Hello and good morning everyone! Thank you for joining me, E. Lexi Abbott, for another exciting blog post! This post covers the 13 steps of writing an essay. Read on to either confirm what you already know or to learn something new!
Please note: This is just a basic rundown of each step and is meant to be a short read. For any specific questions please remember I am a writing tutor going on 7 years now and do have open slots for students at this time (November 2021)!
Step 1: Research and Brainstorming
I group research and brainstorming into one step because one cannot exist without the other. As we think up what we would like to write about, that decision will either solidify or change depending on new information we acquire while we research!
REMEMBER: Always use legitimate sources and always record which sources you think you will use. This will help you write your Works Cited later!
Step 2: Thesis Statement
A term I am sure you have heard of before, but if you haven’t, the thesis statement is your overall stance that you are taking throughout your paper. Your main point. Your argument.
Coming up with your thesis statement is step one to physically writing your paper. Once you decide on your stance, you have a paper to write.
A STRONG thesis statement is one that can easily be challenged. What do I mean by this? I mean, saying that fluffy cats are cute is a widely agreed upon statement and therefore is a weak thesis statement. Stating that hairless cats are cute is a stronger thesis statement because there is less automatic support and, therefore, you have something to argue and prove. (This is just an example. I personally love MOST animals!)
Your thesis statement should be ONE sentence long. You CAN break it up into the main points you will be making and have three sections to it, but make sure your thesis statement only consists of one sentence.
Side note: A thesis statement goes at the very end of your introduction paragraph OR at the beginning of your first paragraph for longer essays.
Step 3: Outline
After researching, brainstorming, and deciding on a solid thesis statement, the next step is creating the outline!
An outline not only is to help you organize your thoughts but also acts as a road map for your writing. I know I am not the only one who tends to go off on tangents when I write and regularly need to remind myself to get to the point. It is easy to lose your way while writing, ESPECIALLY when writing something you feel strongly about!
A basic outline will look like this:
Body Paragraph 1 –
BP3 – (etc.)
NOTE: The thesis statement is automatically part of the introduction paragraph BUT is important enough to have it’s own space in your outline.
How to fill the outline? – Write ONE sentence for each paragraph. It should be easy to make your point for each paragraph in one sentence, if it isn’t, you have not consolidated your position enough.
Step 4: Introduction Paragraph
First of all, you don’t HAVE to work on your introduction paragraph first! Ever! Why? Because sometimes it is hard to write an introduction paragraph before you’ve written your paper – it is hard to introduce something when that thing does not exist yet!
However! I have found a VERY simple way to write your intro paragraph! I call it the funnel method. In this method, you are going from least to most specific information. Least specific goes at the top, most specific is your thesis statement!
You will have at least four sentences. Four sentences is your
At the beginning of your funnel, write the most general information you can about your subject. (Note: Do not write “since the beginning of time” or anything else like this. It is not technically true. Write something technically true)
The next sentence should be more specific, then more specific, until you reach your thesis statement.
(If you would like personal one-on-one help, reach out to me at the Send A Letter… page!)
Step 5: Conclusion Paragraph
The next step is to go directly to your conclusion paragraph. I will argue until the day that I am no longer writing (will never happen haha) that your conclusion should NOT be a sum-it-all-up conclusion. It may be easy but it adds NOTHING and most academic essays are short enough that your reader does not need to be reminded of what they have read. For longer works, summaries are VERY helpful, but for the usual 5-8 paragraph essay? Not needed.
Instead, write the NEXT STEP. Assume you won your reader over. What should they do with this new information? How will this improve their life? What is the next step? This paragraph should focus on that.
You cannot tie your essay into a pretty little bow. It is not a stand alone topic. People have been and will continue talking about your chosen subject after your essay is written. So instead, export your data.
(Again…any specific questions? Feel free to reach out! Send A Letter…)
Step 6: Body Paragraphs
NOTE: This step is interchangeable with step 7!
Finally, it’s time to start writing your essay! By now you should have a VERY good idea of what you’d like to say. Now, it’s all about getting it written down and edited.
Your body paragraph should be very close to your essay as a whole, structurally. You should have a topic sentence, a statement, and evidence to back it up.
Note: a body paragraph lasts as long as your subject does. Your body paragraph could take up PAGES if you wanted it to, or just a few sentences. Write until you feel you’ve provided sufficient evidence for your point.
Continue for each body paragraph.
Step 7: Quotes
NOTE: This step is interchangeable with step 6!
If your essay is the cake, quotes are the decoration! They support the overall image but cannot stand on their own as a cake…because they are just decorations, not the cake.
Quotes are usually needed to help back up your claim. Your readers don’t know you but if your point is backed up by established experts, you gain credibility!
Always remember to “sew it in”…what do I mean by this? Introduce your quote!! Do not start off your sentence with the quote, explain it a little bit then have the quote, after the quote, EXPLAIN it. Pretend it is blank. Pretend it is in an unknown language. Explain to your readers IN YOUR OWN WORDS what the quote says and how it supports your argument. And last, but not least, end your sentence with an in-text citation relevant to your specific formatting. MLA? (Author page#) APA? (Author, year published) etc.
Also, does your quote take up more than four lines? It’s a block quote. Look it up. You’re welcome!
Step 8: Format
The holy grail of formatting is OwlPurdue.com…memorize this site, love it, commit it to heart. They have EVERYTHING.
MLA – Modern Language Association – used for liberal arts and humanities papers/subjects.
APA – American Psychological Association – used for science papers/subjects.
Chicago – Follows closely to either MLA or APA depending on your subject and is mostly used for the extra formatting it provides. This format is used mostly for publishers of books or journals because of the ability to mix MLA and APA as needed. In all my years of tutoring I have helped ONE student with this format for their essay – this is for large works, not essays. Familiarize yourself with it anyways.
Always follow a format. Why? Because it’s professional and there’s a reason they exist. They make things easy to read and follow. Why do societies speak the same language? Because it makes communication easy to read and follow. Formatting is your friend!
Step 9: Rough Draft
Once you have completed your Introduction, Conclusion, and Body Paragraphs…congratulations! You’ve completed your rough draft!
It is called a rough draft because it is not done. Do NOT turn in your rough draft. I can almost guarantee your paper is not to the level it should be.
Your rough draft is very important. It’s the first version of your completed essay. You have piled all your sand into the sandbox and built the first forms of a castle…time to perfect it!
Step 10-12: EDITS
You will have a second and third draft and possibly even a fourth! Once you have your rough draft and have all the information inside your essay that you want, now it’s time to make sure you:
1) Say it the way you want to (second draft)
2) Have the proper grammar (third draft)
3) Have the correct formatting and have polished it even further after you have let the words sink in a little more (fourth/final draft)
Editing is the most important part of the writing process. I know that as students, especially younger students, you just want to be done with the paper and turn it in BUT if you get into the habit of editing your papers, it will become second nature and from this point forward you will be a stronger and stronger communicator. Just trust me. EDIT!
Step 13: Works Cited
Hopefully you have been keeping track of your sources this whole time. ALWAYS have a Works Cited. Not only does it help YOU go back and find more quotes or more information when you realize your specially chosen original quote doesn’t QUITE work while you’re through your first or second draft of edits…it also helps your readers learn more about the subject you are discussing.
A Works Cited is important not just to avoid plagiarism, but the real reason it is there is so those who are interested in your subject matter can go and do their own research. Learning is an important part of being human and whole groups of people used to sit around and just think about life itself – philosophers in ancient Rome for example.
I personally feel that this joy and love for learning has been lost a little bit, but I hope it will make a return. Curiosity should always be encouraged and should never be stamped out.
My point? Make your Works Cited! Look on OwlPurdue.com for help!
(Or reach out to me! Send A Letter…)
Congratulations! You’ve written an essay! Now go get that A!
CONCLUSION AND FINAL NOTES
Thank you for reading and I hope you found this list of steps helpful! Always remember that the reason teachers have you write essays is to genuinely help your communication and critical thinking skills, not just to give you busy work!
Thank you for joining me on this journey and writing and may you have a lovely day!
As always, please feel free to comment, share, and reach out to me!