Tuesday, 28 June 2011 10:58

How to write an essay

Written by  Helen Batziris

I have always had a preference in the manner in which I approach writing an essay. The steps I usually take are in this order:

  • Decide topic
  • Prepare an outline/plan of approach
  • Write a bold statement about the topic
  • Write the main body text in paragraphs (main points, sub-points, elaborate on sub-points)
  • Write the introduction
  • Write the conclusion
  • Add finishing touches
  • Proofread
  • Submit

Decide Topic

More often than not, your essay topic has been provided to you by a teacher/lecturer or other. In this case, you need to consider your approach and decide how specific or general your essay will be in relation to the topic. If you have not been provided with a topic and your choice is endless, remember that your best work will come from a topic in which you have an interest.

Prepare an Outline/Plan of Approach

Commence organising your ideas. You may prefer to only list your main arguments/explanations/description in the order that you will write them within the essay, or you may prefer to spend more time brainstorming. A typical brainstorm plan would have your topic written in the middle of a piece of paper, with the primary arguments being written around the topic, then sub-arguments growing out of the primary arguments in a web-like fashion. Once you have a draft of your brainstorm plan, it would be ideal to order the items/arguments in a logical fashion, in readiness for your essay structure.

Write your Main Statement about the Topic

This statement informs the reader what your essay is about and what point or argument you will be making.

Write the Main Body Paragraphs

Each of your main ideas (or arguments/explanations) from your brainstorm will become a paragraph within the main body. Commence each paragraph with the main point you wish to get across to the reader (in a one sentence), then fill the remainder of the paragraph with your main supporting points for this initial statement. Re-read the paragraph and add points to elaborate your arguments or thoughts further.

Write the Introduction

The introduction is a 'point of entry' into your essay for the reader. The best introductions commence with a statement that grabs their attention. Such a statement can be a startling fact (must be accurate and verifiable), an anecdote that illustrates your point, or summary information to guide the reader into your essay.

Finish the introduction with your Main Statement about the topic.

Write the Conclusion

The conclusion is the 'exit' from your essay. A good conclusion summarises the main points and ends with your primary perspective on the topic.

Add Finishing Touches

There are a few more things to make your essay complete:

  • Check the order of your paragraphs - is your strongest point/argument one of the first paragraphs (to retain the reader's attention)?
  • Check the instructions for the essay - have you got the correct margin size, wordcount, line-spacing, title?
  • Have you included your name, grade or course, where relevant?


Nothing beats a polished piece of work - spend a few minutes re-reading your essay and checking for:

  • typographical errors
  • spelling errors
  • grammatical errors
  • consistency of language (same tense)

Beware of the traps of reliance on computer spelling/grammar checks - see my web page on proofreading, in particular the section 'Why you cannot rely on a computer spell- and grammar-check function'.

Submit your Essay

Many students these days submit their essays via email; others are required to print off the essay either post, or hand directly to your lecturer/teacher. If you are emailing your essay, make sure your email clearly identifies you (you may have a student number) and where possible, add a received/read receipt to the email so that you know that it has been received.

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 June 2011 11:44

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