Essay Writing

How to write an essay.

An essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an argument or narrative based on evidence, analysis and interpretation.

There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most academic essays share the same goal: They aim to persuade readers of a position or perspective through informed arguments.

To write an essay, there are three stages you need to follow:

  1. Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
  2. Writing: Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
  3. Revision: Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.

Essay writing process

This consists of three stages: preparation, writing and revision. These stages apply to every essay or paper. However, the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay – for example a personal statement, statement of purpose, high school essay or graduate school essay.

Introduction of an essay

The introduction is important both to grab the reader’s interest and to inform them of what will be covered in the essay. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text. To learn how to write an essay introduction, start by getting familiar with its most important goals.

1. Hook your reader by piquing interest and curiosity

The first sentence of the introduction should pique the interest of your reader. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be a question, a quote, a surprising statistic, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.

2. Provide background and context on your topic

After you have hooked the reader, it is important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.

3. Define the objective and formulate the thesis statement

Next, you should define your central argument or thesis statement. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. An example of a thesis statement from an essay on Braille could look like this:

4. Provide a map of the content

Finish the introduction with an overview of your essay’s structure. The overview should provide the reader with a general idea of what each section of your essay explores.

Body of an essay

The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis statement, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its central purpose is to present, interpret and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.

Length of the body text

The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.

Paragraph structure

To give your essay a clear structure, it is important to make use of paragraphs and headings. This makes the content scannable and easy to digest. Each paragraph should be centered around just one argument or idea.

The purpose of each paragraph is introduced using topic sentences. The topic sentence forms a transition from the previous paragraph and introduces the argument to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.

After the topic sentence, present evidence by providing the reader with data, examples or quotes. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how the paragraph helps develop your overall argument.

Conclusion of an essay

The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text

  • Draws connections between the arguments made in the essay’s body
  • States the outcome of your arguments
  • Emphasizes the relevance and significance of the thesis statement for policy, academia or the wider world
  • Explores the broader implications and importance of the topic

A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that emphasizes the importance of your work and leaves the reader with a strong final impression.

What not to include in a conclusion

To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid including. The most common mistakes are:

  • Including new arguments or evidence
  • Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
  • Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion,

Reference list

You must include full details of all sources that you have cited in a reference list (sometimes also called a work cited list or bibliography). It’s important to follow a consistent citation list. Each style has strict and specific requirements for how to format your sources in the reference list.

Common styles include APA and MLA, but your program will often specify which citation style you should use – make sure to check the requirements, and ask your supervisor if you’re unsure.

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