It’d probably be easier to count the trees in Central Park than to count the essays being written and published daily. Lame analogy, but I mean it.
Think of all the students that write essays on a daily basis. Think of all the professors and the academics who have their essays published every other day.
So, what is the purpose of all this prep talk? Well, with all the essays that abound inthe online world, you have to make sure that the ones you write stand out from the rest.
In this article, we’re going to be breaking down the whole essay-writing process to help you understand how you have to tackle each step.
1. The First Step: Research
The first step that you have to take when writing an essay is doing proper research.
Just as everything has a foundation, a good essay has the foundation of good research. If the research behind your essay is sound and solid, your essay will come off as authoritative. On the other hand, if the research is not proper, the same will be reflected in the essay itself.
When it comes to research, there are basically two things that you have to be careful of. Firstly, you have to conduct the right amount of research and secondly, you have to use the right sources when conducting research.
Let’s elaborate on both of these one-by-one.
- Conducting the right amount of research
The importance of this one is not difficult to understand. Although quality matters more in research, quantity is not something that you can skimp on.
By doing your research from a lot of different sources, you will get a nice little trove of information to use in your essay. You will be able to give evidence wherever necessary, and you will be able to cite credible sources for any arguments that you make and any point that you use for substantiating your claims.
Plus, another excellent benefit that you can get by conducting the right amount of research is that you can drastically lessen the chances of accidental plagiarism. In other words, if you have a lot of sources to use for your essay, you won’t be as likely to start imitating a particular one. This will help you keep your work original and unique.
- Conducting Research from the Right Sources
The second thing that you have to do to make your research effective and useful is to utilize the right sources.
A shady website from the 5th page of the search results is not really a very competent source that you can use for your essay. The same goes for random e-books and unrecognized literary works.
In order to make your essay look authoritative, you have to use proper academic sources and popular/recognized websites that have an…accepted online standing.
Why is this important? By using the right sources for conducting your research, you can make sure that your arguments are rock-solid. The facts and figures that you cite in your work will look more believable and your essay will come off as authentic and legit.
In the absence of proper research, your essay could look like a mishmash of speculation and guesses.
2. Organizing Your Ideas
There is more to the research phase than just looking up online sources and reading them through. When you’re done reading, you have to organize the ideas and create a plan of what you want to discuss in each part/heading.
While we’re discussing this, there’s another helpful point that I’d like to address.
So, when you’re doing your research, it’s never a good idea to use the exact words that are used by the source itself. Rather, you should try to understand the things mentioned in the source, and then create a point in your own words that covers it properly.
The benefit of this practice is that you won’t end up accidentally copying the source material in any way. Even if you only take a few words from the source, you can inevitably start discussing similar things, which can take you close to committing plagiarism.
3. Understanding and Following the Formatting Guidelines
Once the research is all done, you have to come to the actual writing part. This is where you have to look at the formatting guidelines and instructions that have been provided to you by your institute.
When we talk about formatting guidelines, we refer to the instructions pertaining to things like:
- Font size and style
- Footers and headers
- Necessary addendums
And the like.
Of course, if you are writing an essay on paper (which is a little unlikely), then a lot of the abovementioned factors will not exist e.g., the font size and style. In this case, your handwriting will be the font.
Understanding and following the provided guidelines is necessary because it can be a real letdown if your essay gets rejected or given a low grade because of formatting negligence.
4. Starting the Writing Process
Once you are done with all the groundwork, you have to get started with the actual writing itself. There are all sorts of different considerations that you have to keep in mind during this part, so we’ll break them up to help you understand them better.
Keep your sentences and paras short
The first thing that you have to take care of when writing the essay is keeping your sentences and paras short. This contributes to the visual appeal and readability of the essay, which can play a direct role in how your teacher grades it.
As a general rule, you should keep your sentences under 20 words. But 20 words itself is a bit of a stretch, and only one in five or four sentences should come close to this limit.
On the other hand, when it comes to paragraph length, you should put the cap on 3 lines per para.
Use easy-to-understand wording
Moving on, you also have to take care of using easily understandable wording in your essay. An occasional complex word, without spawning dubiety, is fine, but you shouldn’t go overboard.
The occasional usage of complicated vocabulary will give the teacher a good impression, but if you keep doing it, you will end up spoiling the readability as well as the reading experience of your essay.
Just as there are different online tools that you can use for the various steps in the essay-writing process, there are some resources that you can take help from in this part, i.e., using easy-to-understand wording.
You can, in essence, use an online paraphrasing tool on your existing content and have it change the different words in there. If you choose a smart tool for the job, it will automatically change the hard words with easier synonyms.
Here is a quick example to show you how this works:
Be mindful of the word count
Depending on the type of essay you’re writing, you could have some restrictions on the number of words. It could either be a broad and general restriction, such as a total of 1,000 words at max, or it could be more specific such as 100 words for a particular section, 500 words for another, and then 100 for the ending part.
When writing your essay, you have to take into consideration any such guidelines that you may have been provided. If there are any word limits, you will be able to structure your arguments and sections accordingly, which will save you from making an unnecessary effort.
Keep your arguments separate
Creating a jumble of your arguments doesn’t really help to make your essay authoritative. If you want to tackle a topic with a multitude of arguments, be sure to make a section for each of them.
There are two benefits to this.
Firstly, when the arguments are separate, they will be easily understandable by the readers. The readers won’t have trouble following the progression, and they won’t get confused – something which is bound to happen if the arguments are presented in a mishmash.
Secondly, by keeping your arguments separate, you will be able to complement each of them with the following one. For example, if you’ve discussed a particular point in a paragraph, you will be able to support and complement it in the next para/passage.
Back up your claims with evidence
This one is a bit obvious, but it’s a little easy to forget, so we’re mentioning it here.
When writing your essay, you should take care to give evidence for literally any point that requires it. In other words, even if you have already cited a lot of facts and figures, don’t leave them out where they are required.
You can, of course, be a little smart about this by grouping together different “evidencable” points and then collectively citing the required sources to support them.
Once the writing process is all done, you have to move on to the next part i.e., the editing and proofreading.
5. Editing and Proofreading
This is the last step of the essay-writing process. After this, your essay will be all prepped for publishing.
So, being the last step, editing and proofreading is very important, and there are different aspects that you have to take care of. Let’s look at them one by one.
Grammar and Spelling Errors: The first thing that you have to check in the proofreading phase is grammar and spelling errors. These errors are easy to make but hard to detect. And everyone makes them, whether a seasoned veteran or a newbie.
To find and remove grammar and spelling errors in your content, you first have to proofread it thoroughly. This should be done a couple of times, one of the sessions of which should be audible.
Other than manual proofreading, you can also take the help of online tools to find and remove such errors. Grammar checkers are available in abundance nowadays, and they can be a great help thanks to their quick working.
Formatting Errors: This is yet another important factor that you have to be careful of during the proofreading phase. You should essentially look for any loose ends in the formatting such as errors in the margins, indents, line spacing and the like.
Other than looking for errors, per se, you should also keep an eye out for any point in the formatting that does not conform to the guidelines provided to you by your institute.
For example, if you are writing the essay digitally i.e., not by hand, you will have to take care of things like the font size and the font family.
Citations and References: You should also look at the citations in your essay as well as their corresponding references. There could be a citation that you could have missed or there could be a citation that you may have not properly reflected in the references section.
Similarly, when checking the citations and references of your essay, you should keep in consideration the guidelines provided by your institute about the same.
There are different types of citation styles, and you will be apportioned a certain style by your institute. Among others, here is the list of some popular citation formats:
Plagiarism: This is also another important factor that you have to take care of during the editing phase.
Plagiarism is basically the act of copying something from a source without giving it the proper credit. Nowadays, it can be easily detected using online tools, due to which few people do it intentionally.
However, the reason that we are discussing it here is that it can frequently occur unintentionally as well. This is known as accidental plagiarism, and it is an issue that occurs with more or less every other writer.
To deal with accidental plagiarism, you first have to use a plagiarism checker to find out the affected parts. Then, you can take any of the following steps:
- Remove the plagiarized text altogether
- Cite the plagiarized text
- Put the plagiarized text into quotes
- Use a paraphrasing tool to reword the plagiarized part and make it unique
And that is about it.
Writing essays is easy if you know what to do and what not to do. In the post above, we broke the whole process down to make it easy for you to understand.
Above all, when writing your essay, you should ensure that you do your research properly. A lot of errors, mistakes and mishaps in the essay can be fixed if the research is proper.