How to Write an Essay





Introduction: How to Write an Essay

I know that many people have requested this Instructable so I decided to make it. I believe I'm well qualified to write this because I have some great teaching materials and important concepts to give to you. I hope this helps your grades! Enjoy.

Step 1: Your Materials

There are some materials you are going to need before you start writing this essay. The worksheets and notecards are actually very important so don't neglect them.

The Materials
(50) 3" x 5" Note Cards
(2) Two Pocket, Three Pronged Folders
(Many) Pens and Pencils
A Computer & Printer
Access to Research Materials (Ex. - a Library)
Working Outline and Other Various Worksheet (Can be downloaded during the instructable when they become needed)

Step 2: Before You Begin!

Before you start writing your essay there are some important things to do. Now, this may seem obvious, but it's important to know what you are writing your essay on, what type of essay it is, and what your intent of the essay is. For example, a persuasive essay is very different from a purely informative essay. Before you move on to any other steps, use this checklist to make sure you are ready. These things will be important when developing your thesis statement and other things

Beginning Checklist
1. What is my topic? [ ]
2. What type of essay is this? (Persuasive, etc.) _ [ ]
3. What is my position on this? _ [ ]
4. {Optional} Why am I writing this? (School, etc.) [ ]

Step 3: Beginning Research

Now that you know what you are writing, it is time to start researching. You are going to want many different types of sources such as databases, books, newspapers and web sites. The next step will help to guide your research.

For example, you might use a Total Guitar magazine if your essay was about the history of the guitar.

Step 4: Your Working Outline

The Working Outline is an important worksheet that guides your research and will help with other steps to come. Your first step would be to download this file and print it out. As you will notice in the picture, there are various places to write down information. Here are the steps to fill it out.

NOTE Write in pencil. This will change a lot.

1. Write your topic in the line titled "Topic" You should have what your topic is, such as school safety and your position. A good thing to put in your topic, as an example would be, Schools need more security to protect students.

2. Skip the line that says "Thesis" for now. We'll have a step for it later.

3. Now you can begin reading through some research materials that you think may support your topic. As you find some things that may support your topic or provide good information, add them to the Argument/Subtopic lines. (THE NEXT STEP WILL SHOW HOW TO CITE WHAT YOU FIND!)

4. As you find some of these things and are writing them down, make sure that you will be able to find more information to back it up. REMEMBER! This is just a browsing process. Don't start taking serious notes until later.

**NOTE** These don't need to be in order of importance yet **NOTE**

Step 5: Citing Information

While you are browsing through books/databases/websites, you will need to start citing your information. This is important because if your information isn't cited your paper will have no crediblility and you will fail your assignment (assuming that this is for school). To cite a source you will need one of the 3" x 5" notecards. Note: This is in MLA Documentation Format. PM me if you can't read something or you need a different type of source.

1. Print out the attached images. They are the Source Card Guide Sheet. Sorry that I couldn't give it to you as a document. The jpegs are all I've got.

2. Find which one is the proper type to use with your source.

3. Write it on the 3" x 5" card like I did in the picture. It isn't proper MLA form but it will help you make sure that you have all of your information by skipping each line

4. Write the source number at the bottom right of the card. This will help you later when you are organizing Note Cards.

Step 6: Writing Your Thesis Statement

Now that you have a bit of research done you can start on your thesis statment.

Write it in your working outline using the rules below.

Your thesis statement is the short statement (about three sentences long) that basically sums up what will showed in your paper and is easily backed up with evidence. It should argue your point.

This is where your type of paper is important.

Persuasive Essay
If you are writing a persuasive essay you should state your position strongly and be sure to be able to back it up with evidence. An example if your paper was about why the Patriot Act should be removed would be (and please note, if you disagree with any of the samples, they aren't nesicarily my positions, just good examples), Because of its heinous direct violation of the basic rights Americans know to be true, the Patriot Act must be immediately eliminated

Informative Essay
If your essay is informative, your thesis would be slightly different. Shortly and powerfully sum up what you have discovered. Ex. Most dogs' lives consist of several unvaried activities such as sleeping, eating, and exercising.

Analytical Essay
Analytical thesis statements are similar to those found in informative essays. The difference is that it breaks it down more specifically and analytically. Ex. The media's positive portrayal of negative acts represents the greatest problem facing grade school students at this time, while less significant problems include cultural promotion of violence and peer pressure relating to drug and alcohol use.

The information on the analytical essay was revised by burzvingion. Thanks for your help.

A good source for more information on thesis statements is

PS: Thank you zachnime. I guess I tried to stay to broad/simple. Thanks for the pointers!

Step 7: Note Cards

Now that you have a general idea of your thesis statements and subtopics it is time to start specific reasearch. You should be looking for points of information that would fit well in your intro, conclusion, or back up the points that your subtopic makes. You need to make note cards keep these notes down. Here's how to do it. Look at the picture for help.

1. In the top left corner put the source number that you got it from. Ex. If the top left number was 1, that would mean that it came from your source card number 1.

2. In the top margin, in the dead center, write the subtopic that it supports, or Misc. if you think that you would use it but that it doesn't fit perfectly anywhere.

3. Now in the middle of that card you should put only a sentence of information. KEEP IT SHORT! Make more cards.

4. At the bottom, put the parenthetical reference. The next step will show how to do this.

You should have a lot of note cards, and each card should only have a little bit of info. You'll probably want a rubber band or a baggie to hold all of your cards.

Step 8: Parenthetical References

As the name suggests, Parenthetical References are references in parenthesis. You will need these in your paper and at the bottom of your note cards.

To do your parenthetical reference:

1. Find the first important word on the source that your card is from. This would be something like "America" or "Cars" rather than "The" or "A".

2. Put a parenthesis, then that word.

3. Now, after a space, put the page number that you found the info on. Then, put another parenthesis.

NOTE: If there is no page number, just leave it blank, or put n.p. for no page.

Step 9: Your Outline

NOTE: This is different from a working outline.

This will help you a great deal with writing your essay. Once your stuff is typed in here you'll just have to add in cited information to your essay and piece together a conclusion and you'll be done.

An outline is like a visual summary of your paper. Here's how to make it.

1. Download the template I made you.

2. Fill it in with what you have researched

3. Print it out

4. It should look something like the example page in the picture.

Step 10: Introduction

Your introduction is the most important part of your essay. It grabs the attention of your reader. Here's how to type your introduction.

1. Print out the Introduction Worksheet I attached.

2. Skip right down to the brainstorming section. Brainstorm some ideas for the first sentence. Ancedotes, quotes, or statistics would be good here. This would be a great place to use misc. info.

3. Write your fist sentence that you came up with on the line.

4. Write down the five reasons that are your body paragraphs.

5. Now, finish it off with your thesis statement.

CONGRATS! You have an intro. Use that worksheet and make it into the first paragraph of your essay.

Step 11: Body Paragraphs

Now that your intro is done you can start typing the body paragraphs. This is real easy if you just follow this format.

Remember: All of the stuff you need for this is in your Outline (not working outline) and your note cards.

1. Topic Sentence
2. 1st reason
3. Cited info to back up 1st reason
4. 2nd reason
5. Cited info to back up 2nd reason
6. 3rd reason
7. Cited info to back up 3rd reason
8. Concluding sentence

Also Remember: Use transitions between paragraphs.

Step 12: Conclusion

Now that you have finished your body paragraphs, you are almost done. You just have your conclusion to do. The conclusion is like your introduction in reverse. Here's how to write it.

1. Print out the conclusion worksheet.

2. Reword your thesis statement.

3. Give the five reasons.

4. Now, brainstorm another quote or anecdote.

5. Type it all into your paper.

REVISION! Here is something that dchal8 added

When I come to the conclusion part, I reread what I've written and compare to the intro to see whether I said what I said I would say. Nine times out of ten I revise my intro to more closely match my body, then write the conclusion. And then nine times out of ten I rewrite the body because it sounds repetitive or otherwise awkward. Once my mind starts dumping the thoughts out through my fingers, many times the same thoughts pour out a second or third time. These recurrences of the same concept need to be trimmed or reworded to fit in with other new material. Sometimes restating a previous element helps to support (or gain support) from other new material.

NEVER introduce new material in the conclusion. Never support material in the conclusion. The conclusion should be a logical follow on to the body. For a one-paragraph example...

I am going to show you that one plus one equals two. If I have one cookie and add another cookie to it, I have two cookies. If Jill has one puppy and adds another puppy, she has two puppies. If Dick has one car and adds another car, he has two cars. Therefore, thus, and so on, in every case of one plus one, I have demonstrated that adding one unit to another yields two units of the same type.

At this point it would not be appropriate to add a new fact that adding three units of the same time gives a result of 3. It would also be inappropriate to say that adding one cookie to one car gives one car and one cookie but two objects. If these two facts were to be incorporated into the essay, it would greatly increase the scope of the essay.

Step 13: You're Done!

Congratulations! You just finished your essay.

Remember: Use the pocket folders to hold your stuff.

Also, avoid first person pronouns (ex. I, me)

Also, the title isn't very important, no matter what they tell you. It's the actual essay that will sell someone on your writing.

Well, thank you and leave me comments to let me know how I can improve.



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    Preparation is the key to be successful in almost anything.

    Very interesting steps that you have laid out in here.

    I think the above article is informative for all concerned people. For me this Information is really really useful.

    Very good work.  5 Stars.

    You've probably saved many more people then the commentors, here, I really like your worksheets.  Thank you!

    Interesting, I'm not an English major or anything (in fact, I have a strong dislike for English classes) but I usually score pretty well on essays because of a writing formula I've learned from the the only English teacher I ever liked. It's called the SEXI paragraph. Basically, you write as many SEXI paragraphs as your need, then your conclusion paragraph, then go back and write your opening paragraph and thesis (of course, you could write your thesis and opener first but I like doing it last). Here's how the SEXI paragraph works:

    Statement - State your idea or opinion like it was fact. only state one idea that you will flesh out in the rest of the paragraph.
    Explanation - Explain your idea as it pertains to the rest of the essay and give reasons why.
    eXample - Give an example of something your idea would/could apply to.
    Interpretation - Interpret the meaning of your idea (basically good or bad).

    I've gotten through some last minute essays really easily with that little formula. Just remember, you can have more than one sentence per letter to get to more than four sentences per paragraph.

    Huh, thats an interesting way, my teachers always taught to use the PIE formula Point out your what you're talking about in the paragraph, Illustrate your point (use quotes, be visual, ext) Explain it. just wright your opening paragraph with a hook and wright your thesis after that, and wright your conclusion with a reworded thesis and close it off

    i was always taught to PEE, its basically the same as PIE: Point Evidence Explain

    That does sound like it works pretty well.

    Just curious, how old are you/what grade are you in? A one/maybe 2 sentence thesis is a tad short... but thats what I was taught early on. A thesis should be about 3 sentences.

    Also, no matter what your essay is, analytical, persuasive, or informative, the thesis should always argue a point. If its an informative essay, why should I know this stuff? Have insight.

    And as burzvingion said: NEVER USE 1st OR 2nd PERSON!!, unless it is a personal experience. That means no I, you, we, my, mine, etc.

    Otherwise, its a nice basic introduction to the "five-by-five". (5 paragraphs with 5 "sentences" per paragraph, although each piece of evidence can be more than 1 sentence)