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How to Write an Essay: Tricks and Tips

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/17/2012

If you’re given an essay topic, what do you do? Just pull out a paper and start writing? If so, these ideas on how to write the perfect essay can help you understand where you’re going wrong. Try some of these essay writing tips to research or structure your essay before you even begin.

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    Essay Writing Tip 1 - Research FIRST: The Right Way to Research

    Does your essay require research to back up your main idea? If so, you might be tempted to come up with your opinion and then do research to try to prove it. Good idea? Not quite.

    The right way to research – and the way to write the perfect essay – is to dive into your research first. Mark down the pages that you think have important information, and take general notes on them if you’d like. Get an overall idea about your topic so that you become knowledgeable about it. Then go through your notes and try to think of the best essay topic you can write based on those notes. That way, you know that you’ll have plenty of information to use as support for your main idea. When you decide on a strong idea for your essay, you can always go back and take notes in earnest, keeping your main idea in mind.

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    Essay Writing Tip 2 - Brainstorming Ideas

    Even if your essay does not require research, diving into writing it without thinking it through is a recipe for disaster. Instead, take some time to brainstorm about the topic you plan to write about. There are three main ways to brainstorm effectively. You can freewrite, or just write down whatever comes into your head, without self-editing anything at all. You can brainstorm a list of ideas that pop into your head, also making sure to write down absolutely anything that you think of (you can always cross things out later). Alternatively, you can use an idea web or another writing graphic organizer by writing your main idea in the center of the paper and then connecting other ideas around it, and other ideas to those.

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    Essay Writing Tip 3 - Organizing Your Thoughts: Pulling Out the Weeds

    When you’re finished brainstorming, no matter which method you use, organize the ideas that you have. Cross out ideas that don’t seem to relate to what you want to write about, and circle or highlight those that you think are very important. This may be a good time to write an outline or create a graphic organizer to put your thoughts into a coherent order, and to make sure you understand how everything ties together. Outlines and graphic organizers can help you make sure that your paper will be structured well, and they can also help you figure out what information you are missing before you write your essay.

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    Essay Writing Tip 4 - The Bookends of Your Essay: Introduction and Conclusion

    Many students think that writing the body of the essay is the hard part, and they put all of their focus into that. While the body of the essay is important, the bookends that you use – the introduction and conclusion – are what will keep the essay together and help it make sense. Come up with an attention-grabbing way to start your essay, such as a mind-boggling question, a powerful quote, or a startling statistic. Then make sure that your introduction gives the reader an idea of what will come in the body of the essay.

    The conclusion is one of the toughest parts of an essay to write. You don’t just want to repeat what you’ve already written, but you do want to tie it all together and make sure that your reader comes away with the intended message. Quickly recap what the main points you’ve discussed in your essay, and then try to take the main idea to a new level. For example, you might want to answer the “So what?” question, which will help your reader connect what you’ve written to their own lives, or to the world at large.

    These essay writing tips on how to write the perfect essay can help you figure out how to approach the essay-writing process. Try them out, and leave a comment about how they worked for you!

Essay Writing Strategies

Trying to write an essay and not sure where to start? This series contains several articles on how to write a stellar essay - from introduction to conclusion.
  1. How to Write an Essay: Tricks and Tips
  2. How to Write a Conclusion Paragraph