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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples
An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.
There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.
The essay writing process consists of three main stages:
- Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
- Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
- Revision: Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.
Table of contents
Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.
The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .
For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.
Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:
- Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
- Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
- Do your research: Read primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
- Come up with a thesis: The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
- Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.
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The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.
1. Hook your reader
The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.
Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:
The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.
2. Provide background on your topic
Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.
3. Present the thesis statement
Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:
As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.
4. Map the structure
In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.
The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.
Write your essay introduction
The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.
Length of the body text
The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.
To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.
That idea is introduced in a topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.
After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.
Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.
See the full essay example
The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :
- Returns to your thesis
- Ties together your main points
- Shows why your argument matters
A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.
What not to include in a conclusion
To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:
- Including new arguments or evidence
- Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
- Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
Write your essay conclusion
My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).
My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.
My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.
I use paragraphs to structure the essay.
I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.
Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.
I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.
My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.
I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.
I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.
I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.
My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .
My essay has an interesting and informative title.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).
Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.
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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.
In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.
Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.
The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
- An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.
At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).
Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.
The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .
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Write Your Essay
Write a first draft.
Your first draft will help you work out:
- the structure and framework of your essay
- how you will answer the question
- which evidence and examples you will use
- how your argument will be logically structured.
Your first draft will not be your final essay; think of it as raw material you will refine through editing and redrafting . Once you have a draft, you can work on writing well.
Structure your essay in the most effective way to communicate your ideas and answer the question.
All essays should include the following structure.
A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay should contain:
- a topic sentence that states the main or controlling idea
- supporting sentences to explain and develop the point you’re making
- evidence from your reading or an example from the subject area that supports your point
- analysis of the implication/significance/impact of the evidence finished off with a critical conclusion you have drawn from the evidence
- a concluding sentence that restates your point, analyses the evidence, or acts as a transition to the next paragraph.
Tips for effective writing
- Start writing early —the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
- Keep the essay question in mind. Don’t lose track of the question or task. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft, edit and work out your argument.
- Don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end, especially not in a single sitting. Begin with what you are ready to write—a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. Start with the body and work paragraph by paragraph.
- Write the introduction and conclusion after the body. Once you know what your essay is about, then write the introduction and conclusion.
- Use 'signpost' words in your writing. Transition signals can help the reader follow the order and flow of your ideas.
- Integrate your evidence carefully. Introduce quotations and paraphrases with introductory phrases.
- Revise your first draft extensively. Make sure the entire essay flows and that the paragraphs are in a logical order.
- Put the essay aside for a few days. This allows you to consider your essay and edit it with a fresh eye.
See next: Referencing your essay
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Essay and assignment writing guide
- Getting started
- Research the topic
- Organise your ideas
- Write your essay
- Reference your essay
- Edit your essay
- Hand in your essay
- Essay and assignment planning
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- Reflective writing
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How to Write an Essay
- DESCRIPTION Steps to How to Write an Essay
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- PERMISSION Used under Getty Images license
Essays are common in middle school, high school and college. You may even need to write essays in the business world (although they are usually called reports at that point). An essay is defined as a short piece of writing that expresses information as well as the writer's opinion. Learn how to write an essay using 8 simple steps.
8 Steps to Writing an Essay
For some, writing an essay is as simple as sitting down at their computer and beginning to type. But a lot more planning goes into writing an essay successfully. If you have never written an essay before, you struggle with writing and want to improve your skills, or you're tasked with writing an essay fast , it is a good idea to follow a number of important steps in the essay writing process.
For example, to write an essay, you should generally:
- decide what kind of essay to write
- brainstorm your topic
- research the topic
- choose a writing style
- develop a thesis
- outline your essay
- write your essay
- edit your writing to check spelling and grammar
While this sounds like a lot of steps to write a simple essay, if you follow them you will be able to write more successful, clear and cohesive essays.
1. Choose the Type of Essay
The first step to writing an essay is to define what type of essay you are writing. There are four main categories into which essays can be grouped:
- Narrative essay - Tell a story or impart information about your subject in a straightforward, orderly manner, like in a story.
- Persuasive essay - Convince the reader about some point of view.
- Expository essay - Explain to the reader how to perform a given process. You could, for example, write an expository essay with step-by-step instructions on how to make a peanut butter sandwich.
- Descriptive essay - Focus on the details of what is going on. For example, if you want to write a descriptive essay about your trip to the park, you would give great detail about what you experienced: how the grass felt beneath your feet, what the park benches looked like, and anything else the reader would need to feel as if he were there.
Knowing what kind of essay you are trying to write can help you decide on a topic and structure your essay in the best way possible. Here are a few other types of essays:
- Argumentative essay - Take a position on a controversial issue and present evidence in favor of your position. If you’ve been assigned an argumentative essay, check out these top 10 argumentative essay topics .
- Compare and contrast essay - Identify similarities and differences between two subjects that are, typically, under the same umbrella.
- Problem solution essay - Describe a problem, convince the reader to care about the problem, propose a solution, and be prepared to dismantle objections.
- Informative essay - Educate the reader on a particular topic with facts.
2. Brainstorm Your Topic
You cannot write an essay unless you have an idea of what to write about. Brainstorming is the process in which you come up with the essay topic. You need to simply sit and think of ideas during this phase.
- Write down everything that comes to mind as you can always narrow those topics down later.
- Use clustering or mind mapping to brainstorm and come up with an essay idea. This involves writing your topic or idea in the center of the paper and creating bubbles (clouds or clusters) of related ideas around it.
- Brainstorming can be a great way to develop a topic more deeply and to recognize connections between various facets of your topic.
- Once you have a list of possible topics, it's time to choose the best one that will answer the question posed for your essay. You want to choose a topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow.
If you are given an assignment to write a one-page essay, it would be far too much to write about "the history of the U.S.," since that could fill entire volumes of books. Instead, you could write about a specific event within the history of the United States: perhaps signing the Declaration of Independence or when Columbus discovered the Americas.
Choose the best topic idea from among your list and begin moving forward on writing your essay. But, before you move forward, take heed of these topics to avoid .
3. Research the Topic
Once you have done your brainstorming and chosen your topic, you may need to do some research to write a good essay. Go to the library or search online for information about your topic. Interview people who might be experts in the subject.
Keep your research organized so it will be easy for you to refer back to. This also makes it easier to cite your sources when writing your final essay.
4. Choose a Writing Style
The writing style that you choose for your essay is dictated by your teacher or the topic of your paper. In general, there are three writing styles you might come across in high school and college.
- MLA (Modern Language Association) is designed for humanities and language arts essays. It uses the author-page number citation style. This is the most common writing style used by high school and college students.
- APA (American Psychological Association) uses the author-date citation style and was created for social science and psychology research papers and essays. It is the second most common writing style out there.
- Chicago Manual of Style , also known as Turabian, has two writing styles: author-date and notes-bibliography. Mostly used by college students and professionals, the author-date style works for scientific papers, while notes-biblio makes arts and humanities papers a breeze.
Each different writing style has its own unique format for in-text and reference list citations.
5. Develop a Thesis
Your thesis statement is the main point of your essay. It is essentially one sentence that says what the essay is about. For example, your thesis statement might be "Dogs are descended from wolves." You can then use this as the basic premise to write your entire essay, remembering that all of the different points throughout need to lead back to this one main thesis. You should usually state your thesis in your introductory paragraph.
Additionally, the thesis statement should be broad enough that you have enough to say about it, but not so broad that you can't be thorough. To help you structure a perfectly clear thesis, check out these thesis statement examples .
6. Outline Your Essay
The next step is to outline what you are going to write about. This means you want to essentially draw the skeleton of your paper. Writing an outline can help to ensure your paper is logical, well organized and flows properly. If you’ve been tasked with an argumentative essay, here’s the best formula for an argumentative essay outline .
- Start by writing the thesis statement at the top, then write a topic sentence for each paragraph below that. This means you should know exactly what each of your paragraphs is going to be about before you write them.
- Don't jumble too many ideas in each paragraph or the reader may become confused.
- Ensure you have transitions between paragraphs so the reader understands how the paper flows from one idea to the next.
- Fill in supporting facts from your research under each paragraph. Make sure each paragraph ties back to your thesis and creates a cohesive, understandable essay.
Does your teacher follow the APA guidelines for writing papers? If so, these APA outline format examples should help you pull it all together. As you progress into the meat of the essay (following our tips below), these APA format examples should prove beneficial! Or, if MLA is your teacher’s preferred style, check out these MLA format examples .
7. Write the Essay
Once you have an outline, it’s time to start writing. Write based on the outline itself, fleshing out your basic skeleton to create a whole, cohesive and clear essay.
You’ll want to edit and re-read your essay, checking to make sure it sounds exactly the way you want it to. Here are some things to remember:
- Revise for clarity, consistency and structure.
- Support your thesis adequately with the information in your paragraphs. Each paragraph should have its own topic sentence. This is the most important sentence in the paragraph that tells readers what the rest of the paragraph will be about.
- Make sure everything flows together. As you move through the essay, transition words will be paramount. Transition words are the glue that connects every paragraph together and prevents the essay from sounding disjointed. You can even use a list of transition words to help get you started.
- Reread your introduction and conclusion . Will the reader walk away knowing exactly what your paper was about?
In your introduction, it’s important to include a hook. This is the line or line that will lure a reader in and encourage them to want to learn more. For more on this, check out how to write a hook . And, to help you formulate a killer conclusion, scan through these conclusion examples .
8. Check Spelling and Grammar
Now the essay is written, but you're not quite done. Reread what you've written, looking out for mistakes and typos.
- Revise for technical errors.
- Check for grammar , punctuation and spelling errors. You cannot always count on spell check to recognize every spelling error. Sometimes, you can spell a word incorrectly but your misspelling will also be a word, such as spelling "from" as "form."
- Another common area of concern is quotation marks. It’s important to cite your sources with accuracy and clarity. Follow these guidelines on how to use quotes in essays and speeches .
- You might also want to consider the difference between quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing . Quoting is reserved for lines of text that are identical to an original piece of writing. Paraphrasing is reserved for large sections of someone else’s writing that you want to convey in your own words. Summarizing puts the main points from someone else’s text into your own words.
Planning Pays Off
A lot goes into writing a successful essay. Fortunately, these tips for writing essays can help you along the way and get you on the path to a well-written essay. Out of all these “how-tos,” the worst thing you could do is plagiarize someone else’s writing (intentionally or unintentionally). Take a look at these tips and techniques for preventing plagiarism . Other than that, we wish you great success as you work your way to a perfect A!
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How to Write an Essay
Last Updated: March 2, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Megaera Lorenz, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 37 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 7,747,826 times.
An essay is a common type of academic writing that you'll likely be asked to do in multiple classes. Before you start writing your essay, make sure you understand the details of the assignment so that you know how to approach the essay and what your focus should be. Once you've chosen a topic, do some research and narrow down the main argument(s) you'd like to make. From there, you'll need to write an outline and flesh out your essay, which should consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. After your essay is drafted, spend some time revising it to ensure your writing is as strong as possible.
Understanding Your Assignment
- The compare/contrast essay , which focuses on analyzing the similarities and differences between 2 things, such as ideas, people, events, places, or works of art.
- The narrative essay , which tells a story.
- The argumentative essay , in which the writer uses evidence and examples to convince the reader of their point of view.
- The critical or analytical essay, which examines something (such as a text or work of art) in detail. This type of essay may attempt to answer specific questions about the subject or focus more generally on its meaning.
- The informative essay , that educates the reader about a topic.
- How long your essay should be
- Which citation style to use
- Formatting requirements, such as margin size , line spacing, and font size and type
Christopher Taylor, PhD
Christopher Taylor, Professor of English, tells us: "Most essays will contain an introduction, a body or discussion portion, and a conclusion. When assigned a college essay, make sure to check the specific structural conventions related to your essay genre , your field of study, and your professor's expectations."
- If you're doing a research-based essay , you might find some inspiration from reading through some of the major sources on the subject.
- For a critical essay, you might choose to focus on a particular theme in the work you're discussing, or analyze the meaning of a specific passage.
- If you're having trouble narrowing down your topic, your instructor might be able to provide guidance or inspiration.
Planning and Organizing Your Essay
- Academic books and journals tend to be good sources of information. In addition to print sources, you may be able to find reliable information in scholarly databases such as JSTOR and Google Scholar.
- You can also look for primary source documents, such as letters, eyewitness accounts, and photographs.
- Always evaluate your sources critically. Even research papers by reputable academics can contain hidden biases, outdated information, and simple errors or faulty logic.
Tip: In general, Wikipedia articles are not considered appropriate sources for academic writing. However, you may be able to find useful sources in the “References” section at the end of the article.
- You might find it helpful to write your notes down on individual note cards or enter them into a text document on your computer so you can easily copy, paste , and rearrange them however you like.
- Try organizing your notes into different categories so you can identify specific ideas you'd like to focus on. For example, if you're analyzing a short story , you might put all your notes on a particular theme or character together.
- For example, if your essay is about the factors that led to the end of the Bronze Age in the ancient Middle East, you might focus on the question, “What role did natural disasters play in the collapse of Late Bronze Age society?”
- One easy way to come up with a thesis statement is to briefly answer the main question you would like to address.
- For example, if the question is “What role did natural disasters play in the collapse of Late Bronze Age society?” then your thesis might be, “Natural disasters during the Late Bronze Age destabilized local economies across the region. This set in motion a series of mass migrations of different peoples, creating widespread conflict that contributed to the collapse of several major Bronze Age political centers.”
- When you write the outline, think about how you would like to organize your essay. For example, you might start with your strongest arguments and then move to the weakest ones. Or, you could begin with a general overview of the source you're analyzing and then move on to addressing the major themes, tone, and style of the work.
- Point 1, with supporting examples
- Point 2, with supporting examples
- Point 3, with supporting examples
- Major counter-argument(s) to your thesis
- Your rebuttals to the counter-argument(s)
Drafting the Essay
- For example, if you're writing a critical essay about a work of art, your introduction might start with some basic information about the work, such as who created it, when and where it was created, and a brief description of the work itself. From there, introduce the question(s) about the work you'd like to address and present your thesis.
- A strong introduction should also contain a brief transitional sentence that creates a link to the first point or argument you would like to make. For example, if you're discussing the use of color in a work of art, lead-in by saying you'd like to start with an overview of symbolic color use in contemporary works by other artists.
Tip: Some writers find it helpful to write the introduction after they've written the rest of the essay. Once you've written out your main points, it's easier to summarize the gist of your essay in a few introductory sentences.
- For example, your topic sentence might be something like, “Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories are among the many literary influences apparent in P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves novels.” You could then back this up by quoting a passage that contains a reference to Sherlock Holmes.
- Try to show how the arguments in each paragraph link back to the main thesis of your essay.
- When creating transitions, transitional phrases can be helpful. For example, use words and phrases such as “In addition,” “Therefore,” “Similarly,” “Subsequently,” or “As a result.”
- For example, if you've just discussed the use of color to create contrast in a work of art, you might start the next paragraph with, “In addition to color, the artist also uses different line weights to distinguish between the more static and dynamic figures in the scene.”
- For example, if you're arguing that a particular kind of shrimp decorates its shell with red algae to attract a mate, you'll need to address the counterargument that the shell decoration is a warning to predators. You might do this by presenting evidence that the red shrimp are, in fact, more likely to get eaten than shrimp with undecorated shells.
- The way you cite your sources will vary depending on the citation style you're using. Typically, you'll need to include the name of the author, the title and publication date of the source, and location information such as the page number on which the information appears.
- In general, you don't need to cite common knowledge. For example, if you say, “A zebra is a type of mammal,” you probably won't need to cite a source.
- If you've cited any sources in the essay, you'll need to include a list of works cited (or a bibliography ) at the end.
- Keep your conclusion brief. While the appropriate length will vary based on the length of the essay, it should typically be no longer than 1-2 paragraphs.
- For example, if you're writing a 1,000-word essay, your conclusion should be about 4-5 sentences long.  X Research source
Revising the Essay
- If you don't have time to spend a couple of days away from your essay, at least take a few hours to relax or work on something else.
- Excessive wordiness
- Points that aren't explained enough
- Tangents or unnecessary information
- Unclear transitions or illogical organization
- Spelling , grammar , style, and formatting problems
- Inappropriate language or tone (e.g., slang or informal language in an academic essay)
- You might have to cut material from your essay in some places and add new material to others.
- You might also end up reordering some of the content of the essay if you think that helps it flow better.
- Read over each line slowly and carefully. It may be helpful to read each sentence out loud to yourself.
Tip: If possible, have someone else check your work. When you've been looking at your writing for too long, your brain begins to fill in what it expects to see rather than what's there, making it harder for you to spot mistakes.
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- ↑ https://www.gallaudet.edu/tutorial-and-instructional-programs/english-center/the-process-and-type-of-writing/styles-of-essays/guide-to-different-kinds-of-essays
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/moving-assignment-topic
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-read-assignment
- ↑ http://www.easybib.com/guides/students/writing-guide/ii-research/a-finding-sources/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/developing-thesis
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/outlining
- ↑ https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/writing-resources/writing-essays
- ↑ https://intranet.ecu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/20609/essay.pdf
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/transitions/
- ↑ http://www.nus.edu.sg/celc/research/books/cwtuc/chapter01.pdf
- ↑ https://www.plagiarism.org/article/how-do-i-cite-sources
- ↑ https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/twc/sites/utsc.utoronto.ca.twc/files/resource-files/Intros-Conclusions.pdf
- ↑ https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/questions-to-ask/questions-to-ask-when-editing
About This Article
If you need to write an essay, start by gathering information from reputable sources, like books from the library or scholarly journals online. Take detailed notes and keep track of which facts come from which sources. As you're taking notes, look for a central theme that you're interested in writing about to create your thesis statement. Then, organize your notes into an outline that supports and explains your thesis statement. Working from your outline, write an introduction and subsequent paragraphs to address each major point. Start every paragraph with a topic sentence that briefly explains the main point of that paragraph. Finally, finish your paper with a strong conclusion that sums up the most important points. For tips from our English Professor co-author on helpful revision techniques, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Write a How-To Essay
How-to essay writing guide.
A how-to essay is an essay that explains how to do something. It could be something as simple as “How to Bake Brownies” to something as complex as “How to Build a Nuclear Reactor.” In the essay, you’ll dissect the entire process from start to finish and include all the information necessary for the reader to achieve a successful result.
How-to essays aren’t difficult, but they do require you to pay close attention to details.
Here’s what you need to remember when writing a how-to essay:
- Step 1 - Pick a Topic Maybe you’ll be assigned a topic or maybe you’ll be given free rein to choose your own. In the event you have to pick a subject, it’s better for you to write about something you already know about. For example, if you know nothing about car mechanics, maybe you shouldn’t write an essay on how to change your transmission fluid.
- Step 2 - Make a List of Materials If your essay involves making or doing something physical, then you should include a complete list of materials for your reader. Write down everything they’ll need to finish the task.
- Step 3 - Write an Outline of Steps Jot down the basic instructions that need to be followed. You can finesse the language later. Just get the essential ideas down first.
- Introduction - Tell the reader what you’re going to be teaching them how to do: In this essay, I’m going to show you how to make the best brownies in under fifteen minutes.
- List of materials - Usually a list of materials comes next: In order to bake brownies, here’s a list of ingredients and cooking tools you’ll need…
- Numbered steps - How-to essays usually include numbered steps where you’ll provide detailed instructions of each procedure.
- Action - If you’re writing about something like how to fix a car engine or how to make a lamp, there will be a point where they will have to turn on the car or the lamp. Include that step if it applies to you.
- Conclusion - Briefly summarize the more important steps and let the reader know what kind of results they can expect if they followed them.
- Tips - You can give helpful tips as well. For example, if you’re giving instructions on baking brownies, it’s not essential that the reader mix the eggs and milk and oil separately before adding the brownie mix, but it can help avoid over-mixing with the dry ingredients which can make the texture more tough. This is not an essential part of the procedure, but it demonstrates your knowledge of the subject and gives the reader more information and more options. However, you should avoid going into micro-details. You don’t need to explain how the chemical reaction of the ingredients works to produce brownies. But the occasional bit of expert advice that can help provide a better result is a welcome addition.
- Procedural phrases - Guide your reader with words like first, next, last, simultaneously, separately, afterwards, before and other words that highlight order or technique.
- Step 5 - Test It Out It can be easy to miss steps or to explain something in a way that leaves room for misinterpretation. The best way to make sure your essay is error-free is to have someone else follow your steps and see if your instructions work. Make sure you watch them as they go through your procedure step by step. Resist the temptation to give advice or correct things while they’re in the middle of it, but take notes to see what might need to be added or modified in your final draft.
- Step 6 - Edit After testing it out on a friend, it’s time to edit your text. Include any missed steps, make sure you’ve used procedural phrases and, if possible, test it out one more time before calling it a wrap. Good luck and happy how-to writing!
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General Essay Writing Tips
Despite the fact that, as Shakespeare said, "the pen is mightier than the sword," the pen itself is not enough to make an effective writer. In fact, though we may all like to think of ourselves as the next Shakespeare, inspiration alone is not the key to effective essay writing. You see, the conventions of English essays are more formulaic than you might think – and, in many ways, it can be as simple as counting to five.
Steps to Writing an Essay
Follow these 7 steps for the best results:
- Read and understand the prompt: Know exactly what is being asked of you. It’s a good idea to dissect the prompt into parts.
- Plan: Brainstorming and organizing your ideas will make your life much easier when you go to write your essay. It’s a good idea to make a web of your ideas and supporting details.
- Use and cite sources: Do your research. Use quotes and paraphrase from your sources, but NEVER plagiarize.
- Write a Draft: Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is always crap.” While the truth behind this statement is debatable, drafts are always a good place to get any of your “crappy” ideas out of the way and are often required by professors and instructors.
- Make a strong thesis: The thesis (main argument) of the essay is the most important thing you’ll write. Make it a strong point.
- Respond to the prompt: Once you have worked out any kinks in your draft, you can start writing the final draft of your essay.
- Proofread: Read your response carefully to make sure that there are no mistakes and that you didn’t miss anything.
Of course, every essay assignment is different and it’s important to be mindful of that. If one of these steps isn’t applicable to the essay you are writing, skip it and move to the next one.
The Five Paragraph Essay
Though more advanced academic papers are a category all their own, the basic high school or college essay has the following standardized, five paragraph structure:
Paragraph 1: Introduction Paragraph 2: Body 1 Paragraph 3: Body 2 Paragraph 4: Body 3 Paragraph 5: Conclusion
Though it may seem formulaic – and, well, it is - the idea behind this structure is to make it easier for the reader to navigate the ideas put forth in an essay. You see, if your essay has the same structure as every other one, any reader should be able to quickly and easily find the information most relevant to them.
The principle purpose of the introduction is to present your position (this is also known as the "thesis" or "argument") on the issue at hand but effective introductory paragraphs are so much more than that. Before you even get to this thesis statement, for example, the essay should begin with a "hook" that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read on. Examples of effective hooks include relevant quotations ("no man is an island") or surprising statistics ("three out of four doctors report that…").
Only then, with the reader’s attention "hooked," should you move on to the thesis. The thesis should be a clear, one-sentence explanation of your position that leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about which side you are on from the beginning of your essay.
Following the thesis, you should provide a mini-outline which previews the examples you will use to support your thesis in the rest of the essay. Not only does this tell the reader what to expect in the paragraphs to come but it also gives them a clearer understanding of what the essay is about.
Finally, designing the last sentence in this way has the added benefit of seamlessly moving the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper. In this way we can see that the basic introduction does not need to be much more than three or four sentences in length. If yours is much longer you might want to consider editing it down a bit!
Here, by way of example, is an introductory paragraph to an essay in response to the following question:
"Do we learn more from finding out that we have made mistakes or from our successful actions?"
"No man is an island" and, as such, he is constantly shaped and influenced by his experiences. People learn by doing and, accordingly, learn considerably more from their mistakes than their success. For proof of this, consider examples from both science and everyday experience.
The Body Paragraphs
The middle paragraphs of the essay are collectively known as the body paragraphs and, as alluded to above, the main purpose of a body paragraph is to spell out in detail the examples that support your thesis.
For the first body paragraph you should use your strongest argument or most significant example unless some other more obvious beginning point (as in the case of chronological explanations) is required. The first sentence of this paragraph should be the topic sentence of the paragraph that directly relates to the examples listed in the mini-outline of introductory paragraph.
A one sentence body paragraph that simply cites the example of "George Washington" or "LeBron James" is not enough, however. No, following this an effective essay will follow up on this topic sentence by explaining to the reader, in detail, who or what an example is and, more importantly, why that example is relevant.
Even the most famous examples need context. For example, George Washington’s life was extremely complex – by using him as an example, do you intend to refer to his honesty, bravery, or maybe even his wooden teeth? The reader needs to know this and it is your job as the writer to paint the appropriate picture for them. To do this, it is a good idea to provide the reader with five or six relevant facts about the life (in general) or event (in particular) you believe most clearly illustrates your point.
Having done that, you then need to explain exactly why this example proves your thesis . The importance of this step cannot be understated (although it clearly can be underlined); this is, after all, the whole reason you are providing the example in the first place. Seal the deal by directly stating why this example is relevant.
Here is an example of a body paragraph to continue the essay begun above:
Take, by way of example, Thomas Edison. The famed American inventor rose to prominence in the late 19th century because of his successes, yes, but even he felt that these successes were the result of his many failures. He did not succeed in his work on one of his most famous inventions, the lightbulb, on his first try nor even on his hundred and first try. In fact, it took him more than 1,000 attempts to make the first incandescent bulb but, along the way, he learned quite a deal. As he himself said, "I did not fail a thousand times but instead succeeded in finding a thousand ways it would not work." Thus Edison demonstrated both in thought and action how instructive mistakes can be.
A Word on Transitions
You may have noticed that, though the above paragraph aligns pretty closely with the provided outline, there is one large exception: the first few words. These words are example of a transitional phrase – others include "furthermore," "moreover," but also "by contrast" and "on the other hand" – and are the hallmark of good writing.
Transitional phrases are useful for showing the reader where one section ends and another begins. It may be helpful to see them as the written equivalent of the kinds of spoken cues used in formal speeches that signal the end of one set of ideas and the beginning of another. In essence, they lead the reader from one section of the paragraph of another.
To further illustrate this, consider the second body paragraph of our example essay:
In a similar way, we are all like Edison in our own way. Whenever we learn a new skill - be it riding a bike, driving a car, or cooking a cake - we learn from our mistakes. Few, if any, are ready to go from training wheels to a marathon in a single day but these early experiences (these so-called mistakes) can help us improve our performance over time. You cannot make a cake without breaking a few eggs and, likewise, we learn by doing and doing inevitably means making mistakes.
Hopefully this example not only provides another example of an effective body paragraph but also illustrates how transitional phrases can be used to distinguish between them.
Although the conclusion paragraph comes at the end of your essay it should not be seen as an afterthought. As the final paragraph is represents your last chance to make your case and, as such, should follow an extremely rigid format.
One way to think of the conclusion is, paradoxically, as a second introduction because it does in fact contain many of the same features. While it does not need to be too long – four well-crafted sentence should be enough – it can make or break and essay.
Effective conclusions open with a concluding transition ("in conclusion," "in the end," etc.) and an allusion to the "hook" used in the introductory paragraph. After that you should immediately provide a restatement of your thesis statement.
This should be the fourth or fifth time you have repeated your thesis so while you should use a variety of word choice in the body paragraphs it is a acceptable idea to use some (but not all) of the original language you used in the introduction. This echoing effect not only reinforces your argument but also ties it nicely to the second key element of the conclusion: a brief (two or three words is enough) review of the three main points from the body of the paper.
Having done all of that, the final element – and final sentence in your essay – should be a "global statement" or "call to action" that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end.
In the end, then, one thing is clear: mistakes do far more to help us learn and improve than successes. As examples from both science and everyday experience can attest, if we treat each mistake not as a misstep but as a learning experience the possibilities for self-improvement are limitless.
Taken together, then, the overall structure of a five paragraph essay should look something like this:
- An attention-grabbing "hook"
- A thesis statement
- A preview of the three subtopics you will discuss in the body paragraphs.
First Body Paragraph
- Topic sentence which states the first subtopic and opens with a transition
- Supporting details or examples
- An explanation of how this example proves your thesis
Second Body Paragraph
- Topic sentence which states the second subtopic and opens with a transition
Third Body Paragraph
- Topic sentence which states the third subtopic and opens with a transition
- Concluding Transition, Reverse "hook," and restatement of thesis.
- Rephrasing main topic and subtopics.
- Global statement or call to action.
More tips to make your essay shine
Although it may seem like a waste of time – especially during exams where time is tight – it is almost always better to brainstorm a bit before beginning your essay. This should enable you to find the best supporting ideas – rather than simply the first ones that come to mind – and position them in your essay accordingly.
Your best supporting idea – the one that most strongly makes your case and, simultaneously, about which you have the most knowledge – should go first. Even the best-written essays can fail because of ineffectively placed arguments.
Aim for Variety
Sentences and vocabulary of varying complexity are one of the hallmarks of effective writing. When you are writing, try to avoid using the same words and phrases over and over again. You don’t have to be a walking thesaurus but a little variance can make the same idea sparkle.
If you are asked about "money," you could try "wealth" or "riches." At the same time, avoid beginning sentences the dull pattern of "subject + verb + direct object." Although examples of this are harder to give, consider our writing throughout this article as one big example of sentence structure variety.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
In the end, though, remember that good writing does not happen by accident. Although we have endeavored to explain everything that goes into effective essay writing in as clear and concise a way as possible, it is much easier in theory than it is in practice.
As a result, we recommend that you practice writing sample essays on various topics. Even if they are not masterpieces at first, a bit of regular practice will soon change that – and make you better prepared when it comes to the real thing.
General Do's and Don'ts
Do: use transitions to start new thoughts and paragraphs., don’t: start a new thought without a transition or overuse transitions., do: use paragraph structure to organize thoughts and claims., don’t: write one big paragraph without any sort of organization., do: use quotes and paraphrase to back up your claims., don’t: plagiarize., do: use active voice, meaning verbs and action words., don’t: use passive voice or i/my. try to avoid words like “have” or “be”, and never use i or my unless the essay is being written in the narrative form., do: use vivid and descriptive words to bring your essay to life., don’t: misuse words that you don’t know the meaning of., related content:, get the international student newsletter.
The Only Guide to Essay Writing You’ll Ever Need
Feel passionately about something and want to share it? Write an essay! Disagree with a popular opinion and wish to convince others to join you? Write an essay! Need to write something because the college you dream of attending is making you? Write an essay!
“Essay” is a loose term for writing that asserts the author’s opinion on a topic, whether academic, editorial, or even humorous. There are a thousand different approaches to essay writing and a million different topics to choose from, but what we’ve found is that good essay writing tends to follow the same framework.
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Below we discuss that framework and how you can apply it to your essays, whatever types they may be. But first, let’s start with the nucleus of any good essay: the topic.
Your essay needs a thesis statement
There are three things to consider before writing your essay: thesis, type, and audience. Of these, the most important by far is your thesis, or the crux of what your essay is about.
Your thesis, encapsulated in your thesis statement , is the central point you’re trying to make. The thesis of Bertrand Russell’s essay “ In Praise of Idleness ,” for example, is that people focus too much on work and don’t value time spent idly. Essays can occasionally stray and go into related tangents, but they always come back to that one core idea in the thesis.
You should always pinpoint your thesis before writing. If you’re having trouble nailing it down, ask yourself, “What’s the one thing I want my reader to remember when they’re done reading my essay?”
The best practice is to include your thesis as soon as possible, even in your topic sentence if it’s appropriate. You’ll want to reiterate it throughout the essay as well, especially when wrapping up everything in the conclusion.
The rest of your essay, then, supports your thesis. You can include empirical evidence, testimonials, logical deductions, or even persuasive rhetoric —whatever gets the job done. The point is that you’re building upon your initial thesis, not switching to completely different topics.
Types of essays
Like any form of writing, essays come in many different types. Sometimes the assignment dictates the type, as with admissions essays, and other times the thesis will determine it. Regardless, it helps to know what your options are, so here are some of the most common essay types:
Argumentative essays assert or defend a position. This is the most common type of school paper, so keep that in mind when writing your first college essay .
Most colleges request an admissions essay in applications, which typically revolve around why you’re interested in their school.
A persuasive essay is just as it sounds: an essay to persuade or convince the reader of a certain point. It’s similar to an argumentative essay— they both strongly favor a particular point of view, but the difference is the end goal: Argumentative essays just have to present their case, while persuasive essays have to present their case and win over the reader.
When you want to devote equal attention to two opposing things, a compare-and-contrast essay works better than argumentative or persuasive essays, which lean to one side over the other.
Personal essays are often anecdotal or real-life stories of the authors, like the works of David Sedaris . Because they tend to follow narrative structures, the thesis can be flexible or interpretive.
An expository essay thoroughly explains a certain topic to expand the reader’s knowledge. It is similar to an argumentative and persuasive essay in format, but with one key difference: expository essays don’t have a bias.
Know your essay’s audience
Your final consideration is who will read your essay—a teacher, an admissions counselor, your peers, the internet at large, etc.
No matter what you’re writing, your audience should influence your language. For one thing, your readers determine whether the essay is formal or casual , which has an enormous impact on language, word choice, and style . Take emojis for example: In a casual essay they might be welcome, but for formal writing they’re not the most appropriate choice. 😓
Your audience also affects the essay’s tone, or how you sound on an emotional level (enthusiastic, cautious, confident, etc.). If you’d like to know more, you can read about the 10 common types of tone here .
The essay writing process
If you’re writing an essay, research paper , term paper, novel, short story, poem , screenplay, blog article about essay writing—when writing just about anything , really—it’s crucial to follow an efficient writing process. Even if you prefer the stream of consciousness style for writing your rough draft, you still need to have an orderly system that allows you to revise and hone.
For essay writing, we recommend this six-step writing process :
It always helps to collect your thoughts before you begin writing by brainstorming . Based on your prompt or thesis, try to generate as many ideas as possible to include in your essay. Think of as many as time allows, knowing that you’ll be able to set aside the ideas that don’t work later.
The preparation phase consists of both outlining your essay and collecting resources for evidence. Take a look at the results of your brainstorming session. First, isolate the ideas that are essential to support your thesis and then organize them in a logical and progressive order. In this stage you’ll incorporate your essay structure, which we explain below.
If you want empirical evidence or complementary citations, track them down now. The way you write citations depends on the style guide you’re using. The three most common style guides for academics are MLA , APA , and Chicago , and each has its own particular rules and requirements for citing just about any kind of source, including newspaper articles , websites , speeches , and YouTube videos .
This is the main stage of essay writing where you roll up your sleeves and actually write your first draft . Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect; this is your first draft, not your final draft, so give yourself the freedom to make errors. If you’re focusing on getting every single word right, you’ll miss the big picture.
The revisions stage involves your second draft, your third draft, or even your twelfth draft if necessary. Address all the nuances and subtleties you glossed over in the first draft.
Pay attention to both word choice and clarity , as well as sophisticated writing techniques like avoiding the passive voice . If you’re not confident in your writing skills yet, the Grammarly Editor ensures your writing is readable, clear, and concise by offering sentence structure and word choice suggestions, plus clarity revisions as you write. Grammarly helps catch common mistakes with sentence structure—like run-on sentences, sentence fragments, passive voice, and more.
When all the heavy-duty revisions are finished, it’s time for the final polish. Go through your essay and correct misspellings , formatting issues, or grammatical errors. This is also where you can turn to Grammarly’s AI-powered writing assistant, which helps catch these common mistakes for you. Or copy and paste your writing to check your grammar and get instant feedback on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mistakes you might have missed.
Essay structure almost always follows a simple beginning-middle-end format, or in this case, an introduction-body-conclusion format. However, it’s what’s contained within those sections that makes all the difference.
Essays follow the same guidelines for introductions as any other piece of writing, with an extra emphasis on presenting the thesis prominently, ideally in the topic sentence. By the end of your introduction paragraph, your reader should know without a doubt what your essay is about. From there, follow the conventional best practices on how to write an introduction .
The majority of your essay is body paragraphs , all of which support your thesis and present evidence.
Pay close attention to how you organize your body paragraphs. Some arguments benefit from a logical progression, where one point leads to a second, and that second point leads to a third. Remember that the reader doesn’t understand the topic like you do (that’s why you’re writing the essay), so structure your paragraphs in the way that’s best for their comprehension.
What if you’re writing an argumentative essay where you compare and contrast two or more points of view? Do you present your argument first and then share opposing points of view, or do you open with your opposition’s argument and then refute it?
Serious writers can get pretty technical about how to organize an argumentative essay. There are three approaches in particular used often: Aristotlian (classical), Rogerian , and Toulmin . However, these can get exceedingly complicated, so for a simple essay, a basic structure will do just fine:
- Evidence supporting your point and/or disproving counterpoint
Essay conclusions wrap up or summarize your thesis in a way that’s easy for the reader to digest. If you get the chance, you can add a new perspective or context for understanding your thesis, but in general the conclusion should not present any new evidence or supporting data. Rather, it’s more of a recap. For more specific tips, read about how to write a conclusion for an essay here .
For quick and simple essays, you don’t need to get too technical with your essay structure. The five-paragraph essay structure works well in a pinch. This contains:
- One introduction paragraph
- Three body paragraphs
- One conclusion paragraph
While this essay structure might not be flexible enough for more advanced topics, it comes in handy when speed is a factor, like during timed tests.
Essay writing tips
Master the five fundamentals.
Especially for school essays, your reader will scrutinize how well you handle the fundamentals. Knowing about essay structure and the writing process is one thing, but can you demonstrate an understanding of language style? Can you develop your thesis logically and coherently? Are your references and citations trustworthy?
When you’re ready for the next step of essay writing, take a look at the five concepts you must master to write better essays . The tips there pick up where this guide leaves off.
Seek out another pair of eyes
This tip is not just for essays; it’s always advisable to have someone else read over your writing before finalizing it. All too often we miss the forest for the trees, and thinking long and hard on the same topic can give you tunnel vision. The solution is to get a fresh take from someone who’s seeing it for the first time.
Typically you can swap with a friend and edit each others’ works. If that’s not an option, however, you can also use a writing center or join a writing group online. At the very least, you should sleep on it and take another look when you’re refreshed.
Remember: Grammar and form are essential
It’s not always about what you say, but how you say it. You could have the most obvious, objectively agreeable thesis in the world, but if your writing is incoherent, confusing, and full of mistakes, it’s tough to engage with your reader.
For when your writing needs to make the right impact, Grammarly Premium offers full-sentence rewrites for confusing sentences—from splitting long sentences, cutting extra words, or rearranging key phrases—in addition to catching common grammar mistakes. It also gives you readability-focused formatting suggestions, so you know your writing is clear. It also helps those who are looking to improve their writing skill level in English, with suggestions for commonly misused words and phrases.
Honing your writing with these elements in mind is key to relaying your point to your reader—and asserting your thesis as effectively as possible.
How to Write an Essay
What Is an Essay?
As we get closer to essay writing, let's get familiar with the definition of an essay first. So what is an essay? It is a short composition based on a particular subject or theme, usually done by students as a part of their workload at school or university. Essays are extremely popular and are given as a task in every college and academic institution. They are a great tool for developing various skills necessary in life, like analytical thinking, research, creative skills, and so on.
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In this article, we will look at writing tips from our coursework writer that can help you score your essay an A. Let's start from the beginning. To master essay writing process, you need to do the following:
- Choose an essay type and its format
- Brainstorm a topic
- Conduct research
- Develop a thesis statement
- Create an essay outline
- Write a draft and the essay itself
- Check spelling and grammar
Let's see each step of mastering how to write a good essay in detail.
1. Choose an Essay Type and Format
In this step, you need to define what kind of paper you are writing. There are four main essay categories:
- Descriptive — describes a particular topic or situation.
- Persuasive — convinces the reader to adopt a certain point of view.
- Informative — presents information that your readers don't know.
- Explanatory — explains a certain process or situation, for example: how to bake a cake.
Most Popular Types of Essays:
- 5-Paragraph Essay: This is an essay written in the classic five-paragraph style. It can be used for a persuasive, narrative, or expository essay.
- Persuasive: This paper aims to persuade the audience about a certain topic or idea.
- Cause-and-Effect: This essay is presented and followed up with an in-depth analysis of the results.
- Compare-and-Contrast: This one requires a critical analysis of the similarities and differences between two things.
- Creative Writing: In this writing, the author chooses his own topic and style to create a cool story.
- Narrative: Similar to creative writing, the writer creates a story; however, they need to follow a specific set of formatting instructions in this case.
- Expository: This paper aims to educate the reader or audience about a certain topic or idea. This does not include persuasions or opinions.
- Process: This is an assignment explaining the "How." It usually follows a step-by-step structure.
- Descriptive: This essay gives a full overview of a certain topic or thing. It includes a full explanation of each of the five senses.
- Analytical: This type of paper requires a full analysis of a topic or idea. Critical thinking and the implementation of personal inferences are necessary.
Essay Format and Style Requirements
A basic essay consists of three main parts: an introduction, body, and conclusion. Flexibility is also important. The topic of your academic paper and specific assignment guide should guide your writing and organization.
As for commonly used essay format requirements, essays are pretty strict. While single-spaced papers are usually acceptable, it is typically better if your article is double-spaced. In addition, it would help if you clearly delineated your paragraphs. A single tab at the beginning of each section is acceptable as well. The most popular fonts are Times, Arial, Calibri, and Cambria.
There are many different ways of citing sources from your research. The citation style you will use sometimes depends on the academic subject you study in your school or college. For example:
- APA (American Psychological Association) is mostly used for students specializing in Education, Psychology, and Sciences.
- MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used for Humanities subjects.
- Chicago/Turabian style is used for Business, History, and Fine Arts disciplines.
As for how long an essay is, average high school essay lengths vary from 300 to 1000 words, college admission essays are typically between 200-650 words, and an undergraduate college essay can be around 1500-5000 words long. Of course, you should also always pay attention to the requirements of your professor—usually given along with your assignment.
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2. Brainstorm a Topic
It's time to come up with the topic. When asking yourself, "what should I write about?" it may be useful to write down everything that comes to mind and narrow it down later. To facilitate the process, you may use clustering or mind mapping to brainstorm and come up with an essay idea. Brainstorming is very useful at this stage as it helps to develop your topic(s) more deeply. It also allows you to recognize connections between various facets of your subject.
When deciding on what to write about, consider these things:
- Ensure access to all the materials you may need before writing a paper. If allowed, choose a topic that is familiar to you. It will be easy and interesting for you to write about a theme in which you are well versed.
- Define The Purpose: Are you trying to inform the audience of something interesting or persuade them to agree with your opinion? Even if your goal is just to tell a story, have a clear understanding of the purpose of the writing. This ensures that the audience understands you properly and that you won't waste time and effort.
- Subject Depth: At what point on the spectrum of depth do you plan on reaching? How broad or narrow do you want to go in your discussion? The best option is to find the golden middle. Make sure your subject is not too deep, as if only you can understand what you are talking about. Then, check that it is not too broad or narrow – to ensure that you can find enough information.
- Define the heading. The heading must be short, concise, and clear. It should clearly state what your paper is about in the best way possible. It should also be interesting and catchy.
Typical mistakes when choosing an essay topic:
- Choosing a boring topic because it is easy to write about. Writing about a boring topic will lead to a dull paper outcome. Selecting a broad topic, for example, "computer games," and not narrowing it down to something more specific like "computer games and the violent impacts they can have on kids."
- A desire to look smart by choosing hard and strange topics. If a case is too difficult, it might be hard to find enough information about it or difficult to convey to your readers.
- Creating an inappropriate title that doesn't match the content/topic. Remember, a good essay title can make your paper stand out.
- Choosing a title that does not correspond with the specific assignment.
3. How to Start an Essay: Research
To write a good essay, you always need to do some research. Other than just going to the library or searching online, you can interview people who are experts in the subject. Get out there and talk to people, ask them to share their experiences, watch some interviews on YouTube and other platforms, and search social media. These are always good ways to start an essay.
4. Develop a Thesis
A thesis statement is one sentence that says what the essay is about. This basic premise can be used for writing your entire paper. However, it should be specific and based only on what you will discuss in your writing. You will then need to support it using some evidence.
Good thesis statement example: The constitution provides everyone with rights; however, there are some limitations regarding this providence in the law.
By reading the thesis statement, you can understand what the rest of the paper will be about, and it should make you want to read the rest of what is written.
5. Outlining Your Essay
The paper's outline is the skeleton of your essay. It is great for ensuring that your paper is logical, well organized, and flows properly. Outlines help you see the logical steps of development in your essay. Use it to list ideas, main arguments, and supporting sources. It's crucial to outline your writing as it will guide your pen and keep you on track.
How to Make an Outline
Let's find this out by viewing an outline example:
- Hook statement;
- A preview of the subtopics you will discuss in the body;
- A thesis statement.
- Topic sentence — must state the first subtopic and be opened with a transition;
- Claim — a piece of argument that will be defended;
- Evidence — information to support the claim;
- An explanation — describes how the evidence defends the claim;
- Concluding sentence.
- Restatement of the thesis statement;
- Rephrasing main subtopics;
- Concluding statement.
Watch our video on basic essay structure and keep on reading!
First impressions always count. The essay introduction is your chance to grasp the reader’s attention and convince them to read the rest of the paper. Every introduction must:
- Grab the reader's attention;
- Provide background information on the topic;
- Reveal the main argument or thesis statement.
- The attention-grabber is often referred to as a hook. Hooks can be anecdotal or informative, depending on the essay type and the audience. A strong theme will make the audience want to read more.
Example of a good attention grabber: My life changed when I lost my elder brother in a drastic suicide almost fourteen years ago in his home.
Background information gives the reader context and allows them to understand the writer's point of view fully. The thesis statement is the primary argument or focus of the essay.
This is the part of your assignment where you need to explain and develop the main ideas of your topic. It comes after the essay introduction and before the conclusion paragraph. Almost always, this is the longest part of the paper. Begin writing each section with a topic sentence, write down a supporting point for that idea, and end it by elaborating upon it (it can be a description, explanation, or example).
The structure of the body paragraphs should look like this:
- A clear topic sentence;
- Specific evidence or supporting detail;
- Transitions between sentences and paragraphs;
- A concluding sentence will tie the evidence or facts back to the main point and bring the section to a logical end.
This brings us to the final part – the essay's conclusion. Here you summarize the paper, remind the reader of your thesis, and leave them with some final thoughts. Here's what to include in your conclusion:
- Mirror your introduction paragraph by speaking about specifics;
- Rephrase your thesis—it will have more meaning after the reader has read your paper;
- Remind the reader why your arguments are important;
- End it with a final impression or general statement.
- Don't bring new ideas to a conclusion.
Also read about 5 paragraph essay outline , it will probably be useful for you.
6. Writing the Essay
Now that you have the outline or the basic skeleton, you can create a whole, cohesive, and clear essay.
The First Rough Draft
The purpose of writing a rough draft is simple. No one can write an essay without mistakes on the first try. So, after you have written a rough draft, read it one more time and follow EssayPro's advice:
- Check the clarity of your writing and, if necessary, remove all worthless parts of its content. Also, check it for grammar mistakes.
- Check the flow of your writing and add proper transitions between paragraphs (if not already there).
- Make sure that your paper is based on the topic that you have chosen.
It would help if you tried to support your thesis with the information in your paragraphs. Each paragraph should include a topic sentence — the most important sentence that tells readers what the rest of the section will be about. Also, try to make sure that everything flows together. Transition words can be very helpful here. They connect paragraphs and will prevent your paper from sounding disjointed.
Questions to Check by Yourself Before Submitting an Essay:
- Did you do good research on the topic?
- Do you have a strong thesis?
- Did you use the best examples to support your idea?
- Have you managed to present your case in the first draft successfully?
- Does the conclusion give an interesting look into the future of this topic?
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7. Checking Spelling and Grammar
After the paper is written, you need to reread what you've written and look for mistakes or typos. Do not forget to check for technical errors, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Also, make sure to include transitions between paragraphs so your writing flows smoothly instead of just jumping from one idea to another.
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Need Some Help Writing an Essay?
Does essay writing still look like a daunting task for you? You can read more articles on our blog, such as personal narrative topics or anything else. If you still feel you need professional help, contact us. No worries, EssayPro – top writing service – is ready and willing to help you with your assignment. We hire professional writers with college degrees to assist our students in getting writing help. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel like asking "please write my essay for me", we have your back. Our experts have mastered the structure and style of all custom papers and will craft your work according to any requirements.
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Six top tips for writing a great essay
An essay is used to assess the strength of your critical thinking and your ability to put that thinking into an academic written form. This resource covers some key considerations when writing an essay at university.
While reading a student’s essay, markers will ask themselves questions such as:
- Does this essay directly address the set task?
- Does it present a strong, supported position?
- Does it use relevant sources appropriately?
- Is the expression clear, and the style appropriate?
- Is the essay organised coherently? Is there a clear introduction, body and conclusion?
You can use these questions to reflect on your own writing. Here are six top tips to help you address these criteria.
1. Analyse the question
Student essays are responses to specific questions. As an essay must address the question directly, your first step should be to analyse the question. Make sure you know exactly what is being asked of you.
Generally, essay questions contain three component parts:
- Content terms: Key concepts that are specific to the task
- Limiting terms: The scope that the topic focuses on
- Directive terms: What you need to do in relation to the content, e.g. discuss, analyse, define, compare, evaluate.
Look at the following essay question:
Discuss the importance of light in Gothic architecture.
- Content terms: Gothic architecture
- Limiting terms: the importance of light. If you discussed some other feature of Gothic architecture, for example spires or arches, you would be deviating from what is required. This essay question is limited to a discussion of light. Likewise, it asks you to write about the importance of light – not, for example, to discuss how light enters Gothic churches.
- Directive term: discuss. This term asks you to take a broad approach to the variety of ways in which light may be important for Gothic architecture. You should introduce and consider different ideas and opinions that you have met in academic literature on this topic, citing them appropriately .
For a more complex question, you can highlight the key words and break it down into a series of sub-questions to make sure you answer all parts of the task. Consider the following question (from Arts):
To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?
The key words here are American Revolution and revolution ‘from below’. This is a view that you would need to respond to in this essay. This response must focus on the aims and motivations of working people in the revolution, as stated in the second question.
2. Define your argument
As you plan and prepare to write the essay, you must consider what your argument is going to be. This means taking an informed position or point of view on the topic presented in the question, then defining and presenting a specific argument.
Consider these two argument statements:
The architectural use of light in Gothic cathedrals physically embodied the significance of light in medieval theology.
In the Gothic cathedral of Cologne, light served to accentuate the authority and ritual centrality of the priest.
Statements like these define an essay’s argument. They give coherence by providing an overarching theme and position towards which the entire essay is directed.
3. Use evidence, reasoning and scholarship
To convince your audience of your argument, you must use evidence and reasoning, which involves referring to and evaluating relevant scholarship.
- Evidence provides concrete information to support your claim. It typically consists of specific examples, facts, quotations, statistics and illustrations.
- Reasoning connects the evidence to your argument. Rather than citing evidence like a shopping list, you need to evaluate the evidence and show how it supports your argument.
- Scholarship is used to show how your argument relates to what has been written on the topic (citing specific works). Scholarship can be used as part of your evidence and reasoning to support your argument.
4. Organise a coherent essay
An essay has three basic components - introduction, body and conclusion.
The purpose of an introduction is to introduce your essay. It typically presents information in the following order:
- A general statement about the topic that provides context for your argument
- A thesis statement showing your argument. You can use explicit lead-ins, such as ‘This essay argues that...’
- A ‘road map’ of the essay, telling the reader how it is going to present and develop your argument.
"To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?"
Historians generally concentrate on the twenty-year period between 1763 and 1783 as the period which constitutes the American Revolution [This sentence sets the general context of the period] . However, when considering the involvement of working people, or people from below, in the revolution it is important to make a distinction between the pre-revolutionary period 1763-1774 and the revolutionary period 1774-1788, marked by the establishment of the continental Congress(1) [This sentence defines the key term from below and gives more context to the argument that follows] . This paper will argue that the nature and aims of the actions of working people are difficult to assess as it changed according to each phase [This is the thesis statement] . The pre-revolutionary period was characterised by opposition to Britain’s authority. During this period the aims and actions of the working people were more conservative as they responded to grievances related to taxes and scarce land, issues which directly affected them. However, examination of activities such as the organisation of crowd action and town meetings, pamphlet writing, formal communications to Britain of American grievances and physical action in the streets, demonstrates that their aims and actions became more revolutionary after 1775 [These sentences give the ‘road map’ or overview of the content of the essay] .
The body of the essay develops and elaborates your argument. It does this by presenting a reasoned case supported by evidence from relevant scholarship. Its shape corresponds to the overview that you provided in your introduction.
The body of your essay should be written in paragraphs. Each body paragraph should develop one main idea that supports your argument. To learn how to structure a paragraph, look at the page developing clarity and focus in academic writing or do the Canvas module building good paragraphs .
Your conclusion should not offer any new material. Your evidence and argumentation should have been made clear to the reader in the body of the essay.
Use the conclusion to briefly restate the main argumentative position and provide a short summary of the themes discussed. In addition, also consider telling your reader:
- What the significance of your findings, or the implications of your conclusion, might be
- Whether there are other factors which need to be looked at, but which were outside the scope of the essay
- How your topic links to the wider context (‘bigger picture’) in your discipline.
Do not simply repeat yourself in this section. A conclusion which merely summarises is repetitive and reduces the impact of your paper.
Although, to a large extent, the working class were mainly those in the forefront of crowd action and they also led the revolts against wealthy plantation farmers, the American Revolution was not a class struggle [This is a statement of the concluding position of the essay]. Working people participated because the issues directly affected them – the threat posed by powerful landowners and the tyranny Britain represented. Whereas the aims and actions of the working classes were more concerned with resistance to British rule during the pre-revolutionary period, they became more revolutionary in nature after 1775 when the tension with Britain escalated [These sentences restate the key argument]. With this shift, a change in ideas occurred. In terms of considering the Revolution as a whole range of activities such as organising riots, communicating to Britain, attendance at town hall meetings and pamphlet writing, a difficulty emerges in that all classes were involved. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the extent to which a single group such as working people contributed to the American Revolution [These sentences give final thoughts on the topic].
5. Write clearly
An essay that makes good, evidence-supported points will only receive a high grade if it is written clearly. Clarity is produced through careful revision and editing, which can turn a good essay into an excellent one.
When you edit your essay, try to view it with fresh eyes – almost as if someone else had written it.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you clearly stated your argument in your introduction?
- Does the actual structure correspond to the ‘road map’ set out in your introduction?
- Have you clearly indicated how your main points support your argument?
- Have you clearly signposted the transitions between each of your main points for your reader?
- Does each paragraph introduce one main idea?
- Does every sentence in the paragraph support that main idea?
- Does each paragraph display relevant evidence and reasoning?
- Does each paragraph logically follow on from the one before it?
- Is each sentence grammatically complete?
- Is the spelling correct?
- Is the link between sentences clear to your readers?
- Have you avoided redundancy and repetition?
See more about editing on our editing your writing page.
6. Cite sources and evidence
Finally, check your citations to make sure that they are accurate and complete. Some faculties require you to use a specific citation style (e.g. APA) while others may allow you to choose a preferred one. Whatever style you use, you must follow its guidelines correctly and consistently. You can use Recite, the University of Melbourne style guide, to check your citations.
- Germov, J. (2011). Get great marks for your essays, reports and presentations (3rd ed.). NSW: Allen and Unwin.
- Using English for Academic Purposes: A guide for students in Higher Education [online]. Retrieved January 2020 from http://www.uefap.com
- Williams, J.M. & Colomb, G. G. (2010) Style: Lessons in clarity and grace. 10th ed. New York: Longman.
* Example introduction and conclusion adapted from a student paper.
Explore all resources
- Online learning module
Academic English is a distinct language, and one you’re expected to write in at university. Understand how to identify, create and improve your academic style.
Using sources in assessments: voice in academic writing
Effectively combine your ideas with those of other writers.
Developing clarity and focus in academic writing
Academic writing aims to be clear and precise, with a direct style that moves logically from one idea to the next. This page describes how you can structure sentences and paragraphs to achieve clarity and ‘flow’ in your writing.
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