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The 11 Most-basic steps in writing an Essay

1. Analyzing the question and defining key terms

The first of the basic steps in writing an essay is to understand the topic you are required to write about in the long-run. As you read your assignment instructions or requirements, you will have questions to analyze and terms to define. These terms and questions will help you know the direction your essay will take. In some cases, some questions will be critical answers while others will need simple and direct answers. However, you need to respond to your questions based on their requirement.



If any essay question requires you to analyze a specific argument or topic, you should expect the deconstruction of the subject of the essay. This word need you divide the essay topic down into different parts. Once you do this, it will be important to evaluate critically every part. You will need important evidence and debates that will help you understand arguments against and for and understand the way these parts relate.

Analyzing an essay is different from evaluating an essay. In an essay evaluation, you will provide your verdict or opinion about an argument or the research findings that are accurate. You will be required to highlight the extent that you agree with a specific hypothesis or argument. It is important to offer critical information on both sides of the debate and use evidence from many academic sources. You will be required to state your opinion of the argument or point of view. You will use solid evidence to arrive at your position. In the identification of terms, you will offer bare facts such as a phrase, a name, or date. As you define your terms, you will have to offer an accurate and concise definition of terms. In the description of terms, you will talk about a specific topic and add some details. You will mention the main characteristics or the specific features of the given topic. You will show how different these terms are and how similar they are or they are related.    

Analyzing and understanding the terms helps you understand the task, because it is one of the basic steps in writing an essay. You need to tread the assignment prompt to understand the instructions. You can check the definition of terms of phrases in the assignment that you do not know especially the technical terms. You need to identify the key words and phrases. Keywords are of three types: The task words, topic words, and focus words. Task terms or phrases show the kind of response a person is expected to write. The words are mainly verbs but they might also be question words. Some of the task words include discuss, evaluate, or review. Topic words are those that informal you what to write about. These terms define the topic and indicate the areas you should focus. These words are easy to identify since they are words you learnt in your course. For instance, discuss the effects of global warming. Focus words have a specific topic aspect that you will need to pay attention to and write about the topic. Apart from key words, the other important aspects that you should consider as you analyze the assignment include the course objectives and recommended reading, and marking guides.

2. Establishing a point of view or a thesis

A thesis statement makes assertion about a specific topic and shows how the topic will be discussed. This sentence appears as the last sentence of the introduction part of the essay and does not simply announce the topic of discussion but creates an idea about it. However, the thesis can be a paragraph or more if the paper is long. A thesis statement informs the reader about the purpose, scope, and objectives of the paper. It also summarizes the conclusions that the writer is likely to write. A thesis statement has to specific and focused enough to establish the direction of the paper. The key words both verbs and nouns need to be accurate, specific, and indicative of the research extensiveness and argument analysis or thrust, and comprehension of the information being supported.  

The objective of a good thesis statement as one of the basic steps to writing an essay is to inform the reader the way to interpret the importance of the subject being discussed. It is also a roadmap for the paper and it tells the reader what they need to expect from the paper. The statement should directly answer the question asked in the essay requirement. It should also make a claim that is likely to have opposing views. For assignments that require you to make a claim or to take a position, you need to con vey your claim or position in the thesis statement. Although the instructions might not state that you need to write a thesis statement, your instructor assumes that you know every essay you write needs a thesis statement.

An effective thesis statement is because of a lengthy thinking procedure. Developing a thesis is not the first thing a person does after reading the instructions. You need to development an argument of the topic, organize and collect evidence, and look for any relationship between the facts such as their similarities and differences and establish the significance of these relationships. At the end of the basic steps in writing an essay, you are likely to have a working thesis, which presents the main or basic ideas and the argument that you can support using evidence. Both the thesis statement and argument need to be adjusted along the way.

Strong thesis statement must answer the essay question. After you draft your thesis statement, check if it has answered the question, taken a position that others might oppose, it is focused on the points of discussion, and has a conclusion. The thesis statement is an important phase of the writing process. As you plan how to write your paper, you also need to generate and organize ideas that are specific to the topic you will write about. You can also draft the paper through critical writing and thinking. The thesis statement help you build your arguments in the body paragraphs.

The thesis statement is not an opinion statement. It is also not a statement or statements of fact. The thesis statement should be clear and inform the reader what the assay is about. This statement should also be persuasive. In the thesis statement, you need to use interrogative words such as which, why or how. Pose open questions that leave room for discussion.

3. Researching the topic

  Your research skills determine the success of your essay. However, you should not be worried if you have no clue about researching a topic since it is easy. The first thing you need to know is the type of sources and how they are used in academic writing. The two main sources are primary and secondary sources. You need to identify the research topic and sometimes your teacher will pick it for you. Before you start the research process, you need a topic you are focused about. Researching a topic that is too narrow or too broad is a frustrating experience. For a general topic, you will find a lot of information that will be overwhelming. If the topic is too specific, you will have little information.  

Researching about a topic needs you to select the keywords that are likely to use as the search words. You need to identify the central ideas and keywords of the topic and note them down. You need to list the alternate words or synonymous for the original terms. If a word offers too much or too little information, or irrelevant information, you can use a synonym. In some cases, the online databases and online catalog might not identify their original search words but identify a synonym or variation of the search word. You can refine the search terms using a controlled vocabulary. Controlled vocabulary words are the standardized words that indexes or databases utilize to organize information. Controlled vocabulary words produce specific outcomes. Most of the indexes and databases offer the users a way to search the controlled vocabulary using search tips or help. In other such as the library of congress, the subject headings are controlled terms of the catalogued used in the library.

As you search for the keywords, you need to track the sources. This is one if the crucial basic steps in writing an essay that ensure that you keep track of all the sources, you need to cite all the information as soon as you identify it. Be consistent with the way you cite your sources. You can use APA, MLA, or Harvard referencing style or any other citation style recommended by the instructions. Read the background information of the topic. Read a broad summary of the topic that allow you to have an overview of the topic and know how these ideas are related. These summaries are an important source of words used to describe the topic. The keywords are useful for further research. If you cannot find sources about a given topic, you can use broader words or ask for help from the librarian. You can use periodical indexes to go through the current journals, magazines, or newspaper articles on the topic. You can utilize web search engines such as Bing and Google to find information about your research topic.

You can modify the topic during the process of research. You will not know what you will find, so be flexible with your research topic. If you find too much information, you can narrow the topic to be specific. However, before you change your research topic, consider the length of the research paper, bibliography, project, and other instructions of the assignment. It is also important to note the coverage needed and the due date. These ae among the basic steps to writing an essay that will help you decide on how and when to modify your research topic.

4. Taking notes from the readings

Throughout your academic life, you will be expected to take notes in class. Although most students are not taught how to take notes, all students have an idea of how they like their notes taken. Taking notes does not require special skills. However, effective listening skills are crucial in writing good notes. It is one of the basic steps in writing an essay effectively. Taking notes is an effective way of remembering information that you are likely to forget. Research shows that people tend to forget at least 40-percent of the new information they learn within 24 hours of first hearing or reading it. Taking note is an effective way of retrieving and retaining 100-percent of new information that we encounter.

The most efficient note-taking skill consists of active and not passive learning. In active learning, the responsibility of learning is placed on the learner. For learning to be efficient, learners need to be engaging in activities that help them participate in the learning process such as solving problems, discussing, writing, and reading. As students learn, they need to be thinking about what they engaging in. As students learn new content, they need to think about how they learning it. During the learning process, students have found note taking as one of the most effective way of organizing they information they learn.

The four stages of taking good notes are: Note taking, note making, note interacting, and note reflecting.

In note taking students prepare a book or piece of paper where they will write their notes. They will use this paper to write notes in their words or paraphrase. They have to leave spaces or lines in between main ideas for adding information and later revisions. They also need to have a consistent system of symbols and abbreviations to save the time as they make the notes. You can use bullet points or lists when possible. You can take cures from the source or lecturer and it is crucial.
In note making, students learn to review and edit the content of their notes.  You can connect the main ideas in the notes pages with the use of symbols or color.   There is as exchange of ideas and collaboration with other learners and check for comprehension and evaluate the understanding of every note taken. Split you piece of paper into three section, this the Cornell method making notes. The first section is a cue section, the second part is the note-takings section, and the third part is the summary section.
 
In note interacting, students link what they learn together through a summary that addresses the important question and answers these questions. Students also learn from their notes by regularly revising the notes.

In note reflecting students are given a written feedback that needs to be given by the tutor, peer, or teacher and evaluate the understanding of the learner in the initial stage of learning. The learners need to address the feedback by analyzing one area of challenge that they experience in their learning. Learners need to reflect over a unit on a regular basis and leads up to tests and exams.

5. Writing an essay plan

Other basic steps in writing an essay involve having a plan to assists you in arranging your thoughts logically and stay on track in the writing process. The essay plan helps you have an organized structure that helps you express tour thoughts in a clear way, making it easy for the reader to follow the argument thread. The essay structure is also guided by the argument and content, meaning that each essay has a different structure. The essay plan should highlight the way you will prove your argument and include evidence that you will use. You can structure the plan around the various sections of an essay.

  The first step of making an essay plan is planning. You need to understand the question you are writing about. You have to be in a position to make clarification when you are required to as you answer the question. You need to know if the question is close or open ended. For open-ended questions you need to narrow the question down. You need to explain why and how you have decided to limit the essay introduction. This helps the reader know you appreciate the wider issues regarding the topic but you choose to be selective.  For a close ended question, your answer need to refer and be within the question limits. These include the specific texts, dates and countries.  

The second step is brainstorming for ideas which include what you understand about the topic from reading and lectures. You need to understand the topic and know how to answer the question. You must have possible answers or responses to the question and ideas about the conclusion. You can use a mind map to organize your ideas. The third step is making a plan. The plan must help you have coherent arguments. The plan also enables you to have a logical structure and have an end point for the argument prior to writing the essay. You do not have to engage in complex thinking as you find the right words to express your ideas. The plan helps you to commit to yourself as you stick to you point.

You can use several strategies to make an essay plan. You can use the title to make an effective essay plan such as comparison, description or analysis. You can use the structure that is the most appropriate for the topic, or use a template plan.

The essay outline has three parts. These are introduction, main body, and conclusion. The introduction should address the question and show the parts that are interesting for the essay and how the essays will response to them. You should develop a mission statement in the introduction. The introduction starts with a hook, which is an attention grabbing statement that makes the reader be interested in the essay. The introduction also offers background information about the topic. The thesis statement is the last part of the introduction and it provides the direction of the paper.

The main body consists of several body paragraphs depending on the size of the paper. Each body paragraph addresses a unique idea and starts with a topic sentence. The body paragraphs must have a claim that is supported by evidence. Each body paragraph must end with a conclusion.

The third part of an essay is the conclusion. The conclusion summarizes the main ideas and restates the thesis statement, and how the main ideas support the thesis.

6. Writing the first draft  The first draft is a rough sketch of your writing. For some writers, the first draft becomes the final one because it is satisfactory but for most writers, the first draft requires several adjustments, reviews, edits and proofreading before it becomes a final copy. The first draft helps you elaborate the primary essay points in the outline and give them a sample form. The steps of writing the first draft are as follows: Pay attention to the essay plan that helps you organize your ideas in a coherent and clear manner. Sketch the introduction of the essay. The introduction informs the reader what the topic is about. Start with a hook that helps you state your point of view based on the topic. The introduction has to be interesting to capture the attention of the reader. Based on the outline, write your thesis, body paragraphs and conclusion. The main objective is to give these parts of the essay their initial form and to have a general direction in their development of the paper.

The Priorities in a First Draft

  • Clear organization- It is crucial to organize your ideas in a coherent order. This helps you trace your essay logic as you work on the second draft and minimize the work that you have.
  • Forward momentum- The goal is to create a full workable draft and not a crucial one. You need to edit lightly as your ideas are placed on the essay in clear manner. Juts write your ideas; you will perfect them during revising, reviewing, and proofreading.
  • Clear Citation- Students work on themselves as they note sources when writing their first draft. You need to have a clear list of well-formatted references that save you from as a first draft.
  • Grammar, elegance, formatting, and mechanics- Elegance is the last priority when writing the first draft. In the first draft, flawless expression is not important. You only need to ensure that your writing is comprehendible. You need to focus on making ideas sentences that much consideration and time. These are the only time-consuming tasks that you have to consider editing. This goes for formatting. There is no need to perfect sentences before you are sure of its content that is usefully and necessarily explained.

7. Reading and making changes

The mistake you can make is jumping right into editing immediately after completing your first draft. This is because you will be too familiar with what you have written. To edit efficiently, you need to have to be objective, meaning that you have to give yourself time to forget your work. Wait a few days or week if you have the time to edit your work. You must understand that the first draft is your rough copy of the work and you can make as many changes as you want. During editing, you must have a critical eye since making the rough draft perfect can be overwhelming.

Before you start editing, read your draft word for word. It will be hard work to read all your work but you have to read the entire copy of the work to know what to add or subtract. Reading the rough draft is crucial as it gives you an idea of what you have written. You can also consider what changes you need to make to enhance the flow of ideas. Establish what you need to be developed more: You need to establish areas that do not make any sense. You can either edit of delete such areas.

Structural edit is important as it help you break down the document into sections that you will evaluate individually. After the structural edit, there are many revisions to do and this would help you rewrite the draft. You can choose to give your first draft to a professional to help with editing. This will enable you have another perspective that I not similar to yours. You need to make revisions based on the feedback of the professional. Revision can feel like a complete rewrite. However, revisions help you correct many details in every sentence that is underlined. Revisions help you make at least 75 percent of the editing work.

Another important basic steps in writing an essay is proofreading. Proofreading is important as it help you correct the grammatical and syntax errors in the draft. As you proofread, you can add subheadings to have a paper that is well organized. Essays that are detailed and well organized captivate readers. Sub headings help the reader know the different ideas you analyzing in the body paragraphs. Ensure that the final draft ha an introduction, a body, and conclusion. All the ideas in the body paragraphs must support they thesis statement that you wrote in the introduction section. As you revise your draft, ensure that the reader can clearly establish the purpose of your writing through a clear and concise thesis. Without a prop thesis, the final draft will not be effective.

8. Having a colleague read it

As part of ensuring that the final copy you send to your professor is the best, you can allow your friend or classmate to read your second draft. You can print or email you colleague you second draft. Working within the time your colleague is available is important. Choose someone who will read the draft as soon as you hand it to them. You can select someone who is objective in their reading and someone who will not be afraid to correct your work. This is important, as your friends are likely to be bothered by how you will feel when they correct your draft. Help your colleague know that you do not mind making the correction they suggest to the draft. Let them know that their honest opinion would be appreciated.

Another important part of having your colleague read your draft is rewriting their ideas. You must be ready to make the changes that they suggest on the draft. You can allow your colleague make changes or highlight areas that they think would require changes. They can provide as many suggestions as possible to make the draft good. Aft you receive your copy back, read it aloud. This will help you understand the errors that have been highlighted by your colleagues. Reading aloud sentence-by-sentence and paragraph by paragraph help, you know how the essay flows. It also helps you establish areas that were not identified by your colleagues as they read your draft.   

You can also give the draft to another colleague to know if they will have similar sentiments as your first colleague. Allowing two people read your draft will help you identify as many mistakes as possible. You can help you colleagues read your draft by joining them when they are working on it. This helps them explain to your errors they identified and the reasons they identified those errors. Be careful not to over rely on your friend’s opinion.

9. Editing the first draft using recommendations

You should not limit the number of times you will make corrections to your first draft. The recommendations from your colleagues are important and you need to make the required changes as soon as you can. After you receive the recommendations, you do not have to put it in a drawer. You can start making the changes as soon as possible because it is a crucial basic steps in writing an essay. However, you need to have patience so that you can easily identify the areas that are most crucial to the essay. You must ensure that you have feedback from one to three colleague’s s that you can compare the areas they thought needed the most editing. As you make these changes, read the document afresh to ensure that the changes make sense. You cannot make changes without evaluating if they are right or wrong. You cannot always trust the feedback if the third party. This means that you can check if their suggestion would make the entire essay good or bad.

For this draft, you need to know that editing is not the same as rewriting. Editing is analytical and objective while rewriting is subjective and creative. Do not try editing and writing the draft at the same time. The recommendations are likely to help you edit your paper and not rewrite it.

Some of the consideration you need to make is changing the sentences that are not beautiful. As you consider these changes, know that you are likely to forget to follow your outline and it is not a bad thing. Sometimes, the outline might be ineffective while making changes to your draft. Ensure that your writing is concise and clear with or without the outline. Your draft after editing is likely to be shorter. You will add new ideas of words to make sure that the paper meets the word limit provided by your lecturer.

10. Completing the references and citations

Citing bibliographical references consist of three parts: citing, making a bibliography, and a list of references. Citing refers to acknowledging the text in the document was obtained from another person. Bibliography is a list of publications that will be consulted, and reference is the detailed description of the text from which the information was retrieve. Professional and honest citations of references offer a framework that is written for each. This helps acknowledge the sources used to create your criticisms and arguments, the references are important to the other people as they help trace and identify the sources used for your ideas. You can help avoid the plagiarism charges because it makes it clear that someone is using another person’s words and ideas.  

Citing references has two important basic steps in writing an essay:

  • Acknowledging the source by citing them in the text
  • Listing your sources at the end of your work to ease the identification process. This is known as the reference list or bibliography.

Accuracy is crucial in all types of writing. Creating a reference check serves as an accuracy check. Your instructor can decide to double check the quotes in the text to verify the fidelity of the passages that you paraphrased from the sources. Citations make you a better researcher. On major element of a good research is attention to details and the ability to make connections through discerned patterns. Good reference practice help achieve these elements of researching. The correct attribution to the sources includes the correct page number, correct spelling of the author’s name, and accuracy of facts that you present in your work or article. You also become detailed oriented in one way or another.

Good citations skills make you a better writer. Every person inspires to have a completing content and good attribution practices help create a strong foundation towards the objective. Citing important sources is important for various reasons and among the basic steps in writing an essay. For instance, you are likely to eliminate intellectual laziness, generalizations, and vague thinking. When you cite your work properly, you do not leave the question in the mind of the readers regarding the points that you are making. A good reference list shows your scientific knowledge. A bibliography is a compilation of various reference that you cite and read your dissertation, manuscript, and books. Your extensive bibliography shows off how widely read and well informed you are a scientist.

11. Completing the final draft and handing it in

After you edit, proofread, review, and rewrite your draft, you are making it perfect for the final copy that you will submit. Before you submit your final copy, ensure that the draft is well edited and reviewed to make it better. You can also ensure that the final draft has no spelling errors. Plagiarism is an important factor to heck before submitting your final copy. Several software such as turnit.com can help you detect the rates of plagiarism in your paper. However, to be safe ensure that your work is original and well-reviewed as possible. It is also important to review your revisions in a manner that is not only effective but also objective.

Your final copy must have all elements of a good essay. You must have introduction that consist of a hook, background information and thesis statement. You must have body paragraphs that support the thesis statement. The body paragraphs must have topic sentences, musty have a claim, and evidence. You can verify the sources you used, check the in text citations, check the subheadings, and the general flow of your paper. Read your final copy aloud one more time to see if it makes sense. You can also check for spelling and syntax errors, or the run-on sentences that you had not noticed.

Revise the areas that you had rewritten in you essay after you proofread it. These sections are likely to have errors that you might have skipped. Ensure that you have the right number of words. The word limit can make you have a lower grade. For some professors, having few words is an academic violation that is likely to attract a penalty. For others, the word limit should + or – 100 words. This ensures that your thoughts and ideas are within the word limit and that the paper has delivered the intended arguments. Ensure you have followed all the basic steps in writing an essay.

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