How to Write an Essay

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Wondering how to write an essay? We have collected essay writing tips for different essay types and different essay topics. Throughout your academic career, you will usually be asked to write an essay. You may work on an assigned essay for class, enter an essay contest or write essays for college admissions. This section explores different essay types and will show how to write an essay on different topics.

Essay Writing Tips by Essay Types

How to Write an Essay

What is An Essay?

An essay is usually an extended piece of written work (undergraduate essays vary in length from 1000 to 5000 words), and is supposed to involve analysis, clear argument, and research. In the essay you bring these elements together. You are supposed to respond to your question or task by researching as widely as time and resources allow, in order to be able to come up with evidence, and perhaps different viewpoints, which you then analyze or subject to critical thought. An essay is not just about providing a ‘right answer’, or demonstrating what you know. In most cases what is being assessed is the process – of researching, analyzing and evaluating your material, and producing an argument which reflects both the evidence provided and your ability to think critically about it.

How to Write a 5-Paragraph Essay

How to Write a 5-Paragraph EssayThe 5-paragraph essay is a format of essay having five paragraphs: one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs with support and development, and one concluding paragraph. The five paragraph essay measures a student’s basic writing skills, and is often a timed exercise.

While the classic five paragraph essay is a form seldom if ever used by professional writers, it is commonly assigned to students to help them organize and develop their ideas in writing. It can also be a very useful way to write a complete and clear response to an essay question on an exam. It has, not surprisingly, five paragraphs:

  1. Introduction:Introducing a topic. An important part of this is the three-pronged thesis.
  2. Body paragraph 1:Explaining the first part of the three-pronged thesis
  3. Body paragraph 2:Explaining the second part of the three-pronged thesis
  4. Body paragraph 3:Explaining the third part of the three-pronged thesis
  5. Conclusion:Summing up points and restating thesis

 We’ll look at each type of paragraph, and at transitions, the glue that holds them together. Learn How to Write a 5-Paragraph Essay.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

How to Write and Argumentative EssayWe’ve all used some form of argumentation at one point in our lives. Whether it was asking parents for permission to go somewhere, seeking more money at a job, or begging for a second chance with a lost love, we’ve examined different evidence to determine which approach is best to make our case for what we want in life. Though they may not have taken a formal style, these strategies of persuasion form the basis of argumentative essays.

The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate, and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner. Argumentative essays allow writers to express their opinion on a topic and support that opinion with strong logic and evidence. Read on to discover the outline for how to write an argumentative essay, and see examples of how to construct each part of this essay. Learn How to Write an Argumentative Essay.

How to Write a Book Review

How to Write a Book ReviewA review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This page will focus on book reviews.

Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Learn How to Write a Book Review.

How to Write a Classification Essay

How to Write a Classification EssayA classification or division essay groups objects, people, or events by the characteristics that they share. Usually, the writer begins with a group of people or things and then separates them into subgroups or types.  There are several steps to writing an effective division or classification essay.

  • Establish a subject. Select a topic that has a general grouping that can be classified into subgroups or classifications.
  • Present a clear thesis. Thesis should inform reader of your purpose or intention and the principle of classification.
  • Follow an organizational pattern. An outline of your subgroups and their characteristics will help you write a logical classification essay. You should include specific details that form a basis of classification.
  • Use transitions. Transitional words help the reader follow your cause and effect analysis.
  • Draw a conclusion. Restate the thesis and reach a conclusion concerning the group and subgroup. Conclusions for classification essays offer an opportunity for creativity, including humor or a recommendation.

Learn How to Write a Classification Essay.

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

How to Write a Descriptive EssayThe purpose of a descriptive essay is to create an impression on the reader. This type of theme should excite the reader’s senses (touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell) through the use of vivid words and details.

Good description is essential for all writing, from business reports to personal letters to poems to persuasive essays. Description commits writers to honesty by pinning down vague statements with concrete details. Honest description shows the world as it is with all its warts, pimples, and secret beauties. It challenges safe stereotypes and preconceptions by getting down on its knees to scrutinize the topic closer, to find and report what’s really there. In persuasive or research papers, powerful description can support a thesis in combination with statistics and other facts. Learn How to Write a Descriptive Essay.

How to Write an Expository Essay

How to Write an Expository EssayExpository writing is a type of writing that is used to explain, describe, give information, or inform.  The text is organized around one topic and developed according to a pattern or combination of patterns.  The writer of an expository text cannot assume that the reader or listener has prior knowledge or prior understanding of the topic that is being discussed.  Since clarity requires strong organization, one of the most important mechanisms to improve skills in exposition is to improve the organization of the text.

The purpose of the expository essay is to explain a topic in a logical and straightforward manner. Without bells and whistles, expository essays present a fair and balanced analysis of a subject based on facts—with no references to the writer’s opinions or emotions. Learn How to Write an Expository Essay.

How to Write an Informative Essay

How to Write an Informative EssayAn informative essay is a form of writing that teaches the reader about a topic in an unbiased manner. Typically, this type of essay will include an introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The body of the essay generally will contain facts that are well-researched and come from reliable sources.

There are many uses for an informative essay. For example, it may be used to inform readers about a product, a process, a person, or an event. Although it may be used to discuss a controversial issue, it may not be used to express the writer’s opinion about that issue. In those cases, the writer should present both sides of the issue in an unbiased manner — the reader should not be able to infer the writer’s opinion on the topic after reading an informative essay. Learn How to Write an Informative Essay.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

How to Write a Narrative EssayA narrative essay is an essay that tells a story about a specific event or experience. Narratives have a point, and the narrative (story) is used to convey the point. A narrative includes all the key events of the story, presented in time order. The narrative essay is more than just a listing of events; it often uses descriptive and sensory information to make the narrator’s point and to make the story real for the reader. Consequently, narratives are often subjective rather than objective.

A narrative essay is a format in which the author tells, or narrates, a story. They are non-fictional and deal with the author’s personal development. Unlike other forms of writing, using the first person is acceptable in narrative essays. Learn How to Write a Narrative Essay.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay

How to Write a Persuasive EssayPersuasive essay writing has a bad reputation. At its worst we picture a slimy hoodlum twisting someone’s arm to “persuade” him to tell where the diamonds are. We think of battleships and bombers hovering off the coast of a tiny country to “persuade” its government to change its policies. Cigarette advertisements in magazines “persuade” men that one brand will make them feel as if they’re riding a snorting stallion on the range while another brand will make women feel daring and rebellious. How about empty political campaign speeches or a father screaming at his late, tipsy teenager at 2 A.M.? Persuasion is commonly pictured as forcing, tricking, seducing, or lecturing people to buy or do something not really in their best interests. Too often these tactics work. But that’s not the kind of persuasion we’re interested in here.

A persuasive essay is an essay used to convince a reader about a particular idea or focus, usually one that you believe in. When writing a persuasive essay, a writer takes a position FOR or AGAINST an issue and writes to convince the reader to believe or do something. Learn How to Write a Persuasive Essay.

How to Write a Research Paper

How to Write a Research PaperResearch comes from the French word rechercher, meaning “to seek out.” Writing a research paper requires you to seek out information about a subject, take a stand on it, and back it up with the opinions, ideas, and views of others. What results is a printed paper variously known as a term paper or library paper, usually between five and fifteen pages long—most instructors specify a minimum length—in which you present your views and findings on the chosen subject.

Let’s be honest: most students hate research papers. They think it an assignment that is both picky and tedious. Wrestling with the correct format of a footnote drives them loopy. That, in a nutshell, is how you really feel about the research paper. Many students feel exactly the same. Yet for all the anxiety that the research paper provokes, it has outlasted generations of its student haters. Obviously it must be good for something, or else it would have been swept away long, long ago.

In fact, the research paper is an excellent tool for learning about a topic of your choice. Writing it will expose you to the rigors of research, acquaint you with the protocol of making correct citations to sources consulted, and teach you how to forge a mishmash of researched opinions into a single, coherent viewpoint. Of course, it is possible that your instructor will assign a specific topic for your paper, but typically topic choice is left up to the writer. Finding and shaping the final topic is usually regarded as a test of the student’s judgment. The student who chooses a vast topic, such as wars throughout the ages, has taken on too big a job. On the other hand, the student who chooses to write on the history of the tire iron is proposing a topic that is too small. So how to write a research paper? Our writing guide is arranged following the logical steps of writing process. Learn How to Write a Research Paper.

How to Write Essays on Specific Fields

Why Writing an Essay?

The essay is probably the commonest form of assessment at universities. It is now used more than exams, and it is not specific to any discipline area: you will be writing essays if you are doing subjects in anthropology, communication, economics, business, health science, tourism, engineering or education. Essays are such a popular form of assessment because they are useful for determining how well you have understood – not just memorized. Whereas exams of the short-answer kind assess the ability to learn facts, essays allow you to demonstrate important literacies, such as being able to research, select evidence and use examples, and evaluate different points of view. In essays, you demonstrate your ability to use the discourses of the discipline. These kinds of literacies are those which university students are supposed to have, and employers want. The following guide will show how to write an essay on selected fields of study.

How to Write an Anthropology Essay

Anthropology EssayAnthropology is the study of human groups and cultures, both past and present. Anthropology shares this focus on the study of human groups with other social science disciplines like political science, sociology, and economics. What makes anthropology unique is its commitment to examining claims about human ‘nature’ using a four-field approach. The four major subfields within anthropology are linguistic anthropology, socio-cultural anthropology (sometimes called ethnology), archaeology, and physical anthropology. Each of these subfields takes a different approach to the study of humans; together, they provide a holistic view. So, for example, physical anthropologists are interested in humans as an evolving biological species. Linguistic anthropologists are concerned with the physical and historical development of human language, as well as contemporary issues related to culture and language. Archaeologists examine human cultures of the past through systematic examinations of artifactual evidence. And cultural anthropologists study contemporary human groups or cultures. Learn How to Write an Anthropology Essay.

How to Write a Communication Essay

Communication Essay TopicsCourses in communication studies combine material from the humanities, fine arts, and social sciences in order to explain how and why people interact in the ways that they do.

Within communication studies, there are four different approaches to understanding these interactions. Your course probably falls into one of these four areas of emphasis:

  1. Interpersonal and organizational communication: Interpersonal communication concerns one-on-one conversations as well as small group behaviors. Organizational communication focuses on large group dynamics.
  2. Rhetoric: Rhetoric examines persuasion and argumentation in political settings and within social movements.
  3. Performance studies: Performance studies analyze the relationships among literature, theater, and everyday life.
  4. Media/film studies: Media and film studies explore the cultural influences and practical techniques of television and film, as well as new technologies.

Learn How to Write a Communication Essay.

How to Write a History Essay

History Essay TopicsHistory is everything that happened in the past: dates, facts, timelines, and the names of kings, queens, generals, and villains. For many students, the word “history” conjures up images of thick textbooks, long lectures, and even longer nights spent memorizing morsels of historical knowledge.

For your instructors in the history department, however, history is a fascinating puzzle with both personal and cultural significance. The past informs our lives, ideas, and expectations. Before shrugging off this abstract notion, ask yourself another “easy” question: Why are you here at your college or university?

Maybe you’re at your college because it was the best school that accepted you, or because it has great sports teams. In the big picture, however, you are here because of history, i.e., because of past events and developments. You are here (on the planet) because two people’s lives collided—in the past. You may be here (in America) because you or some ancestor crossed an ocean several weeks, years, decades or centuries ago. You are here (in college or university) because, two hundred years ago, some people pooled their ideas, energy, and money to dig a well, collect some books, and hire some professors. You are here (at an institution of higher education) because long ago, some German scholars laid the groundwork for what we call the “modern university.” Learn How to Write a History Essay.

How to Write a Literature Essay

Literature EssayWriting an analysis of a piece of literature can be a mystifying process. First, literary analyses (or papers that offer an interpretation of a story) rely on the assumption that stories must mean something. How does a story mean something? Isn’t a story just an arrangement of characters and events? And if the author wanted to convey a meaning, wouldn’t he or she be much better off writing an essay just telling us what he or she meant?

It’s pretty easy to see how at least some stories convey clear meanings or morals. Just think about a parable like the prodigal son or a nursery tale about “crying wolf.” Stories like these are reduced down to the bare elements, giving us just enough detail to lead us to their main points, and because they are relatively easy to understand and tend to stick in our memories, they’re often used in some kinds of education.

But if the meanings were always as clear as they are in parables, who would really need to write a paper analyzing them? Interpretations of fiction would not be interesting if the meanings of the stories were clear to everyone who reads them. Thankfully (or perhaps regrettably, depending on your perspective) the stories we’re asked to interpret in our classes are a good bit more complicated than most parables. They use characters, settings, and actions to illustrate issues that have no easy resolution. They show different sides of a problem, and they can raise new questions. In short, the stories we read in class have meanings that are arguable and complicated, and it’s our job to sort them out. Learn How to Write a Literature Essay.

How to Write a Philosophy Essay

How to Write a Philosophy EssayPhilosophy is the practice of making and assessing arguments. An argument is a set of statements (called premises) that work together to support another statement (the conclusion).

Making and assessing arguments can help us get closer to understanding the truth. At the very least, the process helps make us aware of our reasons for believing what we believe, and it enables us to use reason when we discuss our beliefs with other people. Your philosophy teacher wants to help you learn to make strong arguments and to assess the arguments other people make.

A philosophy essay may require several kinds of tasks, including:

  • Argument reconstruction
  • Objections and replies
  • Application
  • Original argument
  • Thought experiments

Learn How to Write a Philosophy Essay.

How to Write a Political Science Essay

Political Science Essay TopicsPolitical scientist Harold Laswell said it best: at its most basic level, politics is the struggle of “who gets what, when, how.” This struggle may be as modest as competing interest groups fighting over control of a small municipal budget or as overwhelming as a military stand-off between international superpowers. Political scientists study such struggles, both small and large, in an effort to develop general principles or theories about the way the world of politics works. Think about the title of your course or re-read the course description in your syllabus. You’ll find that your course covers a particular sector of the large world of “politics” and brings with it a set of topics, issues, and approaches to information that may be helpful to consider as you begin a writing assignment. The diverse structure of political science reflects the diverse kinds of problems the discipline attempts to analyze and explain. In fact, political science includes at least eight major sub-fields:

  • American politics examines political behavior and institutions in the United States.
  • Comparative politics analyzes and compares political systems within and across different geographic regions.
  • International relations investigates relations among nation states and the activities of international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and NATO, as well as international actors such as terrorists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multi-national corporations (MNCs).
  • Political theory analyzes fundamental political concepts such as power and democracy and foundational questions, like “How should the individual and the state relate?”
  • Political methodology deals with the ways that political scientists ask and investigate questions.
  • Public policy examines the process by which governments make public decisions.
  • Public administration studies the ways that government policies are implemented.
  • Public law focuses on the role of law and courts in the political process.

Learn How to Write a Political Science Essay.

How to Write a Psychology Essay

Psychology EssayPsychology, one of the behavioral sciences, is the scientific study of observable behaviors, like sleeping, and abstract mental processes, such as dreaming. Psychologists study, explain, and predict behaviors. Because of the complexity of human behaviors, researchers use a variety of methods and approaches.  They ask questions about behaviors and answer them using systematic methods. For example, to understand why female students tend to perform better in school than their male classmates, psychologists have examined whether parents, teachers, schools, and society behave in ways that support the educational outcomes of female students to a greater extent than those of males.

Writing in psychology is similar to other forms of scientific writing in that organization, clarity, and concision are important.  The Psychology Departments at colleges and universities have a strong research emphasis, so many of your assignments will focus on synthesizing and critically evaluating research, connecting your course material with current research literature, and designing and carrying out your own studies. Learn How to Write a Psychology Essay.

How to Write a Sociology Essay

Sociology Essay TopicsBefore you can write a clear and coherent sociology paper, you need a firm understanding of the assumptions and expectations of the discipline. You need to know your audience, the way they view the world and how they order and evaluate information. So, without further ado, let’s figure out just what sociology is, and how one goes about writing it.

Unlike many of the other subjects at colleges and universities, such as history or English, sociology is a new subject for many students. Therefore, it may be helpful to give a quick introduction to what sociologists do. Sociologists are interested in all sorts of topics. For example, some sociologists focus on the family, addressing issues such as marriage, divorce, child-rearing, and domestic abuse, the ways these things are defined in different cultures and times, and their effect on both individuals and institutions. Others examine larger social organizations such as businesses and governments, looking at their structure and hierarchies. Still others focus on social movements and political protest, such as the American civil rights movement. Finally, sociologists may look at divisions and inequality within society, examining phenomena such as race, gender, and class, and their effect on people’s choices and opportunities. As you can see, sociologists study just about everything. Thus, it is not the subject matter that makes a paper sociological, but rather the perspective used in writing it. Learn How to Write a Sociology Essay.

Usually essays will be returned to you with written feedback from the tutor. They differ in this respect from exams, which can be marked more quickly. There are two main problems with written feedback:

  • Students may not distinguish between the comments and corrections referring to relatively minor errors of style and language use an comments on more fundamental aspects, such as the quality of the argument, structure, and depth of understanding.
  • Students are mainly interested in the mark awarded. They may not take much notice of the comments, nor make use of them to improve their next assignment.

Essays Have the Following General Structure

  • Introduction. This prepares your reader for what is t o come. It orients your argument t o the set topic (e.g. by explaining what you understand by the question).
  • Main body. This is where you bring in the evidence o’f your research, and put together your argument’s.
  • Conclusion. This brings the essay t o an end. The reader is reminded in some way of every major point you made or issue you considered.
  • Bibliography. Any piece of work that contributed to your essay should be included. This does not include only books – films, magazines, and newspapers should be included if you made use of them, even if you don’t quote them directly.

You will need to find out what requirements there are about format and style in the particular discipline (or unit). For instance, you will probably be told that you must have a separate title page and use a certain referencing convention (e.g. the Harvard system). Some disciplines, notably the humanities, tend to disapprove of such devices as subheadings or lists using numbers or bullet points.

Note that oral presentations, too, should have a distinct introduction, body and conclusion (in your mind, even if the transitions between them are not noticeable to the audience). Oral presentations do not have bibliographies, but you should not use other people’s ideas-or provide contestable facts and figures-without briefly indicating their source.


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