Academic Writing

Improve Your Academic Essay Writing Skills: How to Write an Essay in 6 Steps

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Academic essays are the backbone of most college studies and virtually any research project. This type of essay is nonfiction and usually includes empirical data and reports from fieldwork. The exact tone and content vary depending on the field of study.

For students, researchers, and other academic professionals, there are a myriad of applications for academic essays. These include book reports, research projects, essay questions on exams, lab reports, business presentations, and even things like an obituary or a letter to the editor of a media publication.

As you can see from these many applications, good essay-writing skills are not just important for academics. Academic essay writing is a key communication tool, no matter where you work or study. This type of writing generally includes three main components: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. 

Having these three sections lets the reader know what to expect as they begin the piece. They also sum up the key points at the end of the paper. We'll examine each of the three components in more detail below and provide some essay tips.

Understanding How to Write the Perfect Essay

Learning what makes a good essay takes time and practice. The best essays invite the reader to take a journey with the writer. You start with a thesis and then draw the reader toward your conclusion, paragraph by paragraph.

Learn How to Write a Research Question.

Below, we'll talk in more detail about the six steps to writing an essay. We'll also provide some essay-writing tips to help you on your writing journey.

1. Building Your Thesis Statement

The first step in writing your essay is to develop your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is one sentence that summarizes the main point of your essay. Everything you write in the essay should work to explain and prove that statement.

A good thesis statement gives your reader an action plan for what is to come in the essay and helps them to recognize the key points of your piece.

The Importance of a Strong Thesis Statement

Without a strong thesis statement, an essay can feel empty and without purpose. This can leave the reader feeling that the piece is not cohesive and can cause them to miss the central theme of your writing. 

A controversial statement can be a good way to start an essay. This could be a hook that entices readers to see what you have to say or a debatable subject that readers will be tempted to argue.

How to Write a Good Thesis Statement

Learning how to write better essays is easy if you start with a good thesis statement. The best thesis statements are relevant, researchable, and contain a subject that you'll be able to draw clear conclusions about at the end of your essay. 

To delve into this a little further, your thesis statement should be about a subject that is relevant to your reader. 

In addition, your thesis needs to be sufficiently concrete and well established so that there will be credible research available on the subject. As you write and review drafts of your work, sometimes it will be necessary to refine your thesis statement so that it reflects any changes made to the main arguments.

Finally, your thesis statement needs to be limited enough that you can explore it in a reasonable number of words.

2. Create Your Title

After you've written your thesis statement, it's time to title your essay. A good title grabs the reader's attention and makes them want to learn more. This is especially true for essays that are written to be posted on the internet.

How many times have you scanned newspaper or magazine headlines to see if there is an article that interests you? Without that dynamic title, you might have passed by many interesting pieces.

How to Create an Interesting Title for Your Essay

A good title entices your reader and builds their curiosity about what you have to say. The best titles are clear and not confusing, direct, and framed uniquely. 

If you're struggling to come up with an appropriate title, many writers leave this stage for last or use a dummy title. You can always revisit your title at a later time. 

Avoid Ambiguity

Cute or overly clever titles can be confusing and leave a reader unsure of what you're going to discuss. If the reader is unclear, they may not take the time to read your essay. Avoiding ambiguity in all parts, but especially in the title, is essential to writing a good essay.

Get Straight to the Point

Readers aren't going to want to read your essay if you don't tell them what you're planning to discuss in the title. 

Ideally, you want to explain your topic in the first five words of the essay. In most cases, this will be a variation of your thesis statement. 

Frame It in a Unique Way

Just because you don't want to be ambiguous doesn't mean you can't frame your title in a unique and interesting way. For example, if your initial idea for a title is "Marijuana should never be legalized," you could do one of the following:

  • Frame it as a question, such as "Has your state legalized marijuana?"
  • Make it a debatable statement, such as "Legalized marijuana leads to higher rates of employee call-offs"
  • Present it in a way that the reader wants to learn more, such as "How legalized marijuana is hurting US productivity"

3. Build Your Introduction

Your introduction should introduce your thesis, capture your reader's attention, and cause them to want to read more of what you have to say. Ideally, your introduction will be no more than one paragraph.

Sometimes it's easier to write your introduction after you've completed the body of your essay. This way, you can ensure that the points you allude to in the introduction are delivered in the body of your piece. 

Give the Reader the Necessary Background for Your Thesis

A good introduction provides enough information so your reader doesn't feel that they are lacking the right context to follow your arguments.

How to Write a Hook for an Essay

Your hook is the first sentence of your introduction. It allows you to give the reader a quick glimpse of the information you're going to discuss. As a whole, your introduction should provide an outline of what will be discussed and how the arguments will be laid out.

Think of your hook like the teaser on the evening news to keep you watching until the end of the broadcast.

Essay-Writing Tips

4. Create an Outline for the Body

Now that you have your reader's attention and have hooked them on your interesting premise, it's time to deliver on the promise of your thesis statement. 

The most effective way to create a concise and organized essay is to learn how to write an essay outline that lists the major points that you want to cover in an orderly and logical manner. In your outline, you'll want to do the following:

  • Provide evidence to support your thesis
  • Provide further explanation when developing your argument

A good structure lists the major points with supporting points listed underneath them. For most essays, you'll want to limit yourself to a maximum of three to four well-developed major points.

Map Out the Structure of Your Body Beforehand

A good "map" is essential to keeping your writing on track and delivering the points promised in your introduction that support your essay's conclusion. Your map could be a previous draft or a simple outline, but it's important to draw a clear direction for your essay to maintain focus and keep your arguments on track.

There's no need to overextend your outline if it's not fully necessary. Simplicity is key. It is important to limit the length and structure of your essay. For example, if a professor has assigned a specific word count or a publication has a page limit, you should ensure that your plan and your essay will not exceed these limits.

Always Introduce an Idea with a Clear Purpose in Mind

Each point in your essay needs to be necessary to prove your thesis statement. Avoid including ideas that won't add any meaningful value to your essay.

5. Tie it All Together with a Conclusion

The penultimate step in writing an essay is to tie all your points together with a dynamic conclusion. To do this, you want to review the points that you've presented in the body of your essay and draw conclusions from these points that support your thesis. 

However, the thesis statement should not be simply repeated in the conclusion. Instead, you should remind the reader of the main points and arguments and summarize how they support the thesis or central idea.

Avoid bringing up a new point in your conclusion. That's best left for the body of your piece, where you have the space to fully develop your idea.

Draw a Clear Picture of Your Final Thoughts

When writing the conclusion for your essay, make sure to explain how you've reached your conclusions in a clear and cohesive way. 

You also want to give reasons for why your arguments are relevant to the bigger picture (why the reader should care about your conclusion).

6. Add a Bibliography

Your bibliography includes all of your research sources, formatted in the appropriate essay format (such as MLA, APA, and Chicago). Its purpose is to provide a clear list of your resources to prove that the evidence used in your essay came from reputable sources. The bibliography also provides your readers with information about sources they can seek out to learn more about the subject.

Check out reference management software solutions to make formatting your bibliography much easier.

Use the Proper Format for Your References

One of the most important essay-writing tips is to be consistent with a single format for your piece and the accompanying bibliography.

Your university, publication, or research outlet will usually dictate which format they prefer. If not, choose the format/style guide that best suits their needs. For example, Chicago is often used for the humanities while APA is often used for the sciences.

Writing a Good Essay

FAQs

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Usually, a scholarship essay is written in response to a specific prompt. In this case, you should ensure that you are clearly responding to all aspects of the prompt and that your paper showcases your personality and voice. 

A scholarship essay usually doesn't require a bibliography because the prompts tend to ask the writer to reflect on some experience.

How to Write an Introduction for an Essay

A good introduction for an essay provides an opening hook to capture the reader's attention, provides relevant information that the reader needs to know to put your discussion in its proper context, and introduces your thesis statement. 

The best introductions are no more than one paragraph.

How to Get Better at Writing Essays

Practice is the best way to improve at writing essays. You might try writing for a variety of different outlets, such as writing online book reviews, sending letters to the editor of your local newspaper, or submitting creative essays to literary publications. 

The more you write, the more comfortable you'll be with this writing format.

What Makes a Good Essay?

A good essay leaves the reader feeling that they have learned something or considered a new point of view.

It should have a clear, concise idea, provide points that support that idea, and end with a concise conclusion that is supported by the body of the essay.

What Are the Basic Steps to Writing an Essay?

The key steps to writing an essay are to build a thesis statement, create a title, write an introduction, create an outline for the body of the essay, tie it all together with a conclusion, and add a bibliography.

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