9 Easy Steps on How to Write a Good Essay

02/11/16

Essay Writing Tips for High School and College Students

As a high school or college student, it is likely you are going to have to know how to write a good essay. An academic essay crafts an idea and makes an overall argument on a given topic or point of view. If this is new to you, it is a great skill to develop because writing in a clear way is useful for your future college classes. To help you learn, we’ve created a simple, step by step action plan you could use on how to write a good essay. This could help with when writing all kinds of essays such as scholarships, college essays, research papers and others.

1. UNDERSTAND THE ESSAY PROMPT

How to start an essay? No matter what kind of essay it is, the first step is to understand the essay question or assignment. This gives you a clear goal for the main body of the essay which should answer or speak to the prompts. 

Keep in mind that you may write well but if you miss the point, you may still get a poor grade if you stray off topic. So, you may find it helpful to break down the question into two parts.

  1. What is the prompt directly asking?
    • What is the essay topic?
    • How long does the essay need to be?
    • What kind of research and background information do I need to do to fully understand the topic?
  2. What is the prompt indirectly asking?
    • Is the prompt asking for my opinion, the opinion of credible scholarly sources, or facts?
    • How can I relate this essay topic to what we have covered in class?

Once you’ve identified the question, start brainstorming for your essay. When you brainstorm, you may have lots of excellent ideas. Make sure they focus on the task at hand. Also make sure you understand the format (APA, Chicago, etc), word count, deadline and style directions (e.g. page number in a certain place, date, and cover page). 

2. CREATE A THESIS STATEMENT

Begin the first paragraph of your essay with a thesis statement that will guide your entire paper and grab the reader’s attention. 

A clear thesis is a single sentence that ties together the central point or intent. It sums up your topic and states your position. A good thesis statement can be the difference between an A and a B. 

Also, you want to match the thesis statement with the prompt. And, do so in the first sentence. As a rule, there are two types of thesis. Persuasive one argues the points about your essay. An informative one states the purpose of your essay.

If you’re writing a persuasive essay, a thesis states your opinion and the reason it is true. 

Example: John Steinbeck is the best author because he develops his characters. In this persuasive thesis, you are stating an opinion (best author) and explain the why (develops his characters). 

Informative essays call for a thesis that declares your intent in the essay and guide the reader to reach the same conclusion as you did. 

Example: The essay writing process requires preparation, proofreading, and formatting. This statement declares that to write a good essay, one must prepare, proofread, and format. 

3. MAKE AN ESSAY OUTLINE

Use an outline to plan out the first draft of your essay/research paper before writing it. Working from your thesis statement, plot out how you want your paper to flow and what information you want to include. 

This may make writing the full draft of your paper much easier. Ideally you should think of a beginning, (introductory paragraph) middle (main body) and end (conclusion paragraph) for any piece of writing. 

4. BEGIN WITH THE BODY, NOT THE INTRODUCTION

Don’t start with the introduction. The introduction is where some students struggle the most, so to avoid getting bogged down, create the introduction later. This allows you to fully form your thoughts and ideas and come back and integrate the main ideas into your introduction.

5. START EACH PARAGRAPH WITH A TOPIC SENTENCE

Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, which expresses the main idea of the body paragraph. Each paragraph should contain quotes or contextual information to defend your topic sentence and thesis statement.

6. USE CREDIBLE SOURCES

There are two main reasons to use credible sources. First, you want to make sure to avoid plagiarism. That’s where you copy something without citing the source. It’s a huge no no that could get you an “F” grade or other consequence.

Second, any time you make a statement in an argumentative essay, you should be ready to back it up. Quotes and contextual information are important as they establish credibility and support your point of view. 

Examples of scholarly sources include: 

  • Academic journals
  • Peer reviewed articles
  • Textbooks and ebooks 
  • Books by accredited authors

Examples of unacceptable scholarly sources include:

  • Magazine articles
  • Open forum submissions
  • Encyclopedia entries
  • Unverified online sources

If you’re looking for credible sources to use within your essay, check out Google Scholar.

7. DON’T FAKE IT

Teachers aren’t dumb. Avoid writing an essay that does not adequately answer the question. You may also want to avoid rambling or fluff if you do not fully understand the essay prompt. Instead, make sure that every sentence adds substance to your work. If it isn’t absolutely necessary, cut it out. Many teachers would rather have a well written essay that doesn’t quite meet the length requirement than a paper that meets the requirement, but is 80 percent fluff.

8. CONCLUDE YOUR ESSAY

Your conclusion should always begin by restating your thesis statement. This is your chance to tie all of your main points together and go out with a bang. A good conclusion will address the main arguments of each body paragraph in a succinct way and thoroughly prove your thesis statement.

9. PROOFREAD, THEN PROOFREAD AGAIN

Reviewing is critical to creating a great essay. Some teachers won’t even finish reading essays if they’re not grammatically sound or riddled with spelling errors. Here are a few ways to make your essay or research paper is more academically acceptable and better overall.

  • Take out all conjunctions (aren’t, don’t, couldn’t, etc.). This will make your paper longer and is more appropriate for academic writing.
  • Print out your paper, read it, and mark it up. You will notice more errors when reading it this way than on a computer screen.
  • Have friends or parents read it. A second set of eyes can catch any mistakes you missed.
  • Read it out loud. This will help with grammar mistakes. If it sounds wrong, it probably is.

How to Write a Perfect Essay?

Here are nine essay writing tips to create a great essay for either college, scholarship or for your homework. 

  1. Make sure you understand the topic you’re going to write about
  2. Write a strong, clear, concise thesis to set the tone/intent/direction
  3. Outline your thoughts and ideas in a rough draft 
  4. Circle back to your introductory paragraph if it’s giving you a hard time 
  5. Every paragraph needs a sentence to frame what it’s going to discuss
  6. Cite reputable sources and use these quotes to support your opinion
  7. Stay focused on the topic you clarified in step #1
  8. Finish by summing up the point you made and how you came to it
  9. Check for errors and to make sure your essay hits the nail on the head 

Writers of all skill levels could find it a challenge to write an essay especially on a subject they don’t know well. But the above writing tips could make the process a little easier and a lot less stressful. Use your writing skills to apply for scholarships. Check out our Scholarship Match to find scholarships that are write for you.

About the author

Taylor CraigTaylor is a senior at Tarleton State University. She is a member of the Presidential Honors Program and the president of the Tarleton Scholars Society. She’s majoring in communications, with an emphasis in communicating in relationships, and a minor in psychology. She loves Jesus, wears too much flannel, and is obsessed with The Lord of the Rings.