Nearly 2 in 5 high school students lack the English skills needed to complete a college course. This results in most college graduates lacking the writing proficiency needed to get a job, a fact echoed by nearly half of hiring managers.
Most professors agree that essays aren’t just about writing skills or sharing what you’ve learned. Professors describe essay writing as an essential step in the learning process, taking what you’ve learned through reading and coursework, analyzing and synthesizing that knowledge into a clear opinion or idea, and crafting a piece of writing that clearly communicates your thesis.
In short, writing papers helps train you to think and argue.
Writing a perfect essay requires critical thinking skills, reading proficiency, written communication skills, and the ability to organize your thoughts into a clear and concise narrative. Most of us don’t enjoy writing essays, but knowing how to do it right will make a huge difference in your schooling and in your career.
How To Write The Essay
Before you get started with your essay, you have to do some prep work. This is one good way of starting to know how to improve your essay writing skills.
Know The Different Types of Essays
Review any requirements laid out by your professor or editor, including the scoring rubric or assignment scope. Read any examples provided by the professor or editor. You might even want to take notes and make yourself a checklist of what to include in your final draft.
One of the best ways to get a good understanding of the assignment is to be familiar with the different types of essays and when to write each type:
Narrative Essays: Tell a real-life story
Expository Essays: Explain or define a topic
Persuasive Essays: Convince the reader to believe or do something
Develop Your Topic
Now that you know what’s expected for the assignment, you’ll need to pick a topic. Sometimes, your professor may determine this for you. If that’s not the case, you need to spend some time narrowing the topic to a more manageable focus.
The best topics should be broad enough to find plenty of supporting information while narrow enough for the essay to delve deep into.
When deciding how narrow the topic should be, always consider the length of your assigned essay. Shorter essays can deeply analyze a single small aspect of the topic while longer essays may need to address how a few aspects work together to form the whole.
As you develop your topic, explore background information from your textbook and class notes and begin to look for supporting research. You’ll need to pick a topic with plenty of good source materials available. Your background research will also help you develop a working thesis. This is a draft version of the essay’s thesis, which you can refine and revise as you conduct further research.
Research & Analysis
Essays are built on what you read and good research is the core of the perfect essay. Remember to pick credible sources (and cite them) and stick to recent publications that aren’t too biased. As you read, take notes so you can refer back to them.
Tips for note taking:
- Record key elements that back up an author’s argument
- Keep a list of terms to look up
- Note questions to follow up on
- Summarize what you’ve read at the end of each chapter or article
- Always write notes in your own words, so you won’t accidentally plagiarize
- Let your notes sit for a few days to give yourself a fresh perspective
Writing & Revising
Once you’ve completed your research, it’s time to start writing your essay. Consider your working thesis: is it still consistent with the evidence? Does it need to be broader or narrower?
Revise your working thesis into a 1 or 2-sentence thesis statement. Use words like “although” or “because” to indicate how ideas are related.
Begin your essay with an attention-grabbing fact or a rhetorical question. Then, give a brief overview of the topic before ending your first paragraph with your thesis statement.
Your introduction should let readers know what you’re talking about as well as your thesis, but save your arguments for the body of your essay.
The body of your essay should have a well-organized structure: chronological, cause-and-effect or ordered by complexity. Always conclude with a brief summary of your main points, restate your thesis, and end with a compelling final statement.
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Author: Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.