Essays are, in a word, tough. Students often find the prospect of sitting down, sorting out reference material, generating arguments and then finally crafting the essay, an arduous task.
There are also many styles and types of essays, and can be basic or complex in nature. However, as with most challenges in life, the headaches are greatly diminished if the task is broken down. This method can even be applied to the most basic of essays.
Those unaccustomed to writing essays often make the rookie mistake of jumping on a keyboard or reaching for the pen right away. The first thing that should really focus on is identifying the requirements. Essays, especially academic essays, are written to answer some sort of question or explain a task. It is critical to the success of the piece that the writer fully understand the question. Without this knowledge the odds of formulating a coherent and solid essay would be almost nil. The writer should not be afraid to ask for clarification from the instructor if need be.
Likewise, they should not be afraid of seeking the aid of a dictionary or thesaurus to define the meaning of unknown, but important, terminology.
Once the requirements are clearly defined, the next step is not to write, but to read. Acquiring research and reference material is essential to building a well thought out and logical body of arguments. To compare essay writing to sculpting, this phase of the essay can be thought of as gathering the raw materials to build the sculpture. Take note of quotations and be sure to attribute them at the end of the essay using a reference or bibliography page.
Having conducted the research and with reference materials in hand, it is time to generate an answer, or rather answers, to the question. At this point, brainstorm any and all possible solutions. It is crucial to capture all of these ideas so make sure to write them all down. At this stage it is not essential to organize or sort the ideas. The sole focus is to produce as much talking points and supporting ideas as possible.
Now that you have all the ideas committed to paper it is time to sort and map them out. Try to find commonalities and threads connecting one idea to another. Soon a predominant pattern will emerge and that will lead you to the main idea or thesis of your essay. This is the “answer” to the question, and the purpose of the essay. Your goal, as the writer, is to now support your thesis with the ideas, quotes and references you have generated.
Writing can now commence but don’t be hasty in diving right into full blown paragraphs. Like a good sculptor, it is best to draw plans before putting hammer and chisel to use. Creating a skeleton outline will greatly aid in the arrangement and structuring of the essay. On a blank page, layout where each point, argument and reference will lie. Then cap both ends with the conclusion and introduction.
The introduction is the writer’s opportunity to capture the attention of the reader. While the majority of an essay can be rigidly composed of facts, introspection and statements, the introduction is the place where a writer can be a bit more “loose”. Using a fine combination of panache and mystique, the writer can use this portion of the essay to introduce the reader to the question at hand, along with their thesis and briefly describing their supporting arguments.
As previously mentioned, the body of any essay is comprised of the arguments, facts and quotes which support the thesis, and ultimately answers the question. For each point or argument, make sure to include as much reference material to support it. Also consider the order of the arguments on the essay. Like notes of a song, each argument should strengthen the previous, and reaching a crescendo with the final paragraph of the body.
Write the conclusion
Once you’ve laid bare your thesis and your arguments, it is time to sum it all up and bring the essay to a close. While recapping the previous paragraphs is important, use the conclusion to leaving a parting impression or thought to the reader. Finally, state in one or two sentences why your thesis was indeed the answer to the question.
Edit the draft and add citations and proofread
Do not celebrate just yet as this is just the first draft. Before turning in the essay to be marked or graded, make sure to include a bibliography which will attribute all your references to their original source. Then go over the essay with a fine toothed comb searching for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and whether restructuring is required. Then hand it over to a peer or professional to be proofread. Make the appropriate changes, if necessary, then and only then can you submit it for grading.