As a student, you probably have to write a lot of essays. In high school and college, you probably don’t have to write about things like “My first pen” or “My favorite teacher” or anything, but there are a lot of essays there nevertheless.
In this post, we are going to be looking at a step-by-step guide that you can follow to improve the quality of your essays and get better grades.
Let’s get started.
What Makes a Good Essay?
Before we talk about how you can write good essays, let’s first look at how they are defined.
A good essay can be simply defined as an essay that is focused on one singular topic, is properly researched, has a proper structure, and has a smooth continuance of the included arguments.
While these are the prime constituents of a good essay, there are other finer details that also play a role in defining the same. For example, the grammatical perfection of the essay is necessary, and similarly its uniqueness.
We won’t delve into all those here, but we’re mentioning them right now to give you an idea of what we’ll be covering in this post.
Considering the definition of a good essay that we’ve provided above, let’s get started with our step-by-step guide.
1. Lay a Good Base – Make a Plan
The first thing that you have to do before writing an essay is to make a solid game plan. This whole thing does not relate to the actual writing part. Rather, it’s a wireframe – a blueprint – of how you’re going to tackle the essay writing process and come through with a fine piece.
How and why is this important? Laying down a plan helps you organize the various steps and tasks that are associated with the whole essay writing process. You will be able to dedicate your time separately to things like the research, the actual writing part, the proofreading, and the finalization.
Now, this may sound overkill, especially if the essay you want to write is minor and unimportant. In that case, you can skip this part, or just make a very brief plan.
Here is what your plan can and should look like:
2. Start with the Research
Once you are done with laying down the ground plan, you have to get started with the actual research itself. This will obviously and probably be the first step in your plan i.e., the step directly related to the essay itself.
Now, when it comes to research, the first thing that you have to make sure is to use reliable sources. You should also take into consideration any sources that your institute has prescribed or proscribed for the essay. For example, a lot of institutes don’t allow their students to use Wikipedia as a source since it can be easily edited.
If your particular institute has given you a particular set of resources to use, then you can just do your research from there. But if there are no such directives, you can try using the following platforms and websites (since they are generally considered to be reliable):
And the like. You can actually just look up ‘reliable research sources’ on the internet and you will find a lot of different options to use.
So, that is pretty much what you have to do regarding the sources. But that is not where the caution ends.
Other than the sources, you also have to be careful about how you do your research and how you compile your information from it.
To explain that better, let’s just take an example of an abysmal scenario.
Imagine a person picking out some really good sources for research and putting aside a lot of time for it as well. But, while doing the actual research, they start taking whole passages and sentences from the sources to use as their own. Or, they start copying the exact headings and sub-headings used by the source to use in their own essay.
Would that be okay? Of course, it wouldn’t. This person would end up getting a whole lot of plagiarism in their work, and they will most probably get an F on their essay.
To make sure that you don’t end up in a similar situation, here are some things that you can do when conducting your research:
- Don’t copy anything from the source verbatim. If you like an idea, summarize and condense it in your own words
- Don’t start writing along with or immediately after the research. That way, you will still be influenced by the style and tenor of the source and you could end up committing accidental plagiarism.
- Don’t take too much information from a single source. Spread out your research over multiple sources. This will also help you avoid getting influenced by a particular style and then copying it afterward.
3. Lay Down a Plan for Your Essay
Okay so while this one sound similar to the step we mentioned at number one, it’s actually different. For the first step, we were talking about laying a plan down for the essay writing process. In this step, however, we’re talking about laying down the plan for the written content itself.
Here, you basically have to sort out the research you’ve done and make a sequence of how you’re going to use it in the different arguments of your essay.
For example, if you are writing an essay about, say, the events leading up the independence in 1776, you could create a map like this:
- Introduction (The British Colonization | Use info taken from Library of Congress)
- Part 1: (The Rebellion of the Colonies and the Reasons Behind it | Use info taken from research paper 1 on ResearchGate)
- Part 2: (The Details of the Revolutionary War and the Role of George Washington | Use information from Britannica)
- Part 3: (The Declaration of Independence, the First States and the Events That Followed | Use information from Library of Congress (2nd batch))
The above is like a really basic plan and with a really basic set of research material, but we think we got the point across.
The benefit of this whole step?
The benefit of creating such an outline for your essay is simple. It will help you stay focused and it will help you use the right information for the right parts. During this step, you will also be able to distribute your research material to the different segments of the essay, thus lessening the chances of accidentally using a single source for the entire content.
4. Start with the Writing Process
After the outline is all made and the research is all done, you have to get down to the main step i.e., the writing.
Since writing is the main and core step of this whole process, there is a lot involved in it. We can’t delve into too many details, but here are some tips (in the correct sequence) that you can follow:
- Before starting writing, take a rest, relax, and clear your mind up. Writing in a tired or stressed condition isn’t going to be helpful. You’ll just be clearing up your errors and blunders afterward.
- Then, when commencing the writing, set the formatting options according to the guidelines provided by your institute. If you are writing on paper instead, then be sure to follow the guidelines provided germane to the spacing, margins, and so on.
- Keep your paragraphs short and separated. Don’t repeat something that you’ve mentioned once unless there is a need for the reiteration
- Use some advanced words where you easily can, but don’t overdo it.
- Follow the outline you’ve created in the earlier step. If you start overstepping boundaries, you could end up talking about the wrong things in the wrong places.
These tips are great and all, but they’re a bit…idyllic. Of course, if following tips like these were so simple, there wouldn’t have been any problem in writing good essays.
Before moving on to the next step, let’s take a look at some of the common problems that you can face when doing the actual writing and how you can solve them.
Writer’s Block at the Starting Stages
This is probably one of the most commonly-faced issues that not only you’ll in essays, but pretty much everywhere that you have to write any type of content. Once you get in the flow, writing becomes smooth and easy, but it can be a little tough to get started in the beginning.
The solution for this problem is to simply skip the starting parts. In other words, instead of wondering about how to start the essay or a particular section in it, just skip the starting part. Start writing about the main stuff naturally. After a while, you’ll automatically see a nice and natural introduction to fit in the whole thing.
Redundancy and Lack of Vocabulary
Another problem that can be a little problematic for writers is the problem of not having enough words in stock to use interchangeably. In this instance, this problem is portrayed by the lack of replacement of the word “problem”.
Jokes aside, this is actually a problem – okay, “issue”, sorry – that troubles a lot of writers. But there are a lot of different steps and measures that you can take to overcome it.
For one, you can simply go to the internet and look for some synonyms of repetitive words. For example, if you want to get some synonyms of the same words that we repeated a couple of times above, here is what you’d get:
You can also try using a thesaurus to get some new ideas for your words. However, there’s a better and more fun way to do it, and that is to use an online paraphrasing tool.
Although online paraphrasing tools are not dedicatedly made for this purpose, they can be a great help for vocabulary building. These tools basically make changes to the provided text, and one such change is synonymizing. They replace some of the existing words with suitable synonyms.
You can make use of this functionality to get some ideas on newer words to use in your essay. To show you how this would look in a real setting here is an example of a paraphrasing tool and its respective changes.
Inconsistencies in Different Headings and Parts
This is also a little something that can trouble you during the writing process. There could be a particular section in the essay that you may have a lot of information about, and you could end up writing about it extensively. On the other hand, there could be an equally important heading that may have very sparse content in it.
To fix this issue, you should opt for keeping the parts short and moderate, rather than making one of them longer, even if you have a lot of information available.
5. Proofread and Check for Plagiarism
Once you are done with all the writing, the next thing that you have to do is proofreading. Making errors is normal and acceptable, but it’s the same to let them pass you by before finalization.
During the proofreading phase, here are some things that you should keep an eye out for:
- Grammar and spelling errors
- Formatting issues
- Missing citations
- Wrong references
To get the most out of your proofreading sessions, it’s best to do it after some time i.e., after writing the essay. That way, you will be able to spot the errors more easily.
Checking for Plagiarism
Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else’s content and utilizing it for one’s own purpose without giving the proper citations/credit.
Although plagiarism is largely committed deliberately, it can also come into your writing in small amounts by error and coincidence.
That is why, even if you don’t deliberately take content from a source, you should still check for plagiarism in your essay to find any accidental plagiarism.
To do this, you have to use a plagiarism checking tool. These tools can quickly scan your text and point out any sentences or passages that match existing content on the internet.
Here is how a plagiarism checker looks in action:
Writing good essays isn’t hard. You just need to know what to do and how to do it.
To start off, you should make sure that your research is proper. To do this, you should look for authoritative sources and tactfully take information from them.
Then, you should lay out a proper plan for tackling the essay. Then, after completing the writing phase, you should carefully proofread the essay to find and remove any imperfections it may contain.