It doesn’t matter if you are in high school or college, you will have to write dozens (or hundreds) of papers. As a college student, you will write essays because it tests your entire student skillset: your ability to research, understand, analyze, and explain a subject.
If you want to write a great paper, you need to understand the basics of it all. How is it graded? And more importantly, how is a great essay written? A lot of people think they understand, but there's more to it than meets the eye.
An essay will test many things, regardless of your academic level. Such as:
- Knowledge: First and foremost, it will test how much information the student knows about a subject. It will also force the student to understand the material before they can start.
- Understanding: Before you start writing things down, you will have to understand the questions that need to be answered. The first thing your essay will test is your ability to understand the task at hand.
- Comprehension: Essays also test how much you understand complex issues and your ability to explain them simply. You shouldn’t only know about the subject. You should also be able to explain it to someone who does not know about it.
- Objectivity: If you want to write a great essay, you will have to look at several (and oftentimes contradicting) sources. You will have to showcase your ability to consolidate information with an unbiased eye.
- Grammar skills: Since you will have to write down your paper, your English writing abilities will also be tested. Even if it’s not for an English class.
- Time management ability: Most projects have a deadline. And sometimes they have a short one. You’ll have to demonstrate that you have great time management ability to pull together a nice paper despite a short time frame.
Now that you know why you are writing an essay, you should also know how to write it. Here are the ten most important things to keep in mind when you do it:
Provide the right structure and thought-provoking ideas
A great essay is coherent from beginning to end. Your first paragraph should be written with the last one in mind. Throughout your paper, you will have to provide interesting ideas that could spark a debate if read out loud. To achieve this, you will have to dig deep and make use of opposing sources. If you are allowed to do so, you should give your point of view based on everything you have read. You should keep this in mind before you start.
Plan and make sure every paragraph has a purpose
Before you write anything down, you need to know where you’ll place it beforehand. If you are in high school, the project structure will be provided to you. If that isn’t the case, or if you are in college, you need to plan your essay's outline. You should start with an initial statement, followed by the paper's body where you’ll provide information to prove your stance. Finally, you’ll give a closing statement in the last paragraph.
Understand the importance of senses and emotions
If you want to write a great essay, you need to understand it’s not all about cold, hard facts. You need to make an emotional impact on your reader if you want to excel at the task at hand.
Try to change the way you convey your information. Place the reader inside the essay and make them contemplate what they're reading. If it’s a history project, make them see and hear the history surrounding them. To accomplish this, you need to have great attention to detail and amazing storytelling abilities.
Another way to emotionally relate to your reader is through classic literary tools, such as metaphors. Beware not to overdo this: appealing to emotion is the best way to take your writing to the next level, but if it’s not correctly balanced, it can seem like a low-quality effort. It’s better to use it once or not at all, rather than throughout your paper.
Be willing (and ready) to read a lot
Even though you will have to showcase your abilities and knowledge through writing, reading is the backbone of an essay. Books, academic papers, and articles will be your main weapons to help you fight this battle.
Even though you might think you have enough information from one book, you should always go the extra mile and read a little bit more — even if it completely contradicts what you have read so far. You need to develop the ability to handle large amounts of data and come out with an accurate answer, just like someone involved in academia would do.
If you are not sure where to start, look for other articles based on your subject. Read them and check their sources. Understand the thought process behind each one and develop a voice of your own to retell these statements. You should always be original in your essay while using other people's work as inspiration.
Spark interest with something unusual
As you know, a good essay provides information. A great essay firmly grips the reader's attention. You need to make your paper interesting. Otherwise, it’ll be a grueling process to get through — both for you when you write it and your professor when they read it. There are multiple ways to do this, but the easiest one is to say something unusual. You shouldn’t say it outright or people will see it as a cheap exploit. You should build-up to it.
By the time the reader gets to the unusual part of the article, they’ll be hooked. Don’t go overboard with this and say something completely crazy. You should aim to present well-known information from a different angle or showcase new data for an old subject.
What you say is important, how you say it is key
You need to develop your voice for writing essays. It’s impossible to convey information right if you are doing it with someone else's words. Stick to the tools you know how to use properly.
Don’t go overboard with unnecessary words. Nine times out of ten, simple words get the message across better than any complicated phrase. This doesn’t mean you shouldn't make an effort: you need to showcase the best of your abilities.
You should always be looking to improve the way you write and communicate information even if you aren't writing daily. Eloquence is a great tool to have for both academia and day-to-day life.
Get the reader ready: Use a couple of sentences to explain what the essay is about
Most scientific papers and academic essays will start with a one or two-sentence opening statement explaining what the project will be about. Don’t be afraid to use this as well! That way, you will be preparing the reader for what’s coming. It needs to be brief, and it should feel like it’s not part of the essay itself, but an introduction. You need to explain what you will discuss, the structure, and the main takeaway of it all.
There’s no need to use fancy words or dance around what you are trying to do; it's alright to be straight forward where necessary. If you're not sure how to begin, simply start with, "In this article, I will talk about…" or something along the lines of, "This essay will explain…”
- "In this essay, I will showcase the reasons why reptiles lay eggs."
- "Reptiles commonly reproduce differently from mammals, in this essay I will explain why."
- “There are five reasons why reptiles lay eggs to reproduce, as I’ll explain in this essay."
You can add your spin to it. The point is to explain right away what you are going to talk about. If you need to use another sentence to explain how you are going to do it, that’s fine too.
Make sure you use plenty of citations and an academic-like bibliography
Even if you are not asked, make use of citations and finish with a bibliography. Demonstrate you are willing to go the extra mile, and you know how to work on your paper. It will give your project a scholarly feel and make it more organized in the process. It’s also a great way to show how much work you have put into creating the perfect essay.
If you've never used citations before, remember to write them down on each page's footnotes. There are different styles to use when it comes to citations. Pick one and stay consistent with it.
If you never used a bibliography before, they go at the end of your essay. Both citations and the bibliography need to mention the source, name of the author and date of publication. For citations, the page number is needed too.
Giving your essay the finishing touches
After you have finished writing and the first draft is done, walk away from it. Take a five- or ten-minute break to clear your head. When you are ready, go back to it. Read it carefully. Look for any grammar mistakes. Make sure the punctuation is right. You should also check how good the essay "flows". It needs to read without much effort and go from Point A to Point B naturally.
f there are any clichés or out-of-place sentences, delete them or rewrite them. You should do this at least two or three times, especially if you have to change a big or important part. Every time you finish proofreading, take another short break and go back at it with a fresh mind.
Use Google Translate (or any other audio software) to hear what your essay sounds like
Look for an audio tool available online. Copy and paste your project into it, sit back, and listen to gauge how good it sounds while being on the lookout for any issues. If there's something wrong, rewrite it and listen to it again.
Another great way to do this is to ask for someone else to read your paper out loud and look for mistakes. They might help you fix them as well! The idea here is to proofread your essay in a different way (reading it yourself) from what you are used to. That way, you’ll be able to find mistakes easier and faster.