Learning how to write an effective essay requires understanding what to include and exclude. What you choose to include demonstrates your understanding of the topic. It involves understanding the instructions, writing a clear thesis statement, and creating an outline.
1. Understand the instructions
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When considering the elements of an essay, the first step is to clearly understand the instructions. It will help to highlight important action words. Look for terms in the instructions such as analyze, summarize, or argue.
- Analyzing a topic is providing your own logical interpretation of the meaning. An analysis is not an overview of a topic but offers a deeper understanding of it. Other words like investigate or explore also require analysis.
- Summarizing condenses an explanation by including the main points in a concise form. Many assignments may require some form of summarizing. Other words like illustrate, explain, or describe may require a summary.
- Arguing requires you to take a stand on an issue and defend it with evidence. Other words like critique, review, or evaluate may also require you to argue your point.
2. Come up with a clear thesis statement
Once you have identified the type of essay, you need to come up with a thesis statement to guide your essay. Without a clear, well-constructed thesis statement you may end up including unnecessary content in your essay. A thesis statement is one of the elements of a good essay. Any good essay has one central thesis or main goal.
3. Create an outline
An outline helps you to decide what to include in your essay. In your outline, you can include all the elements that relate to the main thesis of the essay. When you do your research, you will often have a wider approach than you need to do your essay. In your outline, you can include all the main points you want to get across. It will have all your main headings, sub-headings, and paragraph ideas.
Your outline will help you to stick to the point and not write about anything that doesn’t contribute to your main thesis. Of all the tips for writing an essay, following a well-crafted outline is probably one of the best. You will be confident that you aren’t leaving any main points out and eliminate any unnecessary information right from the beginning.
4. Know what to include in the body
There are many college essay writing tips on how to write an introduction and conclusion. It’s often less clear about what to include in the body. The main body of your assignment must show your knowledge of the topic. This means including relevant evidence. What you need to avoid when writing the body includes:
- Adding anecdotal information or straying from the main point.
- Including additional information to what’s in your outline.
- Spending too much time discussing one point at the expense of others.
- Not transitioning smoothly from one paragraph to another.
- ‘Waffling’ to reach the required word count.
- Generalizing instead of discussing primary texts related to the field in question.
- Not quoting sources correctly which can result in plagiarism issues.
When you understand what not to do, it also helps to give you more understanding of what elements you need to include. You must include some primary texts and correctly quote your sources. You must provide evidence that specifically supports your claims.
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One of the best ways to make sure you include all the right elements in your essay is to keep your title and thesis statement firmly in your mind while writing. Creating a strong outline and following it closely also helps you to stay on track. Readers need a clear structure to follow if you want them to read more than a paragraph or two.