How To Write The Perfect Essay
Jan 29, 2019 Blog Articles , English Language Articles , Humanities Articles , Law Articles , Politics Articles , Writing Articles
If you decide to study English or a subject within Arts and Humanities at university, it’s going to involve a lot of essay writing. It’s a challenging skill to master because it requires both creativity and logical planning, but if you ensure you do the following whenever you write an essay, you should be on the way to success:
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T his may sound time-consuming, but if you make a really good plan you will actually save yourself time when it comes to writing the essay, as you’ll know where your answer is headed and won’t write yourself into a corner. Don’t worry if you’re stuck at first – jot down a few ideas anyway and chances are the rest will follow. I find it easiest to make a mind map, with each new ‘bubble’ representing one of my main paragraphs. I then write quotations which will be useful for my analysis around the bubble.
For example, if I was answering the question, ‘ To what extent is Curley’s wife portrayed as a victim in Of Mice and Men ? ’ I might begin a mind map which looks something like this:
Y ou can keep adding to this plan, crossing bits out and linking the different bubbles when you spot connections between them. Even though you won’t have time to make such a detailed plan under exam conditions, it can be helpful just to sketch a brief one, including a few key words, so that you don’t panic and go off topic when writing your essay. If you don’t like the mind map format, there are plenty of others to choose from: you could make a table, a flowchart, or simply a list of bullet points.
2. Have a clear structure
Think about this while you are planning. Your essay is like an argument or a speech – it needs to have a logical structure, with all your points coming together to answer the question. Start with the basics: it is best to choose a few major points which will become your main paragraphs. Three main paragraphs is a good number for an exam essay, since you will be under time pressure. Organise your points in a pattern of YES (agreement with the question) – AND (another ‘YES’ point) – BUT (disagreement or complication) if you agree with the question overall, or YES – BUT – AND if you disagree. This will ensure that you are always focused on your argument and don’t stray too far from the question.
For example, you could structure the Of Mice and Men sample question as follows:
‘To what extent is Curley’s wife portrayed as a victim in Of Mice and Men?’
- YES – descriptions of her appearance
- AND – other people’s attitudes towards her
- BUT – her position as the only woman on the ranch gives her power as she uses her femininity to advantage
If you wanted to write a longer essay, you could include additional paragraphs under the ‘YES/AND’ category, perhaps discussing the ways in which Curley’s wife reveals her vulnerability and insecurities and shares her dreams with the other characters; on the other hand, you could also lengthen your essay by including another ‘BUT’ paragraph about her cruel and manipulative streak.
Of course, this is not necessarily the only right way to answer this essay question: as long as you back up your points with evidence from the text, you can take any standpoint that makes sense.
3. Back up your points with well-analysed quotations
You wouldn’t write a scientific report without including evidence to support your findings, so why should it be any different with an essay even though you aren’t strictly required to substantiate every single point you make with a quotation, there’s no harm in trying. a close reading of your quotations can enrich your appreciation of the question and will be sure to impress examiners..
When selecting the best quotations to use in your essay, keep an eye out for specific literary techniques. For example, you could discuss Curley’s wife’s use of a rhetorical question when she says, ‘An’ what am I doin’? Standin’ here talking to a bunch of bindle stiffs’:
The rhetorical question “An’ what am I doin’?” signifies that Curley’s wife is very insecure; she seems to be questioning her own life choices. Moreover, the fact that she does not expect anyone to respond to her question highlights her loneliness.
Other literary techniques to look out for include:
- Tricolon – a group of three words or phrases placed close together for emphasis
- Tautology – using different words that mean the same thing, eg ‘frightening’ and ‘terrifying’
- Parallelism – ABAB structure; often signifies movement from one concept to another
- Chiasmus – ABBA structure; draws attention to that phrase
- Polysyndeton – many conjunctions in a sentence
- Asyndeton – lack of conjunctions; can speed up the pace of a sentence
- Polyptoton – using the same word in different forms for emphasis, eg ‘done’ and ‘doing’
- Alliteration – repetition of the same sound; different forms of alliteration include assonance (similar vowel sounds), plosive alliteration (‘b’, ‘d’ and ‘p’ sounds) and sibilance (‘s’ sounds)
- Anaphora – repetition of words; often used to emphasise a particular point
Don’t worry if you can’t locate all of these literary devices in the work you’re analysing – you can also discuss more obvious effects, like metaphor, simile and onomatopoeia. It’s not a problem if you can’t remember all the long names – it’s far more important to explain the effect of the literary techniques and their relevance to the question than to use the correct terminology.
4. Be creative and original right the way through
Anyone can write an essay using the tips above, but the thing that really makes it ‘perfect’ is your own unique take on the topic you’re discussing. If you’ve noticed something intriguing or unusual in your reading, point it out: if you find it interesting, chances are the examiner will too.
Creative writing and essay writing are more closely linked than you might imagine; keep the idea that you’re writing a speech or argument in mind, and you’re guaranteed to grab your reader’s attention.
It’s important to set out your line of argument in your introduction, introducing your main points and the general direction your essay will take, but don’t forget to keep something back for the conclusion, too. Yes, you need to summarise your main points, but if you’re just repeating the things you said in your introduction, the essay itself is rendered pointless.
Think of your conclusion as the climax of your speech, the bit everything else has been leading up to, rather than the boring plenary at the end of the interesting stuff.
To return to Of Mice and Men once more, here is an example of the ideal difference between an introduction and a conclusion:
In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men , Curley’s wife is portrayed as an ambiguous character. She could be viewed either as a cruel, seductive temptress or a lonely woman who is a victim of her society’s attitudes. Though she does seem to wield a form of sexual power, it is clear that Curley’s wife is largely a victim. This interpretation is supported by Steinbeck’s description of her appearance, other people’s attitudes, her dreams, and her evident loneliness and insecurity.
Overall, it is clear that Curley’s wife is a victim and is portrayed as such throughout the novel, in the descriptions of her appearance, her dreams, other people’s judgemental attitudes, and her loneliness and insecurities. However, a character who was a victim and nothing else would be one-dimensional and Curley’s wife is not. Although she suffers in many ways, she is shown to assert herself through the manipulation of her femininity – a small rebellion against the victimisation she experiences.
Both refer back consistently to the question and summarise the essay’s main points; however, the conclusion adds something new which has been established in the main body of the essay and yet complicates the simple summary which is found in the introduction.
- Start by writing a thorough plan
- Ensure your essay has a clear structure and overall argument
- Try to back up each point you make with a quotation
- Answer the question in your introduction and conclusion but remember to be creative too
Next Steps for Prospective English Students
- Explore the Guardian’s research into how to write better essays
- Want to write for a living? Read our blog post on How to Become a Writer
- See these top tips for English literature students
- Prepare for university and experience what it’s like studying on the Oxford University campus in our Oxford Summer School .
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Hannah is an undergraduate English student at Somerville College, Oxford, and has a particular interest in postcolonial literature and the Gothic. She thinks literature is a crucial way of developing empathy and learning about the wider world, and is excited to be Scholastica Inspires’ Literature Editor! When she isn’t writing essays about 17th-century court masques, she enjoys acting, travelling and creative writing.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay
College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.
When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.
Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.
So, what does this mean for you?
Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.
A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.
A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.
Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.
More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.
Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.
Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.
Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.
Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.
Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.
Grab the Reader From the Start
You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.
Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.
Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.
Focus on Deeper Themes
Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.
College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.
They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.
Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?
Show Don’t Tell
As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.
The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.
Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.
Try Doing Something Different
If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?
If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.
You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.
However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.
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Write With the Reader in Mind
Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.
Use transitions between paragraphs.
Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?
Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?
Write Several Drafts
Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.
Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.
Read It Aloud
Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.
If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.
Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.
Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.
Ask Others to Read Your Essay
Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.
Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.
Pay Attention to Form
Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.
“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.
In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.
End Your Essay With a “Kicker”
In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.
It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.
So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.
While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.
Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!
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How To Write An Essay: Beginner Tips And Tricks
Many students dread writing essays, but essay writing is an important skill to develop in high school, university, and even into your future career. By learning how to write an essay properly, the process can become more enjoyable and you’ll find you’re better able to organize and articulate your thoughts.
When writing an essay, it’s common to follow a specific pattern, no matter what the topic is. Once you’ve used the pattern a few times and you know how to structure an essay, it will become a lot more simple to apply your knowledge to every essay.
No matter which major you choose, you should know how to craft a good essay. Here, we’ll cover the basics of essay writing, along with some helpful tips to make the writing process go smoothly.
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Types of Essays
Think of an essay as a discussion. There are many types of discussions you can have with someone else. You can be describing a story that happened to you, you might explain to them how to do something, or you might even argue about a certain topic.
When it comes to different types of essays, it follows a similar pattern. Like a friendly discussion, each type of essay will come with its own set of expectations or goals.
For example, when arguing with a friend, your goal is to convince them that you’re right. The same goes for an argumentative essay.
Here are a few of the main essay types you can expect to come across during your time in school:
This type of essay is almost like telling a story, not in the traditional sense with dialogue and characters, but as if you’re writing out an event or series of events to relay information to the reader.
Here, your goal is to persuade the reader about your views on a specific topic.
This is the kind of essay where you go into a lot more specific details describing a topic such as a place or an event.
In this essay, you’re choosing a stance on a topic, usually controversial, and your goal is to present evidence that proves your point is correct.
Your purpose with this type of essay is to tell the reader how to complete a specific process, often including a step-by-step guide or something similar.
Compare and Contrast Essay
You might have done this in school with two different books or characters, but the ultimate goal is to draw similarities and differences between any two given subjects.
The Main Stages of Essay Writing
When it comes to writing an essay, many students think the only stage is getting all your ideas down on paper and submitting your work. However, that’s not quite the case.
There are three main stages of writing an essay, each one with its own purpose. Of course, writing the essay itself is the most substantial part, but the other two stages are equally as important.
So, what are these three stages of essay writing? They are:
Before you even write one word, it’s important to prepare the content and structure of your essay. If a topic wasn’t assigned to you, then the first thing you should do is settle on a topic. Next, you want to conduct your research on that topic and create a detailed outline based on your research. The preparation stage will make writing your essay that much easier since, with your outline and research, you should already have the skeleton of your essay.
Writing is the most time-consuming stage. In this stage, you will write out all your thoughts and ideas and craft your essay based on your outline. You’ll work on developing your ideas and fleshing them out throughout the introduction, body, and conclusion (more on these soon).
In the final stage, you’ll go over your essay and check for a few things. First, you’ll check if your essay is cohesive, if all the points make sense and are related to your topic, and that your facts are cited and backed up. You can also check for typos, grammar and punctuation mistakes, and formatting errors.
The Five-Paragraph Essay
We mentioned earlier that essay writing follows a specific structure, and for the most part in academic or college essays , the five-paragraph essay is the generally accepted structure you’ll be expected to use.
The five-paragraph essay is broken down into one introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a closing paragraph. However, that doesn’t always mean that an essay is written strictly in five paragraphs, but rather that this structure can be used loosely and the three body paragraphs might become three sections instead.
Let’s take a closer look at each section and what it entails.
As the name implies, the purpose of your introduction paragraph is to introduce your idea. A good introduction begins with a “hook,” something that grabs your reader’s attention and makes them excited to read more.
Another key tenant of an introduction is a thesis statement, which usually comes towards the end of the introduction itself. Your thesis statement should be a phrase that explains your argument, position, or central idea that you plan on developing throughout the essay.
You can also include a short outline of what to expect in your introduction, including bringing up brief points that you plan on explaining more later on in the body paragraphs.
Here is where most of your essay happens. The body paragraphs are where you develop your ideas and bring up all the points related to your main topic.
In general, you’re meant to have three body paragraphs, or sections, and each one should bring up a different point. Think of it as bringing up evidence. Each paragraph is a different piece of evidence, and when the three pieces are taken together, it backs up your main point — your thesis statement — really well.
That being said, you still want each body paragraph to be tied together in some way so that the essay flows. The points should be distinct enough, but they should relate to each other, and definitely to your thesis statement. Each body paragraph works to advance your point, so when crafting your essay, it’s important to keep this in mind so that you avoid going off-track or writing things that are off-topic.
Many students aren’t sure how to write a conclusion for an essay and tend to see their conclusion as an afterthought, but this section is just as important as the rest of your work.
You shouldn’t be presenting any new ideas in your conclusion, but you should summarize your main points and show how they back up your thesis statement.
Essentially, the conclusion is similar in structure and content to the introduction, but instead of introducing your essay, it should be wrapping up the main thoughts and presenting them to the reader as a singular closed argument.
Photo by AMIT RANJAN on Unsplash
Steps to Writing an Essay
Now that you have a better idea of an essay’s structure and all the elements that go into it, you might be wondering what the different steps are to actually write your essay.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Instead of going in blind, follow these steps on how to write your essay from start to finish.
Understand Your Assignment
When writing an essay for an assignment, the first critical step is to make sure you’ve read through your assignment carefully and understand it thoroughly. You want to check what type of essay is required, that you understand the topic, and that you pay attention to any formatting or structural requirements. You don’t want to lose marks just because you didn’t read the assignment carefully.
Research Your Topic
Once you understand your assignment, it’s time to do some research. In this step, you should start looking at different sources to get ideas for what points you want to bring up throughout your essay.
Search online or head to the library and get as many resources as possible. You don’t need to use them all, but it’s good to start with a lot and then narrow down your sources as you become more certain of your essay’s direction.
After research comes the brainstorming. There are a lot of different ways to start the brainstorming process . Here are a few you might find helpful:
- Think about what you found during your research that interested you the most
- Jot down all your ideas, even if they’re not yet fully formed
- Create word clouds or maps for similar terms or ideas that come up so you can group them together based on their similarities
- Try freewriting to get all your ideas out before arranging them
Create a Thesis
This is often the most tricky part of the whole process since you want to create a thesis that’s strong and that you’re about to develop throughout the entire essay. Therefore, you want to choose a thesis statement that’s broad enough that you’ll have enough to say about it, but not so broad that you can’t be precise.
Write Your Outline
Armed with your research, brainstorming sessions, and your thesis statement, the next step is to write an outline.
In the outline, you’ll want to put your thesis statement at the beginning and start creating the basic skeleton of how you want your essay to look.
A good way to tackle an essay is to use topic sentences . A topic sentence is like a mini-thesis statement that is usually the first sentence of a new paragraph. This sentence introduces the main idea that will be detailed throughout the paragraph.
If you create an outline with the topic sentences for your body paragraphs and then a few points of what you want to discuss, you’ll already have a strong starting point when it comes time to sit down and write. This brings us to our next step…
Write a First Draft
The first time you write your entire essay doesn’t need to be perfect, but you do need to get everything on the page so that you’re able to then write a second draft or review it afterward.
Everyone’s writing process is different. Some students like to write their essay in the standard order of intro, body, and conclusion, while others prefer to start with the “meat” of the essay and tackle the body, and then fill in the other sections afterward.
Make sure your essay follows your outline and that everything relates to your thesis statement and your points are backed up by the research you did.
Revise, Edit, and Proofread
The revision process is one of the three main stages of writing an essay, yet many people skip this step thinking their work is done after the first draft is complete.
However, proofreading, reviewing, and making edits on your essay can spell the difference between a B paper and an A.
After writing the first draft, try and set your essay aside for a few hours or even a day or two, and then come back to it with fresh eyes to review it. You might find mistakes or inconsistencies you missed or better ways to formulate your arguments.
Add the Finishing Touches
Finally, you’ll want to make sure everything that’s required is in your essay. Review your assignment again and see if all the requirements are there, such as formatting rules, citations, quotes, etc.
Go over the order of your paragraphs and make sure everything makes sense, flows well, and uses the same writing style .
Once everything is checked and all the last touches are added, give your essay a final read through just to ensure it’s as you want it before handing it in.
A good way to do this is to read your essay out loud since you’ll be able to hear if there are any mistakes or inaccuracies.
Essay Writing Tips
With the steps outlined above, you should be able to craft a great essay. Still, there are some other handy tips we’d recommend just to ensure that the essay writing process goes as smoothly as possible.
- Start your essay early. This is the first tip for a reason. It’s one of the most important things you can do to write a good essay. If you start it the night before, then you won’t have enough time to research, brainstorm, and outline — and you surely won’t have enough time to review.
- Don’t try and write it in one sitting. It’s ok if you need to take breaks or write it over a few days. It’s better to write it in multiple sittings so that you have a fresh mind each time and you’re able to focus.
- Always keep the essay question in mind. If you’re given an assigned question, then you should always keep it handy when writing your essay to make sure you’re always working to answer the question.
- Use transitions between paragraphs. In order to improve the readability of your essay, try and make clear transitions between paragraphs. This means trying to relate the end of one paragraph to the beginning of the next one so the shift doesn’t seem random.
- Integrate your research thoughtfully. Add in citations or quotes from your research materials to back up your thesis and main points. This will show that you did the research and that your thesis is backed up by it.
Writing an essay doesn’t need to be daunting if you know how to approach it. Using our essay writing steps and tips, you’ll have better knowledge on how to write an essay and you’ll be able to apply it to your next assignment. Once you do this a few times, it will become more natural to you and the essay writing process will become quicker and easier.
If you still need assistance with your essay, check with a student advisor to see if they offer help with writing. At University of the People(UoPeople), we always want our students to succeed, so our student advisors are ready to help with writing skills when necessary.
Essay and dissertation writing skills
Planning your essay
Writing your introduction
Structuring your essay
- Writing essays in science subjects
- Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
- Writing extended essays and dissertations
- Planning your dissertation writing time
Structuring your dissertation
- Top tips for writing longer pieces of work
Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations
University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).
A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions.
You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:
Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.
However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:
Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’
Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:
The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.
- Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
- References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline.
Essay writing in science subjects
If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:
A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.
Short videos to support your essay writing skills
There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:
- Approaching different types of essay questions
- Structuring your essay
- Writing an introduction
- Making use of evidence in your essay writing
- Writing your conclusion
Extended essays and dissertations
Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.
Planning your time effectively
Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.
Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.
The structure of extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:
- The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
- Explanation of the focus of your work.
- Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
- List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.
The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.
The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources.
Tips on writing longer pieces of work
Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.
For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work .
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A (Very) Simple Way to Improve Your Writing
- Mark Rennella
It’s called the “one-idea rule” — and any level of writer can use it.
The “one idea” rule is a simple concept that can help you sharpen your writing, persuade others by presenting your argument in a clear, concise, and engaging way. What exactly does the rule say?
- Every component of a successful piece of writing should express only one idea.
- In persuasive writing, your “one idea” is often the argument or belief you are presenting to the reader. Once you identify what that argument is, the “one-idea rule” can help you develop, revise, and connect the various components of your writing.
- For instance, let’s say you’re writing an essay. There are three components you will be working with throughout your piece: the title, the paragraphs, and the sentences.
- Each of these parts should be dedicated to just one idea. The ideas are not identical, of course, but they’re all related. If done correctly, the smaller ideas (in sentences) all build (in paragraphs) to support the main point (suggested in the title).
Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .
Most advice about writing looks like a long laundry list of “do’s and don’ts.” These lists can be helpful from time to time, but they’re hard to remember … and, therefore, hard to depend on when you’re having trouble putting your thoughts to paper. During my time in academia, teaching composition at the undergraduate and graduate levels, I saw many people struggle with this.
- MR Mark Rennella is Associate Editor at HBP and has published two books, Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Leaders and The Boston Cosmopolitans .
English Essay: Everything a Novice Needs to Know
Table of Contents
Do you have trouble writing essays in English? Do not worry because overcoming obstacles present a chance to learn something new. Just keep in mind that while it may seem like a tedious chore to write an essay in English, but you may enhance your writing skills with consistent practice and the right knowledge. Practicing is something you have to do on your own, by investing your time and effort. If we talk about the data, I’ve gathered all the key suggestions in this blog post to assist you in creating better English essays. Everything you need to know as a novice, from the definition of an essay through its writing process. And to make it simpler for you allassignmenthelp.com has listed each of those elements right here in this writing.
Let me first provide you with the most crucial information before getting into the specifics. Never subject yourself to pressure to do perfectly. Excellence is not something that will come in the initial time. It can only be accomplished after a lot of training and experience.
What Is an English Essay?
An essay is a short or long piece of writing that aims at outlining the perspective of the author on a specific topic. They can be formal or informal in nature. The formal essay is academic and deals with serious topics most of the time. at the same time, informal essays deal with humorous elements and are more personal in nature. You might already have encountered an essay at the school level. Generally, we all get topics like “my school essay” to write in our English language. Students are assigned such types of essays at the primary level. To develop skills in writing, teachers give essay-writing tasks from the early stages of education. Essays at the university level are quite different; they follow a completely different approach. University academic essays are classified into several types.
Now, let’s move on to some tips and tricks that can help you with writing an English essay quickly.
Also Read: Opinion Essay Topics: Unique Ideas To Write About
Guidelines for Crafting a Flawless English Essay
Bringing perfection to any type of writing work is not easy at all. It becomes more difficult when it comes to essays. With good research and creative skills, you can definitely write a good English essay Below, I have mentioned a few points to look for while writing an essay.
1- Make use of scholarly publications and credible sources
All the information and facts used in your essay writing must be from valid sources and scholarly articles. There are various free websites that may provide ample information on your topic, but it is not necessary that the information is correct. So, always double and triple-check them. You can go for premium websites so that you will only get genuine information and scholarly articles. While writing an essay, one may not need to use ornamented language. Use audience-specific language. Your essay should not compel the reader to use the Oxford dictionary on every line. If your vocabulary is too difficult to understand, then your essay will not get enough readers. Use simple language to make communication easy and understandable.
2- Maintain a close eye on the vocabulary and grammar norms
Students from all backgrounds, like English and non-English language speakers, can make grammatical and punctuation errors. But for new writers, the chance of making mistakes is even greater, and it can ruin the whole essay. For better and error-free writing, you can even take help from different websites like Grammarly and Quillbot. After completing your write-up, never forget to proofread to remove all the grammatical and typographical errors.
3- Do the paper’s referencing and structuring precisely
This is an essential part of the writing process as it gives the final touch and beautification to your English essay. Suppose you make an improper citation and do not put your English essay in the correct format according to the university guidelines, then slipping from an A grade to a C grade is almost certain. You can also pay someone to do your assignment at an affordable price. Taking help from professional experts is a wiser idea as they have complete knowledge of different formats. They will cite your work from the sources and arrange your essay perfectly as per your requirements.
Always be on the lookout for the aforementioned things before submitting your final essay. Because, at the university level, everything is strictly monitored, you need to be on the board like others. To get good grades, keep a margin of error as thin as possible. Read as much as possible related to your essay topic and in general as well to include suitable information in your writing. Reading is highly essential as it will help you understand how to frame an essay on different topics. Try to read as much as you can. Doing all these things would be really difficult in the initial stages. But be patient and work harder to achieve success.
To better understand your essay type, we shall cover the various essay styles in this article. Therefore, don’t forget to peek at them.
Different Types of Essays
There are four different types of essays. They are as follows:
- Narrative essay
- Descriptive essay
- Persuasive essay
- Expository essay
1- Narrative essays
In a narrative essay, the writer narrates an event or a story with the help of an essay. While writing these essays, you can be creative and openly express your personal experience. You must consciously involve and engage your reader in the story. Readers should feel their active presence in the story narrated by you. If this happens, you can think you have written a good essay. If not, you must improve yourself for the better.
Topics for narrative essay examples:
- Convey your first day in college.
- What have you done during your summer vacations?
- Describe a spooky incident in your life.
- Something funny happened to you.
- Narrate the story of your life.
- Something overwhelming happened to you.
- Describe the events of your last birthday.
- Narrate the story of when you first time failed your exams.
2- Descriptive essays
As the name suggests, such essays are based on descriptions. A writer describes a place, event or object, or any event from a memory. But it is not just providing you with a description; rather, the writer creates a picture through his/her words. Mainly, writers focus on evoking the senses of the readers. They provide a description of the smell, sound, etc. Descriptive essays are successful when the reader develops the same emotion as the writer felt during the moment.
Topics for descriptive essay examples:
- Which is your favorite place in your hometown?
- Express the comfort you get in your room.
- What could be your perfect vacation place?
- Who is the person whom you love the most?
- How did you feel when you got your salary?
- How did you feel when you were proposed to by your love?
- Who is your favorite singer and why do you like him/her the most?
- Why do you like Rome?
- Describe your experience when you topped in your classroom.
3- Expository essays
These essays are based on studies and research. Before writing this essay, you must have extensive knowledge and information about the topic. Expository essays are classified into many types: compare and contrast essays; cause and effect essays; classification essays; problem and solution essays; definition and process essays. All these types of essays are part of expository essay writing but have their own uniqueness. The main purpose of writing an expository essay is to provide useful knowledge to the readers.
Topics for expository essay examples:
- Explain your reasons to admire a specific person.
- Why someone experienced should become a leader?
- Is being strict the only way to control the children?
- What could be the reason for stress among the students?
- Explain how music can create a soothing effect.
- What could be the reason for not working in a team?
- Why do students prefer to skip school?
- Is the drug harmful or has any side effects?
- Is committing suicide the only solution for teens who are facing academic stress?
- Does smoking provide relief from stress?
- Give a detailed explanation of the effects of marijuana.
4- Persuasive essays
Such essays are completely based on arguments. The primary goal is to make the reader agree with the argument raised by the writer. Here, the writer brings up facts and data to convince the reader to adhere to your point of view. Being a writer, one should aim to make the reader believe that your argument has more weight, whether it is a positive or negative one. In both cases, you must convince the readers to believe your words. Your data can be in the form of statistical data, facts, or figures to support an argument or an idea.
Topics for persuasive essay examples:
- Is too much money a bad thing?
- Uniforms must be compulsory in schools.
- How long should be the break in school?
- Why bullying students should be banned?
- Is 12 years of age is suitable for babysitting?
- Euthanasia should be banned completely.
- Abortion should be legal.
- Sports should be given more importance than studies.
- Health is more valuable than gold.
- Why should we believe in sharing?
As you can see, many essay types call for various writing strategies, and in order to become an excellent writer, you must learn how to use each one. Know your essay requirements before you begin writing an English essay. Reading the information above will help you identify the type of essay you need to write and get started. After defining the essay style, let’s merely talk about some advice for producing a quality one on your own.
Also Read: College Essay: Sneak Peek into Your Professor’s Expectation
What Is the Structure of an English Essay?
We have already covered the different types of essays and how to write them successfully. The format of the essay is the upcoming big thing. The majority of students seek online and offline resources for essay writing assistance since they are unsure of how to format their essays properly. But what if I told you that it’s really not that tough to understand the essay template? You did hear correctly. All essay types adhere to a comprehensible form. Let’s examine the pattern that one must use when writing an essay in English.
Provide an apt heading or title to your essay is really important to attract the general readers. Your title should be appealing and eye-catching to pull the mass audience . It is advisable to select your title after completing your writing.
(II) Introduction part
The opening part of your English essay must be a broad and informative introduction. This is the area of the essay where the writer provides a description of his/her essay and introduces the reader to the topic. You must provide a brief synopsis of your work in this section. Your essay introduction should contain a thesis statement. As a writer, you must work judiciously on your introduction. It should be catchy and engaging. One can use a quote that will act as a hook statement. You can also start the introduction with a question. Such techniques surely make your essay appealing to readers. To provide a loop in your essay, whatever you write in your introduction must be directly related to your main body.
(III) Main body of the essay
You might think you can write anything in the body of your essay. But that’s not true at all. The body of the essay is as important as the introduction of the same piece of writing. Bring the arguments along with supportive evidence. To make your point of view more convincing, back it up with facts and figures. Nobody wants to believe the assumptions. Therefore, always prepare strong evidence to support your argument. One needs to do a lot of research work before starting the essay. One thing to remember while writing the body of the essay is that you shouldn’t go haphazardly. Often, students make this mistake while writing an essay. You may have an abundance of information, but unorganised information is of no use. Therefore, always organise your data first and then write it in the essay.
Your main body can be composed of one or three paragraphs. Each of them depends upon the length of the essay. If it is a single paragraph, write everything in it. If not, you must evenly distribute your information.
(IV) Conclusion part
The conclusion is the last paragraph of the essay. You can make it just like the introductory paragraph, a bit shorter and more informative. But remember, it is your last chance to make an impression on your readers. Therefore, here too, use some statements that leave a lasting impression on readers’ minds. End it with a question that leaves the reader to think about the essay after completing the reading.
General English Essay Topics for Students
Writing an essay is difficult, but coming up with a topic is much harder. Here are some excellent ideas for college and high school students who need help with their essays. These are the typical topics that you might thoroughly explore to write an impeccable and well-structured essay. Just give each of these a short glance:
- Should the fashion industry change its ads concept?
- Do romantic films help or hurt the idea of true love?
- Are only women required to compete in beauty pageants?
- Why do young males develop body image problems?
- How do ads for beauty products affect the minds of men and women?
- Is satire and comedy news a better way of information?
- What is “fake news?”
- Is there any concept of “unbiased reporting?”
- What is the best role for news reporters in a digital era?
- Does reporting by ordinary citizens actually give us better news?
- Will news go out of paper business and become only digital?
- Can brain damage from drugs be reversed?
- What are the effects of marijuana on the brain?
- Can learning to do lucid dreaming help you?
- What is the best treatment for PSTD?
- Is virtual reality more than just for fun?
- Are video games bad for kids?
- How is the Internet affecting our intelligence?
- How will 3-D printing change our future?
- What research offers the most promising help for disabled people?
- Are self-driving trucks a good idea?
- Is face-detecting software a good way to solve the problem of identity theft?
- How and why are practical quantum computers changing our lives?
- How will 360-degree selfie cameras change the way we share and see our lives?
These are just a few topics for your reference. You can find a tonnes of essay writing topics in the English language over the internet. For more knowledge, you can take assistance from the do my assignment website services. These experts from these sites will help you with essay writing as well as provide you with some free essay samples.
Also Read: Simple Yet Significant Things to Remember About Transition Words for Compare and Contrast Essay
Undoubtedly, essays are one of the trickiest pieces of academic writing one can have. They seem easy, but you will understand the associated complications when you start writing them. One may not be a born essayist, but spontaneous practice will surely make you able to write a good essay one day. Therefore, to write your essay expertly, all you need to do is just follow the instructions mentioned above in this blog. First of all, identify what type of essay you need to write. I have clearly explained the different types of essays above. Please refer to them and start writing your essay. If you have too many things to do at a time, then you can also pay someone to do your homework .
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Write Strong Paragraphs
Paragraphs are medium-sized units of writing, longer than sentences , but shorter than sections, chapters, or entire works. Because they connect the “small” ideas of individual sentences to a “bigger” idea, paragraph structure is essential to any writing for organization , flow, and comprehension.
Students have a lot of questions when it comes to writing a paragraph: How many sentences should you use ? How do you transition within a paragraph? When do you end a paragraph? Etc. Below we explain everything you need to know about paragraph structure to write like an expert, including several paragraph examples.
Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly
What is a paragraph?
A paragraph is a unit of writing that consists of one or more sentences, all of which relate to the same topic. Paragraphs are essential for organizing long pieces of writing such as novels, papers, or even emails. Each paragraph should focus on a single topic.
How is a paragraph structured?
Before we dive into paragraph structure, let’s start with paragraph meaning. A paragraph is an individual segment of writing that discusses a central idea, typically with more than one sentence. It even has its own paragraph symbol in copyediting, called the pilcrow (¶), not to be confused with the section symbol called the silcrow (§) that’s common in legal code.
Here we focus mainly on paragraph structure, but feel free to read our ultimate guide to paragraphs for more of the basics.
Parts of a paragraph
Like other forms of writing, paragraphs follow a standard three-part structure with a beginning, middle, and end. These parts are the topic sentence , development and support , and conclusion .
Topic sentences , also known as “paragraph leaders,” introduce the main idea that the paragraph is about. They shouldn’t reveal too much on their own, but rather prepare the reader for the rest of the paragraph by stating clearly what topic will be discussed.
The development and support sentences act as the body of the paragraph. Development sentences elaborate and explain the idea with details too specific for the topic sentence, while support sentences provide evidence, opinions, or other statements that back up or confirm the paragraph’s main idea.
Last, the conclusion wraps up the idea, sometimes summarizing what’s been presented or transitioning to the next paragraph. The content of the conclusion depends on the type of paragraph, and it’s often acceptable to end a paragraph with a final piece of support that concludes the thought instead of a summary.
How many sentences are in a paragraph?
Most paragraphs contain between three and five sentences, but there are plenty of exceptions. Different types of paragraphs have different numbers of sentences, like those in narrative writing, in particular, where single-sentence paragraphs are common.
Likewise, the number of sentences in a paragraph can change based on the style of the writer. Some authors prefer longer, more descriptive paragraphs, while other authors prefer shorter, faster-paced paragraphs.
When it comes to nonfiction writing, like research papers or reports , most paragraphs have at least three sentences: a topic sentence, a development/support sentence, and a conclusion sentence.
Types of paragraphs
Depending on the kind of writing you’re doing, you may need to use different types of paragraphs. Here’s a brief explanation of the common paragraph types most writing deals with.
- Expository: Common in nonfiction and all types of essays , expository paragraphs revolve around explaining and discussing a single point or idea.
- Persuasive: Just like expository paragraphs, persuasive paragraphs focus on discussing a single point; however, they support opinions instead of facts.
- Narrative: When telling a story, a narrative paragraph explains an action or event. Each new sentence furthers or expands upon the action by providing new information.
- Descriptive: Also common in storytelling, descriptive paragraphs focus on describing a single topic, such as a person or an environment. Each new sentence adds a new detail about that topic.
The type of paragraph used usually depends on the type of writing. For example, if you’re writing a research paper, it would be difficult to justify a narrative paragraph.
Example paragraphs from literature
Rather than merely talk about paragraph structure, let’s look at some paragraph examples so you can see structure in action.
The first paragraph example comes from Bertrand Russell in his essay “Icarus, or the Future of Science.” This excerpt uses the same paragraph structure often used in research papers, essays, and other nonfiction writing. The first sentence makes a claim, and the subsequent sentences defend that claim, ending in a strong conclusion that ties everything together.
If men were rational in their conduct, that is to say, if they acted in the way most likely to bring about the ends that they deliberately desire, intelligence would be enough to make the world almost a paradise. In the main, what is in the long run advantageous to one man is also advantageous to another. But men are actuated by passions which distort their view; feeling an impulse to injure others, they persuade themselves that it is to their interest to do so. They will not, therefore, act in the way which is in fact to their own interest unless they are actuated by generous impulses which make them indifferent to their own interest. This is why the heart is as important as the head. By the “heart” I mean, for the moment, the sum-total of kindly impulses. Where they exist, science helps them to be effective; where they are absent, science only makes men more cleverly diabolic.
Notice how all sentences in the paragraph relate to the same idea: That humans act emotionally more than rationally. However, each sentence makes its own unique point, and when taken together, they connect to the central topic.
Another nonfiction paragraph example comes from Twelve Years a Slave , a memoir from freeborn African-American Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and forced into slavery for twelve years before friends and family intervened with the help of the law.
I expected to die. Though there was little in the prospect before me worth living for, the near approach of death appalled me. I thought I could have been resigned to yield up my life in the bosom of my family, but to expire in the midst of strangers, under such circumstances, was a bitter reflection.
Each sentence in this paragraph example relates to the feeling described in the topic sentence. Although writing in a narrative form, Northup waits until a new paragraph to continue the story—this paragraph focuses solely on that one emotion.
Finally, let’s look at a fiction paragraph example. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula , one of the protagonists, Jonathan Harker, describes the appearance of Count Dracula.
His face was a strong—a very strong—aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache , was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.
Paragraphs in fiction are more flexible with the rules, but nonetheless, this paragraph includes both a topic sentence and a concluding summary. Notice how all the details pertain to Dracula’s face and head; Stoker begins a new paragraph when describing other parts of his appearance, like his hands, because the author treats it as a separate topic.
How to write a paragraph
Paragraph structure isn’t just for the benefit of readers, it also helps authors organize their thoughts and communicate clearly. Below we explain the different steps of how to write a paragraph, from the paragraph introduction all the way to the conclusion.
How to plan a paragraph
Before you begin writing a paragraph, look at how the paragraph fits into the writing as a whole. As mentioned above, different types of writing use different types of paragraphs, so make sure the paragraph type you’re planning matches the context.
Ideally, you’ll already have an outline for whatever you’re writing, which will tell you what the paragraph is about and what to include. If not, your first step is to decide on the paragraph topic and which facts to include as support and development.
Keep in mind what comes before and after the paragraph so you can plan the right topic for the flow of your writing. It’s jarring for the reader when the author jumps wildly from one topic to the next, so try to keep all related paragraphs together and in a logical sequence. If that’s not possible, plan your topic sentence as a segue, perhaps using a transition word .
It also helps to sketch out the parts of your paragraph: topic sentence, development and support, and conclusion. The more you prepare these parts now, the easier it will be to put them into words later.
How to start a paragraph
Unless you’re doing narrative writing, your paragraph introduction should always be the topic sentence. The trick is to avoid overexplaining—say only what’s necessary. The goal of the topic sentence is to inform the reader what the paragraph is about; everything extra should be saved for the following sentences.
For example, in the Twelve Years a Slave paragraph sample, the topic sentence is only four words long. Northup saves the details for the following sentences. As an added effect, the brevity of his first sentence adds both mystery and potency, piquing the reader’s interest and enticing them to continue.
On a technical note, when beginning a new paragraph, follow the rules of paragraph indentation for whatever style guide you’re using. There is a paragraph indentation debate about when to indent the first line and when not to; really, it depends on the assignment or audience.
How to transition within a paragraph
It’s not enough to just throw all your support sentences into a paragraph and hope for the best. For the convenience of your reader, it’s best to connect the sentences in a way that lets the reader move from one point to the next without getting confused.
While some paragraph sentences will run together on their own, sometimes you need transition sentences to assist the flow. Transition sentences make use of transition words like “however,” “therefore,” or “similarly,” or sometimes directly reference the preceding sentence.
Consider the sentence in Russell’s paragraph example: “This is why the heart is as important as the head.” If Russell had said only “The heart is as important as the head,” it would have created an abrupt tone—he adds “this is why” to ease the transition.
If your sentences create a list, such as instructions, you can transition from one item to another using ordinals like “first,” “second,” “third,” etc. Ordinals work well with difficult transitions because they can fit almost any paragraph.
How/when to end a paragraph
When you’ve said everything you need to say about a topic, it’s time to end the paragraph. If the paragraph looks like it’s too long after you’ve said everything, consider breaking it up into separate topics and paragraphs for the sake of the reader.
The best way to end a paragraph is to sum up the topic with all the new information from the support sentences. In the excerpt from Dracula , Stoker concludes with an overall impression of the Count from all the details listed in the previous sentences.
However, it’s not always necessary to restate the topic, which can sometimes come across as padding. It’s equally viable to end a sentence stating one final piece of support. In these instances, it’s best to conclude with the piece of information that has the most profound effect, as with Northup’s excerpt.
Paragraph structure FAQs
What is a paragraph .
A paragraph is a collection of sentences that relate to a single topic.
What are the keys to a strong paragraph?
A strong paragraph explores a single topic with details following in a logical order. Paragraphs often use transitions to connect otherwise disjointed sentences, helping every piece of information to work together.
How is a paragraph structured?
Good paragraphs begin with a topic sentence that briefly explains what the paragraph is about. Next come a few sentences for development and support, elaborating on the topic with more detail. Paragraphs end with a conclusion sentence that summarizes the topic or presents one final piece of support to wrap up.
How to Write a Good English Literature Essay
Interesting little-known tips for how to write a better English Literature essay from Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)
How do you write a good English Literature essay? Although to an extent this depends on the particular subject you’re writing about, and on the nature of the question your essay is attempting to answer, there are a few general guidelines for how to write a convincing essay – just as there are a few guidelines for writing well in any field. We at Interesting Literature call them ‘guidelines’ because we hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, which seems too programmatic. And as the writing habits of successful authors demonstrate, there is no one way to become a good writer – of essays, novels, poems, or whatever it is you’re setting out to write. The French writer Colette liked to begin her writing day by picking the fleas off her cat. Edith Sitwell, by all accounts, liked to lie in an open coffin before she began her day’s writing. Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk, claiming he needed the scent of their decay to help him write. (For most student essay-writers, such an aroma is probably allowed to arise in the writing-room more organically, over time.)
We will address our suggestions for successful essay-writing to the average student of English Literature, whether at university or school level. There are many ways to approach the task of essay-writing, and these are just a few pointers for how to write a better English essay – and some of these pointers may also work for other disciplines and subjects, too.
Of course, these guidelines are designed to be of interest to the non-essay-writer too – people who have an interest in the craft of writing in general. If this describes you, we hope you enjoy the list as well. Remember, though, everyone can find writing difficult: as Thomas Mann memorably put it, ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’ Nora Ephron was briefer: ‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.’ So, the guidelines for successful essay-writing:
2. Make room for close analysis of the text, or texts. Whilst it’s true that some first-class or A-grade essays will be impressive without containing any close reading as such, most of the highest-scoring and most sophisticated essays tend to zoom in on the text and examine its language and imagery closely in the course of the argument. (Close reading of literary texts arises from theology and the analysis of holy scripture, but really became a ‘thing’ in literary criticism in the early twentieth century, when T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, William Empson, and other influential essayists started to subject the poem or novel to close scrutiny.) Close reading has two distinct advantages: it increases the specificity of your argument (so you can’t be so easily accused of generalising a point), and it improves your chances of pointing up something about the text which none of the other essays your marker is reading will have said. For instance, take In Memoriam (1850), which is a long Victorian poem by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson about his grief following the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam, in the early 1830s. When answering a question about the representation of religious faith in Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam (1850), how might you write a particularly brilliant essay about this theme? Anyone can make a general point about the poet’s crisis of faith; but to look closely at the language used gives you the chance to show how the poet portrays this.
For instance, consider this stanza, which conveys the poet’s doubt:
3. Provide several pieces of evidence where possible. Many essays have a point to make and make it, tacking on a single piece of evidence from the text (or from beyond the text, e.g. a critical, historical, or biographical source) in the hope that this will be enough to make the point convincing. ‘State, quote, explain’ is the Holy Trinity of the Paragraph for many. What’s wrong with it? For one thing, this approach is too formulaic and basic for many arguments. Is one quotation enough to support a point? It’s often a matter of degree, and although one piece of evidence is better than none, two or three pieces will be even more persuasive. After all, in a court of law a single eyewitness account won’t be enough to convict the accused of the crime, and even a confession from the accused would carry more weight if it comes supported by other, objective evidence (e.g. DNA, fingerprints, and so on).
Let’s go back to the example about Tennyson’s faith in his poem In Memoriam mentioned above. Perhaps you don’t find the end of the poem convincing – when the poet claims to have rediscovered his Christian faith and to have overcome his grief at the loss of his friend. You can find examples from the end of the poem to suggest your reading of the poet’s insincerity may have validity, but looking at sources beyond the poem – e.g. a good edition of the text, which will contain biographical and critical information – may help you to find a clinching piece of evidence to support your reading. And, sure enough, Tennyson is reported to have said of In Memoriam : ‘It’s too hopeful, this poem, more than I am myself.’ And there we have it: much more convincing than simply positing your reading of the poem with a few ambiguous quotations from the poem itself.
Of course, this rule also works in reverse: if you want to argue, for instance, that T. S. Eliot’ s The Waste Land is overwhelmingly inspired by the poet’s unhappy marriage to his first wife, then using a decent biographical source makes sense – but if you didn’t show evidence for this idea from the poem itself (see point 2), all you’ve got is a vague, general link between the poet’s life and his work. Show how the poet’s marriage is reflected in the work, e.g. through men and women’s relationships throughout the poem being shown as empty, soulless, and unhappy. In other words, when setting out to write a good English essay about any text, don’t be afraid to pile on the evidence – though be sensible, a handful of quotations or examples should be more than enough to make your point convincing.
Many essay-writers, because they’re aware that texts are often open-ended and invite multiple interpretations (as almost all great works of literature invariably do), think that writing ‘it can be argued’ acknowledges the text’s rich layering of meaning and is therefore valid. Whilst this is certainly a fact – texts are open-ended and can be read in wildly different ways – the phrase ‘it can be argued’ is best used sparingly if at all. It should be taken as true that your interpretation is, at bottom, probably unprovable. What would it mean to ‘prove’ a reading as correct, anyway? Because you found evidence that the author intended the same thing as you’ve argued of their text? Tennyson wrote in a letter, ‘I wrote In Memoriam because…’? But the author might have lied about it (e.g. in an attempt to dissuade people from looking too much into their private life), or they might have changed their mind (to go back to the example of The Waste Land : T. S. Eliot championed the idea of poetic impersonality in an essay of 1919, but years later he described The Waste Land as ‘only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life’ – hardly impersonal, then). Texts – and their writers – can often be contradictory, or cagey about their meaning. But we as critics have to act responsibly when writing about literary texts in any good English essay or exam answer. We need to argue honestly, and sincerely – and not use what Wikipedia calls ‘weasel words’ or hedging expressions.
So, if nothing is utterly provable, all that remains is to make the strongest possible case you can with the evidence available. You do this, not only through marshalling the evidence in an effective way, but by writing in a confident voice when making your case. Fundamentally, ‘There is evidence to suggest that’ says more or less the same thing as ‘It can be argued’, but it foregrounds the evidence rather than the argument, so is preferable as a phrase. This point might be summarised by saying: the best way to write a good English Literature essay is to be honest about the reading you’re putting forward, so you can be confident in your interpretation and use clear, bold language. (‘Bold’ is good, but don’t get too cocky, of course…)
5. Read the work of other critics. This might be viewed as the Holy Grail of good essay-writing tips, since it is perhaps the single most effective way to improve your own writing. Even if you’re writing an essay as part of school coursework rather than a university degree, and don’t need to research other critics for your essay, it’s worth finding a good writer of literary criticism and reading their work. Why is this worth doing?
We say ‘steal’, but this is not the same as saying that plagiarism is okay, of course. But consider this example. You read an accessible book on Shakespeare’s language and the author makes a point about rhymes in Shakespeare. When you’re working on your essay on the poetry of Christina Rossetti, you notice a similar use of rhyme, and remember the point made by the Shakespeare critic. This is not plagiarising a point but applying it independently to another writer. It shows independent interpretive skills and an ability to understand and apply what you have read. This is another of the advantages of reading critics, so this would be our final piece of advice for learning how to write a good English essay: find a critic whose style you like, and study their craft.
If you’re looking for suggestions, we can recommend a few favourites: Christopher Ricks, whose The Force of Poetry is a tour de force; Jonathan Bate, whose The Genius of Shakespeare , although written for a general rather than academic audience, is written by a leading Shakespeare scholar and academic; and Helen Gardner, whose The Art of T. S. Eliot , whilst dated (it came out in 1949), is a wonderfully lucid and articulate analysis of Eliot’s poetry. James Wood’s How Fiction Works is also a fine example of lucid prose and how to close-read literary texts. Doubtless readers of Interesting Literature will have their own favourites to suggest in the comments, so do check those out, as these are just three personal favourites. What’s your favourite work of literary scholarship/criticism? Suggestions please.
Much of all this may strike you as common sense, but even the most commonsensical advice can go out of your mind when you have a piece of coursework to write, or an exam to revise for. We hope these suggestions help to remind you of some of the key tenets of good essay-writing practice – though remember, these aren’t so much commandments as recommendations. No one can ‘tell’ you how to write a good English Literature essay as such. But it can be learned. And remember, be interesting – find the things in the poems or plays or novels which really ignite your enthusiasm. As John Mortimer said, ‘The only rule I have found to have any validity in writing is not to bore yourself.’
Finally, good luck – and happy writing!
And if you enjoyed these tips for how to write a persuasive English essay, check out our advice for how to remember things for exams and our tips for becoming a better close reader of poetry .
Image (top): A child writing with a pen (2013, author: Mummelgrummel ), Wikimedia Commons. Image (top middle): A Stipula fountain pen lying on a written piece of paper (2011, author: Antonio Litterio), Wikimedia Commons. Image (bottom middle): Writer (19th century, author Leonid Pasternak), Wikimedia Commons. Image (bottom): Cat with Book (Danny Ayers, 2004), Wikimedia Commons.
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30 thoughts on “How to Write a Good English Literature Essay”
You must have taken AP Literature. I’m always saying these same points to my students.
I also think a crucial part of excellent essay writing that too many students do not realize is that not every point or interpretation needs to be addressed. When offered the chance to write your interpretation of a work of literature, it is important to note that there of course are many but your essay should choose one and focus evidence on this one view rather than attempting to include all views and evidence to back up each view.
Reblogged this on SocioTech'nowledge .
Not a bad effort…not at all! (Did you intend “subject” instead of “object” in numbered paragraph two, line seven?”
Oops! I did indeed – many thanks for spotting. Duly corrected ;)
That’s what comes of writing about philosophy and the subject/object for another post at the same time!
Reblogged this on Scribing English .
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Great post on essay writing! I’ve shared a post about this and about the blog site in general which you can look at here: http://writeoutloudblog.com/2015/01/13/recommended-resource-interesting-literature-com-how-to-write-an-essay/
All of these are very good points – especially I like 2 and 5. I’d like to read the essay on the Martian who wrote Shakespeare’s plays).
Reblogged this on Uniqely Mustered and commented: Dedicate this to all upcoming writers and lovers of Writing!
I shall take this as my New Year boost in Writing Essays. Please try to visit often for corrections,advise and criticisms.
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All very good points, but numbers 2 and 4 are especially interesting.
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Reblogged this on rainniewu .
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Great post. Interesting infographic how to write an argumentative essay http://www.essay-profy.com/blog/how-to-write-an-essay-writing-an-argumentative-essay/
Reblogged this on DISTINCT CHARACTER and commented: Good Tips
Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented: This could be applied to novel or short story writing as well.
Reblogged this on rosetech67 and commented: Useful, albeit maybe a bit late for me :-)
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such a nice pieace of content you shared in this write up about “How to Write a Good English Essay” going to share on another useful resource that is
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A well rounded summary on all steps to keep in mind while starting on writing. There are many new avenues available though. Benefit from the writing options of the 21st century from here, i loved it! http://authenticwritingservices.com
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8 Tips to Write Better Essays in English
Learning a foreign language is an overwhelming experience, especially if it’s one of the most widely spoken languages in the world – English.
Many people are under the impression that learning to read and speak in English is enough without realizing that written English skills are an equally vital asset to have.
From improving academics to boosting career prospects – the ability to write in English not only lets you communicate and express yourself better in today’s globalized world but also makes you more confident.
An effective way to improve your writing skills is to write essays. Wondering where to begin? We bring you eight useful tips to write better essays in English.
1. Keep a Vocabulary Notebook
Using the right vocabulary is an essential element of writing essays. When you make efforts to expand your vocabulary, you will be able to pick accurate words to take your writing to the next level.
Instead of coming across new words and forgetting about them, it’s a good idea to make a note of them in your vocabulary notebook. Doing this helps you remember the meanings of new words and you can also refer to it while writing essays.
So, give yourself a target to learn at least ten new words every day, which you can jot down in your diary and take baby steps in building a strong vocabulary.
2. Refer to Credible Sources
Research forms the first step in writing any kind of essay. The stronger your research, the better is the quality of your essay.
At a time when we have access to a wide range of data, it’s important to evaluate research sources carefully and only refer to credible ones. For example, Wikipedia is not a reliable source and should not be attributed to while writing essays.
Take the effort to read through published journals, research studies, scholarly papers, academic databases, and encyclopedias published within the last 10-15 years. It’s also important to assess the credibility of the author while evaluating the source.
3. Draft a Basic Outline
Once you’ve done your research, don’t rush to write. Take a moment to draft a basic outline for your essay and organize your research and findings.
“Is that necessary,” you ask? Very much.
Working on an outline lets you approach the essay in an organized manner. It serves as the skeleton of your paper while ensuring you’re not missing out on any information and that your points flow logically.
Most essays are categorized into – introduction, body, and conclusion.
The introduction is where you introduce the topic and give context. The body paragraphs need to include your arguments and research methodology (if any). The conclusion needs to reiterate the thesis statement and tie all the points together.
4. Hook the Reader
With attention spans getting shorter with time, it’s become all the more important to start with a bang and hook the reader from the beginning to ensure they are invested in your writing.
Essay hooks refer to the first one or two sentences of your essay which have the power to make or break the reader’s interest. The key is to write a hook that grabs the reader’s attention and reels them in.
From an alarming statistic and relevant quote to using humor and asking a rhetoric question – there are various tactics you can employ to keep the reader engaged.
If you’re unable to think of an impactful essay hook, don’t waste too much time on it. Finish the rest of your essay and come back to write a compelling hook later.
5. Use the Pomodoro Technique
It’s not easy to write an essay in one go, especially if it’s not in your first language.
A smart way to approach essay writing is to use the Pomodoro technique. This technique asks you to set a timer for 25 minutes to finish your task in question and then take a 5-minute break. After four cycles of repeating this, you get to take an extended 20-minute break.
So, start with breaking down the assignment into smaller tasks such as research, outlining, writing the different paragraphs, citing references and proofreading. You can then set the timer, start working on the essay as per the technique and track your progress.
Using this technique keeps distractions at bay and helps you stay more focused.
6. Pay Attention to Grammar Rules
You may raise interesting points in your essay, but poor grammar disrupts the reading experience and should be avoided at all costs.
Be careful when adding punctuations, check your sentence formations, avoid passive voice as much as possible and know the difference between adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs.
So abide by grammar rules to deliver a well-written and cohesive essay.
7. Write with Clarity
You might be tempted to use complex metaphors and jargons to impress the reader, but the truth is, none of that guarantees “good” writing.
One of the most important ingredients of effective writing is clarity. You don’t want to leave the reader confused and puzzled after reading your essay. So, use simple words, stop beating around the bush and explain concepts with the help of examples because clear writing always wins.
8. Reread the Essay
Finally, make it a point to proofread your essay (multiple times) to ensure you have covered all the aspects, cited references accurately and not made any silly errors.
It’s a good idea to read your essay out loud so you’re able to identify errors and awkwardly formed sentences with ease. You should also get a friend or family member to read your essay, to spot mistakes or discrepancies that you may have overlooked.
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Thank a lot dear EnglishClub, it’s help me a lot
I think it is very good site for learn essay writing
As a teacher trainer this contribution is helpful
Thanks for the tips! I’ll have an essay tomorrow and this will surlely prepare me!
Thank you so much
Thanks Please I will like to know more
thank you so much for your amazing informations
Nice one but I don’t understand yet
Knowledge supporter is who u are, keep d good work nd ur reward is from God nd thanks.
thanks alot for your tips…your tips will help me alot while examss!!!
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ur intentinon and thoughts was very nce its useful to somny pepole to learn english tysomuch adela belin
Thanks you for helping
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Good tips, I should give it a try, after all, we all improve by exercising hard so I’ll just do the same thing, but right now I gotta focus on what matters, and what I need now is to read as much as I can to know how to spell the words right. Is grammar so important in this task, I mean can’t I just pick the things up because of my experience in listening skill ?
Thanks for the information!
This is a nice explanation ,,,,,proud of you!
Is very interesting for me I really apreicete you help
Thanks so much for these useful tips!! Now, I need to start preparing my essay (“starting” has been always the stone on my way :$)
Please, what is the difference between an essay and an article?
Are they same?
Thanks in advance,
Thanks & best regards English Club
Helpful updated tips to share with our students!! thankssss
I want to know if it is only at the University or if we may take the course online.
Thank you verry much for important advices
thank for your key points, this is really helpful
Thank you and best wishes,
Very pragmatic and helpful essay. Thank so much English club
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The Palestine Double Standard
By Hala Alyan
Dr. Alyan is a Palestinian American writer, clinical psychologist and professor in New York City.
I’ve moved back to the United States twice since my birth. Once as a child, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Then again for graduate school. I’d had the privilege of a youth — adolescence and young adulthood — in countries where being Palestinian was fairly common. The identity could be heavy, but it wasn’t a contested one. I hadn’t had to learn the respectability politics of being a Palestinian adult. I learned quickly.
The task of the Palestinian is to be palatable or to be condemned. The task of the Palestinian, we’ve seen in the past two weeks, is to audition for empathy and compassion. To prove that we deserve it. To earn it.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve watched Palestinian activists, lawyers, professors get baited and interrupted on air , if not silenced altogether. They are being made to sing for the supper of airtime and fair coverage. They are begging reporters to do the most basic tasks of their job. At the same time, Palestinians fleeing from bombs have been misidentified . Even when under attack, they must be costumed as another people to elicit humanity. Even in death, they cannot rest — Palestinians are being buried in mass graves or in old graves dug up to make room, and still there is not enough space.
If that weren’t enough, Palestinian slaughter is too often presented ahistorically, untethered to reality: It is not attributed to real steel and missiles, to occupation, to policy. To earn compassion for their dead, Palestinians must first prove their innocence. The real problem with condemnation is the quiet, sly tenor of the questions that accompany it: Palestinians are presumed violent — and deserving of violence — until proved otherwise. Their deaths are presumed defensible until proved otherwise. What is the word of a Palestinian against a machinery that investigates itself, that absolves itself of accused crimes? What is it against a government whose representatives have referred to Palestinians as “ human animals ” and “ wild beasts ”? When a well-suited man can say brazenly and unflinchingly that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people?
It is, of course, a remarkably effective strategy. A slaughter isn’t a slaughter if those being slaughtered are at fault, if they’ve been quietly and effectively dehumanized — in the media, through policy — for years. If nobody is a civilian, nobody can be a victim.
In 2017, I published a novel about a Palestinian family . It was published by a respectable publisher, got a lot of lovely press, was given a book tour. I spoke on panels, to book clubs. I answered questions after readings. There was a refrain that kept coming up. People kept commenting on how human the story was. You’ve humanized the conflict. This is a human story .
Of course, literature and the arts play a crucial role in providing context — expanding our empathy, granting us glimpses into other worlds. But every time I was told I’d humanized the Palestinians, I would have to suppress the question it invoked: What had they been before?
A couple of weeks ago, in a professional space, someone called Palestinians by name and spoke of the seven decades of their anguish. I sat among dozens of co-workers and realized my lip was quivering. I was crying before I understood it was happening. I fled the room, and it took 10 minutes for me to stop sobbing. I didn’t immediately understand my reaction. Over the years, I’ve faced meetings, classrooms and other institutional spaces where Palestinians went unnamed or were referred to only as terrorists. I came of professional age in a country where people lost all sorts of things for speaking of Palestine: social standing, university tenure, journalist positions. But in the end, I am undone not by silence or erasure but by empathy. By the simple naming of my people. By increasing recognition that liberation is linked. By spaces of Palestinian-Jewish solidarity. By what has become controversial: the simple speaking aloud of Palestinian suffering.
These days, everyone is trying to write about the children. An incomprehensible number of them dead and counting. We are up at night, combing through the flickering light of our phones, trying to find the metaphor, the clip, the photograph to prove a child is a child. It is an unbearable task. We ask: Will this be the image that finally does it? This half-child on a rooftop? This video, reposted by Al Jazeera, of an inconsolable girl appearing to recognize her mother’s body among the dead, screaming out, “It’s her, it’s her. I swear it’s her. I know her from her hair”?
Take it from a writer: There is nothing like the tedium of trying to come up with analogies. There is something humiliating in trying to earn solidarity. I keep seeing infographics desperately trying to appeal to American audiences. Imagine most of the population of Manhattan being told to evacuate in 24 hours . Imagine the president of [ ] going on NBC and saying all [ ] people are [ ]. Look! Here’s a strip on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea . That’s Gaza. It is about the same size as Philadelphia . Or multiply the entire population of Las Vegas by three.
This is demoralizing work, to have to speak constantly in the vernacular of tragedies and atrocities, to say: Look, look. Remember? That other suffering that was eventually deemed unacceptable? Let me hold it up to this one. Let me show you proportion. Let me earn your outrage. Absent that, let me earn your memory. Please.
I don’t hesitate for a second to condemn the killing of any child, any massacre of civilians — this of course includes Jewish life. It is the easiest ask in the world. And it is not in spite of that but because of that I say: Condemn the brutalization of bodies. By all means, do. Condemn murder. Condemn violence, imprisonment, all forms of oppression. But if your shock and distress comes only at the sight of certain brutalized bodies? If you speak out but not when Palestinian bodies are besieged and murdered, abducted and imprisoned? Then it is worth asking yourself which brutalization is acceptable to you, even quietly, even subconsciously, and which is not.
Name the discrepancy and own it. If you can’t be equitable, be honest.
There is nothing complicated about asking for freedom. Palestinians deserve equal rights, equal access to resources, equal access to fair elections and so forth. If this makes you uneasy, then you must ask yourself why.
Here is the truth of the diasporic Palestinians: They are not magically diasporic. Their diaspora-ness is a direct result of often violent, intentional and illegal dispossession. One day a house is yours; one day it is not. One day a neighborhood is yours; one day it is not. One day a territory is yours; one day it is not. This same sort of dispossession is grounded in the same mind-set and international complicity that is playing out in Gaza.
I’m a poet, a writer, a psychologist. I’m deeply familiar with the importance of language. I’ve agonized over an em dash. I’ve spent afternoons muttering about the aptness of a verb. I pay attention to language, my own and others. Being Palestinian in this country — in many countries — is a numbing exercise in gauging where pockets of safety are, sussing out which friends, co-workers or acquaintances will be allies, which will stay silent. Who will speak.
Here’s another thing I know as a writer and psychologist: It matters where you start a narrative. In addiction work, you call this playing the tape. Diasporically or not, being Palestinian is the quintessential disrupter: It messes with a curated, modified tape. We exist, and our existence presents an existential affront. As long as we exist, we challenge several falsehoods, not the least of which is that, for some, we never existed at all. That decades ago, a country was born in the delicious, glittering expanse of nothingness — a birthright, something due. Our very existence challenges a formidable, militarized narrative.
But the days of the Palestine exception are numbered. Palestine is increasingly becoming the litmus test for true liberatory practice.
In the meantime, Palestinians continue to be cast paradoxically — both terror and invisible, both people who never existed and people who cannot return.
Imagine being such a pest, such an obstacle. Or: Imagine being so powerful.
Hala Alyan is a clinical psychologist and professor in New York City. She is the author of the novels “Salt Houses” and “The Arsonists’ City,” and several collections of poetry, including the forthcoming “ The Moon That Turns You Back .”
Source photographs by Bettmann and Sepia Times, via Getty Images.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .
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Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise. Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Like specialist languages adopted in other professions, such as, law or medicine, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts within a community of scholarly experts and practitioners.
Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020.
Importance of Good Academic Writing
The accepted form of academic writing in the social sciences can vary considerable depending on the methodological framework and the intended audience. However, most college-level research papers require careful attention to the following stylistic elements:
I. The Big Picture Unlike creative or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohesive and possess a logically organized flow of ideas; this means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be narrative links between sentences and paragraphs so that the reader is able to follow your argument. The introduction should include a description of how the rest of the paper is organized and all sources are properly cited throughout the paper.
II. Tone The overall tone refers to the attitude conveyed in a piece of writing. Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate narrative tone. When presenting a position or argument that you disagree with, describe this argument accurately and without loaded or biased language. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. You should, therefore, state the strengths of your arguments confidently, using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.
III. Diction Diction refers to the choice of words you use. Awareness of the words you use is important because words that have almost the same denotation [dictionary definition] can have very different connotations [implied meanings]. This is particularly true in academic writing because words and terminology can evolve a nuanced meaning that describes a particular idea, concept, or phenomenon derived from the epistemological culture of that discipline [e.g., the concept of rational choice in political science]. Therefore, use concrete words [not general] that convey a specific meaning. If this cannot be done without confusing the reader, then you need to explain what you mean within the context of how that word or phrase is used within a discipline.
IV. Language The investigation of research problems in the social sciences is often complex and multi- dimensional . Therefore, it is important that you use unambiguous language. Well-structured paragraphs and clear topic sentences enable a reader to follow your line of thinking without difficulty. Your language should be concise, formal, and express precisely what you want it to mean. Do not use vague expressions that are not specific or precise enough for the reader to derive exact meaning ["they," "we," "people," "the organization," etc.], abbreviations like 'i.e.' ["in other words"], 'e.g.' ["for example"], or 'a.k.a.' ["also known as"], and the use of unspecific determinate words ["super," "very," "incredible," "huge," etc.].
V. Punctuation Scholars rely on precise words and language to establish the narrative tone of their work and, therefore, punctuation marks are used very deliberately. For example, exclamation points are rarely used to express a heightened tone because it can come across as unsophisticated or over-excited. Dashes should be limited to the insertion of an explanatory comment in a sentence, while hyphens should be limited to connecting prefixes to words [e.g., multi-disciplinary] or when forming compound phrases [e.g., commander-in-chief]. Finally, understand that semi-colons represent a pause that is longer than a comma, but shorter than a period in a sentence. In general, there are four grammatical uses of semi-colons: when a second clause expands or explains the first clause; to describe a sequence of actions or different aspects of the same topic; placed before clauses which begin with "nevertheless", "therefore", "even so," and "for instance”; and, to mark off a series of phrases or clauses which contain commas. If you are not confident about when to use semi-colons [and most of the time, they are not required for proper punctuation], rewrite using shorter sentences or revise the paragraph.
VI. Academic Conventions Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references as either footnotes or endnotes is a key feature of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, data, paraphrased, or quoted text that you have used in your paper as a defense against allegations of plagiarism. Even more important, the scholarly convention of citing sources allow readers to identify the resources you used in writing your paper so they can independently verify and assess the quality of findings and conclusions based on your review of the literature. Examples of other academic conventions to follow include the appropriate use of headings and subheadings, properly spelling out acronyms when first used in the text, avoiding slang or colloquial language, avoiding emotive language or unsupported declarative statements, avoiding contractions [e.g., isn't], and using first person and second person pronouns only when necessary.
VII. Evidence-Based Reasoning Assignments often ask you to express your own point of view about the research problem. However, what is valued in academic writing is that statements are based on evidence-based reasoning. This refers to possessing a clear understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that exist within, and often external to, your discipline concerning the topic. You need to support your arguments with evidence from scholarly [i.e., academic or peer-reviewed] sources. It should be an objective stance presented as a logical argument; the quality of the evidence you cite will determine the strength of your argument. The objective is to convince the reader of the validity of your thoughts through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing. This is particularly important when proposing solutions to problems or delineating recommended courses of action.
VIII. Thesis-Driven Academic writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or position applied to the chosen topic of investigation, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions applied to investigating the research problem. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how you will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects you believe are most critical, or suggest a method for gathering information or data to better understand the problem.
IX. Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking Academic writing addresses complex issues that require higher-order thinking skills applied to understanding the research problem [e.g., critical, reflective, logical, and creative thinking as opposed to, for example, descriptive or prescriptive thinking]. Higher-order thinking skills include cognitive processes that are used to comprehend, solve problems, and express concepts or that describe abstract ideas that cannot be easily acted out, pointed to, or shown with images. Think of your writing this way: One of the most important attributes of a good teacher is the ability to explain complexity in a way that is understandable and relatable to the topic being presented during class. This is also one of the main functions of academic writing--examining and explaining the significance of complex ideas as clearly as possible. As a writer, you must adopt the role of a good teacher by summarizing complex information into a well-organized synthesis of ideas, concepts, and recommendations that contribute to a better understanding of the research problem.
Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Murray, Rowena and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Roy. Improve Your Writing Skills . Manchester, UK: Clifton Press, 1995; Nygaard, Lynn P. Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard . Second edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2015; Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007; Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice. Writing Center, Wheaton College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.
Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon
The very definition of research jargon is language specific to a particular community of practitioner-researchers . Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to words and phrases specific to a discipline or area of study. For example, the idea of being rational may hold the same general meaning in both political science and psychology, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research domain of a each discipline may have subtle differences based upon how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.
Given this, it is important that specialist terminology [i.e., jargon] must be used accurately and applied under the appropriate conditions . Subject-specific dictionaries are the best places to confirm the meaning of terms within the context of a specific discipline. These can be found by either searching in the USC Libraries catalog by entering the disciplinary and the word dictionary [e.g., sociology and dictionary] or using a database such as Credo Reference [a curated collection of subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, guides from highly regarded publishers] . It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but you should avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.
Problems with Opaque Writing
A common criticism of scholars is that they can utilize needlessly complex syntax or overly expansive vocabulary that is impenetrable or not well-defined. When writing, avoid problems associated with opaque writing by keeping in mind the following:
1. Excessive use of specialized terminology . Yes, it is appropriate for you to use specialist language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of complex or obscure words or writing complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your paper is more about style than substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about. Focus on creating clear, concise, and elegant prose that minimizes reliance on specialized terminology.
2. Inappropriate use of specialized terminology . Because you are dealing with concepts, research, and data within your discipline, you need to use the technical language appropriate to that area of study. However, nothing will undermine the validity of your study quicker than the inappropriate application of a term or concept. Avoid using terms whose meaning you are unsure of--do not just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or the Credo Reference database [see above].
Additional Problems to Avoid
In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should be aware of. These problems include:
- Personal nouns . Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. These words can be interpreted as being used only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem. Limit the use of personal nouns to descriptions of things you actually did [e.g., "I interviewed ten teachers about classroom management techniques..."]. Note that personal nouns are generally found in the discussion section of a paper because this is where you as the author/researcher interpret and describe your work.
- Directives . Avoid directives that demand the reader to "do this" or "do that." Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations or goals leading to specific outcomes. Note that an exception to this can be found in various forms of action research that involve evidence-based advocacy for social justice or transformative change. Within this area of the social sciences, authors may offer directives for action in a declarative tone of urgency.
- Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms . Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they can be open to interpretation. Your writing should be direct and concise using standard English.
- Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and developing a narrative that does not have confusing language . By doing so, you help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the design and purpose of your study.
- Vague expressions (e.g., "they," "we," "people," "the company," "that area," etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper, be sure to look for and edit any vague or imprecise statements that lack context or specificity.
- Numbered lists and bulleted items . The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, "The four main problems with hedge funds are:" and then list them as 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing, this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item arranged in separate paragraphs? Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols.
- Descriptive writing . Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study. In fact, some description or background information may be needed because you can not assume the reader knows the key aspects of the topic. However, the content of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem rather than background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
- Personal experience. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease] can be an effective way of introducing the research problem or engaging your readers in understanding its significance. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.
NOTE: Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone. A quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it or using a different quote to convey the same meaning. Consider inserting the term "sic" in brackets after the quoted text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source had grammar, spelling, or other errors. The adverb sic informs the reader that the errors are not yours.
Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Murray, Rowena and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Eileen S. “Action Research.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education . Edited by George W. Noblit and Joseph R. Neikirk. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students' Research Proposals. English Education Department. Yogyakarta State University; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.
Structure and Writing Style
I. Improving Academic Writing
To improve your academic writing skills, you should focus your efforts on three key areas: 1. Clear Writing . The act of thinking about precedes the process of writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from the literature they have reviewed before creating their work. Writing detailed outlines can help you clearly organize your thoughts. Effective academic writing begins with solid planning, so manage your time carefully. 2. Excellent Grammar . Needless to say, English grammar can be difficult and complex; even the best scholars take many years before they have a command of the major points of good grammar. Take the time to learn the major and minor points of good grammar. Spend time practicing writing and seek detailed feedback from professors. Take advantage of the Writing Center on campus if you need help. Proper punctuation and good proofreading skills can significantly improve academic writing [see sub-tab for proofreading you paper ].
Refer to these three basic resources to help your grammar and writing skills:
- A good writing reference book, such as, Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style or the St. Martin's Handbook ;
- A college-level dictionary, such as, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ;
- The latest edition of Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form .
3. Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor expresses a preference to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or not, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide rules on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to a style of writing helps with the narrative flow of your paper and improves its readability. Note that some disciplines require a particular style [e.g., education uses APA] so as you write more papers within your major, your familiarity with it will improve.
II. Evaluating Quality of Writing
A useful approach for evaluating the quality of your academic writing is to consider the following issues from the perspective of the reader. While proofreading your final draft, critically assess the following elements in your writing.
- It is shaped around one clear research problem, and it explains what that problem is from the outset.
- Your paper tells the reader why the problem is important and why people should know about it.
- You have accurately and thoroughly informed the reader what has already been published about this problem or others related to it and noted important gaps in the research.
- You have provided evidence to support your argument that the reader finds convincing.
- The paper includes a description of how and why particular evidence was collected and analyzed, and why specific theoretical arguments or concepts were used.
- The paper is made up of paragraphs, each containing only one controlling idea.
- You indicate how each section of the paper addresses the research problem.
- You have considered counter-arguments or counter-examples where they are relevant.
- Arguments, evidence, and their significance have been presented in the conclusion.
- Limitations of your research have been explained as evidence of the potential need for further study.
- The narrative flows in a clear, accurate, and well-organized way.
Boscoloa, Pietro, Barbara Arféb, and Mara Quarisaa. “Improving the Quality of Students' Academic Writing: An Intervention Study.” Studies in Higher Education 32 (August 2007): 419-438; Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; Candlin, Christopher. Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach . Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style . College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.
Considering the Passive Voice in Academic Writing
In the English language, we are able to construct sentences in the following way: 1. "The policies of Congress caused the economic crisis." 2. "The economic crisis was caused by the policies of Congress."
The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether you want to focus on “Congress” and what they did, or on “the economic crisis” and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice. When you want your readers to focus on the "doer" of an action, you can make the "doer"' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb. When you want readers to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence by using the passive form of the verb.
Often in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is doing an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action. The passive voice is useful in academic writing because it allows writers to highlight the most important participants or events within sentences by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.
Use the passive voice when:
- You want to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself;
- It is not important who or what did the action;
- You want to be impersonal or more formal.
Form the passive voice by:
- Turning the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence.
- Changing the verb to a passive form by adding the appropriate form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of the main verb.
NOTE: Consult with your professor about using the passive voice before submitting your research paper. Some strongly discourage its use!
Active and Passive Voice. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Diefenbach, Paul. Future of Digital Media Syllabus. Drexel University; Passive Voice. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.
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