Writing academic essays is a mainstay in high school, college, and university. Essays contribute significantly to students' grades, even at the graduate and postgraduate levels. Constructing a good essay is the foundation of academic writing.
It is an art and skill that students need to develop as they might need it in their future careers. Therefore, learning to build, make, or write an essay from scratch will put you many steps ahead of the game. Besides, nobody is born with the natural knowledge, skills, and abilities to write a perfect essay. When writing an essay, you must develop ideas into arguments and support them using facts, evidence, and examples.
If you are not conversant about how to get started with your essay, develop ideas, and polish it for the best grades, we got you. This free essay writing guide takes you through the comprehensive step-by-step process of writing a good essay, including the format, structure, outline, essay types, tips, and steps for writing.
An academic essay presents the writer's position, perspective, or point of view on a given topic by supporting arguments about the topic using credible evidence, facts, and examples.
Students present a structured piece of writing as part of their coursework. The aim of writing academic essays is for the tutor to gauge the student's knowledge and understanding of a subject and their ability to present that information in a way that demonstrates that they understand it.
The information the student presents may be new or refined, but ideally, the student is supposed to develop the confidence to take a stand on their subject of choice as they write it.
The most distinct feature of academic essays is that they are usually shorter in length than other academic papers, such as research papers, term papers, or capstone projects. However, in terms of emphasizing clarity, flow, and the need for evidence to support facts, academic essays have features like other types of academic assignments.
For students, writing essays is a necessary evil. Well, evil because most students see the process as tiresome, troublesome, and tedious. Different types of essays and essay writing topics will be assigned throughout the academic career. Mastering how to write each essay type is necessary for you to get good grades that can help you graduate. There are more than ten types of essays, and let us briefly examine each.
A narrative essay tells a story or exposes information about a subject, just like a story. Narrative writing can be anecdotal, moving, insightful, inspirational, or emotional.
Narrative essays incorporate first-person pronouns and have a climax like typical stories. Besides, it follows the rules of story writing, including the introduction, characters, plot, setting, climax, and conclusion.
If you are writing a book report, which is narrative writing, you deviate from the typical narrative essays and write formally ? without emotions and using an impersonal tone.
An expository essay aims at informing audiences through clear facts without forming an opinion or taking sides on a topic. In most cases, it is an essay that explains an idea or how to perform a specific process. It has to be based on facts and valid evidence rather than personal views and opinions. It employs fundamental analysis, as the writer does not need to prove anything. So NO emotions or thoughts. Expository writing involves investigating an idea, evaluating available evidence from a critical lens, expounding on an idea, and making an argument about the idea concisely.
Examples of questions or topics that can be addressed through an expository essay include:
Persuasive essays are the exact opposite of expository essays. When you are doing expository writing, you are doing the opposite of persuasive writing.
Unlike expository writing, where you don't include personal opinion or emotion, in persuasive essays, the opinions and emotions of the writer bear much weight.
In a persuasive essay, you attempt to persuade the reader to accept a specific opinion over the other using ethos, logos, and pathos, otherwise known as persuasive strategies.
A persuasive essay aims to convince the reader about a certain point of view. As you write, the end goal is leading the reader to change their opinion and share your sentiments.
The tone of the essay gears towards ascertaining to the reader that what you are saying is the only plausible truth they need to know. Notably, it relies heavily on compelling arguments
A descriptive essay aims to explain the details of an experience, an emotion, an idea, or a thing. It also engages the writer's creativity to make the subject matter enjoyable. Mainly, it requires the writer to use their five senses to evoke the reader's emotion while completing the paper easy to understand. Besides, it employs the use of descriptive words as visual aids. The key is to avoid generalization and focus on the details. It could be an essay describing an event, process, person, phenomenon, or physical feature.
Argumentative writing entails using facts and evidence to support a thesis that takes a stance on an issue. It involves writing arguments and counterarguments to balance ideas and come to a conclusion.
In an argumentative essay, you must take a stance on the topic of discussion (usually a controversial one) and present evidence to support your position.
While similar to a persuasive essay, the striking difference between the two is that for a persuasive essay, the writer has to change the reader's opinion.
An example of an argumentative essay topic is; Can mobile banking replace hard cash?
A compare and contrast essay entails comparing two or more issues, people, places, items, subjects, or things.
It involves looking at the similarities and differences or both about the subject, and it entails illuminating the subtle differences or the unimaginable similarities between two or more issues.
You can do so point-by-point or subject-by-subject for better organization of ideas in the essay.
To signal your intentions, you can use transition words such as like, similar to, also, unlike, similarly, in the same way, likewise, again, compared to, in contrast, in like manner, contrasted with, on the contrary, however, although, yet, even though, still, but conversely, at the same time, regardless, despite, while, on the one hand ? on the other hand, etc.
A good example is an essay comparing a long-distance relationship versus a regular relationship.
A process essay is a step-by-step prose-format essay that explains a procedure or a process. For instance, you can write an essay detailing the process of manufacturing an electric vehicle to determine which process produces a lot of pollution or consumes too much material.
A problem-solution essay describes a problem and recommends suitable strategies to address the problem with rationale or valid reasons. For instance, you can write an essay on ending human-wildlife conflicts or coping with stigma when living with HIV/AIDS.
A cause-and-effect essay explores the reasons for the occurrence of a phenomenon and the resulting consequences. It connects the implications of a given problem to the problem.
An example is writing about the cause and effects of exposing kids to high noise levels.
Analytical or analysis essays are almost the same as reflective writing.
It is an essay that methodologically and meticulously weighs in on a topic to draw conclusions or prove theories using facts and evidence.
It can be used to break down themes and explore the meanings of certain concepts, frameworks, or pieces of literature.
A critical essay entails the author looking at a piece of art, non-fiction literature, or anything else and analyzing the point of view of the creator (artist or author). It involves reading, interpreting, and writing about a specific item or artefact.
A definition essay is one where the author exposes or defines an object, word, or phenomenon to provide further information, background information, or expose the historical origin of a term or thing. It is thorough and lengthy.
A classification essay entails classifying, categorizing, or generalizing things based on a specific criterion. Objects with similar features or characteristics are arranged together, and a rationale is given in the process. When writing, the writer sorts things into categories and explains why.
An opinion essay is a formal writing task where the author shares their perspectives, perceptions, point of view, thoughts, or reasoning about a specific topic or subject with proper rationale.
Also known as the advantage and disadvantages essay, the pros and cons essay is an argumentative essay that looks at the positives and negatives of a given topic in prose format. It entails critical thinking, research, creativity, and analytical skills.
An explanatory essay entails the presentation of a point of view on a topic, phenomenon, event, or scenario/situation, even if it is against the beliefs or preferences of the writer, as long as there is logic in it and it is feasible.
Examples of topics or questions to be explored through explanatory essays include:
A reflective or reflection essay entails reflecting on a thing, event, phenomenon, or person. You can reflect on the coursework, semester, class, poem, reading material, discussion post, or any other phenomenon subjectively. You are allowed to use personal pronouns "I", "we' and "us" in reflective essays.
An exemplification essay, or illustration essay, is a flexible essay that entails picking vivid examples and using them to illustrate or exemplify the thesis statement.
It is simply using examples to make points effortlessly.
An evaluation essay is similar to a position or issue paper because it entails the author providing a detailed opinion about a topic, subject, or body of work based on specific criteria. It involves synthesis and giving an overview of a topic so that the readers can pursue it further.
Each type of essay will have its structure. However, the five-paragraph structure is the most reliable structure to any academic writing, and this entails an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Typically, they will require the following:
Usually, you need to cite experts or professionals who have researched the topic, which means that their findings are credible.
There are several ways to accredit/cite these experts, each with its unique format. However, these three styles stand out as the most common.
MLA (Modern Language Association) is college and high schools' most common writing style. This style is usually used for humanities and liberal arts essays, philosophy, language, music, etc.
This formatting style does not require a title page. Usually, the author's name, instructor's name, course, and date are typed in the upper left-hand corner of the first page of the paper.
The most distinct feature of this style is that it uses the author-page number citation style. The separate page where all used sources are mentioned is titled "Works Cited."
APA (America Psychological Association) is the second most common writing style. It uses an author-date citation style and was designed for psychology and social science research papers. Besides the author-date style, APA differs from MLA because it requires a title page. It also features a ?running head, a shortened version of the essay's title and is included at the top of every page. Lastly, the page that mentions all the used sources is titled "References."
Turabian/ Chicago Manual of Style uses two writing styles- the author-date style for scientific papers and the notes-bibliography for arts and humanities. The notes-bibliography style incorporates footnotes and endnotes together with a bibliography page.
Sometimes, the choice of citation style is yours to make. However, your tutor will often direct you on which style you should use for your essay. When the choice is left to you, the paper's topic should guide you on which style to select.
An essay can be written in different formats; however, it has a ubiquitous structure that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. If you are writing a five-paragraph essay, you will have an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. If you are writing a three-paragraph essay, you will have an introduction, a body, and a concluding paragraph. The essence of essay structure is to give flow to the ideas in an essay so that you can write in prose without interruptions or confusing the readers.
The introduction gives the first impression to your readers. It is your chance to grab the reader's attention and convince them to read the entire paper. A perfect introduction paragraph:
The background information is meant to give the context of the essay so that anyone reading the essay understands the point of view. The hook can be a statistic, statement, quote, or fact depending on the type of audience.
The body of your essay is where you build your essay by explaining the main ideas of your topic. Each body paragraph must contain a single idea reflected in the opening or topic sentence.
The body succeeds the introduction paragraph and precedes the conclusion paragraph.
It is usually the longest part of an essay or any paper. Each of the body paragraphs contains the following:
When writing the body paragraphs, determine which facts/ claims will support your thesis statement, and then use each as a topic sentence (first sentence) of the following paragraphs. Next, outline the supporting facts that will further support your claims.
You should also ensure that you do not mince two different lines of thought within the same paragraph in as much as they could support your thesis statement. Instead, you want each paragraph to be clear and logical, and, most importantly, you want each line of thought to stand independently. Besides, ensure that while each paragraph expresses a new idea, it should tie back to your thesis statement. It's all about arrangement!
In the concluding paragraph, state what your gathered evidence means. For example, do the claims outweigh the counterclaims or vice versa?
It is the final paragraph in your essay, mainly before the reference list. It should summarize the paper and remind the readers about the thesis before leaving them with final thoughts or recommendations. For the conclusion, including the following:
When writing the conclusion, avoid stringing in new ideas.
Read about how to write an essay in 1000 words; it will be helpful to you at some point. If you are writing a shorter essay, our guide on writing a 500 words essay can also come in handy.
The structure of an essay helps you communicate the ideas better, answer the prompt or essay question, and meet the recommendations in the rubric. Let's explore more about the typical stages of writing an essay.
Writing an essay is not something you wake up and do as you wish. Even when you have the ideas to put down on paper, you must undergo three pertinent stages of writing: preparation, writing, and revision.
The preparation stage, also known as the pre-writing stage, refers to the series of events that take place before you begin typing the essay on your computer or writing it on paper.
During this stage, you will be preparing the content and structure of the essay. The process entails choosing a topic in case one is not assigned to you.
If a topic is given, you proceed to the next step, which involves preliminary research on the topic, brainstorming on the points, and writing a detailed outline based on the research. If you exhaustively address the tenets of this stage, the process of writing an essay will be easy because you already have the skeleton or blueprint of your essay.
Most people dread writing, especially if they do not know where to start. However, assuming you have planned everything and successfully completed the prewriting stage, this step should be easy to complete.
This stage entails putting all your ideas, thoughts, and arguments on paper. You will write your essay in whatever format you have chosen or one suggested by the essay prompt. Writing an essay should be easier because you will add flesh to your outline.
You can start with the body paragraphs or the introduction, but you must write the conclusion last.
The post-writing stage is referred to as the revision stage, and it is the final stage of writing an essay that entails editing, proofreading, and polishing the essay.
It is prudent to take a break from the writing stage to develop an objective mindset that can let you spot mistakes and errors. You can then check if your essay is coherent, comprehensive, concise, and clear. You should also ensure that the grammar, language, and punctuation are on point. Besides, ensure that facts, evidence supporting the arguments and examples from peer-reviewed sources are cited in-text. If there are typos, remove them as you clear the formatting errors.
A successful post-writing stage yields a well-polished essay and is destined to earn good grades or marks.
Given that we have looked at the stages of writing an essay, we now need to expound on the steps under each section so that you are sure what steps come fast and what follows to be able to write an outstanding essay. If you want to write a high-quality essay, you need to do nine things:
Having listed the steps, let's consider what should occur under each step.
As identified earlier in this article, many different types of essays exist. In your high school, college, university, or graduate studies journey, you will encounter different forms of instructions and prompts, signalling the type of essay you need to write.
To know what is expected, the first step of writing a good essay is to understand the assignment by reading the essay instructions, suggested topics, rubric, or prompt. And if you are to select your preferred topic, ensure that you understand the type of essay topic to select. Is it an argumentative, persuasive, process, explanatory, or compare and contrast topic?
If there are uncertainties, ensure that you contact your professor to explain the assignment, so everything is clear.
It is not a stupid move, as most students suppose. Doing the assignment wrongly because you failed to understand or ask for clarification is ridiculous. So, ask the teaching assistant, professor, or instructor to clarify some parts of the assignment and do it early. They like this because it shows you care about your progress and the assignment. Such levels of engagement help boost your grades and meet academic career milestones.
You can't just jump into researching and writing an essay, as 20% of the students who fail do. If you are after writing a great essay that scores excellent grades, you must generate ideas to guide your writing process.
Brainstorming in an essay is twofold: to generate ideas for the essay or generate a topic for the essay, and it is simply sitting down and thinking of ideas.
It helps to collect your thoughts before you get into the writing stage. after reading the prompt or instructions, try to generate as many ideas as possible to include in your academic essay.
You can brainstorm as long as time allows so that you have a comprehensive list of ideas to include to make your essay tick.
The good thing about brainstorming is that it helps you make connections about different factors on the same topic.
When brainstorming for a topic and ideas, do the following:
Remember that the topic's broadness or narrowness will determine the essay's length.
As you brainstorm, you must select a befitting topic for the instructions. If a topic is provided, take the time to understand it. If possible, turn the topic into a question based on the type of essay you are required to write.
Otherwise, if you are left the freedom of selecting a topic you find interesting, ensure that you choose one that you can write a quality essay on without wasting words. the topic should be something you understand, would like to learn more about, and something that you care about.
Consider the topics you are skeptical about, which inspire you, are puzzled about, or you react to. You can brainstorm on the topic and define it as a question to determine if it is something you can manage, given the word count of your essay.
Once you are done brainstorming your essay topic, you can start your research process for credibility.
Related Articles: The ideal length of a short essay.
With your topic in mind, you must conduct thorough research to gather as much helpful information as possible to make your essay incredible. Excellent sources of information are course books, the library, and expert interviews on the subject. Etc.
Whenever you come across any piece of information you want to add to your essay to help support a point, be sure to note down the source of information and cite it later. Again, staying organized will help your essay-writing process.
We'd say that most of the essay-writing process is in the research process. With everything in place, writing will be a breeze.
During the information-gathering stage, you probably came across facts that will need to be cited as they are not your original ideas. We are talking about peer-reviewed articles and other scholarly sources. These facts work to support your claims in an essay. In other words, they help prove the point that your essay is driving across.
Because the sources can't just be stated haphazardly, consult the tutor's instructions or essay prompt to know which formatting style you should use when citing the paper.
Most essays are written in APA and MLA formats, although some are written in Chicago/Turabian and Harvard formats. Since the formats keep changing, ensure that you know the specific version of the writing format. For example, check whether APA 7 or MLA 9 formatting is required for the essay.
A thesis statement is your essay's main point or controlling idea summarized in one or two sentences. It is a statement that states what the essay is about and what stance you are taking. In addition, it shows the reader what angle they are to anticipate while reading your essay.
The thesis statement should always be located in the first paragraph.
The essay's body will expound on your thesis using different points within each paragraph or topic sentences that act as mini-thesis statements.
If you get lost in your line of thought as you write the essay, your thesis statement will guide you back to what you are writing about in the first place. Therefore, after you have finished your essay, you will also want to countercheck and ensure that all your essay points to the thesis statement.
The instructions from your tutor dictate the length of the essay and the broadness or narrowness of your thesis statement. We used the word "preliminary" because you can always revise or change the thesis statement as you write or edit the essay.
The information you have gathered during the research stage and your drawn thesis statement has given you an idea of what you want to input in the essay. Now you need to develop a structure that will clearly express your thoughts and gatherings in an orderly manner.
A perfect essay outline will help you build your essay regardless of where you begin. For instance, if you are writing an argumentative essay, the following outline will work for you:
Writing the first draft should help you work out the following:
Remember that the first draft is not your final essay. You refine the raw form of your essay through editing, proofreading, and polishing to turn it into a final draft.
When writing the first draft, ensure a solid introduction paragraph. It should have a great opening that grabs your readers' attention and end with a thesis statement highlighting your essay's overarching gist in a sentence or two.
The body paragraphs should each focus on a single idea. Each should have a topic sentence, supporting sentences, evidence, analysis, and a concluding sentence. The concluding sentence should maintain a good flow by transitioning the readers to the next paragraph. The body of your essay accounts for 70-80% of the word count, while the introduction and conclusion each account for 10-15%.
Finally, write a sound concluding paragraph for the essay by restating the thesis, summarizing the main ideas, and including a call to action or final statement that signals closure to your readers. You can check out our guide on how to conclude an essay with a bang to get a highlight on what to include and what to discard from your paper to make it sound as good as it should be.
When typing the essay on your PC or computer, avoid using AI essay writing tools because they will derail your writing process, thwart your creativity, and give you a plagiarized output. Instead, focus on writing your essay as fast as possible and editing it later.
After writing the essay, you need to take a break from writing to cool down from the pressure and to develop an objective mind that can help you spot mistakes, errors, and omissions you made during the writing process. With the much-deserved break, you are now ready to polish the essay.
The essay writing process doesn't end once you're done writing.
It would be best to reread your essay for clarity, focusing on your introduction, thesis statement, claims, and conclusion. As you reread it, look at it from a new perspective. What will be your reader's takeaway from your essay? If any of the points deviate from your thesis, you might need to rewrite some. Ensure that your point is driven home by the end of the essay.
Afterwards, you need to proofread your work, spelling and grammatical errors, with these factors in mind:
Other than typos, a few technical errors wouldn't be recognizable by spellcheck. These include using a word that does exist grammatically but does not apply in the given context. For instance, ?to' and ?too' both existent in grammar, but they can't be used interchangeably.
Students usually confuse these three factors. In essence, quoting is used when you directly state what an author said without changing their original text. Therefore, it is usually reserved for small sections.
Paraphrasing is writing what you understand from someone else's writing in your own words, and summarizing requires you to restate the main points from a text using your own words. These two are used when you want to reference larger sections of text.
The post-writing process is not over until you verify that everything has fallen into its proper place. You are after submitting an excellent paper that can be graded and awarded the highest marks. Therefore, there is no room for errors, even the most minor. As you do the final touches, check on the following:
You can check the checklist provided in this article to help you assess your essay. Alternatively, you can also send your essay to us for paraphrasing or grading before you submit it. Remember, only submit an essay you are sure will score better grades and one that has effectively answered the prompt.
Even with the steps outlined above, it is prudent to share some tips that have always worked for people who have finished crafting great essays that earned good grades. Our top essay writers shared these tips, and we feel they can also come in handy for you when you are assigned an essay task.
There are some key features that every student should keep in mind to create an excellent essay:
These are some of the most common mistakes students make when writing their academic essays:
Perhaps the mistakes that cost students the most as it almost automatically always results in a low grade.
As your reader goes through your paper, they want to feel like they are getting informed and not wasting their time. So, do not fill up the paper with aimless nuances. No one likes to read the ?filler chapter' in a novel; they want to follow the narrative!
Without an outline, it is easy for the student to get lost midway through the paper.
To combat this, create a copy of the outline and use it to flesh out your actual essay. In addition, the original outline will help you reference back in case of confusion along the way.
As we have stated emphatically, the thesis statement establishes the structure and flow of the whole essay. Without it, there is no clear indication of what you are saying to the reader.
If the tutor comes across several grammatical errors, they will likely be turned off by the overall paper, even though the content may be captivating.
There needs to be a balance between long and short sentences. When the sentences are too short, the main idea cannot be expressed in its fullness. Alternatively, the reader might eventually get tired and confused when all the sentences are long.
The worst mistake a student can make is to write unsupported ideas. It shows a lack of research and credibility on their end.
On the same note, when a writer borrows ideas without stating the source, it is termed plagiarism, which has severe consequences in the academic world.
Let it go if you gathered information that could not fit the body paragraphs! The last thing that a reader wants is to get bombarded with a surprising fact in the previous bits of the essay.
Read Respective Guides for Different Essays
We have specific guides on how to write different types of essays based on different subjects. Below are the links to the respective guides.
The choice of active versus passive voice in academic writing has also caused numerous debates. While they both communicate information about a specific action, their approach differs.
Active voice is used when there is an emphasis on the relationship between the doer of an action (subject) and the action (verb).
On the other hand, passive voice is used when the emphasis is placed on the relationship between the action (verb) and the receiver of the action (object). It leaves out the subject for the focus to shift to the action and the object.
An example of active voice is "The teacher issued an ultimatum for the test."
To use passive voice for the same example, it would read, "an ultimatum for the test was issued."
While both active and passive voice has their place in academic essays, it depends on the idea you are trying to express. To have a deeper look into that, here are a few guidelines
For expository essays, passive voice is acceptable as the paper's focus is usually on the background, context, and/or explanations rather than the subject that conducted the research.
Both passive and active voice can be used in a sentence to break the monotony in the sentence construction of the essay. This is achievable when the reader is already aware of whom the actor is (for instance, when included at the beginning of the paper). It thus makes it easier to use passive voice later on.
The advantage of active voice is that it ensures clarity in that the reader is sure who is taking action. On the other hand, it is argued that the passive voice is ?weak' because, essentially, it shows evasion of the responsibility for an action.
For instance, the passive voice in this example has been wrongly used: ?A case study was conducted on the need for gun responsibility in the U.S.' Not only does this statement not show who the doer of the action is, but it also results in awkward sentence construction and flow to the essay.
Where the paper is a result of your research, it would be more effective and successful to write using active voice. As such, the correct use would be I was part of a pre-selected team of college minors researching the need for gun responsibility in the U.S.
While active voice shows clarity, passive voice is also useful; it stresses focus on the action rather than its doer. Therefore, a good balance of active and passive voice is excellent for incorporating varying sentence structures.
Given this comprehensive essay guide, even a first-time writer can grasp the entire process and get an A+ grade on their essay.
You can comfortably achieve a high grade with confidence if you follow the guidelines, steps, and tips in this guide. We have links to other guides to help narrow you down to the specific type of essay.
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