How to write an essay

essay-guidelines-4

An essay is a type of writing based mainly on interpretation, evidence, and research. You may come up with many different types of essays,  but the purpose is almost always the same.

Writing process

Essay writing process usually consists of three consecutive stages; preparation, writing, and revision. 

Preparation
  1. Find an essay topic
  2. Start researching
  3. Draft a thesis statement
  4. Prepare an outline
Writing
  1. Start with the introduction
  2. Write your body paragraphs
  3. Summarize in conclusion
  4. Let a friend have a look
Revision
  1. Check paper structure
  2. Read for grammar mistakes
  3. Check for plagiarism 
  4. Read again in two days

However, the time and effort on each stage depends on your essay type. If you are working on a college-level argumentative essay, you need much more time on preparing your argumentation.

But when you are assigned to a two-page expository essay for high school, you can start writing almost instantly, without comprehensive research.

What to do before writing

First, understand the type of essay and instructions. Take the steps below to ensure a structured approach. 

Step 1. Understand your assignment

Your essay should respond to your assignment’s requirements like length, type, and deadline. If you’re confused, simply ask further clarification from your professor. 

Step 2. Choose your topic

Some instructors allow students to choose their own topic. Just make sure it is interesting to grab the readers’s attention.

Step 3. Start researching

It is really hard to write a good essay without researching properly.  Just don’t forget to reference (cite) them in APA, MLA, etc. to avoid plagiarism.

These platforms will help you a lot for researching  and citations. 

Step 4. Draft your thesis statement

Thesis statement is the goal of an essay. Find a clear and strong thesis statement and keep supporting it throughout your essay. 

 

Step 5. Prepare an outline

Now, map out your essay in an organized outline. You will see the benefits of an outline as you continue writing.

Introduction guide and example

steps

This is the first paragraph where you need to grab the reader’s attention by informing what you will include in your essay. For common essay types, the introduction should be around 10% of the whole essay

As seen below, you generally need a hook sentence, context (background), a thesis statement, and structure overview (signposting). 

International trade has been highly controlled by developed countries for centuries and developing countries have struggled to access this market. Hook: This sentence doesn’t include the main focus, but introduces the main issue/controversy for the argument. Fair trade is a worldwide initiative aimed at improving the livelihood of producers and empowering workers in developing countries by generating better terms and sufficient wages (Fair Trade International, 2017). Context: Present a paraphrased definition by referencing the source or simply explain the context with your own ideas. Overall, Fair Trade develops economic stability, provides higher salaries compared to conventional producers, and educates community diversification. Thus, to a large extent the claim that Fair Trade negatively impacts producers and workers in developing countries in invalid. Thesis Statement: State your central argument and position. This essay will focus on the main arguments connected to stability, salaries and diversification and conclude with suggestions on how Fair Trade could be improved. Structure Overview: Explain what your essay will cover.

1. Grab reader's attention with a hook sentence

Think of yourself as a reader. Would you read an essay that lacks interest right from the beginning? 

So, start with a hook sentence to trigger the reader’s interest. You may start with a shocking statistic, a question, or even a quote. Look at the example below. 

2. Present background information

Good essay topics create curiosity for the reader. It is important to provide historical or academic context after your hook.

Feel free to make use of information on the background, overview, critical debates, and references (APA, MLA, etc.) in your introduction. Look at the example below.

Background/context example with APA reference

Introduction

Cancer due to smoking is undoubtedly one of the most common causes of death. It is now a common sense among people that smoking is extremely harmful for lungs. According to Taylor et al. (2018), the most common root cause of death due to lung cancer is still smoking and extreme exposure to cigarette smoke Background information/context provided
....(introduction continues)

However, don’t dig deep into the topic yet as it is a bit early now. You will have plenty of space in the body paragraphs.

3. State your thesis statement

Now, present your thesis statement, which is the central argument of your whole paper. 

Generally, a thesis statement is one or two sentences long and given at the end of the introduction.

Body paragraph guide and example

After the introduction, it is time to present your arguments and provide evidence regarding your research in the body paragraphs.

Look at the example below to see different sections of a paragraph.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can generate a positive reputation for a company leading to possibly more sales and growth. Topic sentence: This is where you introduce the paragraph’s main idea. According to Jones et al. (2019), a corporation that invests in the environmental and ethical approaches of CSR will demonstrate to the public and the media that they are a responsible company. Watson (2018) provides evidence that this improves consumer sales as customers tend to support ethical green business practices thus improving profitability and encouraging growth. Evidence: Give your evidence by paraphrasing your sources. For example, a yoghurt company called Yeo Valley has been investing in making its products organic, creating fully recyclable packaging and reducing its CO2 output. As a result, profits have doubled within the last two years providing the company with a range of opportunities to expand (Peterson, 2019). Example: You may give examples to show your evidence is valid. Overall, the evidence seems to suggest that investing in CSR can improve brand image and productivity. Interpretation: Express the significance of your evidence and summarize the paragraph finding.

1. Length of the body paragraphs

In general, the type of essay defines the lengthFor example, reflective essays are usually 3 to 5 paragraphs, but a graduate essay may be at least 5,000 words.

2. Structure of paragraphs

First present a central idea or argument, which is called “topic sentence.” 

After the topic sentence, present some evidence, examples, data, or even quotes. But, don’t forget to paraphrase and reference primary and secondary sources to avoid plagiarism.

Look at the example below.

Topic and transition sentence example

A paragraph from an essay about "Alcohol and Sleep"

In the general population, use of alcohol as sleep booster is fairly common, especially in recent years. Hook sentence: The first sentence which indicates the general topic of the paragraph, followed by evidence and example. According to a survey in the study, 13% of participants used alcohol, 18% used medications, and 5% used both to fall asleep quickly (Johnson et al. 1998).

....(paragraph continues)

While the usage of alcohol for sleep is a drastic concern in today's society, this addiction is often linked to another societal issue. Transition sentence: Last sentence is usually used as a transition to a new paragraph, which is still linked to our overall thesis statement.

When starting a new paragraph,  prepare your reader to the following paragraph with a transition sentence, as shown in the example.

Conclusion paragraph and example

This step is the last paragraph of an essay, and it takes around 10% of the whole essay. Writing a conclusion is as important as an introduction and thesis statement.

Here you need to summarize your points and reiterate your thesis statement. 

After all, this essay has discussed three key areas of CSR and has argued that it is an important consideration for larger companies in 2020.Thesis statement: Restate your thesis statement and opinion. In promoting a good reputation in being environmentally friendly, supporting local companies and providing positive working conditions, evidence suggests that this will in the long-run improve profitability and encourage outside investment. Summary: Review the key points of the article Eventually, one future prediction is that as consumers are becoming more ethically minded, now is the time to invest in CSR. Recommendation: You may state a solution, prediction, or future focus.

Best practices in conclusion paragraph

Things to avoid in conclusion paragraph

A memorable and solid conclusion is essential for the last impression. 

Osman Sirin
Osman Sirin
Founder @Tamara Research, Linguistics major and full time digital marketeer, loves dogs, sports, and nature

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