Writing is a huge part of our education, especially for college or university students. Essays can contribute to a very large percentage of our grades. Below I am going to list out the steps to write a good essay. These tips partly come from my personal experience, and partly from other books and guides for writing essays.
Before starting the steps, I would also love to introduce AcademicHelp.net. This website provides a bunch of amazing resources and samples on writing, and the tips range from music review, research paper, to refund letter – it basically covers every writing task. It also covers some general writing tips like how to choose an essay topic, how to research, how to brainstorm etc. All of the articles are very comprehensive and helpful. If you would like to learn more about writing a good essay, definitely check them out.
1. Carefully read through the question
Question words sometimes can determine the way of answering the question, it’s very important whether you are supposed to critical discuss, or analyze, or comment on certain issues. Understanding the question is always the key since it provides you the following (apparently, these are also things that you need to figure out):
- Your research direction
- The key focus of your essay
- Things you need to define
- Your structure of your essay
- The type of your essay
For most of the time, failure to understand a question is often the most crucial mistake students make when writing an essay, leading to a huge reduction of their grades. The question, at the same time, provides you with a lot of the hints that you wouldn’t be able to know if you don’t actually study the question. If you find yourself having difficulty to comprehend the question or the direction it offers, makes sure to see your tutor and professor. They will help you stay on the right track and prevent you from having all the effort go down the drain!
2. Choose Your Topic
If it so happens that you have to choose your own topic, either it offers you some choices or you have to research around to come up with an original idea, you may want to choose the topic seriously because it can greatly affect your grades.
A lot of students struggle with choosing the easier topic vs. the topic that they are more interested in. There is no absolute right or wrong in choosing a topic, but you definitely need to bear in mind that you should choose a topic that best suits your capability – i.e. it should be one that can allow you to show the examiner that you know a lot and have thought deeply about the issue.
Here are some factors that you can consider when choosing a topic:
- How familiar you are with the topic
- The resources you have for the topic
- Your interest and passion
- Whether you have some new ideas or arguments about it
Now, remember that your topic can determine your direction of the essay. Choosing a write topic that is suitable for you can make a huge difference. Imagine if you pick a topic that is too difficult or you, or too narrow, you can tell that it would be very challenging for you to write a good essay with that topic.
3. Do Research, and take comprehensive notes
You can first look at the issue and try to search for related articles using different keywords (Google scholar is extremely helpful for initial research). Once you have downloaded or targeted at several journals that are particularly relevant to your essay, you can go ahead and summarize the journals in a document.
I usually create 4 Word documents at this stage
- Essay outline: I love printing out my essay outline and make notes and amendments with pencil on it when I am writing the essay so that I can easily track any changes and progress.
- Research notes: the way I do it is that I first use the journal’s full citation as the title, then type out relevant ideas from the journal under it. I also footnote the citations of the original journal to make sure everything is well cited.
- Bibliography: I will note down the journals/citations on my bibliography (which is divided into sections like journals/books/internet resources and more).
- Essay draft
If I have inspiration and ideas for essay outline or even the essay, I would immediate jot them down on the respective documents in fear of losing them in the future. This way, my notes and resources can be very organized, and that definitely helps me to write a good essay.
4. Construct your essay outline
This is going to be a very important step for you to formulate your thoughts and have an idea on what you have to do for further research. It determines whether you can write a good essay. Besides, you can finish your essay so much faster with a guideline for yourself. Here is what should probably be included in your outline.
- Issue: what is that one thing or few things that need to be defined in your essay, or that your essay revolves around?
- Thesis: this is the central idea you want to convey in your essay. It may change when you proceed to do your research or write your essay, but it’s very important to first have an idea of what you want to propose.
- Main body: what is going to be the content/title of each paragraph? You can also use bullet points to indicate your main ideas and evidence/examples that support your arguments. Color-coding them is optional but may be of great help!
5. First draft of the essay
Basically, just follow your essay outline and try to complete your essay. I don’t necessarily do it from start to end, I jump from parts to parts for most of the time. I find that easier for me, but using this method means that I have to make sure I have carefully linked different paragraphs after drafting my essay.
Another tip for drafting your essay is to color-code your essay. For example, you can color-code the essay by using:
- Red for topic sentence
- Orange for elaboration
- Yellow for examples
- Green for keywords
- Blue for conclusion of each paragraph
This can make sure that your essay is well structured and organized, and that you will have sufficient elaboration and examples to support each of your arguments.
After finishing your first draft, you can check whether your essay…
- Has a coherent structure
- Flows from one part to the next – that it has a clear linkage
- Has sufficient support for arguments (references)
- Has sufficient up-to-date literature
- Has detailed evaluation on your topic
- Has fully addressed what was set out in the title
- Has reached some conclusions about the topic (preferably strong)
- Incorporates a complete reference section
A great tool to make use of when you need to check your essay is Analyze by AcademicHelp.net. This service helps to analyze your writing assignments. All you have to do is to upload your paper, and they will assign one of their experts to look at your paper. They will analyze your grammar, organization, style, content, and research. Here is the service demo walkthrough:
With this service, the expert can exactly point out some things you have to work on. It can definitely avoid wasting your time being confused, and it’s also a great way to improve your grade. This service may even point out some mistakes that you have been repeating for a long time, and so you can make use of this opportunity to improve your writing skills as a whole.
I personally tried out the service and I really loved it. Here, I have written a political philosophy essay and submitted it for review. Jacquelyn is responsible for looking at my essay, and she pointed out some errors I have made:
7. Final check!
You can, of course, final check your essay by yourself, or peer mark if you want. Having a friend to go through your essay allows you to see whether your content is understandable, whether you have any grammatical error and whether your arguments make sense. Having your article error-free is the key to writing a good essay.
Some Final Tips To Help You Write A Good Essay!
- At the end of the day, it’s probably your tutor or lecturer who is marking your essay. So make sure you know what he/she demands/wants to see in your essay.
- Essays that are argumentative, rather than descriptive and factual somehow are likely to get a better grade (if there are no specific requirements for the essay) – because it shows your own original thinking process and understanding of the topic.
- Support arguments with literature – this is particularly important especially for first or second-year undergraduate students since for most of the time the essay assignments are supposed to help students to deepen their understanding of the issue, or increase their skills of reading and analyzing literature. Being original is a good thing, but tutors do want to see your essay being well supported by other literature. (again, unless specified otherwise)
- Discuss with tutors to have feedback for further improvements.
I hope this long article will give you some inspirations on writing an essay, and hopefully to make this tedious task easier for you!
Meanwhile, tell us about some of your obstacles you face when writing an essay in the comment section down below! 🙂