How to Write an Essay

Kiersten Roth 
Published on
May 21, 2021

As most students know, coming up with a thesis, text evidence, and good reasoning can prove to be a difficult task, especially when you have no clue where to start.

From there, developing your ideas and writing an introduction and conclusion makes it even more difficult to be original and purposeful with your writing. Here are a couple of ways to make your essay great- simplified:

When assigned an essay, most teachers typically ask for a student to answer a prompt, use specific sources, or even both! In the case that your teacher asks you to write an essay responding to a prompt or question without requiring any specific sources, there is a simple process to help develop a sound thesis:

  1. Think of some obvious responses to the prompt help narrow down exactly what kind of content can be said about the topic.
  2. Combine a couple of your responses, or dive deeper into one to form a less obvious opinion. This way, your thesis won’t sound like it was pulled from thin air and will have a stronger connection to the prompt.

Example of using this method

Prompt: “Which is more useful: experience or technical knowledge?”

Obvious responses: “Experience is more practical as it results in less mistakes on a situation-based level,” or “Technical knowledge is more useful as it has more room for future opportunities.” Because these two responses are opposite, diving deeper into one of them rather than combining them would be a better option.

Looking further into the second response, a possible thesis could be, “Technical knowledge is more useful as it lays a solid foundation for more technical-based jobs, which can lead to more success and opportunity in a person’s professional career.” These responses may still seem surface deep; however, they still connect to the prompt while providing a broader range of possible reasons to support this claim and make room for development in the body of the essay.

What if a teacher assigns a free-form essay

If a teacher assigns a free-form essay and the only requirement is to use specific sources, taking a different approach to developing your thesis will ensure that your claim is still plausible. No matter what requirement or resource you are given, a strong connection is a must when writing an essay so your writing stays cohesive and understandable to the reader.

Steps for creating a thesis

  1. First, identifying exactly which quotes you will use by selecting a general theme you see within whatever resource is required will give a basis to what you will prove in your essay.
  2. After choosing your text evidence, base your thesis on what all your text evidence can strongly prove. For example, using quotes such as “More employers look for candidates with more technical knowledge of the subject as it makes their job much easier as they don’t have to supervise every project they’re on,” you can tell that the idea of technical knowledge being more valued among potential employers is conveyed through the quote.
  3. Next, we can take this quote’s main idea and use it in the thesis statement. The thesis statement should briefly and cleverly state your opinion and give the reader some insight into what will be discussed in your paper.
  4. Taking the quote we had earlier we can create the thesis: “Despite work experience being a valuable asset in a job search, technical knowledge will ultimately intrigue employers as they do not have to teach people with little expertise on a subject.” This thesis conveys the same central idea that was presented in the quote which keeps your evidence relevant, cohesive to your ideas, and a strong reference to back up your claim.

How to write your body paragraphs

After creating your thesis, it is probably best to start outlining what exactly you will discuss. Outlining with bullet points usually helps break down the ideas of your essay sentence by sentence.

To develop your paragraphs and ideas properly ask yourself: “Could I connect the ideas better if I write this idea before introducing this second idea?” This will ensure that you are adding to your ideas instead of simply repeating your ideas until you realize you’ve only said the same idea for 4 paragraphs.

Another way to help you visualize the flow of your essay is to visualize an hourglass. You should start as general as possible and by the time you end your first body paragraph, you should be extremely specific about your ideas. Then you move from specific to broad as you go through your second body paragraph and conclusion. This will allow your readers to actually think about what you discussed and apply it to how they view society or use it in their own lives.

If you find at the end of writing your body paragraphs that your ideas have shifted away from what you discussed in your thesis, change your thesis, not your paragraphs. It is most likely that as you shifted away you developed your ideas better than you would have had you stuck to your thesis.

After all of this, your reader should have been brought into your ideas understanding and then questioned what they thought when they read the specific parts of your essay and then think about that in a more general sense after reading the rest of your essay.

How to write the introduction and conclusion

Finally, the introduction and conclusion paragraphs, arguably the most difficult parts of your essay. The introduction and conclusion paragraphs are the first and last time the reader will consider your writing and the most memorable parts as well so you need to make them pop!

Tips for writing an introduction

For your introduction, you should write a hook that will grab the reader’s attention and will interestingly bring them into the thesis of your essay. This should include either a relatable idea, an obscure idea you thought of while writing, or a commonality you have observed in the subject of the essay.

The next sentence will act as a bridge that connects the hook and the thesis together so making sure the hook is relevant to the thesis is vital.

Tips for writing a conclusion

After all is said and done, we arrive at the conclusion paragraph. This is where you should remind the reader of the main point, the thesis, of the essay in fresh language while still providing new insight into the previously mentioned ideas.

This is also a great time to check if the thesis still connects to the rest of the essay; if you could not write your thesis again after writing the body paragraphs without it not making sense, that is a sign the thesis needs to be changed.

The final sentence should do a couple of things: make a connection to the title (this is often where you will get your title from) and end with a bang. If you cannot see yourself doing a mic drop at the end of reading this, you need a stronger ending sentence.

Once again, the connector sentence between the restatement of the thesis and mic drop should show how they make sense together and should wrap up any last thoughts you want to tell the reader. After all of that, you have successfully written a cohesive and purposeful essay.

A final word of advice

A final word of advice while writing-- to make sure that your writing is not wordy or vague, restate the idea in the plainest way possible, and make sure that the reader can still understand that.

Another way to make your writing more clear and concise is when revising, asking yourself if you need every word in the sentence you get your point across as well as pulling from your own vocabulary instead of looking up a thesaurus when you want a fancier word.

Writing an essay is a subjective process and topic as most people will only want to read what they agree with and that will oftentimes contribute to criticism. By ensuring that you are the clearest you can be when writing, you will grab the attention of many more readers and find that your writing will connect better with others’ ideas.

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