Over the course of your studies, you have probably been asked to write an essay. So what exactly is an essay? What are its components? How do you write a good one? Read on for some helpful tips!
What is an Essay?
Generally, an essay is a written piece that presents an argument or the unique point of view of the author. They can be either “formal” or “informal.” “Formal” refers to essays that are done for a scholarly or professional purpose.
“Informal” essays, conversely, express personal tastes and interests, and can have an unconventional writing structure. Essays are meant to provide a platform for writers to express their ideas within a specific type of format.
What are the Different Types of Essays?
There are many different types of essays, each with their own individual purpose and method of presenting information to the reader. Here are the most common:
: Usually written about a personal experience, these tell a story to the reader.
: Requires research on a topic, collection of evidence, and establishing a clear position based on that evidence.
: The writer must describe an object, person, place, experience, emotion, etc., and is usually granted some stylistic freedom.
: Often in a “compare and contrast” format, this also requires an original thesis statement and paragraphs that link back to a central idea.
What Makes a Good Essay?
To construct a well-formed essay, you need to include several different key components. These are vital to ensuring that the reader is convinced of your argument, hooked on your story, or adequately informed on your topic.
Almost all essays should be broken into four parts: Intro, Body, Conclusion, and Citations. Within these four parts, be sure to include the following components:
Your introductory paragraph should serve to frame the rest of your paper in the reader’s mind. Think of it like a preview; you want them to move forward from here with a clear understanding of what the central idea of your paper is.
In order to frame the central idea, many essays contain a thesis statement, which is a one or two sentence phrase that captures the theme of the paper. These should be as specific as possible, and should be included as the last part of your intro paragraph.
Example thesis statement:
Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.
The body of your essay is where your evidence is presented and/or your point of view is made clear to the reader. Each body paragraph should further the central theme you put forth in your thesis statement.
The body paragraphs should each include a topic sentence that drives the rest of the paragraph, and relates back to the thesis statement. Be sure to include transition sentences between paragraphs to ensure a nice flow to your writing.
Within each paragraph on a specific idea, present any outside evidence that you have used to formulate your idea. Here is where you should be sure to include any necessary in-text citations, whether they be in MLA format
, APA format, etc.
Your conclusion paragraph should neatly wrap up all of your ideas and evidence, calling the reader back to your original thesis statement. A good way to conclude your writing is to restate your thesis statement or central idea in a different way, making sure to include the main points you made in your paper.
If you are having trouble formulating your essay’s conclusion, read through your paper and then say to yourself “So what?” This helps to summarize the main idea of your paper in your mind.
Make sure that your reader is left with an impression or something to think about in relation to your topic. This is a hallmark of an effective essay. This is most important in argumentative essays.
Depending on what citation format your teacher prefers (MLA format, APA format
, etc.), you should include a reference list at the end of your essay, which lists the outside sources where you attained information while creating your paper.
The citations in your reference list should include any sources that you have referenced within the body of your essay using in-text or parenthetical citations.
For help with creating citations, check out the citation guides on BibMe here http://www.bibme.org/citation-guide
Finally, always remember to proofread your essay before handing it in to your teacher!