Six Parts:Writing Your EssayRevising Your EssayWriting a Persuasive EssayWriting an Expository EssayWrite a Narrative EssayEssay HelpCommunity Q&A
Throughout your academic career, you will often be asked to write essays. You may have to work on an assigned essay for class, enter an essay contest or write essays for college admissions. This article will show you how to write, and then revise, all types of essays. Then, we’ll explore how to write narrative, persuasive and expository essays. Read on to learn how to write essays like an expert!
Writing Your Essay
Research the topic. This step is especially important if your paper is a research paper. Go online, head to the library, search an academic database, or read newspapers. You can also ask a reference librarian.
Know which sources are acceptable to your teacher. Does your teacher want a certain number of primary sources and secondary sources? Is your teacher picky about what’s considered reliable sources?
Can you use Wikipedia? Wikipedia is often a good starting point for learning about a topic, but many teachers won’t let you cite it because they want you to find more authoritative sources. Even if your teacher does not allow Wikipedia, you can still use Wikipedia articles as a starting point. If you have very little background knowledge about your research topic, Wikipedia can be a good place to get a general working knowledge of your research topic and find search terms. The “Works Cited” or “Bibliography” section at the bottom of the page can also be a good starting point for finding reliable sources. However, if your teacher forbids even that much, a normal encyclopedia can serve the same function.
Take detailed notes, keeping track of which facts come from which sources. Write down your sources in the correct citation format so that you don’t have to go back and look them up again later.
Never ignore facts and claims that seem to disprove your original idea or claim. A good essay writer either includes the contrary evidence and shows why such evidence is not valid or alters his or her point of view in light of the evidence.
Analyze well-written essays. In your research you’ll probably come across really well-written (and not so well-written) arguments about your topic. Do some analysis to see what makes them work.
What claims does the author make?
Why do they sound good? Is it the logic, the sources, the writing, the structure? Is it something else?
What evidence does the author present to you?
Why does the evidence sound credible? How does the author present facts, and what is his/her approach to telling a story with facts?
Is the logic sound or faulty, and why?
Why is the logic sound? Does the author back up his/her claims with examples that are easy to follow?
Brainstorm your own ideas. Sure, you can use the arguments of others to back up what you want to say. However, you need to come up with your original spin on the topic to make it uniquely yours.
Make lists of ideas. You can also try mind mapping.
Take your time. Walk in your neighborhood or local park and think about your topic. Be prepared for ideas to come to you when you least expect them.
Pick your thesis statement.
Look at the ideas that you generated. Choose one to three of your strongest ideas that support your topic. You should be able to support these ideas with evidence from your research.
Write a thesis statement that summarizes the ideas that you plan to present. Essentially, let the reader know where you’re going and why.
A thesis statement should have a narrow focus include both your topic and what you plan to present. For example, “Although Eli Whitney’s cotton gin ushered in a new era of American prosperity, it also widened the gap in suffering for African-American slaves, who would soon be more in demand, and more exploited, than ever.”
A thesis statement should not ask a question, be written in first person (“I”), roam off-topic or be combative.
Plan your essay. Take the thoughts that you brainstormed and assemble them into an outline. Write a topic sentence for your main ideas. Then, underneath, make bullet points and list your supporting evidence. Generally, you want three arguments or pieces of evidence to support each main idea.
Topic sentence: “Eli Whitney’s cotton gin made life harder on African American slaves.”
Ex: “The success of cotton made it harder for slaves to purchase their own freedom.”
Ex: “Many northern slaves were in danger of being kidnapped and brought down south to work in the cotton fields.”
Ex: “In 1790, before the cotton gin, slaves in America totaled about 700,000. In 1810, after the cotton gin had been adopted, slaves totaled about 1.2 million, a 70% increase.”
Write the body of your essay. You do want to think about length here; don’t write pages and pages if your teacher wants 5 paragraphs. However, you should freewrite to let your thoughts reveal themselves. You can always make them more concise later.
Avoid sweeping generalizations. Statements such as “______ is the most important problem facing the world today,” can cause your reader to dismiss your position out of hand if he/she disagrees with you. On the other hand, “______ is a significant global problem” is more accurate.
Don’t use “I” statements such as “I think.” Likewise, avoid the personal pronouns “you,” “we,” “my,” “your” or “our”. Simply stating your argument with supporting facts makes you sound much more authoritative. Instead of writing, “I found Frum to have a conservative bias,” tell the reader why your statement is true: “Frum displays a conservative bias when he writes…”
Come up with a compelling title and introduction. Your title and introduction make people want to read your essay. If your teacher is the audience, then of course your teacher will read the whole piece. However, if you’re submitting to an essay contest or writing an essay for college admissions, your title and introduction have to hook the reader if you want to meet your objectives.
Skip obvious expressions such as, “This essay is about, “The topic of this essay is” or “I will now show that”.
Try the inverted pyramid formula. Start off with a very broad description of your topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific thesis statement. Try to use no more than 3 to 5 sentences for short essays, and no more than 1 page for longer essays.
Short essay example: Every year, thousands of unwanted and abused animals end up in municipal shelters. Being caged in shelters not only causes animals to suffer but also drains local government budgets. Towns and cities could prevent both animal abuse and government waste by requiring prospective pet owners to go through mandatory education before allowing them to obtain a pet. Although residents may initially resist the requirement, they will soon see that the benefits of mandatory pet owner education far outweigh the costs.”