8 steps to write an effective academic essay
The steps taken to write an essay are a key concern for many students. Today we are going to look at the steps taken to write an effective academic essay. Why are we doing this? Because students often get lost in this process… a bit like this:
If you’re interested, we have a whole guided lesson that goes through the 8 steps of effective essay-writing – with the friendly assistance of this handsome fellow. His name’s Mike, by the way…
In the essay writing process lesson, we go through the 8 steps of essay writing using worked examples from Mike to help you better understand the process as you go. If you want to try it out for yourself, hit the Enrol in this course button below – or check out our other Academic Writing courses!
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You’re still here? Fair enough – well, let’s go through the 8 major steps it takes to write an effective academic essay*.
*And you should definitely hit the ‘Enrol in a course’ button at the end to start developing these skills TODAY!
8 steps to write an essay: the essay writing process
So what are the 8 steps you need to take when writing an academic essay? Good, logical question! Let’s look at them as a group before turning to each in turn. The essay writing process goes like this:
- Analysing essay questions
- Research (identifying important supporting information)
- Planning and organising your essay
- Writing a thesis statement
- Writing topic sentences
- Organising introductions and conclusions
Now, we’re not going to be able to go through all of these properly in this blog post (if we did this would be a long and boring post) – again, you can check out our Academic Essay Writing process lesson if you want. No, we’re going to do the first four of these, starting with…
Step 1: Analysing essay questions
The first step you must take when writing an essay is to analyse the question.
It’s very important that you take your time with this – essay questions are normally very carefully thought out and might not be asking what you first think they are. Also, it’s your job as a writer to answer the question properly – if you give a tangential answer because you misunderstood what the question asked you will lose marks.
With that in mind, let’s look at a sample question
So what are the key words here? Take a minute and have a think – and when you’re ready to continue, scroll down
All good? Here we go!
Now – next question – what do these words mean? Take a minute and have a think – and scroll down when you’re ready…
So – here are the key words with brief definitions.
The first word Discuss is what is known as an Instruction Verb – it is a specific instruction as to how the examiner wants you to answer the question. We’re going to examine instruction verbs in detail in a future blog post (if you want to get notified when that comes out – join our mailing list).
A quick word on Instruction Verbs
Discuss, more or less, means to talk about something not to take a position either way. By contrast, Argue suggests that there is conflict/disagreement on a given topic and asks you to take a side. Other instruction verbs like Evaluate and Outline have still different purposes. Again, if you’re interested in learning more about these, make sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming instruction verbs post.
Back to analysing essay questions
The next key words should be pretty straight forward – advantages and disadvantages means good AND bad things. If a student wrote about only one of these, they’d be offering a partial (or tangential) answer to the prompt – and would lose marks as a result.
Thereafter, international tourism is quite general – it’s not referring to a specific country (e.g., “tourism in Asia”) or by a particular group of people (e.g., “European tourism) or even a particular type of tourism (e.g., “adventure tourism”). Instead, it potentially covers all of these – and more. That said, it is also quite specific – international tourism refers to a type of tourism where people from one country travel to another – not within their own.
Finally, local residents is more specific than general (although it’s not very specific) – it refers to the people living in a certain area. A more specific focus might say ‘residents of Bali, Indonesia’.
PS. If you don’t know Bali, it is a beautiful island in South East Asia which is very popular with tourists – maybe too popular for some of the local residents.
Step 2: Brainstorming
The second step you need to take when writing an essay is brainstorm what you know about the topic.
If you know this word (brainstorming) – great! If not, brainstorming means to produce and write down ideas as fast as you can. It’s important that you don’t judge the ideas as you write them down – the focus is on producing as many ideas as possible – as quickly as possible. Kind’ve a bit like this…
So you can see that we’ve got a lot of potential things we could discuss here – which is excellent. The problem is that these are just our ideas – so the academic authority of this essay won’t be good enough for a university-level academic essay.
No problem though – because the third step is research!
Step 3: Research (identifying important supporting information)
After that, you want to add to your brainstorm with relevant research. Exactly what kind of information you find will depend on the type of course that you’re on. For example, if this essay were for an environmental studies class it would probably focus on very different things than the same essay for a business class.
Either way, the research skills are the same. We look at research skills in detail in our Academic Study Skills course – focussing on things like using Google Scholar and the University Library, Evaluating academic sources and more!
Generally though, ‘support’ will tend to refer to things like: examples, evidence, explanations, data, paraphrases/quotes/summaries, and so on. So a brainstorm with supporting ideas will look a bit more like this:
Once you’ve got that step done, the next step (and our last step for today) is to plan your essay.
Step 4: Planning and organising your essay
A good plan makes essay writing much easier. In fact, once you’ve written a good plan, an essay is halfway done.
The best way to make a good plan is to look over your extended brainstorm and look for the ideas with the strongest support. In this case, you’re probably going to choose to write about i) money/jobs for locals, ii) exposure to other cultures, and iii) increasing pollution. This because these are the ideas with the most academic support/citations.
And what will you do with these ideas? There are many different ways to structure an essay but one particularly effective method (which is simple to plan, write, and read) is
Unfortunately, we’ve run out of time (and space) for today to talk in detail about the steps to write an effective essay. We’ll come back for part two of this 8 steps to write an essay topic another time but if you want to practice these (and the other) essay-writing steps, read on!
Want to practice these 8 essay-writing steps?
Fair enough! If you want access to the full guided lesson (and to spend a bit of time with Mike – happy character that he is)
then hit the Start Learning button below and start your journey to academic success TODAY!
Master Academic Writing Skills today
Academic success is just a click away
Otherwise, that’s us for our HeadStart Guide on the 8 steps to write an essay – we hope it’s been useful! As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments – write us a post below or follow us on Facebook. Or, if you want to get more of these blog posts straight to your inbox – join our mailing list. Or if you have a question or a topic that you’d like us to write a blog post (or even better – a full lesson) about – email us! We read every email.
Academic English Writing: where can I find more resources?
Loved that content? Looking for more? No problem – check out the below!
- Want to try out more HeadStart Writing courses? Good news! You can sign up here and now.
- Want to get more about writing but more into blog posts than courses? No problem – check out our posts on writing academic paragraphs, academic vocabulary, short answers, and more!
- Or are you looking for more general self-study resources? Easy! Check out our blog posts on EAP self-study resources and courses and grammar/vocabulary self-study resources. Enjoy!