PIE structure

You will notice that for many forms of assessment, you are asked to organize and structure your ideas. This lesson gives you a kind of 'recipe' for cooking up an essay as it were. The template approach to structuring writing, which is presented in this lesson, is not meant to be prescriptive. Rather, consider the PIE method a kind of guideline or safety mechanism to fall back on.

For each sentence that you write, you should ask yourself: 'What is the purpose of this sentence?' If you find the purpose of a sentence is not clear, you may want to replace it with something more effective. This lesson aims to help you structure your essay and commentary writing.

What is PIE?

For the sake of this activity, let's say there are three kinds of sentences: points, illustrations and explanations (PIE). Using these three sentence types, in this order, is a natural and recognizable pattern for many readers (including examiners). Here is an overview of the PIE method and a tutorial video on how it has been applied to an essay on two literary works.

The PIE method


  1. Point - Use statements, claims and positions that are strong, bold and deep. Make interpretations of the texts that you have studied and state these clearly. 
     
  2. Illustrate - Use quotes, references to passages or examples to support your claims. Be sure to integrate these well into your writing, using phrases such as, 'as we see in line...' or 'for example.'
     
  3. Explain - Finally, explain how the illustration supports the main idea.

The PIE Essay
Brad Philpot
2009

Check for understanding

Here are a few questions to see if you understood everything in the tutorial video:

  1. What is the point of the PIE method?

  2. What is the purpose of a thesis statement?

  3. What are topic sentences and how do they relate to the thesis statement?

  4. What do you write first and last, when writing an essay?

  5. What belongs in an introduction?

  6. What belongs in a conclusion?

Find the PIE structure

There are several ways to find evidence of the PIE structure in essay writing. You can get into 'expert' groups, where each group is responsible for finding one aspect of the PIE method; one group is responsible for finding points, the other: illustrations, and the third: explanations. Each group uses a different color highlighter to highlight their aspect. Finally as a class, go through the essay, sentence by sentence. If two groups claim to have highlighted the same sentences, then they both need to give arguments to explain why it belongs to them. This kind of activity helps you define the key characteristics of points, illustrations and explanations.

Here is an essay that you can use for this activity. Although it is not a Paper 2 essay on literature, it makes use of the PIE structure. Again highlight, with three different colors the points, illustrations and explanations. In the answer key below can be understood with the following key:

Bold = points
Italics = illustrations
Underline = explanations

 PIE essay 

Mass media have permeated every space of our lives

Here is an everyday situation: I log on to the computer at school to get an assignment done. First I open Explorer. The default page is MSN. How perfect: my browser recognizes I have a hotmail account and tells me I have 13 unread messages. But wait, before I read these an image of Angelina Jolie strikes me as interesting. “Jolie up close. Angelina revels in Brad's candid pics.” I click and five minutes later I have not read a single e-mail nor have I started working on my assignment at all. If you were to ask me at a party or in the halls of school whether I took an active interest in Hollywood gossip, I would most definitely say no. So why have I wasted five minutes of my precious life on Angelina Jolie? Because mass media have permeated every space of my life and made it so easy for me to ‘click through’. What’s more, as a result I actually have created an opinion on Brad Pitt’s parenting skills. It turns out that people are more influenced by mass media than they think.

The speed of media these days is one reason why we are so easily influenced. Advertisers and journalists realize that my time is precious as well, and so they must compete for a two-minute attention span that I have. This is, after all, the amount of time the average person spends on a single website. Through bullet points, flashy headings, and embedded videos, they have made their messages very compact and easily accessible. Similarly the world of newspapers has changed drastically in the past 10 years to accommodate for our need for speed. In the United States and Western Europe, many free newspapers such as Metro are handed out in public spaces. Supported by a very small editorial staff, the news in these newspapers is outsourced to the Associated Press or the BBC, who can sell small, watered-down articles for next to nothing. The expensive advertisements generate enough income for these newspapers to enjoy a greater circulation than traditional broadsheets. On the average readers spend no more than twenty minutes reading these newspapers, and most come away with a satisfied feeling that they are up-to-speed on current events. Not only are the articles shallow though. The opinion columns cannot afford the space to be nuanced or balanced, nor do we expect this from them. The result is that we have a simplistic understanding of the world around us. This is best illustrated in the way the media reported the announcement of vice-president nominee Sarah Palin. Within days of her nomination, most people were misinformed about her family situation, because it was complicated, intricate and required too many details for reporters to get right. The release of information was faster that the investigation of information, and because she was we unknown to so many Americans, a false story about her daughter’s multiple teen pregnancies was sold. It turned out that Sarah Palin herself had become mother to her fifth child five months before the nomination.

Sensation is another reason why we are so easily influenced by the mass media. The expression ‘if it bleeds it leads’ is not only applicable to Hollywood gossip and presidential candidates. The economic crises of September and October of 2008 did not always receive a healthy dose of sobriety in newspapers like the Daily Mail. In fact one could argue that the lack of balanced reporting caused the financial crisis. In June for example the Daily Mail published an article with the heading: ‘Unemployment could hit 8% within two years, according to research out today’. Their research was based on 120 interviews with ‘top executives’ from 120 companies in Great Britain. The ‘research’ was hardly scientific. Which companies did they talk to? Did the ‘top executives’ even have access to hard numbers and statistics about the future of their companies? Several months after this report, banks were receiving thousands of phone calls from customers who were wondering if their savings were safe. Several months later, newspapers were reporting on ‘bail out’ plans, a very emotionally laden word. Many investors were influenced by the media within this time period, sold stocks and caused the markets to drop off even more drastically. This is perfect example of how the media not only reflect reality but help shape it as well.

The final reason for media influence in our lives is loyalty. As strange as it may sound, viewers of a certain news channel feel a loyalty to it. When I see the blue screen and butterflies on MSN where my e-mail is, I feel at home. Think about the last time you watched your news on a different channel or picked up a different newspaper than usual. It is probably long ago. We have grown accustomed to a set of beliefs that is often voiced by a specific medium that we like. One Dutch newspaper’s slogan is: ‘the news you want.’ How would you feel if you were a journalist writing an article for this newspaper and were told by your boss to tell the audience what they wanted to hear? As sad as it may sound, this is the reality that many journalists face in the world of commercial media. A case that exemplified this most was Fox News in the months leading up to the war in Iraq in 2003. Before America could move its troops into Iraq, the media had to create a consensus among the public. In his documentary Outfoxed, Robert Greeenwald shows us how Fox News helped the White House do this by telling its loyal viewers what to think on a very specific matter: they created a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Most people now realize that there was never a connection between these two. At the time though, 65% of Fox viewers felt there was one, compared to a mere (though astonishingly high) 30% of viewers of other media. Fox News achieved this through Bill O’Reilly who both presented the news as an anchorman and gave his opinion two minutes later in the form of a talk show. This confused viewers. But they did not ask questions because they were loyal to the station, which in turn was loyal to the White House.

We may think that the influence of the media is harmless when it comes to clicking through to Angelina Jolie on MSN. But because we have grown so accustomed to digesting information quickly and indifferently, the dangers of the mass media have become even greater. In times where the speed and sensation of information have increased, we must be careful that we do not let ourselves become complacent or apathetic. Constantly we must be critical of the media we are seemingly loyal to and careful not to go along passively with the media’s influence.

Answers to activity

In this answer sheet, bold = statements, italics = illustrations, and underline = explanations

Here is an everyday situation: I log on to the computer at school to get an assignment done. First I open Internet Explorer to check my e-mail quickly. The default page is MSN. How perfect, I think, my browser recognizes I have a hotmail account and tells me I have 13 unread messages. But wait, before I read these an image of Angelina Jolie strikes me as interesting. “Jolie up close. Angelina revels in Brad's candid pics.” I click and five minutes later I have not read a single e-mail nor have I started working on my assignment at all. If you were to ask me at a party or in the halls of school whether I took an active interest in Hollywood gossip, I would most definitely say no. So why have I wasted five minutes of my precious life on Angelina Jolie? Because mass media have permeated every space of my life and made it so easy for me to ‘click through’. What’s more, as a result I actually have created an opinion on Brad Pitt’s parenting skills. It turns out that people are more influenced by mass media than they think.

The speed of media these days is one reason why we are so easily influenced. Advertisers and journalists realize that my time is precious as well, and so they must compete for a two-minute attention span that I have. This is, after all, the amount of time the average person spends on a single website. Through bullet points, flashy headings, and embedded videos, they have made their messages very compact and easily accessible. Similarly the world of newspapers has changed drastically in the past 10 years to accommodate for our need for speed. In the United States and Western Europe, many free newspapers such as Metro are handed out in public spaces. Supported by a very small editorial staff, the news in these newspapers is outsourced to the Associated Press or the BBC, who can sell small, watered-down articles for next to nothing. The expensive advertisements generate enough income for these newspapers to enjoy a greater circulation than traditional broadsheets. On the average readers spend no more than twenty minutes reading these newspapers, and most come away with a satisfied feeling that they are up-to-speed on current events. Not only are the articles shallow though. The opinion columns cannot afford the space to be nuanced or balanced, nor do we expect this from them. The result is that we have a simplistic understanding of the world around us. This is best illustrated in the way the media reported the announcement of vice-president nominee Sarah Palin. Within days of her nomination, most people were misinformed about her family situation, because it was complicated, intricate and required too many details for reporters to get right. The release of information was faster that the investigation of information, and because she was we unknown to so many Americans, a false story about her daughter’s multiple teen pregnancies was sold. It turned out that Sarah Palin herself had become mother to her fifth child five months before the nomination.

Sensation is another reason why we are so easily influenced by the mass media. The expression ‘if it bleeds it leads’ is not only applicable to Hollywood gossip and presidential candidates. The economic crises of September and October of 2008 did not always receive a healthy dose of sobriety in newspapers like the Daily Mail. In fact one could argue that the lack of balanced reporting caused the financial crisisIn June for example the Daily Mail published an article with the heading: ‘Unemployment could hit 8% within two years, according to research out today’. Their research was based on 120 interviews with ‘top executives’ from 120 companies in Great Britain. The ‘research’ was hardly scientific. Which companies did they talk to? Did the ‘top executives’ even have access to hard numbers and statistics about the future of their companies? Several months after this report, banks were receiving thousands of phone calls from customers who were wondering if their savings were safe. Several months later, newspapers were reporting on ‘bail out’ plans, a very emotionally laden word. Many investors were influenced by the media within this time period, sold stocks and caused the markets to drop off even more drastically. This is perfect example of how the media not only reflect reality but help shape it as well.

The final reason for media influence in our lives is loyalty. As strange as it may sound, viewers of a certain news channel feel a loyalty to it. When I see the blue screen and butterflies on MSN where my e-mail is, I feel at home. Think about the last time you watched your news on a different channel or picked up a different newspaper than usual. It is probably long ago. We have grown accustomed to a set of beliefs that is often voiced by a specific medium that we like. One Dutch newspaper’s slogan is: ‘the news you want.’ How would you feel if you were a journalist writing an article for this newspaper and were told by your boss to tell the audience what they wanted to hear? As sad as it may sound, this is the reality that many journalists face in the world of commercial media. A case that exemplified this most was Fox News in the months leading up to the war in Iraq in 2003. Before America could move its troops into Iraq, the media had to create a consensus among the public. In his documentary Outfoxed, Robert Greeenwald shows us how Fox News helped the White House do this by telling its loyal viewers what to think on a very specific matter: they created a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Most people now realize that there was never a connection between these two. At the time though, 65% of Fox viewers felt there was one, compared to a mere (though astonishingly high) 30% of viewers of other media. Fox News achieved this through Bill O’Reilly who both presented the news as an anchorman and gave his opinion two minutes later in the form of a talk show. This confused viewers. But they did not ask questions because they were loyal to the station, which in turn was loyal to the White House.

We may think that the influence of the media is harmless when it comes to clicking through to Angelina Jolie on MSN. But because we have grown so accustomed to digesting information quickly and indifferently, the dangers of the mass media have become even greater. In times where the speed and sensation of information have increased, we must be careful that we do not let ourselves become complacent or apathetic. Constantly we must be critical of the media we are seemingly loyal to and careful not to go along passively with the media’s influence.

All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.