Short, But Definitive Guide To Essay Writing


Short, But Definitive Guide To Essay Writing

I have nothing

Prepare yourself for your academic success and find out how to write essays like an expert! 
First and foremost, clarify the topic with your prof or come up with it on your own. It’s better to choose a specific theme than a general one so it would be easier to write your paper. Now here are a few steps for you to follow:

  1. Start with defining the type of paper you’d like to produce. Narrow down the focus of your paper and make sure that you understand specifically what needs to be done: general analysis or specific research.
  2. Create an outline. You have narrowed down the focus, right? Now you need to break it in parts and dedicate subtopics to each of them. Don’t make it too long. Consider the instructions of your prof and what he expects to see in your work. For example, a typical analytical essay consists of an introduction, several arguments (each argument takes 1 paragraph), and a conclusion.
  3. Develop a thesis statement. It’s the most important part of your work. Good thesis statement has to be laconic and contain a brief summary of the main idea of your paper. Important: place it at the end of the introduction part and refer to it in the conclusion, this way wrapping up your paper.
  4. Write the body. It’s the biggest part of your paper.
    • Divide it into clearly defined and logical paragraphs so each of them outlines a specific idea you’d like to share. E.g. for a 2-page essay, three subtopics would be more than enough. If the volume is bigger, consider adding subheadings and ensure smooth flow from one idea to another.
    • Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence and end with your conclusions. Don’t put in-text citations at the end of the paragraph as it may seem that you have no ideas of your own.
    • Don’t use the first person (e.g. ‘I think’, ‘to my mind’, etc.), unless your prof specifically asked for it.
  5. Write the introduction. Right, just now you are coming up with the very beginning of your essay. It should give a brief idea of what your essay is about. Think of what is the most exciting thing in your essay and use it to encourage the reader to read further.
  6. Give a conclusion. Here you summarize everything you've said before in the essay. The aim is to leave your reader with a sense of a solid takeaway.
  7. Format your essay.
    • Check if all instructions are met.
    • Look at the order of your paragraphs and check if your first and last arguments are the strongest. If you are describing a process than make sure you didn't skip or mixed up something.
    • Make sure your paper is structured in a logical way. You might need a second opinion on that.
    • Check for transition words as 'Hence,' 'Therefore' etc. to ensure the text reads smoothly.
    • Run your writing through a grammar checking tool to catch any errors you might have missed. Be attentive as online spell checkers are helpful but not perfect!

Great news! Your paper is well-organized and ready for submission.

I have a topic

An interesting topic is half the paper! Here's what to do next.

Whether or not you are well familiar with the subject, remember that you are not expected to know everything about it. So first thing is to check what's already have been written on your topic and define for yourself:

  • How many resources do you need? Create a list of literature.
  • Check with the library and schedule the day (or several) for restricted-loan books.
  • Plan your own research (depending on your topic it may be museum visits or talks with opinion leaders).

Your next steps are:

  1. Outline your ideas. Write out your best arguments along with several supporting facts.
  2. Prepare a thesis. As soon as you have a basic structure, you can come up with a thesis. Your thesis is going to have three parts. In the first part, you introduce the topic and explain its relevance. The second part goes about the main idea of your paper and in the third part you present some supporting sources. 
  3. Next, it's time for the body.
    • There will be as many paragraphs as you have subtopics or arguments, depending on your essay type. Consider the length of your essay. If you have a short 500-word essay, you won't be able to properly cover 5 ideas. Choose 2-3 that are the most interesting. Also, make sure your paragraphs have a logical connection.
    • Clearly state the idea of each paragraph and offer a summary.
    • Don't forget to support your statements with scientific surveys, statistics, data etc.
  4. Come up with an introduction. Now, as the biggest part of your essay is ready, it's easy for you to shortly present the main idea in an interesting way. Aim to convince the reader your essay is worth reading in these two or three paragraphs.
  5. Write a conclusion. Briefly run your reader through everything that has been said and clearly state the takeaways.
  6. Polish your essay.
    • Have you met all the instructions you've been given?
    • Is your essay clear of spelling and grammar mistakes?
    • Do all paragraphs fall into a logical order?

Congratulations! You are ready to turn your great paper in!

I have conducted a research

So you've worked through your reading list and delved deep into your topic. You have noted the important points as well as who was the author of the citation and where it's published. You'll thank yourself for this extra work as soon as you start making a reference list. Here's what you should do next:

  1. Make an outline. After all the research you probably already know how you're going to structure your paper but it never harms to register it on paper. Start with your thesis statement. Then, list your major supporting arguments. Below each point write proving points. Now, you have a skeleton for your essay and won't forget or mix up anything.
  2. Write your thesis statement in a more polished way. Make sure it's laconic yet says enough to give the reader an idea of what your essay will be about and what's your point.
  3. Write your first major argument supporting the thesis. Support it with evidence. Write your next argument. Use subheadings and lists to break your text into smaller parts that are easier to digest. 
    • Use the formula: one paragraph — one idea. Always start with a topic sentence and give a summary at the end of the paragraph.
  4. Prepare an introduction. It should briefly disclose the content of your essay and "sell" your writing to the reader. Consider opening your introduction with an interesting and relevant quote, then agree or disagree with it. You may also share something personal or tell a joke. Be creative, don't just write "This essay is telling about..."
  5. Come up with a conclusion. Leave your reader with something to think about or to do.
  6. Run through your essay and remove all the:
    • Spelling and grammar mistakes;
    • Logical inconsistencies;
    • Sentences that are difficult to read aloud. Consider breaking them into smaller sentences and using simpler vocabulary.
  7. Make a title page and a reference list (if required). Check if all the requirements are met.

You've made it! Turn your essay in and wait for the good result.

I have developed a thesis

You have made your reseach and shaped your opinion on the subject. Now you have to provide strong evidence to support your point and convince the reader to share your position. Here are your steps to do it right:

  1. Craft an outline. You need some basic structure before your eyes before your start writing your essay body, so that you won't miss anything and ensure your arguments come in a logical order. Choose your most powerful arguments (or those that have the most supporting statistics, data, authoritative opinion etc.) and write down 2-3 pieces of evidence for each of them.
  2. Start writing your essay body:
    • Write the first argument supporting the thesis. Introduce the idea you are going to disclose in the current paragraph. Then, offer quotes of a famous person, survey outcomes, or other authoritative information. Finish with a summarizing sentence and move on to the next paragraph.
    • Try to keep your paragraphs of about the same length. Use lists and subheadings to make your text easier to read.
  3. Work on the introduction. Here, you should try to motivate your reader to keep reading your essay. Think of what's the most exciting in your essay and use it for the hook.
  4. Come up with a conclusion. Leave your reader with clear takeaways — something they could do in order to help the issue described in your essay.
  5. Check your essay for spelling and grammar mistakes. Read it aloud to see if there are no sentences that are too long or too complicated to read. Go through your instructions to make sure you met all of them.

Well done! You are ready to submit your paper!

I have created an outline

You have outlined your essay idea and developed an understanding of what you are going to tell about in your paper. However, the long list of literature makes the task look impossible? Don't fret. With these steps, you'll get your essay done:

  1. Remember that you don't have to read every thing that was ever written on the topic. You are only expected to show an understanding of it and be able to shape your own opinion on that.
    • Review your list of literature. Underline the evidence for your major point. Choose your most powerful theses and find three supporting pieces of data for each. And finally, find 2-4 works featuring what's already been done regarding the problem you are featuring in your essay. Now you may cut everything what's left in your list thus making it shorter.
    • When reading, don't read the written piece from cover to cover. You only need the part that is related to your topic. Remember to note down where that part is and who is the author, for the reference list.
    • Shedule a day or two to spend in the library for those books you can't loan. 
    • If you plan to make your own research, also schedule it with the people involved.
  2. Now you are ready to write a thesis for your essay. Try to briefly formulate what your essay is about and why it is important for the reader. Refer to authoritative data but do not place it in the very end, this place is for your own implications.
  3. Get down to writing the body part. You already have your major points outlined and know the sequence. Follow it.
    • Remember: one paragraph is for one statement. Introduce the idea, explain how you came up with it, offer logical arguments and support with scientific data from your literature list.
    • Aim to sound formal, use passive voice if other was not required by your instructor.
  4. At this point you are ready write an introduction. Shortly outline what you have already said in your body paragraph but leave out most of the information. Your task here is to capture the reader's interest.
  5. Come up with the conclusion. Summarize everything that was said in the essay body and state the idea once more to anchor it in the reader's memory.
  6. Check your essay for any spelling and grammar mistakes, typos, logical inconsistencies and such.
    • Consider asking someone to read your essay aloud. This way you can easily spot any weak places.

You are good to submit your essay! Good luck!

I have a draft

You've done all the research, brainstormed dozens of ideas and carefully chosen the best, thought the structure through, and made a successful attempt to create an outline (and maybe not one?). More than that, you wrote an essay and now wondering: is this it? Is there anything else I should do for my essay to be ready for submission?

Actually, for some classes you are good to call it a day and turn your first draft in. For others you are not. So, here's what you do next:

  1. Make sure you met the instructions toward the content of your essay. Did you say anything you had on the topic? Are your statements logically structured and supported by scientific facts?
  2. Does the vocabulary match your course level? Perhaps some terms that you used have a more scientific analog?
  3. Format your essay.
    1. Check with your assigned essay format instructions.
    2. If you were not assigned a format, ask your instructor for requirements.
    3. MLA is the most common format for essays.
  4. Create a title page.
    1. Following your format instructions, type your title, name, and institution. Sometimes you might have to feature your course, instructor's name and due date.
  5. Make sure the first line of each paragraph is indented (unless other is instructed).
  6. Check your hook in the introduction. Does it evoke interest and encourage to read further?
  7. Create citations. Check with your instructions to know whether you should use footnotes or parenthecal citations. If you work in Microsoft Word, it makes footnotes automatically: check the Insert section.
  8. List your sources. Depending on your format, you may have to sort in alphabetic order by title (for the same author), or by year.

Now your draft has turned into a ready-to-submit essay!

I have written an essay

You've done a great job. You have conducted research, made it through a lengthy literature list and created a nice line of reasoning to support your point on the given topic. You are ready to submit your essay! However, there is just one step that many students tend to miss out and that harms their grades substantially. It’s proofreading. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a break. After several hours (or days?) of working on your essay, your brain has tired and you do not notice a lot of details.
  2. Check your content.
    1. Read from the end to start. This way you will prevent your brain from tricking you into seeing what you want, not what’s actually there.
    2. Think: did you respond properly to the topic? Is there anything that can be interpreted in several ways?
    3. Check your essay structure. Do all paragraphs have a logical connection?
    4. Check your vocabulary. Did you use terms that have a more “professional” analog? Do you sound repetitive?
  3. Ask someone to read your paper and comment on it. You will learn how a person with a different background sees the issue and can use their feedback to improve your essay.
  4. Delve into the details. Check your grammar and punctuation. Here, you may use online checkers but do not fully rely on them.
  5. Check your formatting. Did you feature all the necessary information on the title page?

Now you are ready to turn your paper in and relax. You’ve done everything you could, no reason to worry about things you cannot change!

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