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How to Write an Essay in School and College

how to write an essay

How to Write an Essay in School and College

Whether you’re in middle school, high school or college, you’re going to be assigned to write essays. Depending on your school assignment, you’ll be given instructions about writing different types of essays, such as argumentative, persuasive, narrative or synthesis essays. A strong essay consists of an introduction, three to five paragraphs and a conclusion. The transitions should allow readers to move straight from one point to the next, according to Infoplease.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay

In a persuasive essay, you have to choose your words and topical approach so that you convince your reader to take action on an issue, accept your point of view or agree with a course of action on which you’re offering a recommendation. Your arguments have to be tightly crafted and well chosen. If you are arguing, for example, that your state requires schools to give too many standardized exams in an academic year, you need to find and use research that proves your point. Using this example, you may choose to recommend a course of action (asking your state government to reduce the number of state-mandated standardized tests that students are required to take). You may simply be asking your reader (your teacher) to agree with you. No matter what your intention is, your essay must effectively persuade your readers to do something. Use the following steps to research, plan and write your essay:

º Carry out research and find resources that support your position.

º Think about opposing views so you can anticipate any arguments readers may develop. In your essay, you’ll respond to these viewpoints as you convince your readers why your position is the best.

º Create and write a strong conclusion. As you write your essay, everything you put into your paper should point toward a strong conclusion where you provide your view in a way readers remember. Your essay can include a request that readers take action on the topic on which you’re writing.

º As you write a persuasive essay, remember you want to persuade readers to take a specific viewpoint or course of action. Use language and a tone that are respectful. Sarcasm is inappropriate, according to Infoplease.

How to Write a College Essay

As a junior or senior in high school, you’re probably worrying about your college essay. As you think about how to write an essay, remember that the steps you follow for a general essay are the same ones you’ll use in writing your essay on your college entrance exam:

º Use crisp, clear writing.

º Don’t reuse figures of speech, similes or metaphors that you’ve seen printed elsewhere. Be unique.

º Cut out all unneeded words. Be brief.

º Use active verbs, not passive. (“The bill was passed by the House.” Instead, write, “The House passed the bill.”)

º Steer clear of fancy words, jargon or foreign phrases when a simple English word will suffice.

º Be ready to break the above rules if doing so will make your essay stronger.

Breathe life into your college essay! Make it personal and give the essay committee a reason to sit up and take notice of you, recommends MIT Admissions. Your essay introduces the essential “you” to this committee. This is your biggest, best opportunity to make sure you, through your essay, stand out among the crowds and reams of paper. In the end, you want this committee to choose you. Look at these two examples:

º I have always wanted to be a doctor, knowing that I can save lives and make a difference.

º My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was six. She had dreams of watching me perform in school plays; seeing me play softball on the girls’ softball team in high school; cheering for me as I walked across the stage at graduation. She died when I was ten and that was when I decided I wanted to become a doctor working with cancer patients. My career goal has never changed. I want to work with those stricken with cancer so I can be one of a team to give them just one more fighting chance.

Look at both essays and decide which is better. The second is much more personal and much more specific. That essay is the one that will result in the student receiving a letter, telling her that she has been admitted to that university.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay may be one of the most challenging for you to write. Some programs use this essay format as the final or capstone project, according to the Purdue OWL site.

As you prepare to write your argumentative essay, you’ll have to embark on detailed literature research, looking for material that has already been published. In addition, you’ll have to collect research data using one of several research methods, such as observations, interviews, surveys or experiments. This is empirical research, which enables you to learn more deeply about the topic you’re studying. You’ll come to understand your topic from different positions, allowing you to choose a position you can easily support with the evidence you gather during your research. You’ll have to develop a strong thesis statement and support this with strong reasoning arguments.

Your essay will follow this structure:

º Clearly defined thesis statement found in the first paragraph.

º Logical transitions from introduction to body to conclusion.

º Each paragraph of your essay body should contain support of the evidence you found. This support should be anecdotal, factual, statistical or logical.

º The conclusion returns to your thesis statement without repeating it. Rely on the evidence you wrote about.

How to Write a Good Essay

º You may be able to choose a topic. If so, think about the type of essay you’re writing (argumentative, synthesis, narrative, compare and contrast or argumentative). The topic should be something you can easily write about. Begin your research, both online and in the library. If your teacher tells you to stay away from wiki sites, do so. Choose .edu and .gov sites instead.

º Depending on the research you find, begin developing an outline. This gives you a road map of sorts, helping you to organize your thoughts and research, according to Fastweb.

º Creating a mind map of your topic and the thoughts you have may be more realistic for you, especially if you are more visual. Write your topic in the middle of a sheet of paper, then draw three to five lines branching from the topic. At the end of each line, write down your main ideas. Add three lines each to each main idea and jot your thoughts down for these topics.

º Create a strong thesis statement. This tells readers what your essay is about. The first part of this statement gives the topic and the second part gives the essay’s point.

º Write the body of your essay, using the main ideas from your mind map or outline. State the main idea and leave several lines in between, allowing you to add in supporting sentences. Fill in the blanks with added, related information to strengthen each main point.

º Write the introduction. Coming back to this part after writing the body enables you to make the introduction even stronger. Because you know what your essay focus is, you’ll be able to craft an introduction that holds tightly to the body of your essay. Grab readers’ attention by adding a short anecdote, a shocking statistic or a quote.

º Write the conclusion. Sum up the main ideas of your essay without restating the introduction. Do so in three to five sentences.

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

This essay format requires you to compare similarities and differences in a topic. Your aim should be to offer a new insight, make clear something that isn’t well understood, explain that one thing is better than the other, or bring at least two subjects or topics into a clear focus, according to Santa Barbara City College.

Your thesis statement can introduce both topics or subjects and indicate whether you’re going to contrast, compare or do both. Discuss the same points for both subjects. Three organizational structures you may consider:

º Comparison, then contrast or contrast, then comparison.

º Block, working subject by subject.

º Point by point.

Use connecting words that strengthen the comparisons and contrasts:

º Comparisons: Similarly, likewise, in addition, compared to, same as, just as, at the same time or as well as.

º Contrasts: Even though, unlike, however, on the other hand, in contrast, although, conversely or meanwhile.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay tells a story. They may be experiential, anecdotal or personal, which gives you more freedom in developing your essay. As you work on this, remember:

º A story-type essay should include introduction, plot, setting, characters, climax and a conclusion.

º A book report is not a story. Write a narrative that informs readers about the book.

º Give a point to your essay.

º Choose a solid point of view.

º Use language that evokes your readers’ senses and emotions.

º Use “I” sparingly.

º Create a well-organized essay so your reader understands your purpose.

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

You have one goal in writing a scholarship essay – to win a scholarship. You already know how to write an essay, so use everything you know to make your essay as strong as possible:

º Understand the instructions.

º Organize your thoughts before writing.

º Create a clear outline.

º Follow the instructions to ensure your outline covers every point required.

º Elaborate on each point as you write.

º Keep your language clear and concise. Stay away from difficult, flowery language –  be natural.

º Don’t be afraid to state your accomplishments.

º Use perfect grammar and spelling.

º Read the instructions and your essay more than once to ensure you answered every point.

º Have someone edit your essay. Make corrections.

How to Write a Synthesis Essay

In a synthesis essay, you’re using at least two resources and combining the points of each into a cohesive paper. As you research, you need to be objective and read everything accurately. Find relationships between differing viewpoints. Create a thesis statement from the relationships you find. Write your essay by supporting your thesis.

º Use examples.

º Compare and contrast.

º Create a solid argument.

º Organize, using point-by-point or the block-by-block methods.

You can also read “Our Guide to the Most Awesome Writing tips” to improve your overall writing style.

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