What Is an Essay?
As we get closer to the 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, as they are a great tool for developing various skills necessary in life, like: analytical thinking, research, creative skills, and so on.
In this article, we will look at writing tips that can help you score your essay an A. Let’s start from the beginning, to master writing an essay, 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 type of paper you are writing. There are four main essay categories:
- Descriptive — describes a particular topic or situation
- Persuasive — convince the reader to adopt a certain point of view
- Informative — present 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 persuasive, expository, or narrative texts.
- Persuasive: This paper aims to persuade the audience about a certain topic or idea.
- Cause-and-Effect: Is an essay in which a situation 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 type of writing the author chooses his own topic and style to put together 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 a type of assignment in which the “How” is explained. It usually follows a step-by-step structure.
- Descriptive: This is an essay that gives a full overview of a certain topic or thing. It includes a full explanation of each of the five senses.
- Analytical: This is a type of paper that requires a full analysis of a topic or idea. Critical thinking and implementation of personal inferences are required.
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 essay is double-spaced. You should delineate your paragraphs in a clear way. A single tab at the beginning of each paragraph 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 be using sometimes depends on the academic subject that 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 the 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 undergraduate college essays can be around 1500-5000 words long. You should also always pay attention to the requirements of your professor—usually given along with your assignment.
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 topic.
When deciding on what to write about consider these things:
- Make sure to have 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 will understand you properly and that you won’t waste both 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 that 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 make sure that you will be able to 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 boring paper for the 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 it can have on kids”.
- A desire to look smart by choosing hard and strange topics. If a topic is too difficult, it might be hard to find enough information about it or it might be 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. It should be specific and based only on what you are going to 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 paper. 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:
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 hook will make the audience want to read more.
Example of a good attention grabber:
The point where my life changed was 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 in which you need to explain and develop the main ideas of your topic. It comes after the introduction and before the conclusion. Almost always, this is the longest part of the paper. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence, then write down a supporting point for that idea, and end it by elaborating upon that idea (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 that will tie the evidence or details back to the main point and brings the paragraph 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 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 the conclusion.
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. After you have written a rough draft, read it one more time and follow our 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.
You should try to support your thesis with information in your paragraphs. Each paragraph should include a topic sentence — the most important sentence in the paragraph that tells readers what the rest of the paragraph 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 thesis?
- Have you managed to successfully present your topic in the first draft?
- Does the conclusion give an interesting look into the future of this topic?
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.