Writing an essay can be really stressful. Unlike an exam, where you can study everything and then hope for the best, with an essay you have to do your best to write exactly what the professor asked you for. Some are easier than others, but between struggling to reach the page limit and wondering if what you are writing makes any sense, it gets tiresome really fast. As a Comparative Literature major, writing essays is part of my daily university life. So during these three years, I have developed a formula of sorts and it has yet to fail me. I hope this makes your life easier!
Once you get the instructions for the essay, sit down and brainstorm. You may think that this is stupid or a waste of time, but a good brainstorming session can give your essay direction and help you hype yourself for it. There are different ways to do brainstorming: diagrams, drawings, lists, speed thinking, and others. Choose the method that works best for you.
Once you have your ideas, organize them and pick the one that you feel the most comfortable working with. When you have your main idea, find the perfect thesis statement. Remember, this should be the main idea of your essay, state your opinion of the topic clearly and don’t over-explain it because that’s what you will do in the rest of the essay. Next, create the base topics that you are going to write for the different paragraphs. After that, add to them at least two minor points that you will use to explain them. Search for the sources you are going to use and pick the lines that will go better with your points. And there you have it, a map to follow if you get lost!
- Write an Epic Entrance
An essay’s introduction is probably the most difficult part to write. It needs to be captivating but informative. It needs to reel your reader in without being overbearing. It’s definitely the most important part of your essay. If brainstorming is the map, the introduction is the compass (not only for you but also for your reader!). To start with a bang, pick a good attention grabber. Some good starters are quotes, questions or a short (really short!) narration.
After that, introduce the topic. Give a little background to contextualize. It’s important to keep this balanced and to not go overboard with the details, you don’t want to bore the reader, so only include what’s truly necessary. In the introduction, you need to use that awesome thesis statement that you created. Also, take the time to present or at least give an idea of your sources. Close with a good plan of development (which is presenting the topics that are going to be addressed in the essay,) to guide the reader through the next paragraphs.
- Write the Body Like One of Your French Girls
Ok, you wrote an amazing intro, now what? Well, it’s time to let the words flow. Follow the points you wrote and take your time to explain your arguments. Don’t rush them! Focus on one at a time and go deep on them. Remember to use quotes to prove your point. Don’t get discouraged and keep the same tone and level of energy that you had when you began!
- Strike the Superhero Landing
Believe it or not, the conclusion is the easiest part of the essay. To write a good conclusion, read what you already wrote and let it guide you. Here’s the time to make the reader remember your thesis again and summarize the important points of your essays. It’s important to finish on a high note, so make sure to make the last few lines intriguing. Just like with the attention grabber, you want the reader to be mind-blown and leave him wanting to read your essay twice. Blow their minds by using a mysterious tone, a quote or a question that will leave them thinking.
- “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” and all that
Once you finish your essay, make sure to do your references in the appropriate format. Give credit to those whose work you used. If you hand in your work without doing it, you will get in big trouble. Every university has its policy against plagiarism. Don’t risk it, make sure that all your work is quoted correctly and make sure the bibliography is complete. If they don’t specify, ask your professor what style of quoting they prefer to make sure you get those right.
- Take the Next Step: Editing
It’s recommendable that you write your essay with a few spare days before the due date, so you can revise it with fresh eyes and see errors that you didn’t see before. However, sometimes you still miss them and sometimes you don’t have the time and finish them the night before. So, to reduce (if not eliminate) the mistakes, give your essay to everyone that can and is willing to read it: your parents, your siblings, your friends, classmates, the random person that you just met, EVERYONE. Giving it to a person that doesn’t have knowledge of the topic, can help you pinpoint, not only grammatical mistakes but also the weak points in your essay. You can fix something that is not as clear as you thought and explain it better.
Now, you’re done! Give it a last look, make sure it has a fitting title and everything is in its correct place. Print it and treat yourself for finishing it. Remember to always give your all! I hope this helps you with your future essays and the best of luck!