Writing Essays for Dummies

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Of course, your instructors say writing essays is an easy task, but that does not mean that you are a dummy if they are difficult for you. And it does not mean you are a dummy if it is difficult for you to cope with this type of assignment. Not every person is a guru in writing and can compete with Ernest Hemingway. If writing is not your strong point, you can still practice several helpful techniques that will make the writing process easier. The bad news is the amount of writing assignments in colleges and universities – they make up a large portion of your academic assignments. By following our “Writing Essays for Dummies” guide, you will improve your writing skills and increase your grades.

What Is an Essay?

You have probably read the definition of an essay many times. However, if you still have some questions, a good start is to read the explanation of what this type of paper is again. An essay in the context of education is a paper on a specific topic which reveals a certain aspect of the topic. It contains a thesis statement (main idea), strong arguments which support a thesis, and a conclusion. An essay is always an author’s interpretation of a specific topic. Is it still difficult to understand what an essay is? If so, then read the explanation to each characteristic below.

  • An essay reveals a narrow aspect of the topic. When you are going to write an essay, you should choose a narrow topic so that it will be possible to reveal it properly. If your teachers assigned an essay about the American Civil War, he or she expects that you write only about one aspect of it. It is impossible to discuss all the sides of war in one essay. You can write about one battle, such as the Battle of Fort Sumter. And again, this doesn’t sound like a topic for an academic essay. The topic should be more specific.

Example of the topic: “The Influence of the Battle of Fort Sumter on the Military Strategy of the Union.”

  • An essay contains a thesis statement and arguments which support it. One of the most important criteria of an essay is the thesis statement. What is it? Simply speaking, it’s the main idea of your paper; it’s a thought which you are going to prove during the rest of your paper. Do not confuse a thesis statement with a conclusion. It’s not something that you need to write in the end. The thesis statement is usually presented in the introduction. The rest of the paper consists of evidence which supports your idea, your thesis. Sometimes, you should also present a refutation of the opposite opinion but we will talk about this later.

Example of thesis: “The Battle of Fort Sumter has immensely influenced the military strategy of the Union making it more aggressive towards secessionists.”

  • An essay is an author’s interpretation of a specific topic. Many students confuse “an author’s interpretation” and “personal opinion.” Please, take into consideration that your essay shouldn’t contain assumptions. You should express your opinion, your view on the topic based on factual information you’ve found. You need to analyze information and make your conclusions.

How to Write a Short Essay in 5 Steps

Now, when you know general rules of writing an essay, you can read our guide with specific steps on writing an essay. We’ve prepared an easy-to-read guide for you, showing how to write a short essay with minimum experience and practice in this sphere. Do not lose your faith in the success of your paper – we will definitely help you tackle this obstruction.

Step 1: Start with research

If you do not have enough time for brainstorming, skip this step and start looking for useful information on the Internet. Find a topic you are really interested in and try become confident in being able to discuss it easily. When it comes to writing, try to choose as narrow topic as it is possible to make your writing process enjoyable. As a rule, the first step is to choose the topic, but we have talked about this step in the previous section. So, our first step is making research on the already chosen topic. When you are making research, you should rely on authoritative sources. Which sources can you usually trust?

  • Books written by well-known authors who are experts in the field.
  • Scholarly articles.
  • Dissertations.
  • Studies made by well-known institutions.
  • Information published on websites of authoritative educational affiliations.

A point to consider: Sources which do not present references, authors and dates of publishing the material are usually unreliable.

When you are making research, it’s better to find from three to five reliable sources than to use fifteen suspicious sources. So, first of all find those reliable sources. Afterward, read information which is presented in those sources and try to formulate your thesis statement. Gather all data available. The next stage of the research is to read information again and highlight the most important points and arguments to use in your paper. When making research, you should make notes on which points are obligatory to mention in your essay. These points will be a basis for your outline.

Step 2: Write an outline

This is one of the most important points as you create the structure of your future paper and think over the main ideas to present. The amount of points in your outline depends on the length of your paper. Your outline is your plan. The more detailed plan you make now the easier it will be for you to write an essay thereafter. The outline should contain such points:

1. Introduction

2. Body:

  • Argument 1
    – evidence for Argument 1
  • Argument 2
    – evidence for Argument 2
  • Argument 3
    – evidence for Argument 3

3. Refutation of opposite side (This point is necessary for argumentative type of essay)

4. Conclusion

What is the difference between an argument and evidence in the context of the essay? An argument is the claim which supports your thesis, and evidence is facts which support your argument. Let’s return to our sample thesis “The Battle of Fort Sumter has immensely influenced the military strategy of the Union making it more aggressive towards secessionists” and try to understand which points can be arguments and which evidence.

So, the argument on why military strategy became aggressive can be the following: After the Battle of Fort Sumter, the Union started more active preparation for military conflict. What can be the evidence in this case? The evidence can be the amount of people who were recruited to the army, the amount of manufactured weapons, the President’s claims towards the military situation and others.

3-5 main arguments will be enough to support your thesis to decide how to write a short essay according to your instructors’ requirements. The same thing is with evidence – choose 2-3 points to support your arguments.

Step 3: Prepare the first draft of your essay

Follow your plan to write the first draft. Don’t focus on word choice at this staging point. Concentrating on words will distract you from the semantic aspect of your paper. You shouldn’t stop at one point on your outline for too long. If you don’t know what else to write, move further. After completing the first draft, you will have time to add or delete something from your draft.

When writing, always keep the interests and expectations of your readers when writing. You know your instructor better than anyone else. Write using the professor’s particular phrases, style of writing, ideas to support, etc. Each paragraph should be dedicated to one separate idea and have arguments to support it.

Step 4: Revise the paper to make sure your ideas sound logical and coherent

At this step, you need to reread your paper and make sure your ideas are logical and coherent. Also, check to make sure you didn’t make inconsistencies and if everything is understandable for the reader, who didn’t research this topic as much as you. All paragraphs of the body which present arguments should be equal to each other so that your paper looks balanced and well-structured.

IMPORTANT. Pay attention to the introduction and conclusion. They should also be equal to each other. If you are attentive enough, you will have noticed the absence of information in these sections, if you have this problem. You can write them when the whole paper is ready. They usually express the same idea from different viewpoints and have separate purposes. In the conclusion you should restate your thesis and say that, according to the arguments you’ve presented, your thesis statement is true. Also, you can give predictions about the development of this issue in the future. Or, you can mention problems which keep scientists from coming to an agreement about the issue.

Step 5: Edit the paper

Proofread it or ask your friends to do this for you. If you are interested in writin g essays for dummies, it will be tough for you to edit the paper correctly following all academic writing rules. Therefore, do not hesitate to request help. However, you still should know how to edit your paper. For this reason, we would like to tell you about the points you need to pay attention to while checking your essay:

  • Grammatical mistakes
  • Word choice
  • Inconsistencies
  • Inaccuracies
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation

Tips on Writing an Essay You Should Definitely Follow

  • Find information on how to write a particular type. There are many types of essays, such as analysis, classification, descriptive, expository definition, reflective, narrative, cause and effect, informal, deductive, compare and contrast, persuasive, critical, and evaluation. Each of these types have their specific requirements.
  • Include experts’ opinions in your essay to make it sound persuasive. If you would like to present an expert’s view, make sure that you cite it properly. Also, don’t forget to mention who this expert is, his or her full name and occupation.
  • Don’t use Wikipedia as a main source for your paper. Many students like to use Wikipedia as a main source, but this can negatively influence your scores. Articles on Wikipedia are written by users, some of which can be incompetent at revealing the issue. However, you can still use Wikipedia to find out which points you should pay attention to and check the correctness of particular pieces of information.
  • Find format requirements on the official websites. If you are to complete an essay within a specific format style, visit the official website of the organization which created this format. For example, you should visit the website of American Psychological Association to know the requirements for APA style.
  • Stick to the proportion:

Introduction 5% -10% of the total word count
Main body80-90% of the total word count
Conclusion5-10% of the total word count

Writing Essays for Dummies: Helpful Advice to Consider From Students

What is the first thing you do when you write? You think about a topic to discuss. You have random ideas and cannot focus on the purpose of your paper. You know the theory, but it is difficult to use this knowledge in practice. We’ve gathered several helpful tips from former students to make your writing easier and more enjoyable.

“I start getting ready to write my paper in a traditional way – I find informative sources, think over the topic and arguments to present. I do this for several days and start on the last night before the paper is due, when the information is analyzed and chewed over. The only method that works for me is a strict time limit and the absence of opportunity to leave an essay for tomorrow.”

“I use an eccentric method. Instead of spending long and boring hours worrying about how to write a short essay, I search for challenging ideas in free essay samples on the Internet, paraphrase them in my own words and write a logical paper.”

“I copy-paste all ideas I find useful, relevant and appropriate to support my point of view. Then I set them in a logical order and start writing my own arguments.”

Final Cautions

We hope that after reading this article you won’t feel like a dummy when it comes to essay writing. Follow all of our instructions thoroughly and you will succeed to complete a great essay. You shouldn’t ignore or skip any of the presented steps or recommendations. In this article, there is basic information that is crucial for writing essays. Here is a complete guide on essay writing with all the nuances and formatting tips. If something goes wrong while you are writing, this doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your chance for success. This means that you need more practice and more diligence. Try to put in more effort and you will cope with any task!