Writing an essay or paper does not have to be a hideous last-minute experience that forces you to rush, lose sleep and, ultimately, receive a poorer grade than necessary.
The following great essay tips can ease your “pain” quite a bit!
- As soon as the essay or paper assignment is given, make certain that you understand what is expected. Most assignments are now given through a prepared syllabus or in writing, so read carefully! Be certain that you pick out the key words that indicate the type of essay or paper to be produced, as well as its purpose. If, for example, you are asked to compare two major characters in two novels or plays you have read, you are only going to focus on their similarities; if you are asked to compare and contrast their traits, you must list similarities and differences. Other key words include “analyze,” “discuss,” “describe,” “define,” “evaluate,” “take a position,” etc. Each of these indicates a specific purpose, and your essay or paper must stick to that purpose. If you look at the assignment immediately, you will have time to ask for clarification if necessary. Any listing of great essay tips will always push you to do this early on.
- Understand the research requirements, or lack thereof. If, for example, you are comparing two characters, then your sources are the two novels or plays you have read. You may want to read what others have said about these two characters, however, to give you more insight. If you must do a small amount of research, in order to gather some statistics to posit a position, conduct a quick Google search, and gather the information. Be certain that you note the source and, if you intend to quote someone, make sure that you give proper credit within the text of your essay. When significant research is required, the time to begin is now! Of all the essay tips provided here, this is perhaps the most important. If you start now, you can do a little at a time, by actually creating a schedule for research time that spans a few weeks. Be certain you also know the specifics of the resource requirements – books, periodicals, limitations on number of Internet sources, etc. Again, a Google search can provide resource listings, and you can even specify the academic level, so that the resources you use are appropriate.
- One of the most important tips for essay writing that involves research is to carefully note resources and page numbers from which you gather information. Nothing is worse than having to go back and try to find the page number of a quotation you are using!
- Organize your thoughts, ideas, and/or sub-topics with some type of graphic organizer. You need to consolidate! Get those thoughts or pieces of information into categories.
- Much that is written about essay writing tips fails to suggest that the writer prioritize the categories or sub-topics from most important to least. Dependent upon the type of work and the topic, you will want to sequence your sub-topics or points in ascending or descending order.
- Determine your thesis or your research question and write it out in sentence form. This will “force” you to focus on it as you look at your categories or sub-topics and make decisions about relevancy.
- These essay tips would be remiss if the outline was not mentioned. Traditionally, an outline assists the writer in organizing the content logically. You may not wish to construct a formal outline, but some type or organizational structure or chart will be necessary.
- Many lists of tips for essay writing include the sequence in which the paragraphs or sections should be produced. Among the great essay tips that you may find useful is to produce the body of your work first, saving the introduction and conclusion for later. The rationale for this is that, once you have produced the “meat” of the work, you may have a gained more insight relative to your thesis (which must be stated in the introduction) and how to present it creatively and, as well, what purpose you want your conclusion to serve.
- Write your introduction. Your goal is to state your thesis, hypothesis or research question and to provide the reader with a clear picture of your purpose in producing the work. If you can startle the reader with a fact or statistic, if you can provide an anecdote that directly relates to the body content, or if you can find a creative analogy or metaphor, you will “hook” the reader.
- Write your conclusion. Your conclusion has a purpose too – are you summarizing your points or are you pressing the reader into some action? Ask yourself what you want the reader to think, believe, or do as a result of reading your piece. If you can tie back into the statistic, anecdote, analogy or metaphor used in the introduction, you have completed the circle!
- Tips for essay writing must include the absolute necessity of reviewing, proofreading and revising your initial draft, possibly many times. Continue to revise until you feel an inner satisfaction with what you have said and with how you have said it. It goes without saying, of course, that grammatical and mechanical problems must be corrected, and, if you are uncomfortable with this phase, find someone who is more adept.
There are many publications that provide great essay tips for students. Some will include more than are here given, and you should certainly study them. English teachers and professors are also great resources as you seek additional tips for essay writing, and they are usually flattered to be asked!