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How to Write an Essay

Published: 18.11.2009, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Choose Your Topic

If your topic is not already assigned to you, choose one that really interests you.

Develop Your Approach to the Topic

Once you have chosen a topic, think of an approach to the topic or thesis statement (Am. Eng.) This is your main idea that you will further develop throughout your essay. It states what the essay will be about and your position on the issue. Think of what angle you want to argue from. Your approach to the topic may, for example, be formulated as a question or a statement in one or two sentences. If your topic is to analyze Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, you might pose this rhetorical question: Does love conquer all? A statement might be: Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare's most famous play.

The statement outlining your approach to the topic should be included both in the introduction to your essay and in its conclusion. Be clear, specific and concise.

Research Your Topic

Use the library or online academic data bases when researching your topic for central ideas. Jot down information and quotes, and always write down your sources and URLS.


Analyze

Search for and evaluate the evidence for and against your basic claims. Are there any alternatives to your reasoning? Be critical.

Brainstorming

Write down all your ideas on a sheet of paper. Try to be original. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the root of the problem?
  • Am I being biased?
  • Does my evidence support my claims?

The Writing Process

Outline Your Essay

Outline your essay by using your ideas from your brainstorming sheet. Make a mind map to visualize what you want to say. Use numbers 1,2,3, etc for headings (main ideas or topics) and a, b, c, for sub-topics. Remember that each heading will make up the main paragraphs in your essay. A good idea is to state your headings in sentence form. (See Example Essay - How to Write an Essay) We need to visualize this.

Introduction

The introduction to your essay introduces the main topic and your approach to it (thesis statement). It is a description of what you want to say. Start with some interesting information, fact, definition or quote that captures the attention of the reader. Don't be afraid to challenge the reader. Finish your introduction with a short summary of what your goal is for the essay.

Body of the Essay

Each paragraph should focus on one central idea, claim or argument. Use examples, facts, evidence or data to support each idea, claim or argument. You may want to begin each paragraph with the main topic or topic sentence from your outline that describes the point of the paragraph.

Use connecting phrases such as:

  • firstly, secondly, thirdly...
  • by comparison...
  • likewise
  • on the one hand.....on the other hand
  • in addition
  • however
  • nevertheless
  • therefore

Conclusion

A conlusion is a summary paragraph which summarizes the main points in your essay. It should recapitulate your introduction in an orignal way and restate the main idea of your essay. Final sentences might include the consequences or the implications of some action not being dealt with, a question, a future prediction or a call to act etc. Use phrases such as:

  • In conclusion...
  • to summarize
  • as a result
  • consequently
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