2. Give yourself enough time to complete the essay AND have at least one day to edit.
3. Always brainstorm and outline before beginning to write!
a. If your essay is a research paper, brainstorming will help you identify what you’re interested in and guide your research process. If the essay is based off of class readings, your brainstorm will help you identify what you most remember and understand from your homework and class discussions. This will help you decide on an essay question if you are given multiple prompts. You can use your class notes and homework notes in your brainstorming. Brainstorming can take many forms such as free-writing in response to the question or even about a topic discussed in class that you believe will help you answer the question. Your brainstorming can also involve re-reading your class or reading notes and writing down connections or common themes among them.
b. After your initial brainstorm, begin to outline. Outlining can also take many forms, from a flow chart to a very meticulously bulleted outline with projected topic sentences, explanations, analyses, and transitions between paragraphs. An outline of any form will help you to stay on track when writing and remember your goal, which can be easy to forget when you get lost in the sheer volume of writing an essay.
4. The introduction:
a. The introduction should provide some background information, loosely outline what you will be discussing in your paper, and then state your thesis.
b. Your thesis is the crux of your essay. It states what you will be arguing/ what you will attempt to prove or disprove.
5. Let your body paragraphs do the work:
a. If you can’t think of your thesis right away, write out your body paragraphs and let them tell you what your thesis will be. It’s very common to wait to develop your thesis until you have a rough draft of your paper. It’s also common to develop a thesis in the beginning and then edit it after you’ve written a draft or two.
6. A strong central narrative:
a. Once you have your thesis (whenever that may be), write/revise your essay so that your thesis is the central theme throughout the paper.
b. How do you do this? Each topic sentence of your body paragraphs should serve as a “mini thesis.” Your topic sentences should explain how you are answering the essay question and supporting your thesis in that specific paragraph.
c. The end of one paragraph and the beginning of the next should transition so that your ideas are connected and you are able to clearly build upon your argument.
d. When you are revising your paper, think about the structure of your argument and ask yourself if your argument develops in the way that you want it to. Read your essay out loud! It will help you to catch confusing sentences and ideas. There may be many stages of revising.
a. When explaining the topic or topics that you are discussing in each paragraph, ask yourself: so what? Why is this important? Why does this happen? What does it mean? Answering these questions will help you to develop a deep analysis.
8. Breaking the mold:
a. Feel free to break away from the five-paragraph essay format. You don’t need to have three body paragraphs, an introduction, and a conclusion. Definitely keep the introduction and conclusion, but have as many body paragraphs as you want.
9. The conclusion:
a. Restate your thesis and summarize your analysis. State the broader implications for your discussion/ findings.
a. After you are set on the structure of your essay, your last stage of writing your paper is editing. Editing is where you address any potential grammar issues.
b. Read your essay out loud again! This will help you catch any grammatical errors.
11. See a Graduate Writing Consultant or go to Office Hours!
a. Having another set of eyes on your paper is a great way to identify trouble spots. After you’ve been writing an essay for a little bit, it may be hard to see these areas on your own.
b. You ALSO can see a Graduate Writing Consultant or go to Office Hours at any point in your writing process. Even if you are stuck in the brainstorming stage, these resources can help you get unblocked!
c. Office Hours will be on your department’s online webpage and also on your professor’s door.
d. To make an appointment with a Graduate Writing Consultant, log on to SIS and book an appointment here.