How to Get an A on an Essay: Don’t make your teacher think.

Organize the paper so your teacher doesn’t have to think.

The less your professor has to think about your paper, the faster they will grade it and the better your grade will be. This is true up to (and sometimes including) even if you have a world-changing idea that only needs to be read to be understood.

Write a thesis. Put a sentence in the first or second paragraph (your introduction) that says what you are going to talk about throughout your entire paper. Draw a map for the instructor in one sentence.
Worst example: I am going to talk about digital media.
Bad example: I am going to talk about the how conceptual elements of design, play, and meaning, and not just narrative, are essential for digital media.
Good example: While narrative is a widely recognized component of digital media, the conceptual elements of design, play, and meaning are also essential for digital media to succeed.

Explanation of the differences, in case you want to know (if not, skip down to the next point):
1.The worst example only gives a general topic, not the points that will be covered. That means two very bad things.
First, the professor knows you haven’t thought this through enough to be able to say what you are going to cover in the essay.
Second, it lets the teacher decide what should be in the paper. Then, when you don’t have that particular thing (random or not) that the instructor expects, BAM! your grade drops.
You MUST identify the turns in the discussion. It helps your professor know where you are going and keeps them on the road with you rather than somewhere else or way ahead of you. If you are driving to Atlanta from New York City in a caravan, folks need to know what stops you will make along the way in case they get lost. The thesis provides that.
2. The bad example announces the topic. “I am going to talk about” or “This essay will be about” or “In this essay we will cover” are examples of announcements. They signal to a professor that you haven’t thought through your idea enough to know how to write a thesis about it. If YOU haven’t thought through the idea enough, they know they will have to think about it. When the instructor has to stop and think in your writing, has to pull over and look at the map again and then figure out where your directions were off, then they will not grade your paper as high.
3. The bad example starts with what a digital work should do (have design, play, and meaning), rather than what the professor knows best, what digital work does.
Digital work tells a story. This post tells you (the first character) how to get an A by explaining how your instructor (the second character) looks at your paper; it is a digital narrative. It uses the design concept of a map and giving directions as an analogy for how that works. There are playful elements included in that it encourages you to keep your professor from thinking and talks about writing as if it were a road trip. It also has meaning, because following the word map created by this post will save your professor extra work and thereby give you a better grade.
4. The bad example ends with what the digital project clearly does, tell a story, rather than beginning there. You don’t want your professor to get lost and then discover the ending of the path out of the forest is something they know a lot better than you do. So START with the part that makes the most sense to your audience (in this case, the grading instructor). That makes them agree with you. “Yes, yes, narrative is essential,” they will concur and then, when you tell them something different it should also do, they are more likely to agree with you because they are ALREADY agreeing with you.
5. Both the bad and the good example give a clear map. But the good example gives the map without stating the obvious of “Here is a map…”
6. Also, the good example begins with the point the teacher will feel most comfortable with and then moves them away from their home base of information on to other conceptual elements.
7. The good example tells the professor that you have thought through your paper before you wrote it. (Make sure to check what you wrote against what you said you would write. If someone gave you directions to an ice cream shop and you arrived at a tire store following their directions, they would be rightfully upset with you. That’s your professor following your thesis and discovering you wrote a paper that was different from the thesis.)
8. The good example tells the professor something they already know (writing is about story) and then introduces things they may not know (design, play, and meaning are also important).

Follow your thesis sentence as a map for writing your paper.
Using the good example above, either your introduction or your first paragraph/s after the introduction should be about narrative and how everyone understands that is necessary.

Then the second paragraph set should be about design. The third about play. The fourth about meaning. Then you need a conclusion.

This allows your teacher to follow your writing, even if they are tired, because, should they get lost, they will go back to your thesis and trace their way back to where they got lost by re-reading your thesis. If you have followed your thesis, then they know where they should be and when they find that this is where they are, they have a favorable impression of your organization and are more likely to attribute problems to their reading than to your writing. (Always a good attribution from a student perspective.)

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