7 Steps to Writing a Great
Start writing parts of the essay long before you finish
researching (and dont worry about starting at
the beginning!) This strategy works well because writing
is thinking, and the process of
writing can help you define your arguments and questions
and enable you to return to gathering materials with
clear goals in mind. You might even change direction
almost completely as you discover more interesting ideas
through writing. If you dont write early in the
process, you might be forced to stick with a less interesting
thesis because of a lack of time.
5) Write in your own words.
An article on writing academic essays wouldnt
be complete without a warning about plagiarism. Presenting
someone elses work as your own is never
appropriate. Never turn in an essay that you havent
writtenchances are a professor will recognize
that it has been plagiarizedand always cite any
material that you have found in an outside source.
Whenever you want to include a phrase or sentence that
comes directly from another text, be sure to put quotation
marks around it. Try to be selective about when to quote
an outside source. Remember that for most assignments
your job isnt to compile other writers thoughts;
it is to analyze and synthesize the information you
find. If the idea can be paraphrased in your own words,
try to do so. Keep in mind, though, that an idea from
another source that is presented in your own words still
needs to be cited. Check with your instructor to find
out which citation style to use (MLA, Chicago, APA,
6) Read and revise your first draft.
Once you have written your first draft, put it away
for a few days. If you can only put it away for an hour
or so because of time constraints, do so, but
remember that the more time you have away from it the
better. After youve had a chance to get away from
the essay, take a look at it again. As you read
over it again, ask yourself these questions:
Is the main point clear?
Does each paragraph focus on one main point and
have a clear topic sentence?
Am I providing enough support for my claims?
Does the order of the paragraphs make sense?
Are there transitions between ideas and paragraphs
to help the reader move from one point to the other?
Take some time to revise and fix any problems you notice.
Then, if possible, share your essay with a teacher,
tutor, or classmate. Writing is communicating, and you
need to be sure that youve communicated
effectively to another person. When another person reads
your essay, he/she can let you know whether your argument
is convincing and easy to follow.
Keep in mind that you can repeat this step as often
as is necessary to get your essay into great shape.
7) Proofread carefully.
Proofreading is an important process. A polished essay
is much easier to read than one filled with typos and
Know that the spellchecker will help you find some
errors, but it cant help you find all of them
and wont catch a word that is spelled correctly
doesnt fit the meaning of your sentence. Also,
be cautious when using the grammar checker because it
might encourage you to change something in a way
that will change a sentences meaning.
There are two great ways to find errors in your essay:
1) Read it out loud. You may feel silly doing this,
but it will help you catch omitted or repeated
words and awkward sentences. You might even have someone
else read it out loud while you listen. 2) Read the
essay backwards sentence by sentence from
the end to the beginning. This editors trick works
well because it forces you to focus on the words on
the page rather than on what you expect to be
Once youve fixed all of your typographic errors,
look for formatting and spacing problems, make sure
your essay conforms to the guidelines stipulated by
teacher, and feel relieved and confident when you turn
Cathy has taught freshman composition and worked
as a writing tutor for undergraduate and graduate students
across the country. She currently
serves as a writing consultant for graduate students
working on theses and dissertations.