How to Write an Essay in 8 Steps
With so many changes in the world in general and education in particular, some things remain as solid as ever. It seems like even the global pandemic can’t halt certain processes. Students still need to attend classes, even if this means wearing their PJs sitting in front of a screen. Also, no one canceled the need to hand in dozens of written assignments!
If you are a learner who can’t say that essay writing is your cup of tea, this article might be the missing piece for you. Read on to find out how to write an essay without unnecessary stress and wasting too much time or effort.
First things first – start with the basics. If you still don’t know the answer to the crucial question “what is an essay” – well, now is the high time to find out. Let us save you the trouble by providing a clear definition. An essay is an extended text that presents and defends a certain standpoint.
Having it figured out, let’s proceed to the actual steps of writing an essay that every learner should know. You may consider the list of actions below as some sort of the table of contents of this article:
- Decide on the type of essay you are to compose;
- Get down to brainstorming your topic;
- Do your research of the subject;
- Stick to a certain writing style;
- Come up with a solid thesis;
- Make an outline for a future essay;
- Work on the text itself;
- Edit your writing in order to not miss any errors.
- Now, let’s concentrate on each step for you to get the hang of essay writing!
How to Choose the Type of Your Essay
If you genuinely want to know how to write a good essay, choosing the type of writing might be the very first thing to do. Simultaneously, it’s the critical step as it will define the whole direction of your writing process. Thus, you really can’t afford to make a mistake here – provided that the grade is something you care about, of course.
At the same time, you can’t neglect this particular step and dive into some kind of free writing. This approach might have worked for James Joyce and his most renowned piece. Yet, ordinarily, failing to choose a specific essay type will not make your tutor happy.
The main tip here is simple – read the requirements to the dot. In most cases, professors lay out all the details and their expectations of the syllabus’s writing task.
Types to choose
It seems like knowing the types is one of those essay writing tips freshers need. Below you’ll find the list of the most common types of essays you might be assigned to write on your way to a graduation party.
- Narrative essay. This type of writing is there to make you an author narrating a story. Consider this essay as a novel in five pages. A great narrative essay is always an engaging reading with some idea hidden “between the lines.”
- Descriptive essay. This one is probably the most common assignment, especially among freshers and sophomores. Basically, the task is to describe an object, an event, or a person understandably and engagingly.
- Expository essay. The goal of the author of such a piece is to have a reader understand the subject. Facts are used for this. There hardly is a place for personal opinion in it.
- Persuasive essay. As the name suggests, the aim is to persuade the audience that a chosen standpoint is the right one. To this end, any tactics will do.
In case you wonder what type of essay is the hardest or the easiest one, there’s no universal answer. This is rather individual as to some students persuasion comes easy while narration does not. Yet, if you still need our opinion, a descriptive essay might be a bit easier than other tasks, while expository writing will definitely need more extensive research.
Decide on What to Write About
Now that you know the definition of essay assignment and what types exist, let’s proceed to the next step. One way or another, you’ll need to decide on what to write about in your work.
The best-case scenario is having an already formulated topic at hand. But what if there is none? What if you are at a loss and keep asking yourself – “what should I write about?”
No worries, we’ve got you covered. You may follow plenty of working tips to get a better idea of how to come up with a great essay writing topic and an impeccable essay. Let’s discuss a few such tips:
1.List your suggestions.
Whatever the subject is, there surely is at least one aspect that will sound inspiring to you. Indeed, it’s not that hard to find something exciting, even in something as boring to many as History is. Let’s take this subject as an example.
For instance, you’ve got an expository essay assignment, and the historical period the class covers is French Revolution. To devise a topic, list down the things to write an essay about – anything that speaks to you. It may be something like “The Left, the Right, and French Parliament.” There you’ll write about the political spectrum and how it relates to the seats in the parliament in revolutionary France. Or you can go the extra mile and focus on something completely different, such as “Fashion trends in women’s clothes in 18th century France.“
2. Use the mind mapping technique.
This is indeed a great way to develop any little suggestion into a worthy essay topic. All you’ll need is a pen and a sheet of blank paper – or an app if you want to go the digital way. Put some broad idea, notion, or concept at the center and let your mind flow. Your only task will be to note down the unexpected connections and related suggestions as branches coming from the center. At one point, you’ll get to your dream topic.
3. Try to strike a golden balance – not too broad.
You don’t want to try (and fail) to attend to the broad topic worth a dissertation in your essay. At the same time, hardly anyone would appreciate the subject so narrow that three sentences would pretty much cover it all.
This last point also needs some examples. Let’s recall the good old French Revolution. Writing an essay on all the existing reasons for the insurgency of 1789 will be exhausting. Yet, narrowing the topic down to “Feudalism in 18th century France: Did It Fuel the Revolution?” might be the right direction.
Do Your Research
You might be wondering – what is essay research, exactly? Anyone curious about how to write a paper of high quality should be interested in this important step.
Research skills are vital today – and this does not only concern your time at college or uni. Knowing how to find credible resources and use them to your advantage is key to success in pretty much any field. So, let’s delve into details, starting with the types of resources you may get across. The main ones are only two – primary and secondary sources.
Here’s what falls into the primary category:
- eyewitnesses’ firsthand accounts of certain events;
- original works (both literary and artistic);
- official records;
- raw data.
Secondary sources are:
- scholarly articles and books;
- newspaper or magazine articles;
- analysis, discussion, or evaluation of the primary source.
Don’t let yourself get scared by the abundance and complexity of resources for any paper. After a few writing assignments, you’ll become better at doing your research. At first, focus on distinguishing where exactly you plan to get data from. Unless your paper due is an account of some art or literary work, most likely, you’ll be dealing with scholarly sources.
Choose some credible libraries and platforms. Consider this as one of the major writing steps. Better go with Google Scholar, ResearchGate, or Academia.edu. Yet, if you can’t help checking good old Wikipedia pages – do so. Though you can’t cite articles from there, you still can check all the notes and references.
Stick to a Certain Writing Style
As if coming up with original texts each time was not enough, there are also formats to be followed when it comes to essay writing. The world of academics never stops surprising students, and new editions of the main writing styles are published every few years.
The ability to follow a proper essay format is crucial for a good academic writer. Therefore, you’ll need to get the hang of all the main writing styles during the course of getting your degree. Though it might not sound exciting at first, the task itself is more than doable.
So, if you wonder what is essay format and how it relates to writing styles, we can’t do without introducing some “heroes.”
Let’s discuss the following styles
- MLA – stands for Modern Language Association. The current edition is the 8th one. Here’s a pro tip for you – if you spot in the paper or are required to provide a “Works Cited” page – that’s MLA, for sure.
- APA – stands for American Psychological Association. This writing style is most common for papers in different fields of social sciences. The up-to-date version is the 7th one.
- CMOS, Chicago Manual of Style. The current version of this style is 17th, which tells us a lot. There are two systems regarding Chicago. The papers are formatted either following notes-bibliography or author-date variety.
You’ll most likely see more writing styles during your 4 to 6 years on campus, such as MHRA, OSCOLA, or Harvard. However, knowing the main three will prove incredibly handy!
Come Up With a Solid Thesis Statement
“Thesis statement” is one of those word combinations that students of any major get to know pretty soon into the very first semester. Ordinarily, a solid thesis is loosely a half of a good paper. Thus, if you want to know how to write a perfect essay, you can’t do without a strong thesis part.
Here’s an excerpt from a dictionary for you. A thesis is usually one sentence long statement that presents the main point of a paper. Actually, this part is the core of the whole essay that is usually put in the first part. It is supported and developed throughout the rest of the text.
This might sound a bit vague. Therefore, instead of adding more generic essays tips to the pile, let’s choose another approach. Many students prefer learning by examples, and one or two samples of good thesis statements can’t hurt anyone.
- Topic: Populism and Covid-19
Thesis statement: The global pandemic of Covid-19 disease and its aftermath are bound to unearth the ineffectiveness of populists in positions of power worldwide.
- Topic: Diversity and Workplace.
Thesis statement: Having a diverse group of people as colleagues will enrich every individual’s experience while sprucing up the approach toward work in the team as a whole.
Hopefully, now you have a better idea of how to write a solid thesis for your essay!
Make an Outline for a Future Essay
Knowing how to structure an essay well can benefit any student, regardless of one’s major. Those with vast experience in academic writing will tell you one thing – always make an outline. To prove to you that neglecting this stage is no go, we’ve come up with some dos and don’ts.
Below you will find five pro tips on how to write a good English paper outline:
- Start early. Really, sparing some 20 minutes (or even less) on planning your future paper is easy. Yet, the fruits of such a deed will surprise you.
- Do research. In order to have a clear structure, you’ll need to know at least some basics of the topic at hand. Thus, it better spare at least some time to browsing what’s what beforehand.
- List all the ideas. Then think about what you’d like to have in the intro – you will restate it in conclusion. Choose the best and the most important ideas for the main paragraphs.
- Think about a thesis statement. Of course, you are not expected to formulate it beautifully when working on the outline. Yet, premeditating it will do more good for a future paper.
- Finally, let your imagination work. Some suggestions appear on paper or a screen – depending on the way you decide to work on an outline – might surprise you!
And while there are some do’s of making an outline, there are some don’ts too. DO NOT:
- Neglect the initial requirements.
- Leave it till the last minute.
- Go into too many details.
Now that you know what’s gonna be in the paper, it’s time to move to the next step!
Work on the Text Itself (Writing TIps)
If you wonder how some students, and especially A-getters seem to always know how to write better essays than their peers, the answer may surprise you with its simplicity. Ever heard the saying “practice makes perfect?” This applies to pretty much every sphere of human life, and college experience with lots of paper writing is no exception.
The pro essay tip you can get sounds as follows – just write! The more experience you have with this craft, the better the outcomes will be. And while working on any given academic text, there are some
Important things to keep in mind
- Your intro and concluding parts must be engaging. They say that experienced professors can judge the quality of the paper they grade just by looking at two-three first sentences. And you should also strive to have a solid conclusion with no new info but restated thesis.
- There is no better way to engage any reader than having a hook in your introduction. Be bold – formulate a question that may seem a double-edged sword, or add critics where necessary. Another working approach is to formulate a problem only to try to offer a solution in the main part.
- Many learners wonder – what can a killer conclusion be? After all, you’ve already said everything you wanted in the body paragraphs, right? Yes and no. Your conclusion must be an eloquent summary of the main thoughts. It should stress a thesis statement and be some sort of a closed gestalt for anyone who gets to that part.
- Here’s a pro tip, and if followed properly, it may bring you a higher grade. Many learners are so focused on the concepts described that they completely forget about the need for a smooth transition and logical flow between paragraphs. This is where transition words are immensely important. Never hesitate to add “however,” “moreover,” “in contrast,” “therefore,” or “thus” here and there. Just try not to overuse them in your texts.
- Lastly, check the length of sentences in your essay. Too short ones might not sound academic-like, while too long parts might make the text unreadable. Try not to go over ten to twelve words per sentence. And make sure there are no unnecessary filler words!
Edit Your Writing
Thorough editing and careful proofreading are crucial steps to writing an essay of high quality. Surely, after spending some tough hours over the text, you won’t be pleased if some naughty grammar error will appear in the final version, will you?
This is why specialists recommend leaving out some time for editing and proofreading. If you want to know how to write good, you should also care to get the hang of the basics of editing. This is not just about spotting every occasional mistake. This is a time when you concentrate on making a good paper a perfect one.
After you are done with meeting the word count, give your mind and your eyes some rest. Have some sleep and start editing the work the next day, if time permits. Here’s what you want to check:
You might need to read the text a decent amount of times to spot every weakness, but it will prove worth it!
Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll have a better idea of how to write an essay for college. Our main aim was to equip you with the basics of preparing academic texts of great quality.
If you follow each step carefully, stay informed of the topic at hand, and get inspired enough – a good mark is a guarantee. Yet, the main part is not just the grade. The best-case scenario is you enjoying the very process of preparing a paper.
And if you need more tips to write a good essay check out our other blog articles. You will definitely find something to your liking!