Writing a Successful Essay: From General Tips to Specific Challenges
What Is an Essay?
An essay is often defined as a short piece of academic writing that deals with a single subject and provides the author’s own argument on it. Essay writing is one of the most common types of assignment that students are faced with while studying at university. Many students typically perceive essays as the easiest assignment type they have to face throughout their academic career. However, this light-mindedness can cost you good marks, to say the least.
While commonly viewed as one of the easiest academic tasks, writing an essay still requires a full commitment, highly developed writing and critical thinking skills, and the ability to use one’s time as effectively and productively as possible to meet tight deadlines.
Apart from its obvious impact on your grades, the ability to write high-quality essays is crucial for the overall success of your academic journey. The skills and experience you gain by writing essays would help you in dealing with more complex and demanding tasks, including reports and especially a dissertation. However, to master the art of writing excellent essays, you need to get a deep understanding of what it takes to accomplish such a challenging task. Below you will find an ultimate guide to writing high-class essays.
Types of Essays
Traditionally, scholars distinguish between five major types of essays, namely argumentative, narrative, descriptive, reflective, critical, and analytical. Below, you can find the key characteristics of each essay type, as well as how it differs from its counterparts.
When discussing information and facts in a structured manner, we usually resort to two skills of essay writing – Informative form and Argumentative form. While writing informational essays, the key is to provide, describe, and explain facts and information.
When writing an informative essay, there is no straightforward methodology involved. The information can be simply provided with an introduction, followed by body text and conclusion for a compare and contrast topic. Interestingly, information can be based upon a problem-solution context or in a particular order. Notably, informative essays should not portray an opinion or a viewpoint. An informative essay has the potential to explain a convoluted topic in an uncomplicated manner.
When writing argumentative essays, the essence is in providing reasons for a statement or information so that the reader agrees with the information in the end. In other words, argumentative essays push a reader to accept the writer’s perception.
With an argumentative essay, you need to structure your points in a crisp and clear manner. The process includes collection, generation, evaluation of evidence and establishing a position on the subject. From the off-set, the subject should be described, followed by a clear thesis statement. When writing about the evidence for the statement, it is imperative that the transition from one paragraph to another is made in a logical manner, as you will be convincing the reader to accept your point of view. Argumentative essays can be both long and short depending upon the complexity of the topic.
An analytical essay revolves around the analysis and critique of an idea or an issue. This is common in writing a law essay or an economics essay. While this seems to be a straightforward task, it rarely proves to be so. This is because analytical essays need to cover several aspects of analysis. Before the essay writing process begins, you need to have a complete understanding of the topic that you will be analysing. You also need to be clear about the kind of analytical essay that you would be writing.
More often than not students describe the issue or the idea in too much detail while writing their essays. Stating the idea is important, but the main purpose of such an essay is to analyse the idea rather than restating it. Restating the idea is not something that should take up too much of your word count. Instead, you need to focus on analysing the validity of the idea by seeking the most appropriate examples and evidence. Finally, it is also important to understand the importance of not overcomplicating your analysis. Your analysis should be concise and yet cover all major elements.
Unlike argumentative or analytical essays, critical appraisal essays are the trickiest ones, as they require developing elaborated critique on a single article, book, or phenomenon. Hence, you are supposed to go far beyond presenting a few superficial criticisms, which is impossible without examining other literature sources and understanding the subject as a whole.
The author you are trying to appraise definitely had an objective, which they shared with their readers. Your task is to recognise this objective and give arguments regarding how well it was achieved. It is an absurd situation when students attempt to evaluate the core source against the aims it has never established or claimed to achieve.
You are also expected to show that you are ready not only to criticise but also to come up with alternative solutions. Your suggestions should be specific, reasonable, and realistic.
A reflective essay requires you to describe an experience that you have had. Further, it requires you to summarise your key learnings from the experience. Reflective essay writing also includes a vivid description of your experience, such that the reader can also understand the experience.
The most important aspect of reflective essay writing is that you need to focus on one particular experience or event. The entire essay should revolve around that experience and should aim to infer the key learnings from the experience.
Sometimes students wander away from the topic, making the essay less compelling. It is also important to create a link between the actual experience and the learnings that you are inferring from it. In case there is a disconnect between the two, your essay will not sound convincing, and this may have an adverse impact on your grades. Therefore, it is important to remain focused on the experience that you are analysing.
Essay Writing Tips and Recommendations
Just as with any other piece of academic writing, creating a high-quality essay requires structuring your ideas logically, maintaining a steady argument, establishing links between ideas, developing implications, and making sure your essay is thoroughly proofread. Some of the most essential aspects of writing a successful essay are outlined below.
Explore your essay question
Some essay questions are briefly formulated and take less than a single line. It is your responsibility to identify how you are planning to develop the argument in order to answer them. A good place to start is to write out all the keywords and search for relevant materials. This way, you will understand what conceptual oppositions may exist within the scope of the essay question.
You have to support your argument with a bunch of credible sources. Do not present ungrounded assumptions and a citation-free manner of writing. If you identify some aspect as important, who has encouraged this idea in your mind? What other scholars shared similar arguments before?
Identify your theoretical background
Essay questions are usually related to the theoretical concepts you studied during the semester. Revising these materials may be a good place to start to gain valuable ideas and decide how you will construct your argument. Think about the conflicts between contrasting theories and frameworks that you identified earlier. It is also a good idea to go beyond your course materials and provide recent practical evidence and additional academic models.
Finalise your essay structure
Creating the right structure is also extremely important. You need to start by introducing the idea or the issue. The introduction portion should also include your thesis statement, as well as an outline of your essay. This helps the reader in understanding your work in a better manner. Thereafter, you need to write the main body of the essay. You need to be careful about providing sufficient evidence to back up your analysis. Without evidence, each argument simply remains an opinion. Choose the right examples and then link them with the idea or the issue.
Determine your line of argument
To avoid being descriptive, you will need to demonstrate your personal attitude towards the theoretical dilemmas explored in your essay and the practical findings provided by secondary sources. A good idea is to implement your criticisms and views into the text structure during the planning phase to leave sufficient space for them in your plan.
Do not overthink
The sequence of chapters and sub-chapters in your essay may be defined by both the essay question and the line of your arguments. If you do not have a clear vision yet, it is better to start with the traditional ‘Introduction – Main Body – Conclusion’ structure and elaborate further on when you learn more about the studied field.
Making notes is a valuable habit for any type of academic assignments. Print a physical version of your main articles and feel free to use highlighters, sticky notes, and margins for comments. Any system of cloud notes will be fine for further organisation of your remarks and observations (e.g. Evernote, Bear, or iCloud notes).
Do not forget about your conclusion
Everyone knows that a decent essay should start with an introduction, but around 70% of students forget to include a summary section after it. You should effectively answer the question ‘what is going to happen next’? Develop implications for all those who might be interested in the core literature source and your review.
How to Establish a Sense of Closure
In high-quality essays, writing a concluding section is more than just summarising the key points. It not only establishes a sense of closure but also leaves a lasting memory in your reader’s mind, which is always good for your grades. However, many students fail to identify the points that can make their essay conclusions convincing and persuasive. If you want to leave a good impression on your essay, you should consider the following aspects.
Tie up the loose ends…
If you need to grab the reader’s attention when starting your essay; in a conclusion, it is of vital importance to provide a summary of your findings and resolve any ambiguity that your readers might have after reading your work.
Usually, it is a good idea to revise the arguments and examples discussed throughout the piece and show how they confirmed or discarded your initial assumptions and hypotheses. You can also link your last paragraph to your introduction by repeating some words and phrases to make your work appear more coherent.
… and make ends meet
Every essay is unique in terms of its requirements. In some cases, a long conclusion with a summary of your findings and a recommendations section may be optimal. In other cases, the graders expect a brief recap of 200 words or less.
Make sure that you have thoroughly studied your work requirements in order to deliver what is expected of you. There are few things more disappointing than arduously writing a piece of work that is discarded due to the failure to meet formal requirements.
What has been hidden will all be revealed in the end
The final phase is a good moment to revise your work one more time and see how your results tie with the initial objectives. Not directly answering the question that is being asked is fatal to one’s essay.
You can also get lower marks if your tutor does not understand the argument you have been developing. Hence, make sure that your conclusion clearly outlines how you have answered your main question.
Who is on the receiving end?
Well-written essays usually contain valuable ideas based on the best practices of industry leaders, innovative academic theories, or the analysis of large data samples. These concepts may be highly interesting for practitioners such as small businesses, entrepreneurs, or governmental regulators.
Including a recommendations section into your conclusion may be a good idea to make your argument stronger. This demonstrates how your essay is linked with real-life practice and your future work as a manager.
In every end, there is also a beginning
While your particular essay has been completed, a researcher’s work is never done. Outlining the limitations of your findings and providing the possible directions of future research became a common courtesy in academic society. These steps can also contribute to your final mark.
Common Essay Mistakes to Avoid
For many students, writing a successful essay is an iterative process, as they learn how to create a high-quality piece of academic writing by trial and error. While committing numerous errors before learning how to write a successful essay is normal, you do not have to take this route. We have compiled a list below of the top 10 mistakes that students make in their essays, so you could avoid them while writing your next essay.
Not outlining the structure of the essay in the introduction
Outlining your structure in the introduction sets you up for the rest of the essay. If you can get in the habit of doing this for your introductions, you should find yourself with a structure to follow as you write the essay, which will help keep your essay on track and relevant to the question.
Stating the arguments of scholars, instead of your own arguments
Many students rely too heavily on scholars and references, so much so, that they do not introduce or justify their own arguments for or against the topic.
Making silly spelling mistakes
Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. If you cannot be bothered, ask a friend, family member or even us at 15 Writers to help you. Silly spelling and grammar mistakes are so easy to avoid, yet people simply do not check and therefore may lose marks.
Not narrowing down your topic
If your topic is too broad, you will be trying to achieve too much. Especially if it needs to fit within a limited word count. Try to narrow the topic down, as this will mean that your essay should remain focused and to the point.
Making weak or in-comprehensive arguments
Some students may find themselves getting into the habit of simply describing the topic area and fail to distinguish between the subject, and an argument. Because of this, the arguments are either weak, or non-existent. Remember to argue a point in your essay – especially if it is a critical essay.
Leaving out key references or examples
Sometimes there are key studies relating to your topic. Your tutor will expect to see these referenced, so ensure that before you start writing your essay you have researched your topic thoroughly, including any previous studies, or examples that relate directly to your essay question.
Not establishing links between arguments and ideas
It is important that your essay transitions in a clear way, and is clear to understand how you are getting from point A to point B. Establishing clear links between the different points and arguments that you are making, is therefore extremely important for achieving a higher grade.
Writing, but not fully understanding what you are talking about
If you do not understand a concept relating to your essay question, carry out further research or seek clarification from your tutor before citing it in your essay. One quick way to lose marks is to include content in your essay that has been misunderstood and is not relevant to your question.
Not directly answering the question that is being asked
Keeping your essay relevant to the question at hand is probably one of the most important ways to ensure that you are achieving a high mark. You must ensure that each point you are making in your essay relates directly to the question that you are being asked to discuss.
Your introduction is not an efficient summary of the paper
A good introduction is important to ensure that your essay is off to a strong start. If your introduction is weak, it is likely that what will follow in the essay will also be weak. A good introduction is clear, and concise, setting the background of the question and outlining a clear structure to move forward.
How to Improve Your Essay Writing
Whether the essay is for a bachelor’s degree or a master’s programme many students lack the basic skills needed to write a high-quality academic essay. If you find essay writing an overwhelming task, here are several ways in which you can improve your essay writing skills in no time.
Understand the basics
Before you start writing an essay, you will need an intermediate understanding of essay writing. Learning the basic principles of writing an academic essay will make it easier for you to create a valuable and persuasive master’s essay. For example, one of the most common principles of essay writing is to break it into several small sections before writing.
Regardless of the topic and type of essay, breaking an essay into manageable parts will help you to draft a high-quality essay. Moreover, understanding the basic principles of essay writing will improve your critical thinking and will allow you to organise your ideas accordingly.
Focus on basic grammar, style and punctuation
To write like a professional academic essay writer, you need to focus more on your English grammar, style and punctuation. Ignoring these factors while writing an academic essay is likely to leave your readers confused and disinterested. To get a grip of English grammar, you need to first understand its basics. Things such as verb and subject agreement, proper pronoun and article usage and well-formed sentences can make a huge impact on your writing skills.
Proper punctuation also plays a crucial role in increasing the efficiency of an essay. For example, many students do not know where to add a comma. Another common punctuation mistake that most of the students make is missing to add a period in between two different sentences.
Improve your tone
To be able to match the academic requirements of master’s level writing, you will have to improve your tone. Following a constant tone throughout the essay will keep your readers engaged till the end. Academic experts suggest that students must avoid the use of passive voice and use active voice whenever possible.
To keep the tone of the essay strong, ensure that your language is concise throughout the essay. Try to avoid the unnecessary use of transition words. These words do not add any meaning to the sentence and weaken the main argument.
Share one idea in one sentence
Students must limit the use of sharing more than one idea in a single sentence. Stuffing too many ideas and words in a single sentence might make it confusing. To be able to clearly communicate your ideas, you can limit each sentence to a single idea. This will not only help you to express your ideas clearly but will also help readers to understand your arguments.
As this technique needs practice, you can start by thinking carefully and systematically. By taking time to think you will be able to express your thoughts one at a time. If after writing you feel any sentence is longer than expected then try to split the sentence into two different parts.
Find a writing partner
Many times due to the lack of time and resources, students end up submitting a poor-quality essay. If you wish to submit an excellent essay within a short span of time then you can take the help of a writing partner. Your writing partner can be a friend, mentor, colleague or professional academic essay writer.
By taking suggestions from friends and colleagues, you can get feedback on your writing and make suitable changes in your essay. Students who are unable to strategically express their ideas and thoughts can also ask professional online services for essay writing help. These services not only help you in submitting a well-written essay but also give you a good quality essay to refer to in future for improving your writing skills.
Use consistent formatting
Make sure to follow consistent formatting throughout your essay. Constantly changing the formatting style lowers the reading experience and can leave the readers confused. Several universities follow strict formatting guidelines for academic essays. Carefully reading these guidelines before writing the essay can help you save time and efforts for formatting the essay.
If you wish to emphasise a particular sentence or word, do not randomly make it bold or italicised. Stick to your formatting guide and only highlight the headings and sub-headings in a similar manner throughout the essay. Additionally use bullet points uniformly and keep consistency while capitalising the words in headings and sub-headings.
Effective time management can make a world of difference to your success. Set attainable objectives (e.g., brainstorming, creating an outline, writing the full essay, and applying an appropriate referencing style) and follow your timetable very closely. Do not forget to allow for a few breaks to recharge your mind.
Although writing a high-quality essay can be a daunting process, we believe that the tips and recommendations provided in this article will equip you with the knowledge needed to accomplish such a challenging academic task. If you still feel like your writing skills are not enough, you can get essay writing help from our professional writers.