A simple step-by-step approach to get you an A+ every time on any essay in any Humanities or Arts program.
Following are two examples of how to write an essay. Here are a couple of preliminary tips:
Work on an outline before you start. DO NOT just start into it, because it will always mess you up. If you feel you need to, allow yourself to write a page or two of ramble to sort out your thoughts and return to for points to create your outline. However, diving in without thinking it through first never works out, no matter how desperate you get close to the deadline.
Be conscious of time constraints. After much practice, I allow 1 hour for outline creation, 3 hours for essay creation, and 1 hour for revision. This means 5 hours for a 1500 word essay, or 1 hour for 300 words. (ie. If your essay is 2000 words, allow 6-7 hours work time). You may want to give yourself more time at the beginning of the year when you are new to the process.
Create your outline with thought to your word count. For example, if your word count is 1500 words or 5 pages, divide the pages evenly among your paragraphs. This allows you to make sure you have enough to say on each point, create a balanced essay and not go too far over or under. Try to use odd numbers of points, ie. 3, 5, 7.
Remember that word count requirements don’t have to be totally exact. A 1500 word essay can be 1650 or 1450, but not much further off than that. A 5 page essay can be 4 and a half or 6. Some professors are pickier than others, so always ask.
When you get close to the deadline and aren’t finished, remember that it is better to hand in an A grade paper one day late than a C grade paper on time. Most professors deduct 2-5 percent per day.
TERMS (read along with examples)
Introductory sentence: introduce the general theme of the essay. Avoid ideas that are “life scope” ie. “Everyone knows that the world is a big place”, or “We all have dreams”, or anything that is too general. Aim for specific, ie. “Thomas Aquinas argues for the existence of God”.
Thesis statement: This is a challenge. A thesis statement is NOT the overall idea of your essay, no matter what your professor says. It has a much more specific function. It is the miniature version of your essay in sentence form. It should read: CONCLUSION because POINT 1, POINT 2, POINT 3. Each of these points matches the introductory sentences of each paragraph in order. See example.
Evidence: A specific, irrefutable fact, usually a quote.
Explanatory Sentences: Your reasons why the evidence proves your point.
Tie in Sentence: Tying in the point you just proved to your conclusion.
Leading Sentence: A sentence that leads to the next point.
BASIC ESSAY OUTLINE
INTRODUCTION : This paragraph is shorter than the body paragraphs, about the same length as the conclusion paragraph. It includes:
BODY PARAGRAPH 1
Tie in Sentence
BODY PARAGRAPH 2
Tie in Sentence
BODY PARAGRAPH 3
Tie in Sentence
CONCLUSION: I usually just flip the introduction paragraph sentence by sentence with cut and paste and then smooth it out.
Essay assignment: Write 1500 words on Anne of Green Gables.
My idea: Anne is an independently minded character as is shown by the way she talks too much
A Canadian icon, the character of Anne in Anne of Green Gables is memorable not only because of her bright red braids, but also because of her independent spirit.
Anne demonstrates her independence through speech when she speaks to her parents, her friends and herself.
You can fill in the rest of your introduction by expanding on your thesis with the basics, ie. “When Anne speaks to her parents, she openly disagrees with their approach to religion. To her friends, she is willing to take the lead and speak her mind. Even speaking to herself, Anne maintains an attitude of individual thought.”
Introductory Sentence (Paragraph 1)
When Anne speaks to Marilla, her mother-figure, she demonstrates independence.
She tells Marilla, “If I could pray, I would go out into a big field” (p. 134).
The evidence, usually a quote, should be tied into a sentence and not simply stand-alone.
DO NOT WRITE: “If I could pray, I would go out into a big field” (p. 134) without leading or following, ie. She tells Marilla…. You can use more than one piece of evidence per paragraph if you like.
By describing an unconventional method of prayer, specifically different than the one Marilla describes as “on your knees” (p. 133), Anne shows herself to think independently of others and come to her own conclusions.
Tie In Sentence
In the above example, I actually already tied it in with the second half of the sentence “Anne shows herself to think independently of others and come to her own conclusions.” The Tie in Sentence will come to seem really boring and repetitive, but you MUST do it every time, even if you are simply trying to find a different way to say the same thing three times. If not, your professor will say that your essay was missing logic.
Just as Anne thinks expresses her individuality to Marilla, so does she to her friends. This leads to Paragraph 2.
Introductory Sentence (Paragraph 2)
When Anne speaks to her friends, her leadership is demonstrated as part of her independent spirit.
In the above example, Paragraph 1 discusses parents, Paragraph 2 discusses friends, and Paragraph 3 discusses Anne speaking to herself.