How to Write an Essay
What Is an Essay?
As we get closer to the essay writing, let's get familiar with the definition of an essay first. So what is an essay? It is a short composition based on a particular subject or theme, usually done by students as a part of their workload at school or university. Essays are extremely popular and are given as a task in every college and academic institution, as they are a great tool for developing various skills necessary in life, like analytical thinking, research, creative skills, and so on.
In this article, we will look at writing tips that can help you score your essay an A. Let’s start from the beginning, to master writing an essay, you need to do the following:
- Choose an essay type and its format
- Brainstorm a topic
- Conduct research
- Develop a thesis statement
- Create an essay outline
- Write a draft and the essay itself
- Check spelling and grammar
Let’s see each step of mastering how to write a good essay in detail.
1. Choose an Essay Type and Format
In this step you need to define what type of paper you are writing. There are four main essay categories:
- Descriptive — describes a particular topic or situation
- Persuasive — convince the reader to adopt a certain point of view
- Informative — present information that your readers don’t know
- Explanatory — explains a certain process or situation, for example: how to bake a cake.
Most Popular Types of Essays:
- 5-Paragraph Essay: This is an essay written in the classic five-paragraph style. It can be used for persuasive, expository, or narrative texts.
- Persuasive: This paper aims to persuade the audience about a certain topic or idea.
- Cause-and-Effect: Is an essay in which a situation is presented and followed up with an in-depth analysis of the results.
- Compare-and-Contrast: This one requires a critical analysis of the similarities and differences between two things.
- Creative Writing: In this type of writing the author chooses his own topic and style to put together a cool story.
- Narrative: Similar to creative writing, the writer creates a story, however, they need to follow a specific set of formatting instructions in this case.
- Expository: This paper aims to educate the reader or audience about a certain topic or idea. This does not include persuasions or opinions.
- Process: This is a type of assignment in which the “How” is explained. It usually follows a step-by-step structure.
- Descriptive: This is an essay that gives a full overview of a certain topic or thing. It includes a full explanation of each of the five senses.
- Analytical: This is a type of paper that requires a full analysis of a topic or idea. Critical thinking and implementation of personal inferences are required.
Essay Format and Style Requirements
A basic essay consists of three main parts: an introduction, body, and conclusion. Flexibility is also important. The topic of your academic paper and specific assignment guide should guide your writing and organization.
As for commonly used essay format requirements, essays are pretty strict. While single-spaced papers are usually acceptable, it is typically better if your essay is double-spaced. You should delineate your paragraphs in a clear way. A single tab at the beginning of each paragraph is acceptable as well. The most popular fonts are Times, Arial, Calibri, and Cambria.
There are many ways of citing sources from your research. The citation style you will be using sometimes depends on the academic subject that you study in your school or college. For example:
- APA (American Psychological Association) is mostly used for students specializing in Education, Psychology, and Sciences.
- MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used for the Humanities subjects.
- Chicago/Turabian style is used for Business, History, and Fine Arts disciplines.
As for how long an essay is, average high school essay lengths vary from 300 to 1000 words, college admission essays are typically between 200-600 words, and undergraduate college essays can be around 1500-5000 words long. You should also always pay attention to the requirements of your professor—usually given along with your assignment.
2. Brainstorm a Topic
It’s time to come up with the topic. When asking yourself “what should I write about?”, it may be useful to write down everything that comes to mind and narrow it down later. To facilitate the process, you may use clustering or mind mapping to brainstorm and come up with an essay idea. Brainstorming is very useful at this stage as it helps to develop your topic(s) more deeply. It also allows you to recognize connections between various facets of your topic.
When deciding on what to write about consider these things:
- Make sure to have access to all the materials you may need before writing a paper. If allowed, choose a topic that is familiar to you. It will be easy and interesting for you to write about a theme in which you are well versed.
- Define The Purpose: Are you trying to inform the audience of something interesting or persuade them to agree with your opinion? Even if your goal is just to tell a story, have a clear understanding of the purpose of the writing. This ensures that the audience will understand you properly and that you won’t waste both time and effort.
- Subject Depth: At what point on the spectrum of depth do you plan on reaching? How broad or narrow do you want to go in your discussion? The best option is to find the golden middle. Make sure that your subject is not too deep, as if only you can understand what you are talking about. Then, check that it is not too broad or narrow – to make sure that you will be able to find enough information.
- Define the heading. The heading must be short, concise, and clear. It should clearly state what your paper is about in the best way possible. It should also be interesting and catchy.
Typical mistakes when choosing an essay topic:
- Choosing a boring topic because it is easy to write about. Writing about a boring topic will lead to a boring paper for the outcome. Selecting a broad topic, for example, “computer games” and not narrowing it down to something more specific like “computer games and the violent impacts it can have on kids”.
- A desire to look smart by choosing hard and strange topics. If a topic is too difficult, it might be hard to find enough information about it or it might be difficult to convey to your readers.
- Creating an inappropriate title that doesn’t match the content/topic. Remember, a good essay title can make your paper stand out.
- Choosing a title that does not correspond with the specific assignment.
3. How to Start an Essay: Research
To write a good essay, you always need to do some research. Other than just going to the library or searching online, you can interview people who are experts in the subject. Get out there and talk to people, ask them to share their experiences, watch some interviews on YouTube and other platforms, and search social media. These are always good ways to start an essay.
4. Develop a thesis
A thesis statement is one sentence that says what the essay is about. This basic premise can be used for writing your entire paper. It should be specific and based only on what you are going to discuss in your writing. You will then need to support it using some evidence.
Good thesis statement example:
The constitution provides everyone with rights; however, there are some limitations regarding this providence in the law.
By reading the thesis statement, you can understand what the rest of the paper will be about, and it should make you want to read the rest of what is written.
5. Outlining Your Essay
The paper’s outline is the skeleton of your paper. It is great for ensuring that your paper is logical, well organized, and flows properly. Outlines help you see the logical steps of development in your essay. Use it to list ideas, main arguments, and supporting sources. It’s crucial to outline your writing as it will guide your pen and keep you on track.
What Is a Process Paper?
A process essay is a type of essay that explains a process step by step and gives guidance for a certain process, working mechanism, procedure, etc. Process essays range from very simple ones, such as instructions for how to ride a bicycle, to more complex ones, such as a chemistry lab report of an oxidative reaction experiment. The goal of a process paper is to give its readers guidance and directions.
A process paper is characterized, first of all, by explaining a process using a description. Some words that are frequently used in process essays are “further”, “then”, “next”, “first”, “last”, “finally”, and “initially”. It is really important to remember that every process essay includes features, such as:
- clear and straightforward narration - the last thing you want to do is to confuse your reader with complex language and an unorganized thought thread.
- chronological order - avoid skipping steps and shifting them around, as it will result in misunderstanding and frustration for the readers.
- transition words - make sure to separate the next step from the previous ones by using transition words.
- descriptions of the steps - make sure your steps are clear and easy to follow.
There are several types of process essays. The first one is directional - it explains the “how to” for something. It can take on a wide range of subjects, such as how to apply for a credit card, how to get your driver’s license, how to plan a wedding, etc. The outcome of the directional essay should be a result. In the cases of the examples above: a credit card, a driver’s license, or a carefully planned wedding. The other type of process paper is informational - it explains how something works. Here are some examples: how a weather forecast is determined, how a space rocket works, how intermittent fasting changes your body, etc. An informational essay explains something to a reader and does not necessarily end up with a result, like directional does.
Another type of essay that is similar to a process essay is a process analysis essay. The biggest difference is that a process analysis essay not only explains the steps, but also analyses them in depth. It has all of the characteristics of a process essay, although goes into more detail about the causes and consequences of every step.