Longer essays may also contain an introductory page that defines words and phrases of the essay's topic. Most academic institutions require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other porting material in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention helps others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of facts and quotations the author uses to support the essay's argument and helps readers evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student's ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and is designed to test their intellectual capabilities.
Guillaume Du Vair was a French statesman, onetime clerk councillor to the Paris parliament, and later Bishop of Lisieux. Du Vair was an admirer of Lipsius and produced his own treatise De la Constance ('On Constancy') in 1594. While Lipsius had been inspired by Seneca, Du Vair drew his inspiration from Epictetus. He translated the latter’s Enchiridion (‘Handbook’) into French ( c. 1586) and characterized his own treatise, the Philosophie morale de Stoïques (‘Moral Philosophy of the Stoics’), as merely a reconstructed version of the Enchiridion , rewritten and reorganized in order to make its doctrines more accessible to the public.
What sets essaying apart from asserting is failing. Diversion, digression, ambiguity, uncertainty — these are essential, not inimical, to the form. But an essayist who aims for uncertainty is unsatisfying. In good essays, we witness writers grappling genuinely with unanswerable questions, trying to answer and failing, coming by their uncertainty in an honest manner. It is appropriate that the story of the first self-conscious essayist and his times should also be the story of an honest failure: “In the early 1580s, politics looked very much like the form of the essay. Everything was in movement and contested.”