As many students have been learning online, through zoom or other digital platforms, it can be difficult to sit down and spend another couple of hours staring at a screen to write an essay. In order to get a composition finished in the most efficient way, it is important to have a plan that will help guide you through your individualized writing process one step at a time. If you are having difficulty starting, writing or finishing an essay for a course, consider these tips to take some stress off your shoulders while you work through your educational duties.
1. Consider the prompt and brainstorm.
The first thing you should do when assigned an essay in any course, is to analyze the prompt. The essay prompt or assignment sheet has the potential to serve as the biggest influencer for brainstorming topics. You can highlight or jot down important requirements listed in your prompt, and if they are not asked as questions, you can transform the statements into an inquiry and contemplate any possible answers you come up with. If a given prompt is not very specific, you should narrow down your interests related to the broad assignment, so that your topic feels comfortable enough to motivate you while you write. During the brainstorming process, it is helpful to list out all of your ideas, either digitally or on paper, so that you can visually combine, delete or add to topics that look promising in relation to the key words or requirements that you narrowed down from the prompt.
2. Think about your audience.
As every educator has different goals and requirements when assigning an essay, the audience you are writing for can differ and ultimately change the formality, diction and informatics that should be incorporated in an essay. If your essay is a research paper, your audience will usually consist of a broad demographic, as the goal is to persuade or argue an original point, observation or idea. If you are writing a composition that will be shared with your class, it is vital to consider the style of speech and subject matter that will be of interest to student peers like yourself. Considering the audience is not always detrimental in essay writing, but it can be helpful to understand who you are writing to in order to focus on a topic, delivery method and wording style that best suits the prompt.
3. Map out your essay.
Although every writer has a different pre-writing and composing process, if you are stuck with the formatting of a composition, the best way to get the wheels turning is by physically mapping out each paragraph before you write. By planning the content that you will discuss in each paragraph, you are giving yourself an idea of the sources, information and connective ideas needed to make your essay flow and meet any word count or reference requirements. If you write your essays digitally, you can map out your essay on the same document you are writing it on in order to have a visual skeleton of what you have left to write and how you will merge each idea in between paragraphs. Having a visual plan of your essay may take time but will prove to make your writing experience less daunting.
4. Finding and reading your sources before you start writing.
If you are writing an essay that requires academic or non-academic sources, do not wait until the middle of a paragraph to find them. You should accumulate all of your references and citations before you begin writing your essay in order to know exactly how you will use each source within your essay. It is crucial to read and annotate your sources before using them in an essay, as it will give you, not only more knowledge on the topic, but will help you compose using your own reactions to each work, allowing the bulk of your essay to depict your original ideas alongside that of other authors or scholars. Understanding a source before you use it in a composition will help you to discern whether or not you want to use it to help prove your thesis or use it as a counterargument that you will disprove. Once you have found and analyzed all of your sources, you can include them in your essay plan to make your writing process progress more seamlessly, saving you time and stress in the long run.
5. Start with your thesis.
Although it is easy for many to begin writing an introduction off the bat when composing an essay, if you begin with a thesis statement, your work will be focused around that argument or topic more consistently without filler thoughts or sentences. By creating a strong thesis statement, you are creating a sort of gravitational pull towards a central idea, allowing each paragraph and statement to have a common connection that will link back to the main purpose of your essay. Thesis statements come in various forms, lengths and styles, so you should not stress about creating one that simply lists out three ideas or arguments that will be discussed in the paper, rather you should try to build a sentence(s) that encompasses a big picture statement that you can constantly refer back to as your paper progresses.
It is important to note that everyone has their own writing process, so these tips should not be absorbed as a mere checklist but rather a helpful guide for challenges that arise while you are composing an essay. If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety and feel that you require some assistance with any writing assignment, you can always make an appointment at your university's writing center, which serves as an open, safe and collaborative environment where you will receive the guidance and advocation you need.