Write a first draft
Your first draft will help you work out:
- the structure and framework of your essay
- how you will answer the question
- which evidence and examples you will use
- how your argument will be logically structured.
Your first draft will not be your final essay; think of it as raw material you will refine through editing and redrafting. Once you have a draft, you can work on writing well.
Structure your essay in the most effective way to communicate your ideas and answer the question.
All essays should include the following structure
A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay should contain:
- A topic sentence that states the main or controlling idea
- Supporting sentences to explain and develop the point you’re making
- Evidence. Most of the time, your point should be supported by some form of evidence from your reading, or by an example drawn from the subject area.
- Analysis. Don’t just leave the evidence hanging there - analyse and interpret it! Comment on the implication/significance/impact and finish off the paragraph with a critical conclusion you have drawn from the evidence.
- a concluding sentence that restates your point, analyses the evidence or acts as a transition to the next paragraph.
See The Learning Centre guide Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting
Tips for effective writing
- Start writing early - the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
- Keep the essay question in mind. Don’t lose track of the question or task. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft and edit and work out your argument.
- Don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end (especially not in a single sitting). Begin with what you are ready to write - a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. Start with the body and work paragraph by paragraph.
- Write the introduction and conclusion after the body. Once you know what your essay is about, then write the introduction and conclusion.
- Use 'signpost' words in your writing. Transition signals can help the reader follow the order and flow of your ideas.
- Integrate your evidence carefully. Introduce quotations and paraphrases with introductory phrases.
- Revise your first draft extensively. Make sure the entire essay flows and that the paragraphs are in a logical order.
- Put the essay aside for a few days. This allows you to consider your essay and edit it with a fresh eye.
See The Learning Centre guides to Introducing quotations and paraphrasesandTransition signals
See next:Referencing your essay
Use your concept map or plan
Write your assignment using your map or plan to guide you. As you write, you may well get new ideas or think about ideas in slightly different ways. This is fine, but check back to your map or plan to evaluate whether that idea fits well into the plan or the paragraph that you are writing at the time. Consider: In which paragraph does it best fit? How does it link to the ideas you have already discussed?
For every paragraph, think about the main idea that you want to communicate in that paragraph and write a clear topic sentence which tells the reader what you are going to talk about. A main idea is more than a piece of content that you found while you were researching, it is often a point that you want to make about the information that you are discussing. Consider how you are going to discuss that idea (what is the paragraph plan). For example, are you: listing a number of ideas, comparing and contrasting the views of different authors, describing problems and solutions, or describing causes and effects?
Use linking words throughout the paragraph. For example:
- List paragraphs should include words like: similarly, additionally, next, another example, as well, furthermore, another, firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally, and so on.
- Cause and effect paragraphs should include words like: consequently, as a result, therefore, outcomes included, results indicated, and so on.
- Compare and contrast paragraphs should include words like: on the other hand, by contrast, similarly, in a similar way, conversely, alternatively, and so on.
- Problem solution paragraphs should include words like: outcomes included, identified problems included, other concerns were overcome by, and so on.
Some paragraphs can include two plans, for example a list of problems and solutions. While this is fine, it is often clearer to include one plan per paragraph.
Look at your plan or map and decide on the key concepts that link the different sections of your work. Is there an idea that keeps recurring in different sections? This could be a theme that you can use to link ideas between paragraphs. Try using linking words (outlined above) to signal to your reader whether you are talking about similar ideas, whether you are comparing and contrasting, and so on. The direction that your thinking is taking in the essay should be very clear to your reader. Linking words will help you to make this direction obvious.
Different parts of the essay:
While different types of essays have different requirements for different parts of the essay, it is probably worth thinking about some general principles for writing introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions. Always check the type of assignment that you are being asked to produce and consider what would be the most appropriate way to structure that type of writing.
Remember that in most (not all) writing tasks, especially short tasks (1,000 to 2,000 words), you will not write headings such as introduction and conclusion. Never use the heading ‘body’.
Writing an introduction:
Introductions need to provide general information about the topic. Typically they include:
- Background, context or a general orientation to the topic so that the reader has a general understanding of the area you are discussing.
- An outline of issues that will and will not be discussed in the essay (this does not have to be a detailed list of the ideas that you will discuss). An outline should be a general overview of the areas that you will explore.
- A thesis or main idea which is your response to the question.
Here is an example of an introduction:
It is often a good idea to use some of the words from the question in the introduction to indicate that you are on track with the topic. Do not simply recount the question word for word.
Writing the body:
- Each paragraph should make a point which should be linked to your outline and thesis statement.
- The most important consideration in the body paragraphs is the argument that you want to develop in response to the topic. This argument is developed by making and linking points in and between paragraphs.
Try structuring paragraphs like this:
- Topic sentence: open the paragraph by making a point
- Supporting sentences: support the point with references and research
- Conclusive sentence: close the paragraph by linking back to the point you made to open the paragraph and linking this to your thesis statement.
Here is an example of a body paragraph from the essay about education and globalisation:
As you write the body, make sure that you have strong links between the main ideas in each of the paragraphs.
Writing the conclusion:
This is usually structured as follows:
- Describe in general terms the most important points made or the most important linkage of ideas
- Do not include new information, therefore it does not usually contain references
- End with a comment, a resolution, or a suggestion for issues that may be addressed in future research on the topic.
Here is an example conclusion from the essay on education: