Love it or hate it, writing an essay is simply a way of life in secondary school and in many courses in university and college. Not everyone is a naturally great writer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop those skills by writing more. After all, practice makes perfect, no? Writing an essay doesn’t have to be difficult and the more you can build the skill, the stronger you will be in the future.
We’ve got the tips and tricks for effective essay writing that you’ll be writing so smoothly that even Ernest Hemmingway would be proud. After all he did say; “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Since no one has a typewriter anymore, bust out your laptop and check out the Ontario eSecondary School – tips for effectively writing and advice for what not to do when writing an essay.
WRITING EFFECTIVE ESSAYS – THE PROCESS
The process for writing effective essays is much more straight-forward than you may think. It all starts around great planning, a steady and strictly followed structure and a good topic. Let’s look at the key steps to writing and planning an essay.
1. Analyse the essay prompt and ensure you understand what you need to do.
One of the most important steps in any writing assignment is to fully understand what you need to accomplish. When effectively writing, it’s important to understand what exactly the goal of the essay is. Do you fully understand the question being posed by the essay prompt? If there is no essay prompt being provided by your teacher, are you able to effectively create your own? Is there anything within the essay prompt that is not covered that could or should be? Can you relate the prompt to other things being taught in the course? Ensuring you ask these questions when you review an essay prompt will be extremely beneficial when planning to write your essay.
2. Create a thesis statement and make an outline
Your next step in planning is to create a thesis statement. What exactly is your argument and what are you trying to prove by writing this essay? This thesis statement will guide you as you write your essay. Write this down somewhere other than your computer and continually refer to it as you’re writing to ensure your essay continues to stay true to the essay topic.
Once you’ve completed your essay thesis, it is important to create an outline for your topic. Plot out how you plan to argue your thesis and what relevant topics you will focus on. This is also a good opportunity to find quotes that may be relevant in supporting your argument.
3. Start with your body paragraph, not the intro
Starting with the body paragraphs is a much easier way to get your essay flowing and is a great process for effectively writing an essay. The intro paragraph is always one of the hardest to start, so often it is best to get your argument started with the body paragraphs. The body paragraphs are where you will develop your story and argument.
To get your body paragraphs started, consider writing down some points you wish to focus on and then find research to support those points. Once you’ve done this, you can start writing!
4. Use credible and legitimate sources
In order to form a credible audience, you need credible sources. Ensure you find quotes from scholarly resources including academic journals, peer-reviewed articles, textbooks, or books by credible authors. The internet can be a great resource for information, but be sure to check your sources when pulling them from online.
There are a number of different websites available that can help you check if your source is reliable. The University of Maryland for example, has a breakdown on how to check if an article, Open Educational Resource (OER), website or news source is credible or not. When looking at certain news websites it is very important to ensure you are checking your source’s credibility. Using a site like Facebook for research is increasingly challenging as many opinions are shared. Therefore it is important to learn about news literacy and ensure your sources are reliable, credible and focus on the facts. A simple way to consider whether a source is reliable is to consider this checklist:
- Is the source in-depth? Does it include an abstract, a reference list, and documented research or data?
- Who is the intended audience for the article?
- What is the purpose of the source? Is it meant to provide information or report original research or experiments, to entertain or persuade the general public, or provide news or information specific to a trade or industry?
- Who are the authors? Are they respected and well-known in the field? Are they easily identifiable? Have they written about other similar topics?
- Is the source published on a reputable, non-biased web site, or in a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal?
- Is the source current for your topic or is it several years old? Has new information come out since this source was published?
- Is there supporting documentation (graphs, charts, other supporting documentation) to back up the information they are presenting?
As the Center for News Literacy points out, the rise of technology, social media, speed of publishing and distributing information, and selective algorithms that determine what content you see on search engines and social media have created a much greater need for “a literacy that empowers news consumers to determine whether information is reliable and then act on it… If people can be easily led to believe rumors or gossip, the consequences can be dangerous.” Therefore, it’s very important to be aware of your sources.
If in doubt, you can use tools like Google Scholar to see if the source is credible.
5. Understand your topic
One of the most effective essay writing techniques is to ensure you become extremely knowledgeable on your topic. Don’t attempt to draw out a topic to hit the word count. Ensure you learn and study as much as you possibly can. Consider this, if your teacher was to ask you about your topic, would you be able to comfortably speak about it? If your answer is no, then you need to build your knowledge of the topic. This will ensure that you write concise and important information when proving your thesis.
6. Write your introduction and conclusion last
Writing an effective conclusion to an essay can be much easier if you write the conclusing and introduction last. Look back at what you wrote, and your key points. In the introduction you should allude to what you are looking to prove with your essay. In your conclusion, consider it a summary of what you did prove in writing your essay. Writing these last can allow you to ensure that everything you wrote about in your essay was covered and tied together.
Your introduction should be one short paragraph that states your thesis clearly. This is the opportunity to summarize what the reader should expect from your essay and also to hook them in.
Like your thesis, your conclusion should restate your thesis and what you wrote about. Consider this as a way of tying your introduction back to your entire essay. You should highlight how your key points tie back to your essay.
7. Proofread, proofread, proofread and… proofread.
Reviewing your essay is critical to ensuring you’re writing an effective essay. Read each paragraph thoroughly. Remove conjunctions (they’re, aren’t, don’t, etc.) as they are inappropriate for academic writing. Print your paper, and mark it up with revisions. Sometimes reading on paper is a good way to notice more errors than on a computer screen. You will read it with more detail and it will allow you to mark up and make changes on the paper.
Reading your essay out loud is also a great way to find errors. By reading aloud, you can listen for any sentences that are worded strangely and can make the correction. If the sentence sounds wrong, there is a good chance it is written wrong.
Proofreading is critical in catching errors.
8. Choosing an effective title
When selecting a title, consider something that is concise and highlights what your essay is about. ThoughCo.com highlights that effective essay titles should make someone want to read what you have written. The strongest titles include a verb.
When you create a title is up to you. You can choose to title your essay after you complete writing it or after you’ve determined your thesis statement. Titling your essay upfront can be helpful to track back to what you’re writing about, similar to tracking against your thesis statement.
COMMON WRITING ERRORS AND HOW TO IMPROVE
Speaking of errors, there are a lot of common ones that occur when creatively writing. Ontario eSecondary School instructors are total pros and are longtime experienced teachers. That’s why we’ve recruited one of our own English instructors to provide some guidelines on common errors she sees and advice on how to avoid them. We’ve also included some ways to fix them.
- The main argument is unclear or underdeveloped. Try to directly answer the question with your thesis statement, or create a thesis statement which clearly and directly states your argument.
- Poorly structured sentences and paragraphs; the words may be spelled correctly but the meaning of the sentence is hard to understand. Thorough proofreading is required.
- Poorly structured essay. Your essay needs to have clearly written paragraphs. This includes an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. You either have not included these or it is too difficult to tell these parts of your essay apart.
- You have not provided the context for your quotation. You have a quotation, but you haven’t introduced the speaker or character. Remember that you need to tell your reader who or what your quotation is about before you begin quoting or paraphrasing your source material.
- Insufficient evidence. Make sure that the proof you include actually shows your argument in action. Your proof should act as a demonstration of the thing you want to discuss.
- Incorrect citation. Your evidence is complete but you have not included the author who wrote it or the page number you found it on. This is plagiarism. You must follow each quotation with a correct citation: e.g. (Smith 64).
- Insufficient explanations. The explanation you provided either
- summarizes what happens in the quotation but does not expand on it and/or
- does not show the way in which your evidence is actually related to your subtopic and thesis. The purpose of including evidence is to use it to support a point you’re trying to make. Your explanation is the part of your essay which creates this connection.
Writing effective essays is not the easiest task let alone effectively writing, but there are many things you can do to hone those skills. Next time you need to write an essay, try our techniques and you may just find it gets a bit easier.
Need to build up your essay writing skills? If you’re currently attending high school in Ontario, or if you’re looking for an adult high school in order to upgrade your marks as an international student, OES has a wide range of English courses available. From ENG1D all the way to ENG4C or ENG4U, the amazing teachers at OES are ready to support you and help you meet your goals all over the world.
The Ontario eSecondary School has been inspected and accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education. What does this mean? As a virtual school, all of our courses are recognized by and can be used toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and are also recognized as part of your OUAC application. This makes OES a great partner for upgrading Ontario high school credits online and is also perfect for adult students or international students looking to earn credits for post-secondary.
Learn more about our courses at oeshighschool.com