Having to write essays and research can trigger quite a lot of stress and anxiety. It’s a daunting task for anyone, not just students.
The term “essay” refers to any piece of writing that expresses the author’s point of view on a subject. Of course, there are a million different ways to write an essay and a million things to write about, but good essay writing follows a similar framework.
Regardless of which classes you attend in high school or college, you will be required to write an essay at some point. Educators use essays to evaluate your critical thinking skills and your ability to express your opinions in academic writing. An academic essay uses facts, analysis, and interpretation to develop a concept or argument.
As a student, you may be required to write a variety of essays. An essay’s content and length are determined by your academic level, field of study, and course requirements. Most university essays are argumentative – their goal is to convince the reader of a certain stance on a subject.
There are three main stages in the process of writing an essay:
- Preparation: Choose a topic, conduct research, and write an essay outline.
- Writing: Introduce your thesis, develop your argument through evidence in the main body, and finish with a conclusion.
- Revision: Double-check content, organization, spelling, grammar, and formatting.
In this article, we will discuss some essential tips on essay writing.
Analyze the Question
Student essays are written as responses to certain questions – the essay prompts. So the first step is to make sure you understand the essay prompt.
Even if an essay is well written and well-thought-out, it will receive a poor score if it doesn’t respond to the prompt assigned to you.
- What is the direct question posed by the prompt?
- How long should the essay be?
- What further questions is the prompt implying?
- How can I connect the topic of my essay to what we’ve learned in class?
- Am I being asked for my opinion, the opinion of reliable scholarly sources, or facts?
- What kind of research should I conduct to gain a thorough understanding of the subject?
In general, essay questions are made up of three parts:
- Content terms – key notions related to the task
- Limiting terms – the topic’s breadth of interest
- Directive terms – what you’re being asked to do: define, analyze, compare, evaluate.
Brainstorm Your Topic
Once you’ve understood the essay prompt, the next step is to choose a topic to write about. Depending on the nature of your assignment, you may be assigned a specific topic to write about, or you may be asked to write on a broad theme or subject.
If your topic is not specified in the assignment, you’ll need to brainstorm and come up with one that is both engaging and that you can develop an interesting body around. Keep in mind that some topics will allow you to write extensively, while with others, you risk running out of ideas rather quickly.
If you’re having trouble deciding on a topic, you can start researching, and this will help you get some inspiration.
To brainstorm an essay topic, write down anything that comes to mind related to the prompt. Once you’ve compiled a list of potential subjects, it’s time to pick the one that best answers the essay’s question. You should pick a topic that is neither too broad nor too specific.
For example, if the requirements say that the length of your essay should be one page, you don’t want to choose the history of the United States as your topic since that would be too broad. You’ll want to narrow it down to a specific event.
You can also try clustering or mind mapping, which involves writing down the broad theme in the middle of the paper and surrounding it with clusters or bubbles with related ideas. This is a good way to go further into a topic and see connections between different aspects.
Do Your Research
A great essay usually requires some research. Take a look at the ideas that resulted from the brainstorming stage. Choose the ones you’ll be focusing on the most and look online for accurate and up-to-date resources that will help you support your claims.
You can use Google Scholar to find research papers written by reputable academics. Even those can contain faulty logic and hidden biases, so always read them critically. Wikipedia articles are a very convenient source for information, but they’re not considered reputable sources in academia. However, you can simply go to the “References” section, which you will find at the end of each article, for appropriate sources you can cite in your essay.
As you’re doing your research, keep detailed notes on relevant information you find interesting and want to include in your essay.
It’s better to use something like PDFChef tools to organize these notes electronically rather than taking them by hand. This way, you’ll save a lot of time because you can copy and paste them into a document, organize them and turn them into PDFs that cover different arguments in your essay. You can even combine the PDF to provide all the information you need for each section. This will also make it easier to cite information properly.
Create a Thesis Statement
The thesis statement is the key point or argument that you want to express through your paper. You will keep referring back to it as you write.
Based on the essay prompt and your research, what do you want to argue in this essay? You’ll need to define and present an informed position on the topic that you’ve chosen or was given to you. It will provide your essay with an overarching perspective that will make it more coherent.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, look through your research notes. You must have read something that made you ask yourself a question you’d like to learn the answer to. Or maybe you came across a theory or argument that intrigues you. Your essay could be about proving or disproving it.
Write it down and think of how you could summarize it in a couple of sentences. Your thesis stamen should be concise but still, encompass the main points you want to cover in the rest of the essay.