how to write a good essay

How to Write a Good Essay | The Ultimate Guide

Of all the things that you learn as a college undergrad, the most pivotal is probably your research and expressive skills. You become more literate and expressive through the different performance tasks assigned to you while you learn how to write a good essay through the academic papers your professor asks you to submit.

Regardless of what or who to write an essay on, an undergrad has a lot to learn and improve during the few years of college. However, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. You don’t get all the time in the world to work on your essay writing skills. The complexity of assignments, quizzes, and your hectic schedule doesn’t provide the ideal opportunity to get essay writing guidance. Your schools are meant to teach you how to write better essays, but if you couldn’t avail that opportunity, don’t worry. 

Many people do everything within their power to develop a knack for new skills, even with busy college life. If you’re feeling lost on how to write a good essay, you will find this article very useful.

What is an essay?

An essay is a piece of writing that focuses on a narrative or an argument about a particular subject. The content of it should be based on facts and careful analysis. Learning  how to successfully write an essay will get you a long way because this is a common requirement for getting merit scholarships, taking the ACT writing test, acing your college admissions, or even applying for freelance writing jobs.

There are four common types of essay that you will encounter for your academic requirements an presented in the infographic below:

how to write a good essay

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is a personal essay which is usually written from the first-person point of view. This type of essay is also called creative non-fiction because it tries to tell a story based on lived experiences. Using the pronoun “I” is very much evident in this piece of writing.

Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay is often creatively written and you would have to use ornamental language to make it more appealing. Using adjectives and figurative language helps in vividly describing what you are writing about. For instance, you were asked to describe your greatest fears. In doing so, you would have to be very detailed and use every description you can think of to make your reader fully immersed.

Expository Essay

The expository essay is considered the most common type of essay because most school writing requirements fall under this category. In writing an essay with an expository format, you would have to research well on the topic and “expose” something about it depending on what is expected by your professor. This format is also used in exams where you are commonly asked a question and you have to develop a thesis and state some facts to prove it.

Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay is a more in-depth version of the expository essay because you will not only research basic facts. You will have to analyze qualitative and quantitative data to back up your thesis statement. In an argumentative essay, proving your claim is the most crucial part so you would have to combine a little bit of exposition and description to make the reader believe in your stand.

Before we discuss how to write a good essay, let us first focus on what an academic essay is.

Some few notes about academic essays

The conventions of an academic essay vary from discipline to discipline. However, all of these essays must show how a writer develops a thesis, prove it using enough evidence, and anticipate counterarguments while creating an engaging structure. Here are some of the most essential elements of an academic essay to guide you in your writing:

Purpose

It all begins with identifying the purpose of the essay assigned to you. Beyond the fact that you have a deadline to submit it to your teacher, you should also develop a personal goal of what you want to see from it to make it more meaningful. You should not just spew facts you have gathered from the internet but instead, present the result of your detailed analysis of all those facts to come up with an idea of your own. That will make your essay sound like you rather than a google article.

Thesis

The next thing that you have to focus on is your thesis statement. An essay, especially an argumentative and expository one always requires you to take a stand in your introduction. We have a detailed article about how to write a good thesis statement but to give you an idea, here are some of the steps you have to take:

  1. Answer the prompt
  2. Be specific
  3. Take a stance
  4. Answer the “How” and “Why”

According to the Harvard College Writing Center, here are some points you should remember when writing a thesis statement:

  1. Using a thesis statement in question form is not suggested because it doesn’t help present an argument
  2. Avoid a vague, combative, and confrontational thesis
  3. A thesis should have a definable, arguable claim
  4. It should be as clear and specific as possible

Tension

Another important element that will help you in writing an essay is the tension of argument. The secret to creating a healthy tension in your paper is to research good evidence and present them in a manner that would help convince others to take your side. It is important to note, however, that the goal is not to criticize the opposing side but instead, win over the reader by the reasonableness of your claim.

How to write a good essay in three easy steps

One of the most useful essay writing tips is to know the process of writing before putting your thoughts into paper. This includes three stages: the pre-writing, writing, and post-writings stage. The amount of time you should allot for each stage depends on your goal.

Prewriting

The prewriting stage is also known as the preparation stage of writing an essay. This involves understanding the assignment given by your professor, understanding the target reader, choosing a topic, researching, developing a thesis statement, and creating an outline for your draft. Here is a sample of an outline you can use:

Writing

The writing stage, on the other hand, is where the actual writing begins. You have to write your introduction including your argument, you have to prove your stand through stating evidence, and you have to write a clear conclusion to wrap your whole paper.

Post-writing

The last, but equally important stage is the post-writing stage or the revision phase of writing an essay. This is where you evaluate the organization of your essay, you review the content of each paragraph, you edit and proofread grammatical and punctuation errors, and you check your essay for plagiarism.

The structure of a good essay

After outlining and doing a thorough research about the topic, you are already equipped with enough evidence to write your piece. The question now is how to write a good essay which follows all the stages we have discussed. Well, an effective essay has three parts that you have to meticulously write: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

Introduction

The introduction is the most critical part in writing an essay. You have five seconds to convince the reader to keep reading. This makes up for roughly a sentence or two. Therefore, your first sentences need to explicitly tell what you’re going to talk about or your thesis statement. The introduction should hint everything that’s going to follow in the parts below.

Here are some guide to writing an interesting introduction for your essay:

Make sure to hook your reader

This is perhaps the most crucial among the essay writing tips we will discuss. The whole point of the introduction is to engage your reader so they read the whole content of your work. As what we have mentioned earlier, it only takes a few seconds to grab your reader’s attention. If you weren’t able to write a strong introduction, the reader will just scan your essay.

There are many ways to hook your reader. You can use a quote, a question, or any interesting fact about the topic. This will pique their curiosity which will lead them to continue reading.

Provide the context of the topic

Once you have successfully hooked the reader, you need to provide a little bit of context so your reader can understand why you have chosen to write about that particular topic. You will need to provide clear background information based on what you have researched, the existing trends governing the topic, or the conflicting views about it.

Craft your thesis statement

The thesis statement is the highlight of the introduction because it will dictate the content of your whole essay. You must be able to successfully state your stand or position on the topic in one to two sentences. 

Provide the general content of your whole essay

This part is entirely optional. If your introduction is already too long, it will not benefit from adding a few more sentences stating what the reader should expect from your essay. But if you think your introduction is a bit short, you can try mapping the contents of your essay in the end so the reader will have an idea on what they will learn from reading your work.

Below is an example of a good essay introduction from Massey University. The sentence in bold form serves as the thesis.

Topic: How can schools make the best use of information technology in the classroom?

Education means considerably more than just teaching a student to read, write, and manipulate numbers. Computers, the Internet, and advanced electronic devices are becoming essential in everyday life and have changed the way information is gathered. How this new technology is utilized in the curriculum and managed by teachers will have an important role to play in widening the resource and knowledge base for all students. Technology affects the way teachers teach and students learn. To make the best use of information technology (IT), schools need a workable plan to fully integrate it into all aspects of the curriculum so students are taught how, why, and when to use technology to further enhance their learning.

Body

In your body, you have to prove your idea step by step. This part is also crucial because if you weren’t able to defend your stance in the beginning, your essay will be considered weak. Here is how you can successfully write the body of your essay:

  1. First, provide your argument. Where do you source it from? Why do you choose this stance? What counter arguments will you explain later on?
  2. Second, provide the relevant evidence. Add quotes from your reading material. Keep your evidence related to your arguments.
  3. Third, explain your argument. Think of your reader’s mind as a blank slate. You don’t need to refute anything in order to prove your own point. Stay focused on what you are writing and what impression it’s leaving.

Length of each paragraph

This will greatly depend on the type of essay that you are writing. But usually, the body makes up 80% of your essay. The number of paragraphs is also based on your topic and the instruction of your teacher/professor. For high school essays, a three paragraph body is expected most of the time. Meanwhile, for undergraduate essays, the professors usually set a number of words so you would have to adjust your essay based on that.

Why divide the body into paragraphs

By writing in paragraph form, you are making it easy for your reader to scan your work and easily evaluate whether it is worth reading or not. Each paragraph has a main idea related to your main argument. You will be able to explain each of your evidence if you divide them into several paragraphs and use transitional devices to link them together. You may also use subheadings to be more organized.

If you are still confused on how to write the body of your essay, you can use the illustration below to map the content of your paragraphs.

Here is an example of a clear body of an essay. This is the continuation of the example we have used for the introduction from Massey University. 

If a school does not have a clear plan of how and why it wishes to implement IT, then it runs the risk of wasting money. In schools today, nearly all classrooms have access to a computer. However, many schools mistake this as incorporating information technology into the curriculum. School staff need to research what IT is available and what would best serve the school’s purpose, not simply purchase the latest equipment. There should be a policy stating how IT is going to assist pupils’ development and what teachers want pupils to achieve (Reksten, 2000). Staff members need to be clear about what they want IT to do for them before they can start incorporating it into their lessons.

The only way information technology is going to be useful to schools is if all staff members are well-informed and fully supported. It is the principal’s responsibility, and should be part of the school’s plan, to ensure that all staff are consulted about the changes, and that the change is carefully organised. Some teachers may be resistant, especially if they have not had much experience with computers, so training teachers is essential in implementing IT into the school curriculum. Staff members must feel involved in the process of acquiring technology, and in learning how to operate it, in order for them to increase their confidence in using IT as a curriculum tool. Teachers are only going to be able to incorporate IT into their lessons if they are competent users themselves (Reksten, 2000).

In addition, teachers need to be aware that IT within the classroom is extremely flexible, but that they need to plan what purpose IT serves in each lesson. The skills a child learns are the important part of any lesson, and it is the same with technology. IT needs to be used and understood in all subjects in the same way as the ability to read is necessary for all subjects, and “must be used across the curriculum, in the same way that a pen and pencil are used in most subject areas” (Ager, 2000, p. 15). The best way to plan the use of IT in the classroom is to approach it as simply a learning tool that is more advanced (and more exciting) than the traditional pen and paper.

It is vitally important for students to be taught the strategies for using IT. Children also need to be fully informed about the capabilities of IT before being asked to use it. Pupils should be aware that the contexts in which they use IT will change, and they need to know what the appropriate use of IT is and what is not. Whilst it is important that children learn to use IT effectively, teachers must emphasise that IT is not always suitable. According to Apter (1968), the danger is that the “computer dehumanizes people and inevitably leads them to act like machines themselves” (p. 58). Teachers must make sure they plan to use variety in their lessons. Too much IT instruction may be just as harmful to a child as not enough.

For an in-depth analysis of the structure of this example, click here to view the full text.

Conclusion

Your conclusion shouldn’t leave room for any more doubts or persuasion. Do a rerun through the entire essay, add your idea of a solution, and then quote all the proper references. Here’s a guide to write a strong conclusion:

  1. Connect all the arguments presented in the body
  2. State the significance of what you have discussed and its broader implications
  3. Avoid including new arguments because your goal is to wrap up what you have written
  4. Do not undermine your arguments by saying, “This is just my opinion about…” or “This is just one of the many methods…”

Here is the conclusion to the essay sample we have used for the introduction and the body discussion:

The usefulness of IT in the classroom, as with any learning tool, depends on the innovation and imagination of the teacher. It is imperative, though, that the implementation of IT into a school is carefully planned. The current information explosion makes it essential that IT be used extensively within the classroom so children know how to use IT appropriately and effectively. Teachers must, therefore, be fully informed about what kinds of IT are available and whether or not they are appropriate for classroom use. School boards and teachers must therefore ensure that all staff have a clear plan about what they want their students to achieve through IT. The appropriate incorporation of IT into the classroom will broaden the minds and skills of students, allowing them to be better prepared for further technological advances.

For an in-depth analysis of the structure of this example, click here to view the full text.

Additional essay writing tips

Read What Interests You

You’ve heard like a million times before, but hey, it’s time to listen to it again: reading DOES make you a better person. You’re probably avoiding the habit because you find it annoying and draining in the first place. It’s not entirely your fault. Growing up, our adults often force us into reading stuff we’re the least interested in. So why not break the chain? 

In order to develop a love for reading, you need to make it tolerable for yourself. Find reading material that interests you. You can’t read everything on your booklist or in the library. Instead, what you need to do is find out what interests you. Which author’s ideas suit you the most? Whose writing style appeals to you? Which format do you like? 

Choosing the publication, author, and topics of your choice will change your reading game. If you feel demotivated to read books or reference papers, try to study through quality online blogs. You can also join reading sessions, or form one yourself, in order to adjust to the habit. Once you get on the track, your language and knowledge base will improve steadily. This will help you write essays with a natural flow and interest in even notoriously stressful topics.

Learn from Professional Help

Need a last-minute glance on your written essay paper? Your roommate’s probably busy, your classmates are all occupied, and you’re crippling with confusion. Everyone has been there. The key to making your essays assuredly readable and impressive is to get it checked from a trained mind. Moreover, you can always find a site that writes essays with just the right tonal and literal structure. You can get custom written essays from essay writing websites and companies. If that isn’t necessary, you can also write your own essay and get it proof from someone who regularly writes and edits essays. 

However, it’s better if you do this in advance. Leaving your essays pending until the 11th hour is sheer nonsense. Try to engage with your editors or writers and learn from their skills instead of merely relying on them. Using online company help isn’t a lasting solution, but it can definitely help you step up your essay-writing game!

Focus On How You Express Yourself

The third one on our list of essay writing tips is focusing on self-expression. Language can be an effective game changer if you know how to use it. With any luck, your essay may not need you to read and cite heavy books. A critical analysis is also a big part of the essay writing theme employed in most courses. Each essay requires you to bring originality and authenticity. Remember that one professor whose lecture you always dread? And remember that TED Talk guy you couldn’t get tired of hearing? It’s all about how you convey what’s in your head. Though you don’t have to deliver a lecture to a class of a hundred coffee-running adults, your task is more or less the same. 

You have to convince even the thickest of skulls to consider your point of view. Instead of emphasizing ‘I’ and ‘I think,’ give your reader a chance to actually look inside your mind. Don’t use simple, direct sentences with abrupt transitions and endings. Let your essay be something that leaves the reader thinking over your ideas instead of only assessing them.

To help you identify whether you have written a good essay, refer to the checklist below:

how to write a good essay

Conclusion

Writing an essay doesn’t just end in mastering how to write the introduction. You should also learn how to write the body and the conclusion by following a simple but effective structure like what we have discussed. It is also necessary to write your essay with purpose and not just to comply for your course requirement. By doing this, your essay becomes more appealing and meaningful and you will surely get a high score from your professor. We hope we have helped you through this blog on how to write a good essay. Good luck on your future academic papers!

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!

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