HOW TO WRITE AN ESSAY – part 1

Ten Easy Tips to Follow

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A new school year is about to begin so it’s time to review some useful advice as to how it is best to tackle a somewhat challenging task, especially for students learning English as a foreign Language.  Here is a list of the first five of ten easy tips to follow to write a good essay and overcome the so called “writer’s block”.

Let’s start to analyse now tips one through 5 to follow:

1. STUDY-RESEARCH – This first step may concern two different types of studying activity.

  • Lesson Topics: Needless to say that the very first important one is to study well and thoroughly the topics discussed in class during lessons. If you have done that the hardest part is over.
  • New Topics: If, on the other hand, the essay you need to write is on a new topic, then you must do research and acquire information before you can actually write about it. The Internet is, nowadays, a good starting point, but don’t merely stop at that, you should also consult books and for that a library is still the best place to go to. Don’t forget to use a notepad and pen or pencil to jot down the most important information, to write out some ideas as they come while you read, or copy down some interesting sentences that you might choose to quote in your paper, in which case, you must not forget to be precise with reference to include in your bibliography. It’s very important to write on paper because it helps you to understand fully the meaning and remember it, plus it helps you to select the best material and it avoids a clustering of copy and paste that will only be confusing in the long run.

 

2. COMPREHENDING REQUIREMENTS – This could be the most important tip of all.

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In fact, if you must choose a topic among several options given, you must be sure that you fully comprehend what you are required to do. In other words, that you understand what your teacher wants from you and if you don’t; ask! Therefore, for instance, if the title of the essay you have chosen regards the main features of a specific literary current, that is exactly what you must discuss. You may use, as examples to support your theories, some literary works of the period, but refrain from focusing too much on them, and use them sparingly even if you feel the impelling urge to impress your teacher with your overflowing knowledge. You will be more successful if you simply stick to the point. Besides, these details could be better used later on.

3. OUTLINE – Once you are confident enough about the topic, you need to organize your work. You should make an outline of what you intend to write. Write short key sentences under which you can make a bullet list of the most important ideas you want to develop in each specific paragraph. For example, let’s suppose the title is to briefly analyse the main features of the Augustan Age, you might proceed as follows:

  • Introduction: a short paragraph to illustrate main points of discussion.
    Write about the main features that characterize that age and that might break away from previous ones.
  • Body: analysis
    Prose writing vs. poetry (mythological heroes as main characters in poetry replaced by protagonists belonging to an emerging social class in prose writing).
    Different writing style (simple and clear to be understood by a wider reading public compared to the past when the readers were only well educated aristocrats).
    Rise of the middle class, thus birth of a new reading public (what does it mean? How does it come about and in what circumstances)
    Rise of the novel and journalism (what is the purpose, who do they address their writing to, why? How does this change future literary production?)
    Conclusion: tie up any loose ends and you have come to the end.

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4. STRUCTURE AND LAYOUT – A good literary essay to be written in, approximately, two hours in class, usually comprises three paragraphs (if your paper is a home assignment including research five paragraphs would be best). These three paragraphs specifically are the introductory one, the central one is also known as the body of the essay (in a five paragraph essay the body paragraphs are then three and not only one), and the last one is the conclusion. We could consider this layout as a sort of frame within which you will put in your contents and organize your work, which could follow this structure:

  • Introduction – here you will present the topic of your writing in a simple and clear style so that any reader may understand. It looks better and is easier to read if you indent each paragraph.
  • Body – once you have chosen your topic and illustrated briefly your standpoint, above, you must proceed by supporting your theories, in other words, provide substantial reference that will confirm your statements and explain why you believe that what you are stating is actually so. You must also consider the possibility that your topic has been, or still is, somewhat controversial, in this case you must be prepared to add another paragraph where you also discuss other perspectives and, if you disagree with these bring forth your arguments, using maybe some authoritative opinions as further support. Remember, you always need to have supplemental material to support your ideas as you are not of yet an authority in academic studies.
  • Conclusion – this is where you wrap up your reasoning and tie up any loose ends. It may be useful to end your work with a catch phrase or a quotation that has struck you as emblematic.
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5. DEVELOPMENT – Now that all the preliminaries have been taken care of, you are finally ready to write your essay. Make sure that the points you have listed in your outline follow a coherent and logic sequence. Double check them before you begin and then follow closely each step you have listed. Now develop your standpoint and keep in mind the evaluation grid and its criteria, it will help you avoid repeating previous mistakes.

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© L. R. Capuana

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