- Academic Skills
- Essay writing
Six top tips for writing a great essay
An essay is used to assess the strength of your critical thinking and your ability to put that thinking into an academic written form. This resource covers some key considerations when writing an essay at university.
While reading a student’s essay, markers will ask themselves questions such as:
- Does this essay directly address the set task?
- Does it present a strong, supported position?
- Does it use relevant sources appropriately?
- Is the expression clear, and the style appropriate?
- Is the essay organised coherently? Is there a clear introduction, body and conclusion?
You can use these questions to reflect on your own writing. Here are six top tips to help you address these criteria.
1. Analyse the question
Student essays are responses to specific questions. As an essay must address the question directly, your first step should be to analyse the question. Make sure you know exactly what is being asked of you.
Generally, essay questions contain three component parts:
- Content terms: Key concepts that are specific to the task
- Limiting terms: The scope that the topic focuses on
- Directive terms: What you need to do in relation to the content, e.g. discuss, analyse, define, compare, evaluate.
Look at the following essay question:
Discuss the importance of light in Gothic architecture.
- Content terms: Gothic architecture
- Limiting terms: the importance of light. If you discussed some other feature of Gothic architecture, for example spires or arches, you would be deviating from what is required. This essay question is limited to a discussion of light. Likewise, it asks you to write about the importance of light – not, for example, to discuss how light enters Gothic churches.
- Directive term: discuss. This term asks you to take a broad approach to the variety of ways in which light may be important for Gothic architecture. You should introduce and consider different ideas and opinions that you have met in academic literature on this topic, citing them appropriately .
For a more complex question, you can highlight the key words and break it down into a series of sub-questions to make sure you answer all parts of the task. Consider the following question (from Arts):
To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?
The key words here are American Revolution and revolution ‘from below’. This is a view that you would need to respond to in this essay. This response must focus on the aims and motivations of working people in the revolution, as stated in the second question.
2. Define your argument
As you plan and prepare to write the essay, you must consider what your argument is going to be. This means taking an informed position or point of view on the topic presented in the question, then defining and presenting a specific argument.
Consider these two argument statements:
The architectural use of light in Gothic cathedrals physically embodied the significance of light in medieval theology.
In the Gothic cathedral of Cologne, light served to accentuate the authority and ritual centrality of the priest.
Statements like these define an essay’s argument. They give coherence by providing an overarching theme and position towards which the entire essay is directed.
3. Use evidence, reasoning and scholarship
To convince your audience of your argument, you must use evidence and reasoning, which involves referring to and evaluating relevant scholarship.
- Evidence provides concrete information to support your claim. It typically consists of specific examples, facts, quotations, statistics and illustrations.
- Reasoning connects the evidence to your argument. Rather than citing evidence like a shopping list, you need to evaluate the evidence and show how it supports your argument.
- Scholarship is used to show how your argument relates to what has been written on the topic (citing specific works). Scholarship can be used as part of your evidence and reasoning to support your argument.
4. Organise a coherent essay
An essay has three basic components - introduction, body and conclusion.
The purpose of an introduction is to introduce your essay. It typically presents information in the following order:
- A general statement about the topic that provides context for your argument
- A thesis statement showing your argument. You can use explicit lead-ins, such as ‘This essay argues that...’
- A ‘road map’ of the essay, telling the reader how it is going to present and develop your argument.
"To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?"
Historians generally concentrate on the twenty-year period between 1763 and 1783 as the period which constitutes the American Revolution [This sentence sets the general context of the period] . However, when considering the involvement of working people, or people from below, in the revolution it is important to make a distinction between the pre-revolutionary period 1763-1774 and the revolutionary period 1774-1788, marked by the establishment of the continental Congress(1) [This sentence defines the key term from below and gives more context to the argument that follows] . This paper will argue that the nature and aims of the actions of working people are difficult to assess as it changed according to each phase [This is the thesis statement] . The pre-revolutionary period was characterised by opposition to Britain’s authority. During this period the aims and actions of the working people were more conservative as they responded to grievances related to taxes and scarce land, issues which directly affected them. However, examination of activities such as the organisation of crowd action and town meetings, pamphlet writing, formal communications to Britain of American grievances and physical action in the streets, demonstrates that their aims and actions became more revolutionary after 1775 [These sentences give the ‘road map’ or overview of the content of the essay] .
The body of the essay develops and elaborates your argument. It does this by presenting a reasoned case supported by evidence from relevant scholarship. Its shape corresponds to the overview that you provided in your introduction.
The body of your essay should be written in paragraphs. Each body paragraph should develop one main idea that supports your argument. To learn how to structure a paragraph, look at the page developing clarity and focus in academic writing .
Your conclusion should not offer any new material. Your evidence and argumentation should have been made clear to the reader in the body of the essay.
Use the conclusion to briefly restate the main argumentative position and provide a short summary of the themes discussed. In addition, also consider telling your reader:
- What the significance of your findings, or the implications of your conclusion, might be
- Whether there are other factors which need to be looked at, but which were outside the scope of the essay
- How your topic links to the wider context (‘bigger picture’) in your discipline.
Do not simply repeat yourself in this section. A conclusion which merely summarises is repetitive and reduces the impact of your paper.
Although, to a large extent, the working class were mainly those in the forefront of crowd action and they also led the revolts against wealthy plantation farmers, the American Revolution was not a class struggle [This is a statement of the concluding position of the essay]. Working people participated because the issues directly affected them – the threat posed by powerful landowners and the tyranny Britain represented. Whereas the aims and actions of the working classes were more concerned with resistance to British rule during the pre-revolutionary period, they became more revolutionary in nature after 1775 when the tension with Britain escalated [These sentences restate the key argument]. With this shift, a change in ideas occurred. In terms of considering the Revolution as a whole range of activities such as organising riots, communicating to Britain, attendance at town hall meetings and pamphlet writing, a difficulty emerges in that all classes were involved. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the extent to which a single group such as working people contributed to the American Revolution [These sentences give final thoughts on the topic].
5. Write clearly
An essay that makes good, evidence-supported points will only receive a high grade if it is written clearly. Clarity is produced through careful revision and editing, which can turn a good essay into an excellent one.
When you edit your essay, try to view it with fresh eyes – almost as if someone else had written it.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you clearly stated your argument in your introduction?
- Does the actual structure correspond to the ‘road map’ set out in your introduction?
- Have you clearly indicated how your main points support your argument?
- Have you clearly signposted the transitions between each of your main points for your reader?
- Does each paragraph introduce one main idea?
- Does every sentence in the paragraph support that main idea?
- Does each paragraph display relevant evidence and reasoning?
- Does each paragraph logically follow on from the one before it?
- Is each sentence grammatically complete?
- Is the spelling correct?
- Is the link between sentences clear to your readers?
- Have you avoided redundancy and repetition?
See more about editing on our editing your writing page.
6. Cite sources and evidence
Finally, check your citations to make sure that they are accurate and complete. Some faculties require you to use a specific citation style (e.g. APA) while others may allow you to choose a preferred one. Whatever style you use, you must follow its guidelines correctly and consistently. You can use Recite, the University of Melbourne style guide, to check your citations.
- Germov, J. (2011). Get great marks for your essays, reports and presentations (3rd ed.). NSW: Allen and Unwin.
- Using English for Academic Purposes: A guide for students in Higher Education [online]. Retrieved January 2020 from http://www.uefap.com
- Williams, J.M. & Colomb, G. G. (2010) Style: Lessons in clarity and grace. 10th ed. New York: Longman.
* Example introduction and conclusion adapted from a student paper.
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How to Get ChatGPT to Write an Essay: Prompts, Outlines, & More
Last Updated: September 14, 2023
Getting ChatGPT to Write the Essay
Using ai to help you write, expert interview.
This article was written by Bryce Warwick, JD and by wikiHow staff writer, Nicole Levine, MFA . Bryce Warwick is currently the President of Warwick Strategies, an organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area offering premium, personalized private tutoring for the GMAT, LSAT and GRE. Bryce has a JD from the George Washington University Law School. This article has been viewed 26,769 times.
Are you curious about using ChatGPT to write an essay? While most instructors have tools that make it easy to detect AI-written essays, there are ways you can use OpenAI's ChatGPT to write papers without worrying about plagiarism or getting caught. In addition to writing essays for you, ChatGPT can also help you come up with topics, write outlines, find sources, check your grammar, and even format your citations. This wikiHow article will teach you the best ways to use ChatGPT to write essays, including helpful example prompts that will generate impressive papers.
Things You Should Know
- To have ChatGPT write an essay, tell it your topic, word count, type of essay, and facts or viewpoints to include.
- ChatGPT is also useful for generating essay topics, writing outlines, and checking grammar.
- Because ChatGPT can make mistakes and trigger AI-detection alarms, it's better to use AI to assist with writing than have it do the writing.
- Before using the OpenAI's ChatGPT to write your essay, make sure you understand your instructor's policies on AI tools. Using ChatGPT may be against the rules, and it's easy for instructors to detect AI-written essays.
- While you can use ChatGPT to write a polished-looking essay, there are drawbacks. Most importantly, ChatGPT cannot verify facts or provide references. This means that essays created by ChatGPT may contain made-up facts and biased content.  X Research source It's best to use ChatGPT for inspiration and examples instead of having it write the essay for you.
- The topic you want to write about.
- Essay length, such as word or page count. Whether you're writing an essay for a class, college application, or even a cover letter , you'll want to tell ChatGPT how much to write.
- Other assignment details, such as type of essay (e.g., personal, book report, etc.) and points to mention.
- If you're writing an argumentative or persuasive essay , know the stance you want to take so ChatGPT can argue your point.
- If you have notes on the topic that you want to include, you can also provide those to ChatGPT.
- When you plan an essay, think of a thesis, a topic sentence, a body paragraph, and the examples you expect to present in each paragraph.
- It can be like an outline and not an extensive sentence-by-sentence structure. It should be a good overview of how the points relate.
- "Write a 2000-word college essay that covers different approaches to gun violence prevention in the United States. Include facts about gun laws and give ideas on how to improve them."
- This prompt not only tells ChatGPT the topic, length, and grade level, but also that the essay is personal. ChatGPT will write the essay in the first-person point of view.
- "Write a 4-page college application essay about an obstacle I have overcome. I am applying to the Geography program and want to be a cartographer. The obstacle is that I have dyslexia. Explain that I have always loved maps, and that having dyslexia makes me better at making them."
- In our essay about gun control, ChatGPT did not mention school shootings. If we want to discuss this topic in the essay, we can use the prompt, "Discuss school shootings in the essay."
- Let's say we review our college entrance essay and realize that we forgot to mention that we grew up without parents. Add to the essay by saying, "Mention that my parents died when I was young."
- In the Israel-Palestine essay, ChatGPT explored two options for peace: A 2-state solution and a bi-state solution. If you'd rather the essay focus on a single option, ask ChatGPT to remove one. For example, "Change my essay so that it focuses on a bi-state solution."
- "Give me ideas for an essay about the Israel-Palestine conflict."
- "Ideas for a persuasive essay about a current event."
- "Give me a list of argumentative essay topics about COVID-19 for a Political Science 101 class."
- "Create an outline for an argumentative essay called "The Impact of COVID-19 on the Economy."
- "Write an outline for an essay about positive uses of AI chatbots in schools."
- "Create an outline for a short 2-page essay on disinformation in the 2016 election."
- "Find peer-reviewed sources for advances in using MRNA vaccines for cancer."
- "Give me a list of sources from academic journals about Black feminism in the movie Black Panther."
- "Give me sources for an essay on current efforts to ban children's books in US libraries."
- "Write a 4-page college paper about how global warming is changing the automotive industry in the United States."
- "Write a 750-word personal college entrance essay about how my experience with homelessness as a child has made me more resilient."
- You can even refer to the outline you created with ChatGPT, as the AI bot can reference up to 3000 words from the current conversation.  X Research source For example: "Write a 1000 word argumentative essay called 'The Impact of COVID-19 on the United States Economy' using the outline you provided. Argue that the government should take more action to support businesses affected by the pandemic."
- One way to do this is to paste a list of the sources you've used, including URLs, book titles, authors, pages, publishers, and other details, into ChatGPT along with the instruction "Create an MLA Works Cited page for these sources."
- You can also ask ChatGPT to provide a list of sources, and then build a Works Cited or References page that includes those sources. You can then replace sources you didn't use with the sources you did use.
- Because it's easy for teachers, hiring managers, and college admissions offices to spot AI-written essays, it's best to use your ChatGPT-written essay as a guide to write your own essay. Using the structure and ideas from ChatGPT, write an essay in the same format, but using your own words. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Always double-check the facts in your essay, and make sure facts are backed up with legitimate sources. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- If you see an error that says ChatGPT is at capacity , wait a few moments and try again. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Using ChatGPT to write or assist with your essay may be against your instructor's rules. Make sure you understand the consequences of using ChatGPT to write or assist with your essay. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- ChatGPT-written essays may include factual inaccuracies, outdated information, and inadequate detail.  X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
Thanks for reading our article! If you’d like to learn more about completing school assignments, check out our in-depth interview with Bryce Warwick, JD .
- ↑ https://help.openai.com/en/articles/6783457-chatgpt-general-faq
- ↑ https://platform.openai.com/examples/default-essay-outline
- ↑ https://help.openai.com/en/articles/6787051-does-chatgpt-remember-what-happened-earlier-in-the-conversation
- ↑ https://www.ipl.org/div/chatgpt/
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- 20 Top Tips for Writing an Essay in a Hurry
In an ideal situation, you’d have all the time in the world to write a great essay, but sadly it doesn’t always work out that way. There will always be times when you’re required to write an essay uncomfortably quickly, whether because of a tight deadline imposed by a teacher, or because you’ve been so busy that the essay has ended up being put off until the last minute. However, it is possible to produce a good piece of work even when very pushed for time, and in this article, we’re going to show you how.
1. Adopt the right mindset
Before you start writing, it’s crucial to get yourself into the right mindset. You may be experiencing feelings of panic, feeling as though you don’t have enough time and you can’t do it. You may feel defeated before you’ve even begun. To be successful, however, you will need to banish these negative feelings . It’s vital to be positive, to try to relish the challenge, and to adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude. If it helps, imagine it’s a battle that you’re going to win. Give yourself a pep talk, and keep the end goal in mind: you’re going to do a great job and impress your teacher. You’re going to prove to yourself that you can take on this challenge, enjoy it, and write an essay in record time. Take a deep breath, remain calm, and start to attack the work systematically and logically.
2. Switch off your phone and social networks
The last thing you need when you only have a couple of hours to write an essay is to get distracted by your phone or social networks, which have a habit of eating away at your time without you even realising. Procrastination isn’t an option at this late stage, so it’s time to ban yourself from your phone, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, iPlayer, YouTube, and anything else you think might distract you. Sit somewhere quiet and put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. If it helps, install a full-screen text editor onto your computer, such as Darkroom , to force yourself to look at your essay and only your essay. You can also get browser apps that keep you off social networks for a time period of your choosing.
3. Type your essay rather than handwriting it
Most young people these days type faster than they write by hand, so unless you’ve been told that you must handwrite your essay, type it. This will make it much easier to edit what you’ve written and change things around, and you’ll be able to get more words in through typing quickly. It’s probably also going to be easier for your teacher to read a typed document than your handwriting, and you won’t suffer an achy arm that could slow you down, so that’s an added bonus.
4. Read the question carefully
When you’re in a rush, it can be easy to skim over the question and think you’ve understood it – only for you to realise, after writing most of the essay, that you got the wrong end of the stick and it’s too late to change it. This is particularly hazardous when you’re under pressure, because your brain has a tendency to see what it wants to see; it may tell you that the title is asking a question that you want to answer , while the reality might be subtly but crucially different. So, start by reading the question very carefully and ensuring you’ve completely understood what it’s asking you to do. If it helps, underline key instructional words in the title, such as “compare” or “analyse”. This forces your mind to focus on the right kind of task, so you write the essay with this in mind.
5. Get your books ready
Prepare your workspace by opening the books you’ll need to use on relevant pages, or putting Post-It notes in them to mark where relevant information is. This means you won’t have to keep wasting precious time hunting through books to find the information each time you need to refer to it.
6. Sum up your argument in a sentence
To get yourself thinking clearly about what you’re going to be writing, see if you can sum up what your argument is going to be in a single sentence – a bit like an ‘ elevator pitch ’. If you can’t do this, the chances are that you don’t quite know what you want to say, with the result that you may end up waffling in your essay, thereby wasting valuable time. It’s important to set out with a clear idea of what your argument is, because then everything you write subsequently will be working towards the goal of getting this particular argument across. Of course, don’t spend too long on this and end up with not enough time to write the actual essay!
7. Write your notes directly into the document
When you’re in a hurry, your notes can double up as an essay plan, killing two birds with one stone. Start by typing your essay notes directly into the document you’ve created for your essay. This could be bullet points or one-sentence summaries of what you want to write in each paragraph. For each point, also include a line or two on what evidence you’re going to use in support. Once you’ve done this, organise the notes into a sensible structure by dragging and dropping paragraphs into an order you think works. This becomes your detailed essay plan.
8. Then rewrite your notes into an essay with an argument
You now have the outline of your essay in note form. You can now turn your notes into an essay by rewriting them into academic prose, complete with ‘filler’ sentences that glue it all together and help build your argument.
9. Save the introduction and conclusion for last
Perhaps surprisingly, the introduction and conclusion of an essay are often the hardest bits to write. So, save these for last. By the time you’ve written the body of the essay, the task of writing the introduction and a summarising conclusion should be much easier, as you’ll already have spent plenty of time on your argument and you’ll be very familiar with it.
10. Do the references as you go along
If you’re required to add references and a bibliography to your essay, do these as you go along to save time. Each time you quote someone, add in a footnote saying where the quote is from, and at the same time, copy and paste the details of the book into a bibliography at the end of your document.
11. Proofread as you go along
Save time on proofreading by checking over each sentence or paragraph for spelling, grammar and typos as you write it. When you’ve finished writing, it’s still worth having a quick final read through your essay for a sense check and to ensure that it flows well – but this should take less time now that you’ve already checked for errors.
12. Don’t be tempted to copy and paste
The internet is full of resources that probably exactly match what you’re going to be writing about, and when you’re in a hurry, there can be a strong temptation to copy and paste useful paragraphs into your essay. Don’t ever do this! Plagiarism is not only immoral, but it also means that you won’t learn the topic in as much depth – and the whole point of writing an essay is to consolidate what you’ve learned and prepare you adequately for future exams. Teachers can use Google too, and if they suspect that you’ve stolen someone else’s work by copying and pasting something off the internet, all they need to do is type one of ‘your’ sentences in Google and they’ll instantly find where you’ve got it from. It’s normally easy to spot copied work, because the style will be different from the rest of the essay. It’s just not worth the risk, as you’ll lose your teacher’s trust and this will probably be reflected in the quality of the reference they give you for university.
13. Try not to over-quote
A common tactic by students pushed for time is to use too many quotes – or very long passages – from other people (scholars, sources and so on) to bolster the word count and reduce the amount of writing they actually have to do themselves. Try to avoid doing this if you can; it’s a transparent tactic and shows that you haven’t fully mastered the subject yourself, so you have to resort to hiding behind the words of others. The vast majority of the writing in the essay should be your own. Short quotes here and there, accompanied by your commentary on them, are a good thing; lots of long quotes that take up much of the essay, with little explanation from you, are not.
14. Keep your style concise
You’re not going to have time for long-winded sentences, so keep your written style as concise as possible. There’s nothing wrong with being short and to the point in your sentences, providing it adequately conveys what you want the essay to convey. Being economical with words will ensure that you express yourself clearly as well as saving you time, so it’s a good idea all round.
15. Try a change of scene
If you’re struggling to concentrate on writing your essay in your normal work space, a change of scene might be just what you need to focus your mind. If you normally work at home, try heading to the library or a local coffee shop to see if you can work any better there. If you’re distracted by noise at home, try some noise-cancelling headphones or simply put some music on.
16. Take a break (but only if you feel you need one)
It sounds counterintuitive when you’re pushed for time, but taking short breaks from time to time will stop you running out of energy and keep you focused. If you have two hours to write the essay, for instance, take a break for five minutes after you’ve worked for an hour. That said, if you’re really ‘in the zone’ and working efficiently, and you don’t feel you need a break, just work straight through and take advantage of your spate of productivity for as long as it lasts.
17. Don’t bother with the usual tricks
Many students try to trick their teacher into thinking that their essay is longer than it really is by widening the margins, selecting a bigger font and using wider line spacing. Your teacher will see straight through this, and it might irritate them – so don’t bother!
18. It’s OK to use Google for quick research
While Google is no substitute for reading what you’ve been told to read, it can be useful for quick definitions or getting to grips with something you’re struggling with at the last minute. Don’t rely on it, by any means, but if you’re writing your essay and haven’t quite understood something in class, a quick Google search should enable you to acquire the level of understanding you need.
19. Keep hydrated and fed
Make sure you drink plenty of water while you’re writing, as this will help you stay alert. You may also want to equip yourself with some snacks to keep you going, as this can make the process of writing an essay more bearable as well as maintaining your energy levels.
20. Reward yourself
Give yourself something to look forward to once you’ve finished the essay, as this will help to motivate you to complete it. It could be a chocolate bar, the promise of watching an episode of your favourite television show, or an evening out with friends – anything that will provide sufficient incentive to get your essay finished. You’ve worked intensively and have a great essay to show for it, so you deserve a reward!
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- Knowledge Base
The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples
An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.
There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.
The essay writing process consists of three main stages:
- Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
- Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
- Revision: Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.
Table of contents
Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.
The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .
For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.
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Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:
- Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
- Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
- Do your research: Read primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
- Come up with a thesis: The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
- Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.
The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.
1. Hook your reader
The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.
Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:
The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.
2. Provide background on your topic
Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.
3. Present the thesis statement
Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:
As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.
4. Map the structure
In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.
The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.
Write your essay introduction
The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.
Length of the body text
The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.
To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.
That idea is introduced in a topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.
After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.
Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.
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The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :
- Returns to your thesis
- Ties together your main points
- Shows why your argument matters
A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.
What not to include in a conclusion
To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:
- Including new arguments or evidence
- Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
- Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
Write your essay conclusion
My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).
My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.
My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.
I use paragraphs to structure the essay.
I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.
Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.
I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.
My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.
I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.
I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.
I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.
My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .
My essay has an interesting and informative title.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).
Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.
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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.
In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.
Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.
The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
- An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.
At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).
Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.
The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .
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Write Your Essay
Write a first draft.
Your first draft will help you work out:
- the structure and framework of your essay
- how you will answer the question
- which evidence and examples you will use
- how your argument will be logically structured.
Your first draft will not be your final essay; think of it as raw material you will refine through editing and redrafting . Once you have a draft, you can work on writing well.
Structure your essay in the most effective way to communicate your ideas and answer the question.
All essays should include the following structure.
A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay should contain:
- a topic sentence that states the main or controlling idea
- supporting sentences to explain and develop the point you’re making
- evidence from your reading or an example from the subject area that supports your point
- analysis of the implication/significance/impact of the evidence finished off with a critical conclusion you have drawn from the evidence
- a concluding sentence that restates your point, analyses the evidence, or acts as a transition to the next paragraph.
Tips for effective writing
- Start writing early —the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
- Keep the essay question in mind. Don’t lose track of the question or task. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft, edit and work out your argument.
- Don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end, especially not in a single sitting. Begin with what you are ready to write—a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. Start with the body and work paragraph by paragraph.
- Write the introduction and conclusion after the body. Once you know what your essay is about, then write the introduction and conclusion.
- Use 'signpost' words in your writing. Transition signals can help the reader follow the order and flow of your ideas.
- Integrate your evidence carefully. Introduce quotations and paraphrases with introductory phrases.
- Revise your first draft extensively. Make sure the entire essay flows and that the paragraphs are in a logical order.
- Put the essay aside for a few days. This allows you to consider your essay and edit it with a fresh eye.
Referencing your essay
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Essay and assignment writing guide
- Getting started
- Research the topic
- Organise your ideas
- Write your essay
- Reference your essay
- Edit your essay
- Hand in your essay
- Essay and assignment planning
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- Reflective writing
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Study Hacks Workshops | All the hacks you need! 5 Sep – 9 Nov 2023
7 Simple Tips on How to Start an Essay
If you’re anything like me, you often find you don’t know how to start your essay.
Have you ever sat there and stared at a blank page for 10 minutes straight?
Getting started is the hardest part of essay writing. This is the stage where procrastination can settle in and you get stuck in a rut.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students email me in distress 6 hours before their essay is due:
“Chris, can I pleaaasse have an extension? I have just been staring at my screen for weeks. I have no idea what to write!!!”
This sort of email does not go down well with your grader. Especially within three days of the due date. You don’t want to get to this stage.
So, here are some of the strategies that you can use when you’re procrastinating and don’t know how to start your essay. These are easy, actionable tips even when you’re totally stuck about what to write!
1. Skip the Introduction
Write the introduction last. Here’s why.
The hardest part is the first few words. Students stare at their computers, procrastinating for days about what to write first. So, skip the intro. It’ll be easier to write those first few words at the end of the process, not the start.
The introduction acts as an engaging orientation and overview of your topic. You will find that it will be so much easier to write the introduction once you know more about the topic. So, write the Introduction (and Conclusion) last.
Often students procrastinate because they treat the first words they write too preciously. Get yourself in the mindset that what you write in your early draft will likely not make the cut for your final submission. This helps to:
- Relieve the pressure. If you know what you write now doesn’t entirely matter, you’re more likely to start writing.
- Encourage you to put words on the page. Instead of crafting an engaging, perfect opening sentence, you’ll focus on adding important points that you know you want to make somewhere in the piece.
So, skip the introduction. Forget about it entirely. Just start writing something that is relevant to the essay topic with the knowledge that you can either delete it or edit it later on.
Just remember that the introduction and conclusion will take up about 100-150 words each. So, keep an eye on your word count and leave somewhere between 200 and 300 words to write the introduction and conclusion last.
2. Brainstorm Five Key Points you want to Say
Brainstorming helps you to come up with key points to write in your essay.
If you’re totally stuck about anything to write at all, you’ll need to start brainstorming. Get yourself a blank piece of paper out of your printer tray and write the essay question in the middle. Start writing ideas around the edges of the paper.
How to Brainstorm Get out a blank piece of paper and write any ideas that come to your head – no matter how bad! Just write any ideas or little bits of knowledge you think are relevant to your topic.
Let’s take an example essay – say: “How Climate Change will Impact the Future”.
You’ll want to write that in the middle. Then, around the edges of the page write some points that are relevant to the topic:
- What is climate change? (definition or explanation?)
- Temperatures are rising (by how much? – Look this up)
- Most scientists agree humans are causing temperature rise (What percentage? – Look this up)
- Some scientists disagree (Why? – look this up)
- Water levels might rise (Example? – Google this)
- Some animals might be endangered (Which animals?)
- More extreme weather conditions (Find a source that says this, eg. IPCC)
- Humans might need to migrate away from their homes (Florida?)
I wrote those bullet points from my incomplete knowledge of Climate Change.
This information is literally just information I’ve picked up from Facebook, casual TV watching, and conversations with friends. But, it’s enough for me to get started on an essay. If you’ve been attending a class on Climate Change, you’ll probably be able to write even more points than those I’ve come up with above.
You’ll need to find scholarly sources for your brainstormed points
If you’ve read my post on writing perfect paragraphs , you’ll already know how to turn a brainstormed idea into an amazing paragraph.
One point in my paragraph writing post is that you should provide at least two academic references per paragraph. Do you see how I’ve written in brackets what additional information I will need? That’s good practice to help you signpost for yourself what more you might want to find out on your points.
So, for each of these points I’ve brainstormed on Climate Change, I’ll need to find some academic sources to back them up. The next tips outline how you might go about finding sources to add depth to the ideas you’ve brainstormed.
3. Use key points from your Lecture Slides
The lecture slides are a gold mine for getting information for your essay.
You might have had trouble brainstorming key points. Or, you might have already found several good points to write about.
Either way, your next step is to look for additional information on the topic that was provided by your teacher. Here, you’ll be able to add more points to your brainstorming page .
The first place to find more information– which you can add as brainstorming points – is the lecture slides (or your own lecture notes ). If your course has weekly lectures, your teacher will have created lecture slides.
Where to find your Lecture Slides The lecture slides are usually provided on your class’s homepage. Nearly all universities use either the Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle learning management systems – these are the sites you’ll need to use to find your lecture slides. Have a scan around and try to find all the lecture slides your teacher has provided and download them.
You should add all the lecture slides to one folder on your computer, preferably in weekly order.
If your class has lectures but the teacher hasn’t provided the lecture slides online for you, send the professor an email … and ask for them!
You’ll want to be very respectful in this email. Before you send the email, you might want to check our page on Seven Emails that University Teachers Hate. In this post, you will learn how to write the ideal email to your teacher to get from them what you want.
Here’s a template you might want to use to send an email to your teacher:
Hi [Name] ,
I’m just working on my essay plan for our next assignment now. I really want to do well on this essay because I really need a [Insert Grade Here] in order to keep up my average grade. It’s really important to me.
I’ve looked through the class homepage but can’t find the lecture slides anywhere. They’re probably right under my nose but I just cannot find them!
I remember you made some really good points in the [Week XX] lecture and I wrote in my lecture notes to “refer to lecture slides”. But now I can’t find the slides!
I was wondering if you could please give me some guidance on where to find the lecture slides, or if they’re not online, email the relevant lecture slides for the assignment through to me so I can check what I meant when I wrote my notes?
Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it.
Regards, [Your full name] [The Class you’re in]
A few quick points about this email to keep in mind:
- Let your teacher know what grade you’re aiming for. It will be a psychological signpost to them when they’re grading your work. If they are equivocating about your grade, it will make a big difference if you’ve told them what you’re aiming for.
- Let your teacher know that you’ve done everything you can to help yourself. Nothing annoys a teacher more than a student who emails them every five minutes rather than putting in the effort themselves. Show that you’ve taken initiative.
- Let your teacher know that you’ve taken lecture notes. You don’t want them to think you want the lecture slides because you missed that week’s lecture. This also dissuades the teacher from emailing back a snarky comment about how you should have taken notes.
- Always start and end your email with a greeting and a thank you. Also, indicate what class you’re in – your teacher has several classes, and they probably don’t know your name. Make their life easy. Remind them.
Once you’ve got your lecture slides, read through them and add any new points that are relevant to your essay topic to the brainstorming page.
If your teacher has provided references to back up their slides, add them to your brainstorming points as well. You might need them when referencing the points.
4. Use the Articles your Teacher Provided
The readings are a must-use source to read when you’re stuck for ideas.
Teachers spend weeks finding readings that are relevant to their classes. I always make sure my readings are the ones that provide the clearest and most accurate information on the topics I’m teaching.
If you can’t think of anything else to say in your essay, you need to go back and find additional details from the assigned readings.
Set readings are therefore a key place to find information for your essay. Jump onto your class’s homepage to find these set or ‘recommended’ readings.
Once you’ve found the provided readings, save them onto your computer – all of them!
Just like the lecture slides, you want them saved on your computer to use at your leisure. Once you’ve downloaded them you should have a whole stack of readings to use as the foundation to fill out your essay ideas.
I mark students down who don’t reference the set readings. It gives the impression that they haven’t put the effort in. So, use them – a lot.
The set readings should add additional points to your essay. You should:
- Take notes on any specific examples used that are relevant to your essay
- Take down any facts and figures used that are relevant to your essay
- List the three or four main points that the essay makes. These should be clearly accessible in any journal article’s Abstract
The set readings will help add depth to your paragraphs by giving new information and details about an idea.
The difference between the top student and the average student in the class is engagement with readings. The top student has used the readings to add details. The average student skipped this step, and their essay is clearly nowhere near as good.
If you’re struggling with engaging with readings, finding them too hard to understand, or finding you’re spending over 30 minutes on one journal article, you might want to quickly have a look at our page on How to read Journal Articles to get some tips on how to extract key information from your set readings.
5. Find Additional Articles from Google Scholar
Once you’ve used your lecture slides and assigned readings to get ideas, head over to google scholar to get more ideas.
Google Scholar has improved enormously in recent years. About 2015 the rules changed about how journal articles could be stored and accessed, making it easier to bypass journals’ paywalls. Now, authors store their articles on their institution’s research bank or sites like academia.edu and researchgate.net . Google Scholar scours these sites and finds academic articles that everyone can access – for free!
Nowadays, you’ll be able to find tons of academic articles through Google Scholar.
What is Google Scholar? Google Scholar and Google are different search engines. Google Scholar will provide academic sources . Google will provide un-academic webpages that you should not reference. helpfulprofessor.com provides some great advice on what sources to use and not use in our series on finding quality sources.
In the google scholar search site, try out keywords related to your essay topic. Open up ten relevant pdf or Html links to relevant sources.
You’ll find that after reading the abstracts of the articles you’ll want to delete at least half of these sources, leaving 5 or so sources that you can reference in your essay .
Referencing additional readings is a great strategy for getting extra grades. It shows you’ve done your own independent research and pushes you to the top of the class.
Additional readings will also give you more information and details to add to your article. Find two or three key points from each additional reading and weave them into your essay in full, paraphrased paragraphs. To learn how to write full paraphrased paragraphs, you might want to take a look at our page on how to paraphrase like a pro or, better yet, take our Get Ahead in Essay Writing Masterclass course.
If you want to learn to master Google Scholar, read my long-form detailed post on Google Scholar here .
6. Write an Essay Plan
This is where the rubber hits the road.
If you’ve done points 1 to 4 above, you should have tons of points jotted down and ready to write your essay. To get started, you’ll want to quickly write an essay plan to help you structure your work. For students who really struggle with starting to write, essay plans are a great help.
The good news is that your essay plan is already half done. Those key brainstorming points you did in points 1 to 4 basically are your essay plan! All you need to do is list them in order of which one you want to say first.
Let’s look back at our key points on Climate Change:
The average paragraph is 150 words. If we include an introduction and conclusion and turn each key point into a paragraph, the essay plan will be:
- Introduction (150 words)
- What is climate change? (150 words)
- Temperatures are rising (150 words)
- Most scientists agree humans are causing temperature rise (150 words)
- Some scientists disagree (150 words)
- Water levels might rise (150 words)
- Some animals might be endangered (150 words)
- More extreme weather conditions (150 words)
- Humans might need to migrate away from their homes (150 words)
- Conclusion (150 words)
If your teacher wants you to write a 1500-word essay, then you’re bang on target to hit your planned word count. If not, don’t worry too much at this point. You might find that when you start writing you might end up going over or under the word count. That can be fixed later on.
Once the essay plan is done, all you need to do is start turning these key ideas into full paragraphs. The first sentence of the paragraph is easy: it’s your topic sentence. All you need to do is explain what the paragraph is about.
For example, your first sentence for your point on ‘Temperatures are rising’ will simply be: “Scientists have discovered that climate change is causing the global sea and air temperatures to rise.” Then, you’ll need to finish off that paragraph with 3 to 5 more sentences to create a full 4 to 6-sentence paragraph.
Fore advice on how to turn an idea into an amazing paragraph, check my formula for perfect paragraphs or my list of the best words to start a paragraph .
7. Email your Teacher with your Ideas
This one tip separates average students from top students.
Not sure if your ideas are correct? Email your instructor to get support. Not to worry. You can always email your teacher to get support. No matter how much teachers like to grumble about their students nagging them, it’s their job and they’re paid for it.
Furthermore, if your teacher knows your name, they’re more likely to grade your work kindly . So, it’s a good idea to send the occasional polite, constructive email letting your teacher know you are an engaged and enthusiastic student. You’ll get bonus points for the effort.
As I’ve mentioned already, the key to a good email to your teacher is to:
- Show Initiative. Show them you’ve taken the initiative and thought about the topic before contacting them;
- Show You Care. Show them that you’re contacting them because you care about getting great grades on their assignment;
- Be Professional. Being professional and respectful (‘Hello’, ‘Thankyou’ and ‘Regards’ are three must-use terms)
So, when you email your teacher your ideas, let them know you’ve already come up with some ideas and that you want their advice on how good your ideas are . Ask them what they think of your ideas, and whether they might have any tips on how to improve upon them.
You’ll find that most teachers have a clear idea about what they expect in your essay. They’ll tell you whether you’ve done well, and they should give a quick tip on what additional points our sources might want to use to gain extra grades.
You need to start your essay early. Aim to finish up a full draft with at least a week to go before submission. This is because:
- You want to edit your work. You want to have time to leave your essay aside and come back to your essay with eyes to edit it. See our page on Five ways Top Students Edit their Work for more advice on this;
- Something might come up. You want to make sure you have some grace in case something comes up – work might call you in to work double shifts, your car might break down, or you might get sick. Asking for extensions looks really bad, so give yourself time so you don’t ever have to do this.
So, let’s sum up our seven steps for starting an essay when you’ve got no idea what to write:
I hope this post has been useful for all the procrastinators out there who are struggling with their essays! If you found it helpful, please share the infographic on your social media account, university website, or blog. Just remember to please include a link straight back to this page.
Chris Drew (PhD)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 47 Easy Networking Examples (Great for Introverts)
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 75 People Skills Examples
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 101 Strongest Attributes to list on a Resume (with Examples)
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 10 Equivocation Fallacy Examples
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Essay Writing Tips: 10 Steps to Writing a Great Essay (And Have Fun Doing It!)
by Joe Bunting | 117 comments
Do you dread essay writing? Are you looking for some essay tips that will help you write an amazing essay—and have fun doing it?
Lots of students, young and old, dread essay writing. It's a daunting assignment, one that takes research, time, and concentration.
It's also an assignment that you can break up into simple steps that make writing an essay manageable and, yes, even enjoyable.
These ten essay tips completely changed my writing process—and I hope that they can do the same for you.
Essay Writing Can Be Fun
Honestly, throughout most of high school and college, I was a mediocre essay writer.
Every once in a while, I would write a really good essay, but mostly I skated by with B's and A-minuses.
I know personally how boring writing an essay can be, and also, how hard it can be to write a good one.
However, toward the end of my time as a student, I made a breakthrough. I figured out how to not only write a great essay, I learned how to have fun while doing it .
And since then, I've become a professional writer and have written more than a dozen books. I'm not saying that these essay writing tips are going to magically turn you into a writer, but at least they can help you enjoy the process more.
I'm excited to share these ten essay writing tips with you today! But first, we need to talk about why writing an essay is so hard.
Why Writing an Essay Is So Hard
When it comes to essay writing, a lot of students find a reason to put it off. And when they tackle it, they find it difficult to string sentences together that sound like a decent stance on the assigned subject.
Here are a few reasons why essay writing is hard:
- You'd rather be scrolling through Facebook
- You're trying to write something your teacher or professor will like
- You're trying to get an A instead of writing something that's actually good
- You want to do the least amount of work possible
The biggest reason writing an essay is so hard is because we mostly focus on those external rewards like getting a passing grade, winning our teacher's approval, or just avoiding accusations of plagiarism.
The problem is that when you focus on external approval it not only makes writing much less fun, it also makes it significantly harder.
Because when you focus on external approval, you shut down your subconscious, and the subconscious is the source of your creativity.
The subconscious is the source of your creativity.
What this means practically is that when you're trying to write that perfect, A-plus-worthy sentence, you're turning off most of your best resources and writing skills.
So stop. Stop trying to write a good essay (or even a “good-enough” essay). Instead, write an interesting essay, write an essay you think is fascinating. And when you're finished, go back and edit it until it's “good” according to your teacher's standards.
Yes, you need to follow the guidelines in your assignment. If your teacher tells you to write a five-paragraph essay, then write a five-paragraph essay! If your teacher asks for a specific type of essay, like an analysis, argument, or research essay, then make sure you write that type of essay!
However, within those guidelines, find room to express something that is uniquely you .
I can't guarantee you'll get a higher grade (although, you almost certainly will), but I can absolutely promise you'll have a lot more fun writing.
The Step-by-Step Process to Writing a Great Essay: Your 10 Essay Writing Tips
Ready to get writing? You can read my ten best tips for having fun while writing an essay that earns you the top grade, or check out this presentation designed by our friends at Canva Presentations .
1. Remember your essay is just a story.
Every story is about conflict and change, and the truth is that essays are about conflict and change, too! The difference is that in an essay, the conflict is between different ideas , and the change is in the way we should perceive those ideas.
That means that the best essays are about surprise: “You probably think it's one way, but in reality, you should think of it this other way.” See tip #3 for more on this.
How do you know what story you're telling? The prompt should tell you.
Any list of essay prompts includes various topics and tasks associated with them. Within those topics are characters (historical, fictional, or topical) faced with difficult choices. Your job is to work with those choices, usually by analyzing them, arguing about them, researching them, or describing them in detail.
2. Before you start writing, ask yourself, “How can I have the most fun writing this?”
It's normal to feel unmotivated when writing an academic essay. I'm a writer, and honestly, I feel unmotivated to write all the time. But I have a super-ninja, judo-mind trick I like to use to help motivate myself.
Here's the secret trick: One of the interesting things about your subconscious is that it will answer any question you ask yourself. So whenever you feel unmotivated to write your essay, ask yourself the following question:
“How much fun can I have writing this?”
Your subconscious will immediately start thinking of strategies to make the writing process more fun.
The best time to have your fun is the first draft. Since you're just brainstorming within the topic, and exploring the possible ways of approaching it, the first draft is the perfect place to get creative and even a little scandalous. Here are some wild suggestions to make your next essay a load of fun:
- Research the most surprising or outrageous fact about the topic and use it as your hook.
- Use a thesaurus to research the topic's key words. Get crazy with your vocabulary as you write, working in each key word synonym as much as possible.
- Play devil's advocate and take the opposing or immoral side of the issue. See where the discussion takes you as you write.
3. As you research, ask yourself, “What surprises me about this subject?”
The temptation, when you're writing an essay, is to write what you think your teacher or professor wants to read.
Don't do this .
Instead, ask yourself, “What do I find interesting about this subject? What surprises me?”
If you can't think of anything that surprises you, anything you find interesting, then you're not searching well enough, because history, science, and literature are all brimming over with surprises. When you look at how great ideas actually happen, the story is always, “We used to think the world was this way. We found out we were completely wrong, and that the world is actually quite different from what we thought.”
These pieces of surprising information often make for the best topic sentences as well. Use them to outline your essay and build your body paragraphs off of each unique fact or idea. These will function as excellent hooks for your reader as you transition from one topic to the next.
(By the way, what sources should you use for research? Check out tip #10 below.)
4. Overwhelmed? Write five original sentences.
The standard three-point essay is really made up of just five original sentences surrounded by supporting paragraphs that back up those five sentences. If you're feeling overwhelmed, just write five sentences covering your most basic main points.
Here's what they might look like for this article:
- Introductory Paragraph: While most students consider writing an essay a boring task, with the right mindset, it can actually be an enjoyable experience.
- Body #1: Most students think writing an essay is tedious because they focus on external rewards.
- Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay.
- Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, it will also result in better essays.
- Conclusion: Writing an essay doesn't have to be simply a way to earn a good grade. Instead, it can be a means of finding fulfillment.
After you write your five sentences, it's easy to fill in the paragraphs for each one.
Now, you give it a shot!
5. Be “source heavy.”
In college, I discovered a trick that helped me go from a B-average student to an A-student, but before I explain how it works, let me warn you. This technique is powerful , but it might not work for all teachers or professors. Use with caution.
As I was writing a paper for a literature class, I realized that the articles and books I was reading said what I was trying to say much better than I ever could. So what did I do? I quoted them liberally throughout my paper. When I wasn't quoting, I re-phrased what they said in my own words, giving proper credit, of course. I found that not only did this formula create a well-written essay, it took about half the time to write.
It's good to keep in mind that using anyone else's words, even when morphed into your own phrasing, requires citation. While the definition of plagiarism is shifting with the rise of online collaboration and cooperative learning environments, always err on the side of excessive citation to be safe.
When I used this technique, my professors sometimes mentioned that my papers were very “source” heavy. However, at the same time, they always gave me A's.
To keep yourself safe, I recommend using a 60/40 approach with your body paragraphs: Make sure 60% of the words are your own analysis and argumentation, while 40% can be quoted (or text you paraphrase) from your sources.
Like the five sentence trick, this technique makes the writing process simpler. Instead of putting the main focus on writing well, it instead forces you to research well, which some students find easier.
6. Write the body first, the introduction second, and the conclusion last.
Introductions are often the hardest part to write because you're trying to summarize your entire essay before you've even written it yet. Instead, try writing your introduction last, giving yourself the body of the paper to figure out the main point of your essay.
This is especially important with an essay topic you are not personally interested in. I definitely recommend this in classes you either don't excel in or care much for. Take plenty of time to draft and revise your body paragraphs before attempting to craft a meaningful introductory paragraph.
Otherwise your opening may sound awkward, wooden, and bland.
7. Most essays answer the question, “What?” Good essays answer the “Why?” The best essays answer the “How?”
If you get stuck trying to make your argument, or you're struggling to reach the required word count, try focusing on the question, “How?”
- How did J.D. Salinger convey the theme of inauthenticity in The Catcher In the Rye ?
- How did Napoleon restore stability in France after the French Revolution?
- How does the research prove girls really do rule and boys really do drool?
If you focus on how, you'll always have enough to write about.
8. Don't be afraid to jump around.
Essay writing can be a dance. You don't have to stay in one place and write from beginning to end.
For the same reasons listed in point #6, give yourself the freedom to write as if you're circling around your topic rather than making a single, straightforward argument. Then, when you edit and proofread, you can make sure everything lines up correctly.
In fact, now is the perfect time to mention that proofreading your essay isn't just about spelling and commas.
It's about making sure your analysis or argument flows smoothly from one idea to another. (Okay, technically this comprises editing, but most students writing a high school or college essay don't take the time to complete every step of the writing process. Let's be honest.)
So as you clean up your mechanics and sentence structure, make sure your ideas flow smoothly, logically, and naturally from one to the next as you finish proofreading.
9. Here are some words and phrases you don't want to use.
- You (You'll notice I use a lot of you's, which is great for a blog post. However, in an academic essay, it's better to omit the second-person.)
- To Be verbs (is, are, was, were, am)
Don't have time to edit? Here's a lightning-quick editing technique .
A note about “I”: Some teachers say you shouldn't use “I” statements in your writing, but the truth is that professional, academic papers often use phrases like “I believe” and “in my opinion,” especially in their introductions.
10. It's okay to use Wikipedia, if…
Wikipedia is one of the top five websites in the world for a reason: it can be a great tool for research. However, most teachers and professors don't consider Wikipedia a valid source for use in essays.
Don't totally discount it, though! Here are two ways you can use Wikipedia in your essay writing:
- Background research. If you don't know enough about your topic, Wikipedia can be a great resource to quickly learn everything you need to know to get started.
- Find sources . Check the reference section of Wikipedia's articles on your topic. While you may not be able to cite Wikipedia itself, you can often find those original sources and cite them . You can locate the links to primary and secondary sources at the bottom of any Wikipedia page under the headings “Further Reading” and “References.”
You Can Enjoy Essay Writing
The thing I regret most about high school and college is that I treated it like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.
The truth is, education is an opportunity many people in the world don't have access to.
It's a gift, not just something that makes your life more difficult. I don't want you to make the mistake of just “getting by” through school, waiting desperately for summer breaks and, eventually, graduation.
How would your life be better if you actively enjoyed writing an essay? What would school look like if you wanted to suck it dry of all the gifts it has to give you?
All I'm saying is, don't miss out!
Looking for More Essay Writing Tips?
Looking for more essay tips to strengthen your essay writing? Try some of these resources:
- 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay
- Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement
How about you? Do you have any tips for writing an essay? Let us know in the comments .
Need more grammar help? My favorite tool that helps find grammar problems and even generates reports to help improve my writing is ProWritingAid . Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 20 percent off: WritePractice20
Coupon Code:WritePractice20 »
Ready to try out these ten essay tips to make your essay assignment fun? Spend fifteen minutes using tip #4 and write five original sentences that could be turned into an essay.
When you're finished, share your five sentences in the comments section. And don't forget to give feedback to your fellow writers!
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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Back to school? How ChatGPT can help you with your essay writing
ChatGPT's advanced capabilities have created a huge demand , with the AI tool accumulating over 100 million users within two months of launching. One of the biggest standout features has been its ability to compose all sorts of text within seconds, including songs, poems, bedtime stories, and essays .
How to use ChatGPT to write: Code | Excel formulas | Resumes | Cover letters
Contrary to popular opinion, ChatGPT can do much more than just write an essay for you (which would be considered plagiarism). A more useful trick is how it can help guide your writing process. We show you how to use ChatGPT to do both the writing and assisting, as well as some other helpful writing tips.
How ChatGPT can help you write an essay
If you are looking for ways to use ChatGPT to support or replace your writing, here are five different ways to explore.
It is also worth noting before you get started that other AI chatbots can output the same results as ChatGPT or are even better, depending on your needs.
Also : 4 things Claude AI can do that ChatGPT can't
For example, Bing Chat has access to the internet, and as a result, it can source its answers from recent information and current events. Bing Chat also includes footnotes linking back to the original source for all of its responses. This makes Bing Chat a more valuable tool if you're writing a paper on a more recent event, or if you want to verify your sources.
Regardless of which AI chatbot you pick, you can use all of the tips below to get the most out of your prompts and AI assistance.
1. Use ChatGPT to generate essay ideas
Before you can even get started writing an essay, you need to flesh out the idea. When professors assign essays, they generally give students a prompt that gives them leeway for their own self-expression and analysis.
As a result, students have the task of finding the angle to approach the essay on their own. If you have written an essay recently, you know that finding the angle is often the trickiest part -- and this is where ChatGPT can help.
Also: 5 handy AI tools for school that students, teachers, and parents can use, too
All you need to do is input the assignment topic, include as much detail as you'd like -- such as what you're thinking about covering -- and let ChatGPT do the rest. For example, based on a paper prompt I had in college, I asked:
Can you help me come up with a topic idea for this assignment, "You will write a research paper or case study on a leadership topic of your choice." I would like it to include Blake and Mouton's Managerial Leadership Grid, and possibly a historical figure.
Also : Meet generative AI's 'super users': 70% of Gen Z use GenAI
Within seconds, the chatbot produced a response that provided me with the title of the essay, options of historical figures I could focus my article on, and insight on what information I could include in my paper, with specific examples of a case study I could use.
2. Use the chatbot to create an outline
Once you have a solid topic, it's time to start brainstorming what you actually want to include in the essay. To facilitate the writing process, I always create an outline, including all the different points I want to touch upon in my essay. However, the outline writing process is usually tedious.
With ChatGPT, all you have to do is ask it to write the outline for you.
Also : These are my 5 favorite AI tools for work
Using the topic that ChatGPT helped me generate in step one, I asked the chatbot to write me an outline by saying:
Can you create an outline for a paper, "Examining the Leadership Style of Winston Churchill through Blake and Mouton's Managerial Leadership Grid."
After a couple of seconds, the chatbot outputted a holistic outline divided into seven different sections, with three different points under each section.
Also: The best AI art generators to try
This outline is thorough and can be condensed for a shorter essay or elaborated on for a longer paper. If you don't like something or want to tweak it further, you can do so either manually or with more instructions to ChatGPT.
As mentioned before, since Bing Chat is connected to the internet, if you use Bing Chat to produce the outline, it will even include links and sources throughout, further expediting your essay-writing process.
3. Use ChatGPT to find sources
Now that you know exactly what you want to write, it's time to find reputable sources to get your information. If you don't know where to start, you can just ask ChatGPT.
Also: How to make ChatGPT provide sources and citations
All you need to do is ask it to find sources for your essay topic. For example, I asked it the following:
Can you help me find sources for a paper, "Examining the Leadership Style of Winston Churchill through Blake and Mouton's Managerial Leadership Grid."
The chatbot outputs seven sources, with a bullet point for each that explains what the source was and why it could be useful.
Also: How to use ChatGPT to make charts and tables
The one caveat you will want to be aware of when using ChatGPT for sources is that it does not have access to information after 2021, so it will not be able to suggest the freshest sources. If you want up-to-date information, you can always use Bing Chat.
4. Use ChatGPT to write a sample essay
It is worth noting that if you take the text directly from the chatbot and submit it, your work could be considered a form of plagiarism, since it is not your original work. As with any information taken from another source, text generated by an AI should be clearly identified and credited in your work.
Also: 4 ways teachers can use ChatGPT in their classrooms, according to OpenAI
In most educational institutions, the penalties for plagiarism are severe, ranging from a failing grade to expulsion from the school.
If you want ChatGPT to create a sample piece of text, enter the topic, the desired length, and then watch what it generates. For example, I input the following text:
Can you write a five-paragraph essay on the topic, "Examining the Leadership Style of Winston Churchill through Blake and Mouton's Managerial Leadership Grid."
Within seconds, the chatbot gave the exact output I required: a coherent, five-paragraph essay on the topic that I could use to guide my own writing.
Also: Grammarly's new AI tools for students roll out for back-to-school season
At this point it's worth remembering how tools like ChatGPT work : they put words together in a form that they think is statistically valid, but they don't know if what they are saying is true or accurate.
As a result, the output you recieve might include invented facts or details or other oddities. The tool won't be able to create original work because it is simply aggregating everything it has already absorbed. The output might be a useful starting point for your own work, but don't expect it to be inspired or accurate.
5. Use ChatGPT to co-edit your essay
Once you've written your own essay, you can use ChatGPT's advanced writing capabilities to edit the piece for you.
You can simply tell the chatbot what you want it to edit. For example, I asked ChatGPT to edit our five-paragraph essay for structure and grammar, but other options could have included flow, tone, and more.
Also: How this simple ChatGPT prompt tweak can help refine your AI-generated content
Once you ask the tool to edit your essay, it will prompt you to paste your text into the chatbot. ChatGPT will then output your essay with corrections made. This feature is particularly useful because ChatGPT edits your essay more thoroughly than a basic proofreading tool, as it goes beyond simply checking spelling.
You can also co-edit with the chatbot, asking it to take a look at a specific paragraph or sentence, and asking it to rewrite or fix the text for clarity. Personally, I find this feature very helpful.
How to write better ChatGPT prompts for the best generative AI results
5 handy AI tools for school that students, teachers, and parents can use, too
Uh oh, now AI is better than you at prompt engineering
12 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Academic Essay Writing Skills
Written by Scribendi
Anyone can learn to produce an academic essay if they begin with a few basic essay-writing rules.
An academic essay must be based upon a solid but debatable thesis, supported by relevant and credible evidence, and closed with a succinct and thorough conclusion.
By adhering to the best way to write an essay, you can create valuable, persuasive papers even when you're under a time crunch!
What Makes a Good Essay?
As previously noted, the foundation of any good academic essay is its thesis statement.
Do not confuse your thesis with your opening sentence. There are many good ways to start an essay , but few essays immediately present their main ideas.
After you draft your thesis, you can begin to develop your essay around it. This development will include the main supporting points of your essay, which will scaffold its main body.
Essays also typically include a relevant and compelling introduction and conclusion.
Learn How to Write a Great Thesis Statement .
Understanding How to Write a Good Essay
When writing an academic essay, you must take a number of qualities and characteristics into careful consideration. Focus, development, unity, coherence, and correctness all play critical roles when it comes to distinguishing an exceptional essay from one that is less than perfect.
The following essay-writing tips can help writers organize, format, and support their essays in ways that fit their intended purpose and optimize their overall persuasiveness. Here are 12 essay tips for developing and writing your next academic paper.
1. Know What You Are Going to Write About Before You Start Writing
While untrained writers might just sit down and start typing, educated and experienced writers know that there are many steps to writing an essay.
In short, you should know what you want to say before you type a single word. The easiest way to narrow down a thesis and create a proper argument is to make a basic outline before you begin composing your essay.
Your outline should consist of rough notes that sketch out your introduction (including your thesis), the body of your essay (which should include separate paragraphs that present your main supporting points with plenty of evidence and examples), and your conclusion (which ties everything together and connects the argument back to your thesis).
2. Acquire a Solid Understanding of Basic Grammar, Punctuation, and Style
Before getting into more refined essay-writing techniques, you must have a solid grasp of grammar, punctuation, and style. Without these writing fundamentals, it will be difficult to communicate your ideas effectively and ensure that they are taken seriously.
Grammar basics include subject and verb agreement, correct article and pronoun use, and well-formed sentence structures. Make sure you know the proper uses for the most common forms of punctuation. Be mindful of your comma usage and know when a period is needed.
Finally, voice is tremendously important in academic essay writing. Employ language that is as concise as possible. Avoid transition words that don't add anything to the sentence and unnecessary wordiness that detracts from your argument.
Furthermore, use the active voice instead of the passive whenever possible (e.g., "this study found" instead of "it was found by this study"). This will make your essay's tone clear and direct.
3. Use the Right Vocabulary and Know What the Words You Are Using Actually Mean
How you use language is important, especially in academic essay writing. When writing an academic essay, remember that you are persuading others that you are an expert who argues intelligently about your topic.
Using big words just to sound smart often results in the opposite effect—it is easy to detect when someone is overcompensating in their writing.
If you aren't sure of the exact meaning of a word, you risk using it incorrectly. There's no shame in checking, and it might save you from an embarrassing word misuse later!
Using obscure language can also detract from the clarity of your argument—you should consider this before pulling out a thesaurus to change a perfectly appropriate word to something completely different.
Want to learn more? Read 10 Academic Phrases Your Writing Doesn't Need .
4. Understand the Argument and Critically Analyze the Evidence
While writing a good essay, your main argument should always be at the front of your mind. While it's tempting to go off on a tangent about an interesting side note, doing so makes your writing less concise.
Always question the evidence you include in your essay; ask yourself, "Does this directly support my thesis?" If the answer is "no," then that evidence should probably be excluded.
When you are evaluating evidence, be critical and thorough. You want to use the strongest research to back up your thesis. It is not enough to simply present evidence in support of an argument. A good writer must also explain why the evidence is relevant and supportive.
Everything you include should clearly connect to your topic and argument.
5. Know How to Write a Conclusion That Supports Your Research
One of the most overlooked steps to writing an essay is the conclusion. Your conclusion ties all your research together and proves your thesis. It should not be a restatement of your introduction or a copy-and-paste of your thesis.
A strong conclusion briefly outlines the key evidence discussed in the body of an essay and directly ties it to the thesis to show how the evidence proves or disproves the main argument of your research.
Countless great essays have been written only to be derailed by vague, weakly worded conclusions. Don't let your next essay become one of those.
6. Build a Solid Thesis to Support Your Arguments
A thesis is the main pillar of an essay. By selecting a specific thesis, you'll be able to develop arguments to support your central opinion. Consider writing about a unique experience or your own particular view of a topic .
Your thesis should be clear and logical, but it should also be debatable. Otherwise, it might be difficult to support it with compelling arguments.
7. Develop an Interesting Opening Paragraph to Hook In Readers from the Get-Go
No matter how you begin your essay, you must strive to capture the reader's interest immediately. If your opening paragraph doesn't catch the eye and engage the brain, any attempt at persuasion may end before the essay even starts.
The beginning of your essay is crucial for setting the stage for your thesis.
8. Always Remember to Edit and Proofread Your Essay
Any decent writer will tell you that writing is really rewriting. A good academic essay will inevitably go through multiple drafts as it slowly takes shape. When you arrive at a final draft, you must make sure that it is as close to perfect as possible.
This means subjecting your essay to close and comprehensive editing and proofreading processes. In other words, you must read your paper as many times as necessary to eliminate all grammar/punctuation mistakes and typos.
Here are some common mistakes you should learn to avoid in academic writing.
It is helpful to have a third party review your work. Consider consulting a peer or professional editing service. Keep in mind that professional editors are able to help you identify underdeveloped arguments and unnecessarily wordy language, and provide other feedback.
Get Critical Feedback on Your Writing
Hire an expert academic editor , or get a free sample, 9. when developing your essay's main body, build strong and relevant arguments.
Every sentence in the main body of your paper should explain and support your thesis. When deciding how much evidence to include in an academic essay, a good guideline is to include at least three main supporting arguments.
Those main supporting arguments, in turn, require support in the form of relevant facts, figures, examples, analogies, and observations.
You will need to engage in appropriate research to accomplish this. To organize your research efforts, you may want to develop a list of good research questions .
Learn how to write a research question that will help frame your research.
10. Choose the Format of Your Essay before Writing It
The final shape that your essay takes depends a great deal on what kind of format you use. Popular college essay format types include the Modern Language Association of America ( MLA ), American Psychological Association ( APA ), and Chicago Manual of Style ( Chicago style).
These formats govern everything from capitalization rules to source citation. Often, professors dictate a specific format for your essay. If they do not, you should choose the format that best suits your field.
11. Create Clear Transitions between Your Ideas
Although unnecessary transition words are the enemy of clarity and concision, they can be invaluable tools when it comes to separating and connecting the different sections of your essay.
Not only do they help you express your ideas but they also bring a cohesive structure to your sentences and a pleasant flow to your writing. Just be sure that you are using the right transition words for the right purpose and to the proper effect.
12. Always Include an Organized Reference Page at the End of Your Essay
As a key component of MLA, APA, and Chicago Style formatting, the reference or Works Cited page is an essential part of any academic essay.
Regardless of the format used, the reference page must be well organized and easy to read so that your audience can see exactly where your outside information came from.
To produce a properly formatted reference page, you may have to familiarize yourself with specialized phrases and abbreviations, such as " et al ."
How to Write a Good Hook for an Essay
The key to a good hook is to introduce an unexplored or absorbing line of inquiry in your introduction that addresses the main point of your thesis.
By carefully choosing your language and slowly revealing details, you can build reader anticipation for what follows.
Much like an actual worm-baited fishing hook, a successful hook will lure and capture readers, allowing the writer to "reel them in."
How to Get Better at Writing Essays
You can get better at writing essays the same way that you improve at anything else: practice, practice, practice! However, there are a few ways that you can improve your writing quickly so you can turn in a quality academic essay on time.
In addition to following the 12 essay tips and guidelines above, you can familiarize yourself with a few common practices and structures for essay development.
Great writing techniques for essays include brainstorming and tree diagrams, especially when coming up with a topic for your thesis statement. Becoming familiar with different structures for organizing your essay (order of importance, chronological, etc.) is also extremely helpful.
How to Write a Good Introduction for an Essay
To learn how to write a good essay, you must also learn how to write a good introduction.
Most effective essay introductions begin with relatively broad and general subject matter and then gradually narrow in focus and scope until they arrive at something extremely specific: the thesis. This is why writers tend to place their thesis statements at the very end of their introductory paragraph(s).
Because they are generally broad and often relate only tangentially to an essay's main point, there is virtually no limit on what the beginning of a good introduction can look like. However, writers still tend to rely on somewhat cliché opening sentences, such as quotations and rhetorical questions.
How to Write a Good Conclusion for an Essay
Briefly put, a good conclusion does two things. It wraps up any loose ends and drives home the main point of your essay.
To learn how to write a good conclusion, you will want to ensure that no unanswered questions remain in the reader's mind. A good conclusion will restate the thesis and reinforce the essay's main supporting points.
Take Your Essay from Good to Great
About the author.
Scribendi's in-house editors work with writers from all over the globe to perfect their writing. They know that no piece of writing is complete without a professional edit, and they love to see a good piece of writing turn into a great one after the editing process. Scribendi's in-house editors are unrivaled in both experience and education, having collectively edited millions of words and obtained nearly 20 degrees collectively. They love consuming caffeinated beverages, reading books of various genres, and relaxing in quiet, dimly lit spaces.
Have You Read?
"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"
How Academic Writing Differs from Other Forms of Writing
How to Master the 4 Types of Academic Writing
The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing
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