Step-by-Step Guide to Writing an Essay
So your teacher assigned another essay to write. Does the mere thought of putting pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard – send shivers down your spine? For many students in elementary, middle or high school, it does, but writing an essay shouldn’t be intimidating. As long as you know the basic steps of essay writing, you should be well-equipped to handle any essay topic.
Determine What Type of Essay It Is
There are many different types of essays you might be asked to write in elementary, middle or high school. Some of the most common include narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative and literary. Are you presenting an overview or telling a story about the topic (narrative) or are you providing an analysis (expository)? Do you have to convince the reader to adopt a certain point of view or to take a particular action (persuasive)? Are you writing an essay about a book you read (literary)? Determining the type of essay is the first step to writing a targeted essay.
Create an Essay Outline
An essay outline is your road map. It will guide you through to the finished product. When you create an outline, you organize your thoughts about your topic. First, write your topic at the top of the page. Then list all the points or arguments you want to make about the essay topic. Finally, list the facts, examples and statistics that support those points or arguments.
Develop a Thesis Statement
Your thesis should inform the reader what point you will be making or what question you will be answering about the topic. In other words, it is a prelude to your conclusion. A thesis statement should be as specific as possible and address one main idea. Strong theses also take a stand or illustrate the controversial nature of a topic.
Introduce Your Topic
The first paragraph of your essay will introduce your topic and provide direction for the entire essay. The introduction should discuss your main idea, or what the essay is about, then state your thesis and points or arguments that support your thesis.
The introduction also sets the tone for your essay, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. To capture the reader’s attention, you can make a challenging claim about the topic or present some surprising (but factual) information.
Write the Body of the Essay
The body of the essay provide details for the points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point then explain why you feel the topic sentence is true. Finally, support your argument with evidence such as facts, quotes, examples and statistics.
Present Your Conclusion
The conclusion summarizes the essay and gives the reader closure. In three or four concise sentences, you should reiterate your thesis and review the main points of the body of the essay. Just be sure not to restate your previous words exactly. You can even briefly describe your opinion of the topic. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner.
Just remember to tackle each step one at a time. Some people do better when they work backwards from the conclusion. Write a rough draft of your essay first – don’t try to get it perfect the first time through. After you finish your rough draft, proofread it thoroughly and revise until you have a strong, informative essay.
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Step 2 - Organize the Essay
Organizing an essay can be done in many forms. Some people like to use graphic organizers like a web. It looks like a spider web with circles connected. In the middle circle, write the main topic. Then make three "spokes" off of the main circle and make three more circles. These will be your body paragraphs' main ideas. Write the topics in those three circles. Then from those, add two to five more lines or "spokes" from those circles to become details you want to talk about in your essay.
Another way to organize an essay is to follow this basic outline form:
Thesis Statement (One sentence that tells the reader what the essay will discuss.)________________________________________________________________________________________________
Body Paragraph #1 main idea ________________________________________________________________
Body Paragraph #2 main idea ________________________________________________________________
Body Paragraph #3 main idea ________________________________________________________________
Conclusion (Wrap up essay and leave reader with interesting thought.)_________________________________
For future reference, this basic outline can be used for many types of writing, such as a persuasive letter.