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How to Write An Essay – Learning Resource

Good lessons last a lifetime.

How to Write An Essay
The Ultimate Guide

Maybe you struggle with essays? Maybe, no one ever explained essay writing to you? Or even worse, they did but actually the explanation sucked.

No stress. It’s time for some schooling!

Pen writing essay on paper

This Might Help

Free Demo Essay

The Basic Essay Graphic

Essays can come in all shapes and sizes but for today we’ll be looking at a simple critical essay. Well, good news. Absolutely everything you need to know about the structure of a essay is in this one image.

Template for Essay Structure

Doing Your Head in?
Let’s Start With The Basics!

In truth, this is a pretty simple graphic but for someone who doesn’t know how to write an essay or is unfamiliar with it, it may seem confusing at first.

The Introduction

The introduction is one of the most important parts of the essay and crucial if you want to learn how to write an essay. No seriously. This is your road map for the entire piece and guides readers as to what you will be talking about and where you will be taking the argument.

All introductions have this basic form. 

Structure of Essay Introduction

Introduction Terminology

If you want to learn how to write an essay.
Sear these words into your memory! 

Thesis

A thesis is just a fancy word for your argument or the point being proven. Often when you have to write an essay you will be given a question. Your thesis is more or less your stance on the question. I am grossly oversimplifying but that is the basic truth.

What is your stance on the question – it is good | it is bad | it is a powerful rendition of human misery. All three of these are examples of theses. All you have to do with your thesis is answer the question. Once you know your argument you can proceed.

Texts

Simply introduce the text(s) that you have been studying and that you will be using to justify your argument.

*In English, all evidence comes from texts, whether that is a film, a poem, a novel, a play, an image or a speech.

Themes

Themes are just the main ideas you will be using or talking about in order to justify your argument (thesis).

This one can have various names, sometimes teachers despise the word “themes” and call these sub-theses. No Stress, you simply need to make sure that the ideas you choose are well linked to your thesis and that in your own mind and on paper you can justify how and why.

English is the art of explanation.

Elaboration

In the elaboration, you will get your chance to further explain, if necessary, how your themes are related to the thesis.

This is not mathematics. This is not a formula. There is no one way to write an English introduction and much of it is an art that requires finessing words, changing sentences and seeing what sounds best and communicates clearest.

Thesis Restatement

Often, we simply repeat our thesis at the end of the introduction to remind readers what the core of our argument is. It also ensures we don’t stray to far from our original thesis / argument. 

An essay is really just a whole bunch of hand holding as we lead people through our thoughts. If our thoughts and expression are well organised, they will finish the maze and come out more knowledgeable for it.

Think of learning how to write an essay as less of a chore and more of a mental adventure as you guide people through the rooms of your mind! 

“All Essay Writing is Rewriting”

Highlighters and glasses on open book

Moving on…

Paragraphs

The paragraphs form the bulk of your essay and work to answer the question and prove your thesis.

All paragraphs have this basic format. 

Paragraph Terminology

You should get nice and cosy with these words!

Topic Sentence:

The topic sentence will be the very first sentence of your paragraph and as the name suggests, it will introduce the topic of this paragraph. You will have to link your theme to the thesis and explain how this whole paragraph will be answering the question.

It always comes back to the question. Even when you think the question isn’t there, it’s there.

Elaboration:

The elaboration is as previously mentioned, your chance to clarify or expand on your topic sentence. Often you will have quite complex links from your theme to the thesis and to the question so sometimes you will need more than one sentence to explain how this paragraph will be answering the question. 

Evidence

If you’re learning how to write an essay (according to the NSW Education Standards Authority), evidence is comprised of these three absolute necessities. 

Quote | Technique | Analysis

You need these three things for it to be considered evidence and we will explain each of them further down in the article.

Link Back

The link back is simply a restatement of your thesis and theme. This is ALMOST a repetition of the topic sentence, but it differs in that now, you have proven the argument so you should end it in a more conclusive and assertive manner. 

Confused?

It’s ok. This takes practice. 

Learning how to write an essay is not easy.

Make sure you’ve checked out the demo essay
at the bottom and top of the article.

Almost done friends!

Show Me The Evidence!

Evidence in English literature is generally considered to be composed of these three things.

Evidence Terminology

You want to get on a first name basis with these bad boys!

Quote

A quote is just an extract from the text. In a book it will literally be a phrase, clause, sentence or excerpt, but in a visual text, it might be a shot or music, or in a play, stage directions.

Technique

A technique is the device used by the author to create an effect or communicate something e.g. simile, metaphor, tone, motif, anaphora…

Probably the most frustrating feature of any English essay is finding and analysing techniques. It is a vital step in the evidence and proof process and demonstrates to readers that you fully understand not only WHAT is being communicated in the quote but HOW. 

Analysis

The analysis is where you SYNTHESIZE your quote and technique and you explain precisely how they are actually relevant to this paragraph and the thesis.

This is the most significant part in terms of learning how to write an essay. This is the part where you get to justify your theme and your thesis.  It doesn’t matter how cool your techniques sound or how moving the quotes are, if you can’t analyse them, it’s all irrelevant. Analysis is a very tricky thing; it takes time and effort to improve and strengthen. Don’t be afraid to use websites like Sparknotes, Litcharts and Shmoop to help inspire and clarify your thoughts, just make sure you do not plagarise or copy them – that is not learning. 

Some Paragraph Tips

Congratulations, you have now completed your first paragraph. You simply have to repeat this process with two other themes and you have learnt how to write an essay!

Hopefully this will answer some questions you have about paragraphs.

Number of Paragraphs

There really can be any amount of paragraphs you want in an essay. In fact, university dissertations (PHD essays) can last 80,000 words with hundreds of paragraphs.

But for the sake of the basic NSW essay, let’s stick to three paragraphs and roughly 800 words.

Paragraph Focus

Each paragraph should focus on one of the themes that you specified in the introduction. Do NOT deviate from your already introduced Themes / Sub-theses. This will indicate poor structure, a discursive or unfocused essay and generally will be distracting and confusing for the reader. 

The Conclusion

The conclusion is merely a confirmation of your thesis. You restate your grand argument, reharsh the themes you used to prove it and end with a strong and powerful statement affirming your point.

You’re Done! 

Free Demo Essay

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How to Write an Essay?

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