How To Write an Essay
Essays, generally, can be defined as a piece of writing that is put together with the intention of conveying ideas, putting forth arguments, or expressing emotions or experiences. Most of the time, essays are written to convince someone of something or to informs readers about a given topic. Essays can also be constructed in a more discursive manner as well, where multiple ideas are strung together, or various kinds of evidence and arguments are put together to tackle a specific perspective, problem, or question. Essays, generally, can be defined as a piece of writing that is put together with the intention of conveying ideas, putting forth arguments, or expressing emotions or experiences. Most of the time, essays are written to convince someone of something or to informs readers about a given topic. Essays can also be constructed in a more discursive manner as well, where multiple ideas are strung together, or various kinds of evidence and arguments are put together to tackle a specific perspective, problem, or question. Essays, generally, can be defined as a piece of writing that is put together with the intention of conveying ideas, putting forth arguments, or expressing emotions or experiences. Most of the time, essays are written to convince someone of something or to informs readers about a given topic. Essays can also be constructed in a more discursive manner as well, where multiple ideas are strung together, or various kinds of evidence and arguments are put together to tackle a specific perspective, problem, or question.
This can be accomplished through either informal and formal essays. These categories subsume many styles of essays, such as argumentative, expository, descriptive, narrative, critical or summary essays. This can be compared to fiction and non-fiction books or novels, and how these two categories subsume various kinds of genres. Formal essays reflect more structure and organization, adopt formal language, and have a clearly defined purpose. Informal essays adopt a more personal tone and may reflect individual experiences or emotions.
Despite the type or style, writing an essay requires significant planning. Brainstorming, planning, and outlining your essay beforehand instead of diving right into writing will expedite your writing process by making your writing more coherent and clear by providing a sound structure for you to fall back on.
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The process of writing an essay can be broadly split into 3 parts; planning, writing, and revising.
- Preparation and Planning This initial stage consists of brainstorming your area of interests, narrowing down to a specific topic, conducting research for that topic, deciding on the problem or question that you're going to explore or subject that you will be discussing, and coming up with an outline accordingly.
- Writing After a thorough planning process, you can pen your first draft according to a structure that you deem to be most fit for the style and type of essay you are writing. Generally, this would consist of stating your argument or main cause in the introduction, developing or explicating your points in the main body, and effectively summarizing everything in the conclusion., develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
- Proofreading and Revising After coming with with your initial draft, multiple rounds of revising and reviewing may be required to be able to thoroughly look through your content, the organization of your essay, the formatting, and other minute details such as grammar and spelling.
How to Write an Essay
1. Decide what kind of essay to write
Essays come in multiple forms and styles. Knowing what kind of essay you want to write can help you decide on a topic and structure that is most suited for the topic you are covering as well. There are a wide array of essay styles you can choose from; persuasive, argumentative, descriptive, narrative, critical and so on. Examine the different uses for each essay format, and the key differences between them to be able to discern which would be the most appropriate and effective for your writing goals for this essay.
2. Choose a writing style and tone
Decide on the tone, and writing or formatting style of your essay. The tone in your writing reflects your position and attitude towards both the subject of your writing and your readers. This would vary according to what you are tackling in your essay, the format of your essay, and who you elieve your readers would be.
While you can work on your formatting a little later, it would help if this was decided upon at this stage instead, so that you can gather the appropriate research material and their citations accordingly.
After deciding upon what kind of essay you're going to be working on, you can now begin to brainstorm about your areas and topics of interest.
Note down everything that comes to your mind as you think about your personal areas of interest, topics and issues you can possibly explore if you've been given an assignment. You can do this by coming up with a mind-map; writing down your main, broader topic or idea in the centre, and branching out with related, smaller ideas that you can continue to expound
Brainstorming and mind-mapping is an effective and efficient way of developing a topic by many folds, and being able to visualize how multiple ideas can intersect and connect. Through this process, you will be able to come up with a list of possible writing topics. Narrow this list down, and choose one that would be the most apt for exploration, or the most fitting for an assignment at hand.
Going straight into writing your essay without having substantial research material at your fingertips will make the later stages of your writing more complicated. Take a substantial amount of time to gather material and maybe even pre-existing research on the topic you are going to explore in your essay. Cover a wide variety of material and information types; primary and secondary sources, if possible.
Start this process as early as possible and spend as much time as you can on it. Gathering as much research as possible and as early as possible can help iron out any uncertainties you may have about your topic of interest, help you understand the current status of research that has already been done in relation to what you want to explore, and hopefully elucidate the best path or approach your essay
5. Develop a thesis statement or central discussive idea
A thesis statement should put forth what the writer or researcher is attempting to explore and explain within your chosen subject matter. Your thesis statement should follow through with your chosen topic and your position about it in a clear and succinct manner. If a thesis statement would reflect the main crux of your exploration without revealing key details, and allows you a good amount of scope and in which you have an interest in, these are signs of an efficient thesis statement.
Even if your essay does not require a clear thesis statement, the central idea or goal of a descriptive, narrative, review or even summary essay should also be reflected clearly early on in the essay.
6. Create an outline
Next, begin to write the outline of your essay. Drawing the skeleton of your essay will ensure that your paper is sound, logical, properly organized, and has a good flow. Having this blueprint to fall back on during the actual writing process will allow you problem-solve much quicker as well.
You can start your outline by stating your thesis statement, or main topic of discussion, at the very top. Follow this by planning how many main points you want to bring up, how many body paragraph you would need accordingly, and then by constructing 1 or 2 liners about what each body paragraph would be addressing. Avoid addressing more than one major point of discussion in a single paragraph, as this can overwhelm or confuse readers.
Make sure you have clear, and distinct transitions between your paragraphs as well. Even though all the points are related and serve the thesis statement or main discussion of the essay, writing in effective transitions will add to the flow and readability of the essay.
You can also beef your outline up by adding supporting points and contextual information under each body paragraph. Adding in the citations and references here would also make it easier for you to make your references or bibliography list later on.
7. Write your first draft
With an outline in hand and a much clearer picture of your essay in its entirety, write your first draft. Keep in mind that the first draft is in no way or means your end product, but the first step before revisions and proofreading. This can feel daunting, but the preparation and organization you have done prior to this will guide you.
Tackle your first draft section by section. Begin by writing your introductory paragraph with your thesis statement, and contextual and secondary information that you have gathered.
The body paragraphs of your essay will make up the bulk of your information. There is no fixed number of paragraphs that you need to section your essay into. But the longer your essay is, the higher the chance that it gets long-winded and your points get a little convoluted along the way. As you have done during putting your outline together, make use of transition words, phrases, and sentences to manage the flow of your paper.
After writing out the main body paragraphs, construct a conclusion that effectively reinforces your thesis or central idea, places emphasis your evidence once again, and summarizes all the points you've raised. Avoid adding any new data or information as your wrap your essay up. However, you could choose to add a some personal insight or perspective at the end, if your essay style allows for it.
As mentioned, you will be able to revise and fine-tune your writing after you complete the first draft. During this stage of your writing, spend time writing according to the outline you've made and penning down the information you have gathered and organized into a general flow.
8. Review, and write your next draft
Take a break from writing after the first draft, and come back a little later to start working on the second version of your paper. Pay attention to the nuances of your paper outside of the information and resources used, such as the overall structure, organization, language.
While writing your second draft, think about the relevance of the information you have used, the strength and validity of your points and evidence, how you could shift sections around to improve the flow and readability of your paper. Also pay attention to your language and the manner in which you have worded your content. Think about how you could re-phrase and substitute your language here and there to communicate your points or arguments better.
Keep in mind that this step in your writing can happen a few times, however many you think you require in order to arrive at the best version of your essay. But cap this at around 3 or 4 edits. Past this, lethargy might set in and you might start editing for the sake of a review.
9. Proofread and format
During this stage, you can take note of and revise other details of your paper apart from the content, such as the language used, grammar and punctuation, the overall length of your work, and minor restructuring if needed.
As you are reading your first draft, think about ways in which you could elaborate on your points and expand your writing to better develop the ideas you are exploring. Reflect on how your points, evidence, explanations, and links add to or affect the flow or logic of your paper, and discern if they are relevant to your argument or main idea of the paper.
During this proofreading stage, spend time to add to and check the technical formatting of your paper as well. These includes things such as your font size, line-spacing, page numbering, titles, section headings, headers, foot notes, citations and resources, and so on. It is recommended to proofread your paper more than once, to make sure you have not missed anything out. If you have been reviewing your work for a long time, hand your paper to a friend or mentor to take a look for you and for their feedback as well.