Essays, everyone has to write them, but few people want to. So how can you write better essays? The process is remarkably simple, and it all starts with applying a few steps.
With any kind of writing, the best method is to plan before you write. This can be through brainstorming methods such as lotus diagrams or mind maps. Or you can also ask questions of the topic – the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How questions. Take for example if you had to write an essay about the invention of paper. You would begin by asking ‘Who invented paper?’ then proceed to ask ‘What was the importance of inventing paper’ and move onto the other questions in sequence. This will encourage you to make sure you have questions which will help with research for your essay topic.
After planning, comes the element of research. This is where you aim to find all necessary information. A quality essay needs specific evidence – whether this is specific evidence about the author of a text for a Literature or English essay, or specific evidence about a time in History. And sometimes you may need specific evidence for a persuasive opinion piece on a controversial topic. All essays, regardless, need evidence.
The reason for this evidence is because otherwise you are merely writing about your own opinion on a topic. Which is fine for a purely emotive piece, however you need to add to this emotion factually if you want to improve the quality of your essay.
Which is more powerful? The statement that: “So many people use the internet at every minute!” or the facts provided here (courtesy of TED) that every minute there are:
- 204,166,667 email messages sent
- More than 2,000,000 Google searches
- 684,478 pieces of content added on Facebook
- $272,070 spent by consumers via online shopping
- More than 100,000 tweets on Twitter
- 47,000 app downloads from Apple
- 34,722 “likes” on Facebook for different brands and organizations
- 27,778 new posts on Tumblr blogs
- 3,600 new photos on Instagram
- 3,125 new photos on Flickr
- 2,083 check-ins on Foursquare
- 571 new websites created
- 347 new blog posts published on WordPress
- 217 new mobile web users
- 48 hours of new video on YouTube
Now of course, if you provided all of these facts in an essay you may end up with a phenomenally long paragraph. However, if you did your research and uncovered these facts you would be able to pick the most profound and engaging facts to back up your emotional arguments about many people using the internet at every minute.
Research does not need to take one specific form, and good research should take multiple forms. If you were studying Jane Eyre for English you may research by reading and rereading the text and writing down quotes. You may also decide to search the Internet for websites containing facts about the time period the text was created in. You may also watch documentaries about the author’s life and examine how her life was similar to the novel she wrote. You may further decide to look for other novels or books written that were inspired by the original text, or any film adaptations. From this you may source primary evidence (from the original text being studied) or secondary evidence (evidence outside of this original text) and you may source direct text quotes, statistics, quotes from authorities on the text or any other evidence you can weave into your essay. The important element for the highest quality essay is to make sure that you do your research, and do it well.
Some people might consider this a step that could be skipped in some situations. However, drafting is essential, essential, essential – to all essays. Now, consider that you are writing an essay for an exam situation. You might consider that writing a draft is less essential due to the time constraints. However, shift your mindset. Consider instead that your exam essay is a first draft and allow ten to fifteen minutes at the end to fix and correct this first draft into your second and final draft.
The reason many essay writers seem to believe that drafting, like planning, is less important, is because they view drafting with misunderstanding. They believe that drafting means writing one rough copy and then writing out a second or third neater copy. However, drafting is a matter of understanding that the first copy you write of any essay (or any creative piece) is not the finished project. And with this in mind you allow yourself room and time to go back and edit. By shifting your mentality you will be able to treat every section of the writing process as a draft and better allow yourself room to edit.
Editing is the polishing of your drafts into finished pieces. Essentially it involves in adding, removing and changing details of your essay. Sometimes editing may involve the process of highlighting in different colours to see where quotes have been used, where facts and figures have been used, where the arguments in an essay have been used etc. Sometimes editing involves reading the essay out loud to check if it makes sense and changing anything that makes less sense. Sometimes editing involves reading through and underlining or circling whatever words are poorly chosen. Whatever the style of editing the importance is that the essay writer discovers a style that works for them and sticks with that style. For once you have edited your essay (either re-wrote the essay in some cases as a second draft, or crossed old words and inserted new information in others as your second draft) you will have a much more organised and polished final submission. And that essentially is how better essays are written.