Basics of the Essay
Does an essay assignment strike fear and dread into your heart? No longer! Learn the basics of a well-organized essay on any subject.
I’ve been assigned an essay on —. How do I start?
Essay format is the same at a basic level for every type of essay. All of them have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The parts of the body (how many paragraphs and the subject of each) answer each section of the assignment, so usually, you will have as many body paragraphs as there are parts to the assignment.
1. Read the assignment carefully several times. Be sure you understand what it asks for. Do not include anything that doesn’t directly answer the question.
2. Start with your supporting points, not your thesis statement. Decide on two to five points (one or more than five are OK, but three is somewhat of an ideal number if you can choose). Make sure you have evidence to back up each point. *In a timed essay situation, it is more important to go with the points you can come up with evidence for than to go with more “advanced” points you have no evidence for.*
3. Figure out how your supporting points connect. Express your points briefly and this connection between them in a single sentence. This is your thesis statement.
4. The rest of your introduction is simply the lead-in to and explanation of your thesis statement.
5. Elaborate on your supporting points or body as necessary. Remember that a paragraph has a minimum of three sentences in academic writing: introduction, body, conclusion–parallel to essay structure.
6. Stick to the subject. Refrain from adding opinions (unless requested in the assignment) or any statements which do not further your argument for your thesis.
7. Be sure to cite sources as necessary.
8. A conclusion consists of a restatement of the thesis, summary explanation of the body points, and a final statement of summary. If you have time or a good idea comes to mind, it adds interest if you can leave the audience with an interesting thought on the subject in the last sentence.
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