The Use of Paratexts in Geography EssaysThursday, April 8th, 2010
A geography essay is completed with maps and graphics
Geography –from Greek, literally “earth describe-write”- is a science that describes the Earth, its lands, climate, surroundings, inhabitants. In a more general meaning, the study of geography also concerns economic activities from the different groups of population. It is easy to see that geography is a vast field, and that is why so many different kind of essays can be written on any geography topic. But something all geography essays have in common is that the information they provide can be very well filled in with paratexts.
In fact, a geography essay without any paratext will probably seem somehow incomplete. That is why, if you are working on a written assignment on geography, you should know what paratexts are, and how to use them properly.
What is a paratext?
Paratext is the concept used for designating all the elements that provide a framework for the written text. The concept includes elements typically added during the distribution process by editors, printers, and publishers, but also by the authors themselves: the title, the subtitles and the index, for example, are paratexts. The notion of paratext has been defined by French literary theorist Gérard Genette, who stated “more than a boundary or a sealed border, the paratext is, rather, a threshold.”
Using maps in your essay
If you are working on a geography essay, the first paratext you must add (besides the title) is a map, or several maps, on the regions you are writing about. The maps can be copied from a book or encyclopedia, but you can also add your own information to them (for example, colouring different areas according to the Köppen classification -average monthly values of temperature and precipitation-). A map always adds some value to your essay, even if it is only illustrating information already provided by text.
Adding graphics and charts
But maps are not the only paratexts you may add to your geography written assignment. Most of the times, numbers and figures in the essay can be illustrated with clear graphics and charts. Believe us: teachers love them! Not only because they make your work easily readable and clearer; also because you demonstrate with them your abilities in maths and computer science, since you can’t just copy any graphic from a book as you can do with a map. Graphics and charts will certainly get you some extra credit.
Pictures and photographs
Finally, since many geography works are about describing lands, spaces and physical characteristics, a good paratext to include are pictures and photographs of the mentioned places. For example, you may illustrate the flora and fauna of different environments. Or you can represent with some photographs the economical activities that take place in a certain region or country. And you will certainly gain credit if you are the very same person who took the photographs.
As you can see, in many ways paratexts can be really helpful when it comes to geography coursework.