Tips on How to Write a Great Essay

Being able to write a strong essay is a foundational aspect of success within your academic career. It determines the difference between a pass and fail and an A and a C. Over the years, and through the experience of handing in assignment after assignment, students slowly learn the ins and outs of how to write a successful paper. The smallest details can make a big impact on your grade and must be accounted for when drafting your assignment and before you hit submit. Here are some tips on how to strengthen your paper and some of these small details to keep in mind! 

  1. 1. Start with Freewriting 

    One thing I have struggled with in the past is initially starting the writing process to my essays. I am a perfectionist in the sense that I want my first draft to already be clear, concise and have good flow. However, this is unrealistic when initially starting the writing process. It is completely normal for the first draft to be messy and lack flow. That is what editing and revising is for: to fix it up and strengthen your essay prior to submission. With this in mind, freewriting is a method we can use to overcome this obstacle of starting our essay writing. The purpose of freewriting is for students to feel no stress or worry regarding formatting, flow or any other technical aspect of essay writing, but instead simply describe your argument or claim as effortlessly as possible. From there, we can then begin to revise our ideas to fit the academic criteria, as well as integrate academic sources. In a way, this technique allows us to put onto paper exactly how we would describe a topic or an argument if we were discussing it with our professor face-to-face. This is especially helpful as many students find it hard to transfer their verbal ideas onto paper. 

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  2. 2. The Best Way to Utilize Scholarly Articles 

    It can be overwhelming to review scholarly articles in order to confidently reference them within a paper. I often find this stage to be quite stressful and time-consuming. However, by focusing on certain aspects of sources, I am able to remain time efficient and still earn a deep understanding of the academic text. Most importantly, I find, are the findings and conclusion sections of a text, which is where they state their arguments as well as whether their arguments were supported by research. From there, I rewrite all of the important quotes, concepts and findings into bullet form and then integrate them into my essay. By focusing on the significant parts of each text, and summarizing its information into bullet form, I find scholarly articles to be less stressful to integrate into my papers and easier to ensure quality and flow of my work.

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  3. 3. Take Advantage of Your Past Work 

    Looking back at your past work that has been submitted and graded is a perfect template to use for your current paper! I always ensure to keep a saved copy of my previous essays on my computer for future reference. It allows you to look back at what grade you got for old papers and what you did right and what you did wrong. This will help you shape your future essays through avoiding mistakes that resulted in mark deductions and follow the same formatting and flow that resulted in good grading. Make sure you take advantage of your good habits and avoid making the same errors that you have in the past! 

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  4. 4. A Thesaurus is Your Best Friend 

    Repetition of phrases and words can weaken the overall quality and flow of your paper and thus have a negative impact on your grade. With this in mind, using an online thesaurus will help you avoid this mistake. For those unfamiliar with its use, a thesaurus allows you to enter in any word or phrase and will provide you with terms to use that can be used to replace it. No professor or T.A. likes to read the same terms over and over within one assignment. They may also dislike the stereotypical, basic terminology associated with essay writing, such as infamous phrases like ‘in conclusion.’ By avoiding the recycling of the same old transition words, throwing in some new ones here and there will help strengthen your paper and add to your academic vocabulary! Perhaps you will find some that will stick with you and become some of your go-to words for your future work. 

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  5. 5. Communicate with Your T.A.s

    Never forget that your T.As are there to help you succeed in your courses and improve your work! Although not all are willing to go this extra mile considering that many of them teach many tutorials, some T.As are open to reviewing your drafts and giving you some feedback. This gives you some insight in what to fix in order to improve your mark, from the perspective of the person that matters the most the individual who will be grading it. I recommend sending your draft to them approximately one week before the due date. Although this causes a tighter time constraint for you in terms of completing the essay, it will be worth it in the long run if it means you get some great feedback from your T.A in terms of potential areas of improvement. I have done this on multiple occasions and it has helped me a lot in identifying and fixing parts of my essay that I would have otherwise overlooked or deemed unproblematic. 

    But even if your T.A is not open to reviewing your essay draft, you’re not out of options! The York U writing centre is a great place to turn to for an extra set of eyes. Or, if you are looking for greater convenience, anyone in your family or even a peer are also honorable mentions for reviewing your essay and offering a different perspective.

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Every student has their own process of essay writing and their own tips and tricks on how to earn a good grade. Perhaps by sharing these ideas and habits, we can all help each other strengthen our work and ensure a successful academic career. Together, we can all share our academic secrets to achieve mutual prosperit