How to write an essay

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. 

  1. Find an essay topic
  2. Start researching
  3. Draft a thesis statement
  4. Prepare an outline
  1. Start with the introduction
  2. Write your body paragraphs
  3. Summarize in conclusion
  4. Let a friend have a look
  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. 

Example of an assignment

  1. Write an essay on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" subject of social class.

  2. Consider how Austen depicts the novel's various social strata and their relationships in your article. Make use of concrete instances from the text to back up your analysis.

  3. Your essay should be at least 500 words long , with an introduction that includes a clear thesis statement, body paragraphs incorporating supporting information, and a conclusion that ties your analysis together.

  4. Use correct APA 7 citation format and check for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

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. 

Example of a thesis statement in introduction part


The improvement of the health sector has unleashed the bitter truth that was long considered as normal in the previous ages; smoking. Although smoking was seen as cool in the 19th and 20th centuries, the developments of today’s technology have already revealed its drastic negative consequences on the human body. In this direction, this paper analyzes whether electronic cigarettes are a better alternative than traditional cigarette smoking. The main argument of the paper is to highlight the fact that although both should not be suggested, electronic cigarettes are better alternatives in terms of the human body and health. Using cigarettes is one of the leading risks for death. Thesis statement

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.
essay outline infographic (740 × 540 px) 3

Introduction guide and example

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. Check out the hook sentence examples in our article. 

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


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. At this stage, feel free to make use of a paraphrase tool

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. 

5-Paragraph Essay Example

The Benefits of Meditation for Mental Health


Meditation is a practice that has been used for centuries to promote physical and mental well-being (Kabat-Zinn, 2013). Background information In recent years, scientific research has provided evidence for the benefits of meditation for mental health. Brief discussion on the importance of mental health This essay explores the benefits of meditation for mental health and argues that incorporating meditation into one's daily routine can be an effective tool for improving mental health and well-being. Signposting and Thesis statement

Body paragraphs

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which are two major contributors to poor mental health (Khoury et al., 2015). According to a study by JAMA Internal Medicine, mindfulness meditation reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (Hofmann et al., 2010). Literature review Meditation has also been shown to reduce stress by decreasing cortisol levels in the body, which is a hormone that is released during periods of stress (Tang et al., 2015). Literature review By reducing stress and anxiety, meditation can improve mood and overall mental health.Discussion

Meditation has been found to improve attention and cognitive function. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that participants who meditated for just four days showed improved attention and memory compared to a control group (Zeidan et al., 2010). Topic sentence & background Meditation has also been shown to increase gray matter in areas of the brain associated with memory, learning, and emotional regulation (Hölzel et al., 2011).Explanation These findings suggest that meditation can improve cognitive function and overall mental performance.Discussion

Meditation can improve overall well-being by promoting self-awareness and self-regulation. By focusing on the present moment, meditation can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations (Lutz et al., 2008).Explanation of self awareness This awareness can help individuals better understand their own mental processes and develop strategies for managing their emotions and behaviors. By promoting self-regulation, meditation can help individuals make better decisions and improve their relationships with others (Tang et al., 2007).Discussion:How meditation helps


Consequently, incorporating meditation into one's daily routine can be an effective tool for improving mental health and well-being. Recaps of benefits of meditation Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve attention and cognitive function, and promote self-awareness and self-regulation. These benefits can lead to overall improvements in well-being and quality of life.Call to action and restatement As more research is conducted on the benefits of meditation, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is a powerful tool for improving mental health. Final thought & last impression


Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169–183.

Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research, 191(1), 36–43.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Delta Trade Paperbacks.

Key takeaways

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