Expert Guide to Essay Writing

Choose a suitable topic

A topic may be assigned to you by your tutor or you may have freedom to select your own topic. If a topic is assigned to you, it is important to think about what type of essay you want to write. Will it be fairly general or you will focus on some specific aspect. If necessary, narrow the topic area down.

If your tutor has not assigned you a topic, there is some additional work for you. This is, however, a good opportunity to select something relevant and interesting. The first task is to define the purpose of your essay and to decide whether your aim will be to persuade or inform.

When you have decided on the purpose, a certain amount of topic-related research will need to be done. Consider your life experiences. What do you find interesting? Make a note of these items.

The last step is assessing what options are open to you. Select a subject you know well if you want to educate readers. Select one that you feel strongly about if you want to persuade your readers. 

Make a note of your ideas in outline or diagram form

To produce a good essay, the writer needs to organise their thoughts properly. If you take what is in your mind already and put it onto paper, you will be able to clearly see the links and relationships between your ideas. You can then use this structure as the basis for your essay. Make a note of your ideas in either diagram form or in an outline.

If you decide to use a diagram, jot down your topic in the centre of the page. Then make a note of your main points on branches coming from the centre. Keep creating more lines from these main points as new thoughts and ideas occur to you.    

If an outline is your preferred choice, make a note of the topic at the head of a blank page. Then, start listing your main points or ideas, leaving some blank space beneath each point. You can later add additional ideas or sub-points related to the main points in these blank spaces. This will help you see the links and connections between your ideas and it will ensure your essay is well-organised. 

Develop a strong thesis statement

Once your topic is chosen and your ideas sorted into suitable categories, it is time to write your thesis statement. This statement sets out the main point of your work and it is usually the last sentence in the introductory paragraph. Look back at your diagram or outline and pick out the main points.

There will be two parts to your thesis statement. Use the first part to say what your topic is and the next part to describe your essay’s purpose. If, for example, your essay was about Barack Obama’s impact as president of the USA, a suitable thesis statement could be “President Obama has had a positive impact on the future of the USA during his two terms in office.”

Or if, say, you were writing about your own “best characteristics” for a scholarship essay, your thesis statement might read: “Some of my best characteristics are my excellent organization, communication and leaderships skills, all of which were evident through my participation in our neighbourhood local youth group, in my school’s drama society, and through my holiday job at McDonalds.”


Create the body paragraphs

In the body paragraphs of virtually every essay, the writer describes, explains and argues the main points concerning their topic. You can create a new or separate paragraph around every main idea noted in your outline or diagram.

Each of these paragraphs will be structured in the same manner. This means you should start by writing a topic sentence based on one main point or idea. After this, you build each of your supporting points into sentence form. Leave some blank space between points so that you can return later to add more supporting detail and/or examples. All the information you provide should be relevant and it should help bring less important ideas or points together.

Write your introductory paragraph

Once your thesis statement and body paragraphs are written, you can write your introductory paragraph. The aim of this section should be to give focus to your essay and get the attention of your readers.

It is advisable to start with a “grabber” to get readers’ attention. To do this, you can tell a story, use a quote or dialogue, provide some shocking statistics, or just sum-up your topic. Whatever method you decide on, do your best to ensure it relates to your thesis.

Write your concluding paragraph

A concluding paragraph brings an entire essay to a close, summarises all the main points, and offers your last thoughts on the topic. A conclusion generally contains between three and five well-written sentences. Essentially, it is a reiteration of the thesis and an essay’s key points.

The final touches

Once your concluding paragraph has been written, it is tempting to think your essay is complete. However, before your paper can be considered complete, there are a few minor details you should attend to.

Check back over your paragraphs or process steps to ensure they are correctly and sensibly ordered. The first and the last paragraphs in the body should hold the strongest or most important points while those of lesser importance are placed in between.

Where applicable, re-check the instructions you were given. A lot of tutors and guide sheets stipulate different styles and formats. So, you must ensure your essay adheres to instructions.

The final step is to review your essay. Does it read sensibly? Do your sentences flow smoothly? Are there any phrases you can add to better connect your main thoughts and/or ideas? Is your essay free of all spelling and grammar errors?