (2019 Guide)." Aceyourpaper.com. https://www.aceyourpaper.com/essay-writing/diagnostic-essay/ (accessed July 16, 2019).

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