There’s more to writing a proper English essay than throwing together an introduction, body and conclusion. Here are some tips on how to knock your essays out of the park:
- Write the Introduction Last
- Writing a Thesis
- Essay Outline
- Paragraph Format
The first thing to do is figure out what you want to say. Once you have a clear idea and you have supported it with scholarly sources and examples, then start by introducing the topic, what you intend to say about it, and how you are going to explain it to the reader. It is safe to assume he or she has no previous knowledge of the topic.
This is the lead for the rest of the essay. Make sure it grabs your readers’ attention. Don’t be afraid to use something unconventional or an interesting fact. You want to keep the reader interested enough to continue reading.
Remember, the thesis statement is the last sentence in the introduction.
The thesis should answer a few questions. How does your essay relate to the topic? Most importantly, what are you arguing? Does it focus on an idea for which you have ample information to write about?
The thesis is the intention of the paper. What is the point of reading the paper? It should be original and answer the “so what?” question. Given the topic, what are you trying to say and why is it important?
Remember to include the author, the issues with the text, and your approach in proving your point – i.e. compare and contrast, a methodical or theoretical approach?
The outline of the essay is an introduction, body paragraphs and your conclusion. Do not follow the five paragraph or “hamburger”-style essay. These formats need to be expanded and more analytical in post-secondary education.
You should start your paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the intent of the paragraph. Follow it with your supporting point and the evidence. Each argument often has three points, and each point should have its own paragraph. Each paragraph should contain a conclusion that directly relates to the thesis. Your points must always relate to the thesis, the topic and what you’re proving in the essay.
Make sure you indent and it is double spaced.
Spend time making sure you have properly understood the citation. Should you write “bibliography” or “works cited”? Is everything spelled correctly? Properly formatted? Know the difference between writing a quotation and paraphrasing.
Do you need to include the author, title of the book, year or page number? What form is the professor asking for?
- If possible, use multiple screens – it helps you to sort information, and there is a lot that needs to be written and properly structured in the essay.
- Colour-coordinate – highlight, change the font, and alternate between first and following drafts. This allows you to create your own legend. It keeps track of when you’ve written certain information, and you can pick and choose if you still want to use it or rewrite it.
- Create its own folder – any information on your computer associated with your essay is in this folder. This is another organization technique that makes it easier to access your work.
- Compare & Contrast
This will help you structure your essay in terms of organization, word choice and even research. After you’ve figured out what you’re going to say, how are you going to say it? It’s safe to say you’re going to argue something or bring an obscure fact to light, but what’s the best way to explain it in five-plus pages?
After you’ve written the essay, leave it for a day and come back, so you can read it with fresh eyes. It will be easier to catch mistakes, improper spelling, organization issues, and identify what doesn’t make sense.
One useful technique is to have someone who hasn’t read your essay, or who has little to no knowledge of the topic, read it out loud to you. While they’re reading it, take notes. How does it sound to you? Is this the way you wanted the writing to come across? Does it make sense?
Finally, ask them questions. Was it clear and easy to read? Could they understand the point you were trying to make? Most importantly, did they enjoy reading your essay? Bias not included.
Regardless of the type of essay you’re writing:
- Avoid general statements
- Refrain from using clichés
- Present new ideas
- Use your own words only – or cited otherwise
- Make sure it relates to course material
- Save everything, constantly!
- Keep track of what you’re writing
- Does it make sense?
- Do you like it?
- Have you done what’s required?
- Ask questions for clarifications
These essay-writing tips should help you get on your way to submitting a thorough, properly structured essay. Tweet us @StudentsDotOrg and let us know if these tips helped you!
Before you start writing, be sure to check out this article on how to avoid getting an “F” on your academic paper.
Are you writing your supplementary essay? These tips might help you too.