How to Write a Great Essay

Updated: Nov 1, 2016

5 Smart Tips to Make Your Essay Better: Attitude, Reading a Topic, Choosing an Interesting Aspect of the Topic, Writing an Outline, Reviewing (Proofreading)

Writing well is not brain science. Far from it, actually. It’s discussing a subject or topic at length. It’s bringing in evidence to back an assertion, or putting forth an answer to a question, a solution to a problem. 

Not only is it a highly regarded skill in the working world, in just about all fields, writing can also be fun – like exploring an interesting subject or topic at length and on one’s own, rich, powerful language; or jotting down a few thought-conveying words that provide a little light and order out of the chaos, or even being able to truly share with another through written language. 

And, since higher education literally trains students to become adept at writing well and thinking critically, (they even reward it – with high grades), a student’s best bet would be to first reexamine how they relate to the subject and practice of writing – which brings in the first point of 5 Ways to Make A Good Paper Better (read also - How to Get Good Grades):

Have the Right Attitude Towards the Assignment

Any writing assignment is going to be a challenge. It’s going to take a little work, some of it, OK, much of it, will be tedious: with too much punctuation, spelling, making sentences, making points, explaining them, and so on. 

But, then, that wouldn’t be having the right attitude about this type of assignment – the writing assignment, which is one of the most common types of assignments given in higher education. So, in this case, a change perspective is not only beneficial, it’s essential to earn a good grade … and maybe exploring a hidden passion, talent or skill. 

Writing essays is generally rewarding. But, most times, at the very least the student gets quite bit of freedom in what they discuss in the assignment, the argument they make and defend, the question they raise, the solution they put forth, as long as what they discuss is pertinent to the class for which the assignment is given. People think in sentences, so the student may as well learn to write these thoughts down in a concise, academic way. 

It’s about learning and relearning and working hard to find ways to make something that is seemingly mundane and grey become almost magical and surely interesting – since college is, also, about expanding one’s mind, and not about being intolerant of seemingly foreign and unknown things, but in finding way to be embracing of them. So learn to make the writing assignment interesting and exciting, even; it will make the process much more fun and, therefore, rewarding for the student. 

Read Thoroughly on a Topic

The more a person reads on a particular subject, a topic, an issue, a problem, the more they will know about it. It’s a very simple and widely accepted concept. The same goes for the student conducting research and a preliminary reading of an essay or general writing assignment.


Related articles on essay topics:


When a subject is so well understood, so well grasped, and so well explained, so that it seems second nature to the student, the student wins: the writing of the subject in an essay form will then come much easier because the work will have been done in the reading, in the engaging learning of the subject and about its real-world or academic applications, long before the student ever enters the writing stage, which is generally the hardest part of this process if come to abruptly, without planning and researching the topic at length. 

A great place to beginning reading and research is the Dictionary; an essential part of understanding any given topic is understanding the meanings and implications of specific words and phrases. Primary Sources, like letters and newspaper articles and factual accounts of something, as well as Secondary Sources, are helpful when searching for an objective description of a topic or subject, and they are also especially very helpful when searching for issues that involve and surround this topic. 

Then they are a multitude of other sources students could thoroughly read and consider that will ultimately help them in the success of their writing assignment. Many scholars of these kinds of articles are experts in a given field and provide helpful, interesting perspectives about a subject. Many times, their thoughts and observations are helpful in having the student determine their Thesis Statement. Plus, if needed, those articles and information can be incorporated into one’s paper to support the claim that the student is making. Instead of struggling on a paper, remember: complete the reading to make the writing easier. 

Choose Something Specific About that Topic that is Very Personally Intriguing

When it comes to most academic courses, there’s much to explore, things that are horrifying, exciting, riveting, astonishing, interesting and, most of all, personally intriguing. It could be, in a Sociology course, a student wanting to examine and compare race relations in the American 1960s with today. For an English course, a student may want to explain how The Great Gatsby, the movie, differed from the original book of the same name, and perhaps why it does. A Political Science student may want to look at the change in European diplomatic relations with Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

It doesn’t matter whatever topic or subject the student pursues in the essay, so long as it is relevant to the assignment and the course for which the assignment was given. But the normal, everyday college student is expected and encouraged to find interesting ways to look at things – new ways of thinking that break down barriers between otherwise similar, engaging people, for example, or eradicating preconceived notions about a culture or members of a certain religious creed. 

In most cases, the most interesting topic, or angle, perspective, or solution, that the student chooses to pursue will help either, again, reveal to them their Thesis, the main theme maintained throughout the paper, or lead them to it. 

The Thesis Statement is generally a declared sentence incorporating exactly what it is that will be approached and discussed in the rest of the paper, which are most commonly an argument of some sort put forth and held and defended, but not all the time. 

Here are the above examples converted into a Thesis Statement, a pivotal, first paragraph sentence explaining the paper’s Thesis:

 • In comparing today’s socio-political relations with that of the American 1960s, there is evidence suggesting that today’s race relations between diverging ethnic groups are more exemplary of a democratically minded society than were the ’60s.  

 • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in just about every aesthetic way possible, exceeds the 2013 movie of the same name – and for good reason. 

 • Diplomatic relations greatly improved among European countries after the fall of Berlin Wall. 

Plan a Simple Outline – and Follow It

Using the newly constructed Thesis and Thesis Statement, the student should then, after they thoroughly understand their assignment and the formalities and instructions it calls for, create and then follow (as in, write the paper)a plan, which should be a detailed, five-pointed outline, with each point representing at least one paragraph of the essay:

  • The Introduction paragraph
  • Body Paragraphs (three or more)
  • Conclusion paragraph

The introduction paragraph is usually comprised of one or more topic sentences, establishing the perimeters of the subject, or maybe even just information about a given, general subject, before leading into the paper’s Thesis Statement – after which, generally, is some of kind of list of the evidence (the three main points) that will be used in the rest of the paper to support the Thesis Statement, whatever it may be. 

The outline should then include at least three defending points (the next three or so body paragraphs) that evidence the Thesis Statement, and perhaps sources used if they are needed or required, all to validate the argument. 

Lastly, the outline should include a conclusion paragraph (the final, fifth point of the outline). If there were any confusion about an essay’s argument or central theme, the conclusion paragraph would restate the paper’s Thesis, its general argument, as well as what was said in the introductory paragraph and body paragraphs – in total, the paper’s argument and its evidencing points. 

Without this planning stage and not creating and following an outline to follow, the student runs the risk of turning in a sub-par paper and getting a bad grade on an assignment. 

Get a Friend to Thoroughly Read It Before Handing it in to One’s Professor

One of the most essential parts of the essay-writing process – after the student has read and reread their essay several times for holes and for lack of evidence in their argument, of unqualified assertions, punctuation problems, etc. – is the student having another person read, and most certainly reread, their essay before turning it in, to make sure, at the very least, that the argument was well delivered and that is was free of mindless mistakes.

There is one caveat, though: that student chosen to read and judge one’s essay should be an academically minded one, a person who will know what to look for when evaluating the essay, what to change and how to ultimately improve it. 

The writer should then objectively consider the peer reader’s suggestions, questions, problems and any instances where they noticed a miscommunicated or weakly defended point, and incorporate it if they feel it helps the overall paper’s message. 

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