Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.
According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:
1. Pick a topic.
You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.
If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?
Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.
Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.
2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.
In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.
To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.
If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.
3. Write your thesis statement.
Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?
Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”
Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”
4. Write the body.
The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.
Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.
5. Write the introduction.
Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.
Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.
6. Write the conclusion.
The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.
7. Add the finishing touches.
After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.
Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.
Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.
Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.
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Here is a list of ten online writing guides that can be helpful for both young and experienced students.
There are guides that are quick and easy to follow and there are very intensive ones as well. There are guides that give tips that students may use as their personal grammar rulebook. And there is even a guide that may help inspire one when composing his own essay template and plan.
All the resources suggest quite different approach and information on essay writing, so choose the one that fits your needs the best and watch your writing improve.
1. Guide to Writing a Basic Essay
This is a guide that gives very basic and general information on how to write an essay. It is not for someone trying to get the highest grade and is not for overachievers. It is for people in high school that have not written many essays and for people that need a quick refresh on writing essays. The biggest advantage of this resource is its simplicity. It doesn’t go into masses of details, that make the guide easier to use.
2. Essaymama’s Essay Writing Guide
Essaymama’s Essay Writing Guide was created by professional writers that had to write essays for their living. Over time, they have learned a lot of tricks and tips for getting higher grades, and they shared these tips via this resource. Besides, the guide has quite easy and accurate structure, so you will not have to spend much time to find the information you need. If you want to get general information on writing essays along with practical tips then you should look through this guide.
3. Guide to Grammar and Writing
This website suggests in-depth and comprehensive guide on writing, but unfortunately it has an outdated form of navigation, so you may find yourself searching for quite a while before you get what you want. If you plough through and keep searching, you will find some very in-depth and very correct information you can use to improve your writing skills and your essays.
RELATED: 7 writing mistakes you need to stop making today
4. Own Online Writing Lab
This may be one of the most correct writing websites on the Internet. There are no secret snippets of information on this website that will get you a better grade, but there is correct information about grammar and the English language. It is the sort of website a teacher may use to ensure he or she teaches the right thing. Think of this website as a rulebook for the English language that eventually will improve your writing skills.
5. Writing Center – Strategies for Essay Writing
This is not a guide on grammar or the English language like the OWL resource, nor a loaded with tips and advice like the EssayMama guide. This is a website that gives you general strategies for essay writing. The authors of the resource have written articles on each of the essay elements, that make the website easier to use and to find the information you look for.
6. Education Exeter – A Brief Guide to Writing Essays
This is a short writing guide that is probably mostly used by people that need a quick refresher on how to write essays and a quick reminder on essay writing concepts. If you are not sure how to write essays, but you are also not too worried about getting a higher mark/grade, then this resource is suitable for you. It may be brief, but it is definitely better than most of the YouTube videos you are going to see on the subject.
7. Student University Essay Writing Basics
This is another website that offers a very basic and very short refresher course on writing essays. It has been built by a university but is so simple that a high school student could use and understand it. The resource gives a list of possible steps while writing essays and tells how to succeed at each of them.
8. David Gauntlett Essay Writing Guide
This is a downloadable resource that gives you a rundown of how you may write essays. It starts with the basics and then goes into more details as to how you may write each section of your essay. If you have a tablet reader, it may be a good document to load and read in sections when you have free time or when you are traveling on a bus or train, for example.
9. College of Dublin – Guidelines for Essay Writing
If you suffer from writer’s block, then this is the perfect resource for you. It is set out as if it were an essay-writing plan. However, it is not for people that have no idea how to write essays. This is for students that consider themselves to be very good at writing essays and want to create an essay writing process and template to make the writing process easier. Think of it as a checklist or shopping list full of things you need to consider when you write your essay.
10. A Helpful Guide to Essay Writing by Anglia Ruskin University
This is a PDF file that offers a guide to writing your essays. It starts simply with thing such as how to plan and structure your essay, and then moves into writing, drafting, refining and checking your work. It then goes into the different types of essay you may write and the styles you may be asked to write. Once you have read it all, you may use it as a reference guide. So for example, if you are asked to write a research paper you can check with the PDF on how to do it correctly.
This article originally appeared on Surviving College, the ultimate source for all things college and entertainment, made for college students.
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