How to Write an Essay
An essay is a common writing assignment for high school levels and above. It expounds on a particular topic to serve a particular purpose. Some reasons for writing essays are to analyze, to critique, to persuade, or to inform. Generally, the length of an essay depends on the level you are writing for and the teacher's instructions. Most essays have three parts, the introduction, body, and conclusion. The organization of ideas in these parts depends on the type of essay or personal choice.
Steps to Writing an Essay
If you are wondering how to write a good essay, the steps below will be invaluable to you.
Understand Essay Assignment
This is the first step to take. Without an understanding of the task, you stand to make some grave mistakes like writing the wrong type of essay or missing the essay's point altogether. For example, you could end up analyzing all the characters in a book instead of just one or end up explaining the ideas in a movie instead of critiquing the techniques used.
Choose Essay Type
The instructions may state the type of essay needed, or you may have to read between the lines. The different kinds of essays fulfill different purposes. Here are some types of essays you could write:
- Expository essay – This type aims to investigate a particular topic in a logical, straightforward way using evidence.
- Analytical essay – The goal is to analyze the arguments for a specific creation like a book or a film to understand why the creator created them in that way, and if the techniques they used were effective.
- Critical essay – Here, the author will analyze and evaluate a text citing the ideas in it and the evidence supporting these ideas.
- Narrative essay – This essay highlights an author's experiences on a particular topic. It is written in story form.
- Argumentative essay – This type of paper requires the writer to take a stand on a topic then offer evidence supporting their perspective.
There are many more types of essays you can write.
As was mentioned, most essays have a similar format with an intro, a body, and a conclusion. However, each essay has different things in each section, depending on the type. The introduction contains any necessary background information, a thesis, and a hook for most of them. The conclusion sums up the essay's ideas, reiterates the thesis, and explains how the arguments in the body tie to the claim. Some essays will conclude by relating the concepts to real-life situations, others by suggesting areas for further reading, and others by stating the author's opinion.
The body of the essays is the largest part of any essay. The ideas can be presented in different orders, which will be discussed later in this guide. Depending on the essay, the body can contain parts of a story or discuss different arguments, counterarguments, and ideas. Highschool essays typically have a 5 paragraph format with three body paragraphs and one paragraph for the introduction and conclusion. Longer essays may need to divide the different ideas with subheadings as the body may be several pages long.
Brainstorming means consolidating all the information that you already have and organizing it. This will guide the rest of the steps as you will figure out what you do know and what you need to research. You can start the brainstorming process by doing a brain dump of the information that you already have. Next, organize this information into groups and how they flow. One of the best ways to do this is to use a mind map. Finally, look for themes and related ideas and formulate questions about any information you don't have.
Using your mind map, you can easily see what ideas go together and are related to each other and what ideas build on one another. Identify a pattern in these ideas and decide which related ideas you would like to write about. These ideas will clue you in on what your topic will be. With a topic in mind, you will be better placed to know what you don't know. Craft them in the form of questions and add them to the questions you got while brainstorming.
The questions you come up with during your brainstorming session and when choosing a topic are the basis of your research. For example, if you are analyzing a book, part of your research will be to read the book and note the essential ideas and answers. Look for other sources in your library or online that may answer your questions so that you answer all the questions you have.
Be sure to use credible online sources with up-to-date information. You will find some resources like Google Scholar and JSTOR to be very helpful. Whatever resources you use, note down useful information like the author, publication date, and weblink for referencing purposes and so you can find them quickly the next time.
Come Up with a Thesis Statement
The thesis is the claim you are making in the essay. This is what you will be supporting in your writing. For example, if it is a rhetorical analysis essay, your thesis could be that the author was effective or ineffective in persuading the readers to their point of view. The body will then contain information that supports this thesis. Without a thesis, your essay becomes a jumble of ideas with no purpose. When learning how to write an essay, you need to understand that a thesis is a critical part of the essay.
The outline is to your essay what a blueprint is to a house. You may be able to construct the house without it, but you are better off having one. There are two types of writers, generally, pantsers and planners. A planner does what the name implies; they plan out their work before writing. A pantser, on the other hand, flies off the seat of their pants. While a pantser may thrive in creative writing, in other organized types of writing like an essay, their results are hit or miss.
As a planner, you have the added advantage of seeing your ideas before you write them. It means you will be able to judge their effectiveness before you start writing. You will know which ideas have enough supporting evidence. More importantly, you will be able to organize your thoughts so that they flow, and you are sure that they fit in with the topic and thesis.
As a pantser, you could potentially waste your time in the editing process because that is when you realize which ideas don't work, aren't flowing, or don't have sufficient evidence.
Your outline shouldn't have a lot of information. Summarize each section's ideas and paragraphs using a few words or phrases that you will use as prompts to write an essay later.
Draft/Write an Essay
Your draft is the first version of your essay. Your first draft will allow you to see if your ideas are flowing together and if you have enough supporting evidence. Don't aim for perfection at this stage. Just get it done. One thing many writers struggle with is wanting perfect work. They want something 'great' when that comes from editing and correcting an initial draft. When writing, don't bother so much with grammatical errors and spellings. Focus on getting your ideas on paper. Editing will come later.
Check Your Essay
How do you write a really good essay? You do so by editing your work until an imperfect draft becomes a perfect completed piece. Check and edit any grammatical and spelling errors. Try to read the essay out loud. Your ears will most likely pick up on mistakes you can't see. To get the best results out of the editing process, leave your work for a few hours or days after writing an essay. This time apart from the work will help give you a clearer perspective.
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How to Write a Good Essay Introduction
The introduction of your essay is how you draw your reader into your work. Most essay introductions will have a hook, a thesis, and a transition. It may also contain some background information as well as a vague overview of the ideas in the body.
This is how you catch your reader's attention. There are many ways to grab their attention. They include:
- Asking an intriguing question;
- Giving a fun fact or statistic;
- Starting with a related quote;
- Setting the scene.
Research more ways you can grab the reader's attention. This is how you will get them curious about the piece encouraging them to read it.
By now, you know what a thesis is and why it is crucial. It would be best if you drafted a thesis that is arguable. It shouldn't be an indisputable fact. Also, your essay shouldn't be something that has already been proven wrong. Check out the thesis format of the type of essay you are writing. For example, while an argumentative essay can claim that something is good or bad, a rhetorical analysis essay talks about how effective or ineffective the author's techniques are.
- How much or how little background information you give in the essay depends on how knowledgeable your audience is on the subject.
- If you decide to give an overview of your ideas, give scant information as most of it will go to the body.
- You may introduce hard vocabulary in the intro or save it for where it applies to the arguments.
- Your intro should be brief. It should make up 10-15% of your essay.
How to Write an Essay Body
The essay body is like the patty to a hamburger. The contents of the body depend on the essay. In a narrative essay, it contains the main parts of the story. In a persuasive essay, it has your arguments.
There are several ways you can organize your ideas in the body. The main thing to note is that whichever ideas you chose to include, each paragraph should present its own unique idea. Here are some types of order:
- Chronological order – Ideas are organized in order of how they happened. This is suitable for narratives or ideas that build on each other.
- Anticlimactic order – Ideas are arranged in order of weight from the least important to the most.
- Climactic order – Ideas are ranked from most important to least.
- Logical order – Ideas are organized using logic.
Some essays are organized according to techniques. For example, a rhetorical analysis essay's body uses ethos, pathos, and logos.
You have to transition your ideas from one paragraph to the next. Transition words vary depending on the type of essay. Here is a list illustrating different essays and the transition words you can use in each:
Narrative essay: next, first, then. finally
Argumentative essay: however, additionally, equally important, moreover
Compare and Contrast essay: on the other hand, nevertheless, on the one hand, but, on the contrary
Expository essay: additionally, indeed, furthermore, in addition, moreover
Essay Writing Tips
- When arguing for a particular thesis, you can introduce a counterargument. However, it has to be weak, and you should be able to argue against it.
- Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that ties to the thesis.
- If the essay is long, you can divide the arguments using subheadings.
- The body should be the largest part of your essay, constituting more than 70% of the total work.
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How to Write a Proper Essay Conclusion
Your conclusion should tie up the ideas in the essay. Like the introduction, it should be brief. You can restate the thesis but use different words. Explain how the ideas in the body contribute to the thesis.
There are several reasons every essay needs a conclusion. Some of them are:
- It helps the readers draw the connections between the ideas in the body.
- The conclusion can emphasize important points in the body.
- The conclusion can elaborate on why the thesis or topic is necessary or relevant.
- The conclusion can direct the readers to where they can read further.
- Do not introduce any new ideas in the conclusion. You are summarizing what you have already written.
- Avoid using stock conclusion phrases like 'in conclusion' and 'to sum up.'
- Make the conclusion brief. You already explained the main ideas extensively in the body.
One of the best ways to learn may be to go through as many examples as possible. You can look at some examples of argumentative, analytical, or persuasive essays to get a feel of how to write a perfect essay.
To Sum Up
You will write many essays during the duration of your academic life. This guide has given you the steps to follow so that you are producing the best essays every time. If you want to practice your essay writing skills, you can write practice essays to polish your skills. Find topics that interest you and give them a go. You will not only get some much-needed practice; you will learn more about the subject in the process.
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