A step by step guide on how to write an effective essay

Writing an essay can be tedious! It’s sometimes impossible to know just where to start. Following these steps from our student advisor on how to write a good essay should help you think about everything you need to create an excellent piece of work. Remember, the best work is done in a relaxing environment with no distractions!

1. Research is key!

It’s no good sitting there expecting yourself to write a good essay from scratch, use the resources available to you! And there is LOADS there for you! Before you begin your essay, research your topic and make yourself an expert. The best essays are written by people who know what they’re taking about! Utilize the internet, the library and academic databases. Take notes, listen to others ideas and learn from great thinkers! Knowing your topic well makes essay writing much easier and adding detail earns you points! Its also a good idea to speak a professional who has expert knowledge of the topic you’ve been asked to write about, if you can.

2. Analysis and brainstorming

Now that you’ve researched your topic, some essays will require you to analyse this research. Define the claims and the evidence. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of the logic. Your essay will then require you to think for yourself – give your own insight. What is your opinion, and why? Brainstorm your ideas as you go along! Discussing the topic with someone else may help to develop ideas.

3. Write the thesis

The thesis is a clear outline of what your essay is about. It lets the reader know where you’re going and why. State the main topic, the point of the essay and ideas you’d like to discuss.

4. Outline/structure

It’s useful to create an outline of your essay before you write it. This will help you to stick to a clear structure and organise your essay so that it makes sense and is easy to follow. One effective way of outlining your essay is by using one line sentences to describe each paragraph, and then bullet points to describe what you will be talking about in each of them.

5. Introduction

Whilst it is possible to write an effective essay without any introduction, generally, the best essays start with a good introduction. Introductions can be short but should contain two key things: show the reader/marker that you’ve understood the question and then introduce your argument. Outline where you are going with the essay. Try not to generalise your introduction or simply give background information on the topic. Some people prefer to write the introduction once the main part of the essay is finished.

6. Writing the internal paragraphs

The best essays will consistently address the question they have been asked, and stick to a clear structure. This is where your essay outline/thesis will come in handy. Every paragraph should address a single idea that supports your thesis. Effective paragraphs start with main point, followed by an explanation or analysis, often supported by research references.

College students are often taught acronyms such as PEE (point, explanation, evidence) or PBE (point, because, examples) which may be useful depending on the kind of essay you are writing.

Another useful technique which could help you to write an evaluative paragraph is:

Yes, but, so:

Yes – analysis/evidence supporting research

But – analysis/evidence questioning research

So – an overall conclusion about the significance/usefulness of the research

Whether these techniques help you very much depends on the type of essay you are writing!

7. Conclusion

The conclusion needs to briefly summarise what you’ve been talking about throughout your essay. You should reference your thesis and be consistent with the structure of your essay. Particularly effective essays sometimes leave the reader with a memorable thought, a question of logic or some kind of interesting twist. The conclusion should reference your thesis be consistent with the structure of your essay.

And remember to take breaks! Give yourself plenty of time to plan, write and check your essay. Once you have finished your first draft, have a look at some proofreading tips to polish off your essay, and don’t forget to scan your essay and ensure you haven’t accidentally plagiarised any of your sources – all material that you have quoted, paraphrased or used ideas from should be properly referenced.

I didn't plagiarise!

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