College Essay Writing Steps For Second

Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.

According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

1. Pick a topic.

You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.

If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?

Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.

Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.

2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.

In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.

To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.

If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

3. Write your thesis statement.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?

Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”

Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”

4. Write the body.

The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.

5. Write the introduction.

Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.

Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.

6. Write the conclusion.

The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.

7. Add the finishing touches.

After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.

Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.

Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.

Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.

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For a short paper, say 3-5 pages, I try to write my first draft in a single sitting. I try to write it in less than two hours. A fast draft probably won’t have all the quotes I need for a strong essay, and will certainly need editing and revision. But a fast draft means you have a starting place. You get the main points down on paper. And even for longer projects, this process of writing a fast draft will help push the whole process along.

Sit down, take a deep breath, and here’s my four steps to writing a super-fast first draft.

Note: this strategy assumes that you have a working knowledge of the topic you’ll be writing about.

The Four Steps to a Super-Fast Draft

Step One: Read the question

Really read the question. Think about what it is asking you to do. Do you need to make an argument? Summarize facts? Draw parallels between two (or more) topics?

Sometimes an essay question will provide the structure and outline for you, right there in the assignment (you should also check your original course syllabus for clues). If you are asked to draw a parallel between two books, or two historical events, or two concepts, then you know you’ll need to write an essay that briefly describes each, and then gives several examples comparing the two. There’s your essay outline, already laid out for you . If you are asked to describe an idea and make an argument about it, then you know you need to start by giving a general overview of the concept before making several specific comments on the topic.

Read the question, and you might already have a clear idea of what you need to write. Even if the question doesn’t lay things out in this specific way, you need to read the question carefully to find out what you have to do. Look for:

  • Specific questions to answer
  • If there are multiple parts to the question
  • Specific sources/topics/ideas/events you need to include
  • Length requirements

Step two: create an outline

An outline can be as simple as three ideas scribbled down that you know you need to address. It can be as complicated as a multi-page document with sections and sub-sections, bullet-points and supporting quotes.

The point of an outline is to get organized. Figure out your main ideas to be covered in the essay.

Here’s a perfectly adequate outline:

  • Subject: Here’s my main point.
  • Section one: Here’s one reason my point is correct.
  • Section two: Here’s another, related reason my point is correct.
  • Section three: Here’s a final reason my point is correct.
  • Conclusion: Based on those previous arguments, here’s why my point is correct and why it matters.

This is thebasic five-paragraph essay structure, which I’ve written about previously. It works for most essays of most lengths, from a one-page high school essay to an eighty page Master’s thesis.

Your outline is there to help you figure out what you need to write about. Do you know what’s important in your argument? Can you think of three pieces of supporting evidence?

Step Three: Write it down

Take a deep breath, and take the plunge. Write the whole essay. Do it in one sitting if you can, and let go of perfection while getting as much information on the page as possible. You will edit this later—no one will ever see this first draft. Just get the bones of the essay down on paper, and then flesh out your arguments and make it a full first draft.

If you have good notes from the texts you’ve studied, include quotes and evidence in this draft. Pull out your class notes and any research you’ve done. You want this to be as complete as possible, and the more evidence you include early on the more you’ll be able to make solid arguments while also spotting weak spots in the essay.

If you have limited research to include, just write the argument and know you’ll go back and add quotes later. When I draft my essays, I often remember what the text said, but don’t want to stop the writing process to search for a quote. So I’ll write something like:

…According to Professor Smith [CHECK] in his article ____________, my main point also applied in this other situation. He writes, “ ______ [SOMETHING ABOUT THIS IN THE SECOND CHAPTER].” This supports my argument because…

The empty underlined sections make it easy for me to see where I need to add text, and I write all my “notes to self” in all capitals so I can be sure to find that information. The point is to not interrupt your flow, and to do the big first effort of getting the words on the page. Write it down, note where more information is needed, and then keep on writing it down.

Step Four: Overview

Once you’ve done your full, speed-written first draft, take a few quick moments to look over what you’ve done. Is it all there? Is it clear? What do you need to do to flesh it out/add detail/add research? As you were writing, did new arguments or sub-points occur to you? As you were drafting your conclusion, did you realize you need to re-write the introduction?

Make a few “notes to self” at the end of your draft. Before you lose all that drafting energy, make sure you’ve noted all-important areas to edit or research to expand upon.


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