How to write general essay

How to write general essay

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Time Management

Essay Tips: 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay

Essays can be crucial to admissions and scholarship decisions.

By The Fastweb Team

August 20, 2018

Essay Tips: 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay

Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship , a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.

According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay , there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

1. Pick a topic.

You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.

If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?

Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.

Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.

2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.

In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.

To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.

If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

3. Write your thesis statement.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay . Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?

Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”

Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”

4. Write the body.

The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.

5. Write the introduction.

Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.

Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.

6. Write the conclusion.

The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.

7. Add the finishing touches.

After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.

Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.

Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.

Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.

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Ten steps for writing an essay

Teenage boy writing out notes

Rather than worrying about an essay for weeks, suggest to your child to read through these 10 points, get in some early preparation and have the self-belief that they can do it.

  1. Read the essay question carefully

    • Highlight key words.
    • Use the dictionary to check the meaning of any unfamiliar words.
    • Identify the task words that indicate what needs to be done, eg ‘discuss’, ‘explain’, ‘compare’.
    • Identify the topic words that indicate the particular subject of the essay, eg the character of ‘Juliet’ in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the ‘causes’ of World War 1.
    • Identify any limiting words that restrict the discussion to a particular area, eg in ‘Chapters 1-3′, during the ‘nineteenth century’.
  2. Finish any necessary reading or research as background to the essay

    • Be selective: use sources which are relevant and accessible.
    • Write notes in your own words.
    • Write down quotations that may be particularly useful, but ensure the source of these quotes is acknowledged if they’re used.
    • Take note of sources so they can be provided in footnotes and the bibliography.
  3. Brainstorm ideas in response to the question

    • Jot down any relevant points.
    • Make note of any relevant evidence or quotes that come to mind.
    • Use a mind map to help stimulate lateral thinking.
  4. Develop a thesis (idea/argument) that encapsulates the response to the question

    • The thesis should be a statement that strongly expresses the overall response to the question.
    • Avoid a thesis that’s too simplistic – show thought has been put into some of the complexities behind the question.
    • The thesis is the backbone of the essay – it will be stated in the introduction. It also needs to be referred to several times in the essay before restating it and demonstrating how it has been proven in the conclusion.
  5. Write a plan for the response

    • Order ideas in a logical sequence.
    • Make sure every point in the plan is relevant to the question.
    • After the plan has been written it should be clear where the essay is going. 
  6. Write the introduction

    • Open up the discussion.
    • Introduce the thesis.
    • Indicate how the questions will be answered.
    • Name any texts to be discussed, if appropriate.
    • Engage the reader.
  7. Write the main body of the essay

    • Ensure each point is given a new paragraph.
    • Use words or phrases at the start of each paragraph that will indicate to the reader how it relates to the previous paragraph, eg, ‘however’, ‘in addition’, ‘nevertheless’, ‘moreover’.
    • Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that clearly links the paragraph to the rest of the essay, eg “A striking example of Gary Crew’s use of light and darkness imagery to suggest notions of knowledge and ignorance occurs in the scene on the jetty”.
    • Provide supporting evidence for each point that you make.
    • Revisit the thesis, and express it in different ways if possible, to emphasise how the question is being addressed. 
  8. Write the essay conclusion

    • Summarise the main ideas.
    • Demonstrate how you have proven your thesis.
    • Finish with an interesting or thought-provoking, but relevant, comment.
  9. Edit the draft

    • Check for spelling, punctuation and grammar.
    • Delete any sections that are not particularly relevant.
    • Change vocabulary to improve expression.
    • Seek feedback from peers or a teacher before writing the final copy.
  10. Write the final copy

    • Add any footnotes or bibliography if required.
    • Present a clean, neat copy.
    • Submit on time.

Try School A to Z’s help sheets:

  • Essay writing: checklist
  • Essay writing: what is an essay?
  • Essay writing: structure
  • Essay writing: discussion essay planner
  • Essay writing: exposition essay planner
  • Essay writing: critical analysis essay planner
  • Essay writing: compare and contrast essay planner
  • Essay writing: review essay planner
  • Essay writing: evidence and references

 

 
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