Have you gotten yourself into a pinch where you’re running out of time and you need to get that essay out of the way in a hurry? Short of hiring someone to write your paper for you, where are you going to start? Do you start by sitting down and putting one word in front of the other as they come? Not unless you just really like failing classes.
When you’re writing an essay, there’s a good chance the instructor will be looking for structure and argument strength. If you sit down and write your essay slice of life style you’re probably not going to pass, and it’s also going to be more difficult to achieve the desired length, making the writing process slower.
Instead, use these seven steps in order and you’ll be better able quickly produce an essay that earns you that high grade. Once you’ve used these steps a few times, you’ll find yourself able to write a passing 5 page essay in only an hour, as I have. While these instructions use the five paragraph essay as a model, these steps can be applied to essays of nearly any length and is the best model I’ve found for any essay.
1. Essay Topic
The first step is to know exactly what your essay topic is. This should be more or less the easiest step, and sometimes the essay topic may have been assigned to you, making it even easier. If you have to choose your topic, try to choose something you already know something about, unless you’d like to spend a lot of time researching the subject.
2. Thesis Statement
The second step is to solidify a thesis statement for yourself. According to Wikipedia a thesis statement, “is a focused section of text that clearly delineates the argument that is presented in the work and is usually found at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.”
Wikipedia sums it up fairly nicely, it should be one sentence that sums up what your argument or purpose in the essay is. What you’d like to explore or prove with the paper. This may vary slightly depending on the type of essay, but there will always need to be a thesis statement, and on occasion your instructor will ask you which sentence is your thesis statement. That’s why you should write the thesis statement first, instead of just jumping in and trying to write your introduction.
3. Supporting Points
Next you’ll need to determine your supporting points. These should be aimed at achieving the goal set forth in your thesis statement. In an argumentative or persuasive essay these will likely be valid logical or scientific points that support your thesis, and you’ll usually want there to be at least three of them. In a comparative essay they’ll be points that show the similarities and differences between the two or more things being compared. In this case you’ll probably want four supporting points at minimum. In descriptive essays these should be the aspects of that which is being described.
There are other kinds of essays, but I’m sure you get the idea. You’ll want to determine what each of your supporting points will be before you begin to write your essay. You”’ probably want at least three in any kind of essay, if you have less you risk the structure of the essay.
Then find at least one source for each of your supporting points. This may not be important for some essays, but it certainly won’t hurt, and much of the time will be actually required. These sources are used to add credibility. Typically reputable sources are preferred, which means no Wikipedia or other crowd source informational sites. Instead, try web sites in the .gov and .edu categories. News web sites are usually also acceptable, as are books from any nearby libraries from your bookshelf. Your instructor may have given you a specific format for your citations, and if they didn’t then I recommend MLA. You can easily create citations for your bibliography using the Citation Machine. Don’t forget to place the in text citation at the end of sections using information from one of your sources. The in text citation will usually look like this: (Name of Source) and the citation machine will give you the appropriate in text citation under the bibliography entry. Place the entries for your sources at the end of your paper in alphabetical order.
4. Writing your introduction
Now that you’ve got a clear thesis statement, supporting points that logically follow that thesis, and credible sources for your supporting points, it’s time to start writing your introduction. Open with an attention getter. This is a clever statement or quote relevant to your essays content that will grab the readers attention and get them interested in what you’re going to say during the essay.
After the attention getter, you should place your thesis statement, followed directly by one sentence for each of your supporting points. Your introduction should now be structured like this:
Attention Getter. Thesis Statement. Supporting Point. Supporting Point. Supporting Point.
The introduction shouldn’t necessarily contain any citations. Save those for your body text.
5. Writing your body
Next you’ll be writing your body. To begin with, place out each of your supporting points as though that single sentence was a paragraph.
This will give you a template to work from while you’re writing the body. Now go to your first supporting point, and explain how and why that point supports your thesis. Explore the point, and make sure you include at least one citation in each of the three supporting point sections. Remember that any claim you make that isn’t common knowledge must be supporting by a citation. While you may consider yourself an expert on your subject, the odds are that the audience of your essay wont. A citation shows where the reader can find information to back up the claims. Also, make sure you don’t directly copy information from a source unless you surround it by quotation marks and properly attribute it to it’s source.
6. Writing your Conclusion
Now you’ve nearly reached the end of your paper. In your conclusion, summarize your supporting points again, and explain how they support or fail to support your thesis. This step is fairly easy, and doesn’t need much explanation. Try to make the final sentence of this paragraph sound good.
7. Editing… Editing… Editing… Proofread!
Now that you’ve finished your essay, you need to rework it. If you have time, set your paper down and go do something else, preferably something you enjoy doing. Really get your mind away from the paper for at least an hour or two. Then, return to the paper and start reading it from the beginning.
What you’re looking for are locations where the structure of the essay might be better. Anywhere that seems out of order, or doesn’t make sense. Make sure there aren’t any holes in the logic you’ve used, and try to make sure that everything is formatted correctly in terms of font size, indentations, margins, etc.
Once you’ve done that, read the paper to yourself out loud, watching for any misspelled words or sentences that don’t sound quite right. You can run the paper through a spell checker, but you’ll want to look over it yourself too for any usage mistakes or problems your spell check didn’t pick up. While you’re reading the paper aloud, listen to yourself talking and make sure it sounds good.
The final step is one more check over to proofread the paper. Carefully check for any spelling errors, punctuation mistakes, changing tenses, or other grammatical mistakes.
That’s how you write an essay. These steps, once mastered, allow you to hit every step of the essay writing process in rapid succession. Once you’re hitting every step, you can practice hitting these steps faster and faster, and as long as you still get every step and put in unique and well developed thoughts and ideas, you’ll continue to earn high marks for your papers without spending much time actually writing them.