How to Write an Essay

Essays are an important part of all levels of education. Writing an essay may seem daunting but you can do it by following a few steps.

What Type of Essay?

There are many different types of essays, and they each suitable for different circumstances. If your assignment does not call for a specific type of essay, think carefully and choose the best type from the list:

  • Reflective Essays describe an important life event and tell how it has affected you personally.
  • Narrative Essays tell a story by describing a sequence of events and the outcome.
  • Descriptive Essays provide fact-based information about a subject. Think of it as writing a newspaper article: Tell your audience the who, what, where, when, why and how.

Essay Planning

Choose a Topic

The first step of writing an essay is to choose a topic to write about. You may be given a list of topics, or you might have to choose one entirely on your own.

Choose a topic that interests you and that you want to write about. It should be thought-provoking, and you should know if there is likely to be some scholarly research on the topic.

Essay Research

The next step is to research your topic. The amount of research you do will depend on the length of your essay and your individual requirements. However, you should always use reliable sources, such as newspapers, magazines, studies, journals and first-hand accounts.

Essay Pre-Writing

A significant portion of your essay planning time will include pre-writing. Organize everything you’ll need. Highlight important parts of your research and keep them close by. Keep track of your essay requirements too, so you can look at them as you write your paper.

Essay Outlining

The final planning step is to create an outline of your paper in essay format. This includes an introduction (with a thesis statement), body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Write down your key points on the outline too.

Essay Writing

Introduction

Begin your essay with something that will draw the reader in. Describe an event or present a situation that will make them want to keep reading to find out more. Your introduction should close with a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is the main point of your essay. You should state, clearly and concisely, what your essay is about and what your main points are. See the article on thesis statements for more information on constructing a thesis statement.

Body

The main part of your essay is the body. The body can be any length, from a few paragraphs to many pages. Each paragraph should relate back to your thesis statement and provide research that reinforces the main idea of your essay.

Conclusion

The conclusion is your last chance to persuade or entertain your reader. Use the conclusion to wrap up your essay, and sum up what you’ve talked about. You should also clearly restate your thesis statement and write a memorable closing sentence.

Editing

Now that the hard part is over, it’s time to edit your essay!

Constantly refer back to your outline and research when editing your essay. You don’t want to include any information that either doesn’t fit with your outline or distracts from your main point. It is easy to fall in love with words you’ve written, but sometimes you have to cut an interesting point because it just doesn’t fit.

Running your essay through your computer’s spell check is not enough! Read your essay out loud to make sure it flows properly, and to catch any word redundancies. Also, read it backwards to catch any wayward spelling errors. Make sure your spelling and grammar are beyond reproach.