In this lesson I show you two different approaches to a “To what extent do you agree” essay about digital technology and public libraries. In one essay I take a strongly positive view in favour of maintaining libraries and in the other I take a more balanced view saying that digital technology has overtaken libraries in most areas bit libraries are still relevant. You’ll find help with
ways to structure the essay
noticing useful collocations and phrases
ideas for similar essays
ideas to help your coherence and cohesion
Task response and understanding the question
Maintaining public libraries is a waste of time since digital technology is now replacing their function. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
To get the task response right you need to
discuss both public libraries and digital technology
state a clear position saying to what extent you agree – the basic options being a lot/not at all/slightly
Complete disagreement essay
It is certainly true new forms of technology has affected the way we read and libraries are no longer as relevant as they once were. Despite this, I strongly believe that it is of paramount importance that local and central governments should continue to support public libraries. In this essay I discuss why they are still a necessary institution in the digital age as there are limits to the new digital technology and libraries are important community centres.
One reason for arguing that libraries are still necessary is that they are vital parts of local communities especially for the older generation. This is because public libraries do not just lend books but also typically serve as community centres which provide a range of different services including hosting talks and lectures, providing information about the local area, access to computers and careers advice. Additionally, many older people rely on libraries as somewhere to go in order to enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet in relaxing surroundings and they would suffer greatly if they were abolished.
A second argument for maintaining public libraries is that they provide free access to books for everyone. This is a significant point as a large section of society are unable to pay for books online or do not have access to computers or smart phones or are simply uncomfortable using digital technology and would never read online. Indeed, research shows that only a relatively small percentage of the population use devices such as a Kindle to read and this means that books have not become obsolete. As this is the case, it is surely the duty of the authorities to provide access to books to those who want it.
In conclusion I believe it would be entirely wrong for public libraries to disappear as reading through digital technology is not universally accepted and libraries offer far more than mere lending services.
More balanced essay – partial agreement
Digital technology has without question changed the way we read and access books and this threatens the role of the public library. My view is that while there is a good argument for saying libraries are much less relevant nowadays, they still perform a vital function and should be be maintained.
The advance of online reading technologies and services is one compelling argument in favour of limiting any funding public libraries . It is now possible to not just buy almost any book you want online through stores such as Amazon, you are also able to borrow books for a small subscription fee from various sites. Indeed, these online services are generally much more comprehensive and reliable than any provided by a local library where you can often have to wait weeks for the book you want. In these circumstances, it is quite possible to argue that public libraries are out of date and have been largely overtaken by technology.
Despite this, public libraries do still have some role to play and it would be a mistake to abolish them entirely. One such role is lending books to children and encouraging children to acquire the reading habit books by having schemes that reward them for borrowing books on a regular basis. Many parents who are anxious about the amount of screen time their children have would much prefer to visit a library where they can more closely monitor the books their children are taking out. Another important role public libraries perform is stocking a wide range of reference books and more specialised books that are typically not available via online services. While these services may be limited, they still matter and show that libraries still perform an important function.
My conclusion is a mixed one. On the one hand, I believe it is true that nearly all the function of libraries have been replaced by digital technology, but in some areas, namely children’s books and reference books, public libraries do have a role to play.
Notes on essay structure and task response
There a variety of possible approaches to To what extent do you agree type essays – some of which I discuss in this lesson. Whichever approach you take you should make sure that your point of view is both clear and consistent throughout the essay.
If you look at the words highlighted in red you should see that in both essays I:
establish my view in the introduction
start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence relating to my position
summarise my position in the conclusion.
In this type of essay I really recommend that you clearly state your position. It can help to use words such as I do e.g. “strongly believe” and “my view is a mixed one”
The two introductions are different but both work.
The first takes a three sentence approach saying In this essay I discuss why.. The benefit of this is that it allows me to signal more clearly the content that follows. I show the examiner that I’ll be writing about limits to digital technology and libraries as community centres.
The second takes a quicker 2 sentence approach where I establish the topic and then set out my main view.
Choosing your essay structure – content paragraphs
Which is the best structure? The best way to choose your structure is to think about what your opinion is. This is where you need to think carefully as you plan. You should consider if your ideas require
a balanced approach
a strong approach
Then you just need to decide on what to do with your main paragraphs. Remember each paragraph should contain one main idea that clearly relates to the question and you should write both about libraries and digital technology.
Essay 1 follows this model
para 1 libraries are good as community centres – Disagree
para 2 libraries are free and universal and digital technology is not – Disagree
Essay 2 uses this model
para 1 nearly all services of libraries are provided by digital technology and libraries are out of date – Agree
para 2 libraries provide some services better than digital technology – children’s and reference books – Disagree
Vocabulary and ideas
I use a great range of vocabulary in these two essays. If you think it looks too simple, think again.
Here are some of the word combinations (collocations) I use – highlighted in blue. This is exactly the sort of language you need in IELTS – precise and accurate – it really isn’t about long words.
serve as community centres
hosting talks and lectures
a few moments of peace and quiet
a significant point
a relatively small percentage
devices such as a Kindle
provide access to
has without question
performa a vital function
compelling argument in favour of
more comprehensive and reliable
In these circumstances
have some role to play
on a regular basis
amount of screen time
stock a wide range of books
More ideas are available! Some of these might help you with this or similar essay topics:
books are heavy – difficult to carry – pages get torn
cost of libraries
in favour of e-readers
e-readers are light
can contain lots of books
ergonomic with special lighting
long battery life
special highlighting/note taking function
you can share books – more social
better for learning reading skills
find people who help you in libraries
can distract you if have games on a pad/tablet
Coherence and cohesion
One important part of coherence is to show the examiner where you are in your argument. Here the first sentences in your paragraph are really important. Look at what I do in my first essay:
One reason for arguing that libraries are still necessary
A second argument for maintaining public libraries
You should see how I balance my paragraphs – one clearly relates to the next. It’s easy for the examiner to see how it all fits together. Note too how I don’t repeat reason but vary it with argument. Also see how I vary still necessary with maintaining. The meaning stays the same but the words change – this is an important part of cohesion – it’s really not all about linking words.
In essay 2 I take a slightly different approach but it works just as well.
The advance of online reading technologies and services is one compelling argument in favour of limiting any funding public libraries .
Here I explicitly refer to my first paragraph in the second one and show that I am going to be saying something different.
Here are a few grammar structures for you to notice.
This is a useful linker to show that what comes next is a contrasting idea.
Despite this, I strongly believe that it is of paramount importance that local and central governments should continue to support public libraries.
Which for a more complex sentence that defines
Which is a very useful structure as it allows you to add information or define something – both very useful when you are explaining ideas. See what I do here:
This is because public libraries do not just lend books but also typically serve as community centres which provide a range of different services including hosting talks and lectures, providing information about the local area, access to computers and careers advice.
I could have written this as two sentences but I joined them up with a which.
If for an example
This is one of my favourite techniques – using if for an example
they would suffer greatly if they were abolished.
The emphatic do
This is a simple but very effective structure. You just add the auxiliary – here do – to make your point stronger
Despite this, public libraries do still have
More sample essay lessons
if you’ve found this lesson useful. you’ll find loads more sample essays here: