Shramdan Essay Writing

General Essay Writing Tips


Despite the fact that, as Shakespeare said, "the pen is mightier than the sword," the pen itself is not enough to make an effective writer. In fact, though we may all like to think of ourselves as the next Shakespeare, inspiration alone is not the key to effective essay writing. You see, the conventions of English essays are more formulaic than you might think – and, in many ways, it can be as simple as counting to five.

The Five Paragraph Essay

Though more advanced academic papers are a category all their own, the basic high school or college essay has the following standardized, five paragraph structure:

Paragraph 1: Introduction
Paragraph 2: Body 1
Paragraph 3: Body 2
Paragraph 4: Body 3
Paragraph 5: Conclusion

Though it may seem formulaic – and, well, it is - the idea behind this structure is to make it easier for the reader to navigate the ideas put forth in an essay. You see, if your essay has the same structure as every other one, any reader should be able to quickly and easily find the information most relevant to them.

The Introduction

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Check out our Sample Essay section where you can see scholarship essays, admissions essays, and more!

The principle purpose of the introduction is to present your position (this is also known as the "thesis" or "argument") on the issue at hand but effective introductory paragraphs are so much more than that. Before you even get to this thesis statement, for example, the essay should begin with a "hook" that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read on. Examples of effective hooks include relevant quotations ("no man is an island") or surprising statistics ("three out of four doctors report that…").

Only then, with the reader’s attention "hooked," should you move on to the thesis. The thesis should be a clear, one-sentence explanation of your position that leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about which side you are on from the beginning of your essay.

Following the thesis, you should provide a mini-outline which previews the examples you will use to support your thesis in the rest of the essay. Not only does this tell the reader what to expect in the paragraphs to come but it also gives them a clearer understanding of what the essay is about.

Finally, designing the last sentence in this way has the added benefit of seamlessly moving the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper. In this way we can see that the basic introduction does not need to be much more than three or four sentences in length. If yours is much longer you might want to consider editing it down a bit!

Here, by way of example, is an introductory paragraph to an essay in response to the following question:

"Do we learn more from finding out that we have made mistakes or from our successful actions?"

"No man is an island" and, as such, he is constantly shaped and influenced by his experiences. People learn by doing and, accordingly, learn considerably more from their mistakes than their success. For proof of this, consider examples from both science and everyday experience.

DO – Pay Attention to Your Introductory Paragraph

Because this is the first paragraph of your essay it is your opportunity to give the reader the best first impression possible. The introductory paragraph not only gives the reader an idea of what you will talk about but also shows them how you will talk about it. Put a disproportionate amount of effort into this – more than the 20% a simple calculation would suggest – and you will be rewarded accordingly.

DO NOT – Use Passive Voice or I/My

Active voice, wherein the subjects direct actions rather than let the actions "happen to" them – "he scored a 97%" instead of "he was given a 97%" – is a much more powerful and attention-grabbing way to write. At the same time, unless it is a personal narrative, avoid personal pronouns like I, My, or Me. Try instead to be more general and you will have your reader hooked.

The Body Paragraphs

The middle paragraphs of the essay are collectively known as the body paragraphs and, as alluded to above, the main purpose of a body paragraph is to spell out in detail the examples that support your thesis.

For the first body paragraph you should use your strongest argument or most significant example unless some other more obvious beginning point (as in the case of chronological explanations) is required. The first sentence of this paragraph should be the topic sentence of the paragraph that directly relates to the examples listed in the mini-outline of introductory paragraph.

A one sentence body paragraph that simply cites the example of "George Washington" or "LeBron James" is not enough, however. No, following this an effective essay will follow up on this topic sentence by explaining to the reader, in detail, who or what an example is and, more importantly, why that example is relevant.

Even the most famous examples need context. For example, George Washington’s life was extremely complex – by using him as an example, do you intend to refer to his honesty, bravery, or maybe even his wooden teeth? The reader needs to know this and it is your job as the writer to paint the appropriate picture for them. To do this, it is a good idea to provide the reader with five or six relevant facts about the life (in general) or event (in particular) you believe most clearly illustrates your point.

Having done that, you then need to explain exactly why this example proves your thesis. The importance of this step cannot be understated (although it clearly can be underlined); this is, after all, the whole reason you are providing the example in the first place. Seal the deal by directly stating why this example is relevant.

Here is an example of a body paragraph to continue the essay begun above:

Take, by way of example, Thomas Edison. The famed American inventor rose to prominence in the late 19th century because of his successes, yes, but even he felt that these successes were the result of his many failures. He did not succeed in his work on one of his most famous inventions, the lightbulb, on his first try nor even on his hundred and first try. In fact, it took him more than 1,000 attempts to make the first incandescent bulb but, along the way, he learned quite a deal. As he himself said, "I did not fail a thousand times but instead succeeded in finding a thousand ways it would not work." Thus Edison demonstrated both in thought and action how instructive mistakes can be.

DO – Tie Things Together

The first sentence – the topic sentence - of your body paragraphs needs to have a lot individual pieces to be truly effective. Not only should it open with a transition that signals the change from one idea to the next but also it should (ideally) also have a common thread which ties all of the body paragraphs together. For example, if you used "first" in the first body paragraph then you should used "secondly" in the second or "on the one hand" and "on the other hand" accordingly.

DO NOT – Be Too General

Examples should be relevant to the thesis and so should the explanatory details you provide for them. It can be hard to summarize the full richness of a given example in just a few lines so make them count. If you are trying to explain why George Washington is a great example of a strong leader, for instance, his childhood adventure with the cherry tree (though interesting in another essay) should probably be skipped over.

A Word on Transitions

You may have noticed that, though the above paragraph aligns pretty closely with the provided outline, there is one large exception: the first few words. These words are example of a transitional phrase – others include "furthermore," "moreover," but also "by contrast" and "on the other hand" – and are the hallmark of good writing.

Transitional phrases are useful for showing the reader where one section ends and another begins. It may be helpful to see them as the written equivalent of the kinds of spoken cues used in formal speeches that signal the end of one set of ideas and the beginning of another. In essence, they lead the reader from one section of the paragraph of another.

To further illustrate this, consider the second body paragraph of our example essay:

In a similar way, we are all like Edison in our own way. Whenever we learn a new skill - be it riding a bike, driving a car, or cooking a cake - we learn from our mistakes. Few, if any, are ready to go from training wheels to a marathon in a single day but these early experiences (these so-called mistakes) can help us improve our performance over time. You cannot make a cake without breaking a few eggs and, likewise, we learn by doing and doing inevitably means making mistakes.

Hopefully this example not only provides another example of an effective body paragraph but also illustrates how transitional phrases can be used to distinguish between them.

The Conclusion

Although the conclusion paragraph comes at the end of your essay it should not be seen as an afterthought. As the final paragraph is represents your last chance to make your case and, as such, should follow an extremely rigid format.

One way to think of the conclusion is, paradoxically, as a second introduction because it does in fact contain many of the same features. While it does not need to be too long – four well-crafted sentence should be enough – it can make or break and essay.

Effective conclusions open with a concluding transition ("in conclusion," "in the end," etc.) and an allusion to the "hook" used in the introductory paragraph. After that you should immediately provide a restatement of your thesis statement.

This should be the fourth or fifth time you have repeated your thesis so while you should use a variety of word choice in the body paragraphs it is a acceptable idea to use some (but not all) of the original language you used in the introduction. This echoing effect not only reinforces your argument but also ties it nicely to the second key element of the conclusion: a brief (two or three words is enough) review of the three main points from the body of the paper.

Having done all of that, the final element – and final sentence in your essay – should be a "global statement" or "call to action" that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end.

In the end, then, one thing is clear: mistakes do far more to help us learn and improve than successes. As examples from both science and everyday experience can attest, if we treat each mistake not as a misstep but as a learning experience the possibilities for self-improvement are limitless.

DO – Be Powerful

The conclusion paragraph can be a difficult paragraph to write effectively but, as it is your last chance to convince or otherwise impress the reader, it is worth investing some time in. Take this opportunity to restate your thesis with confidence; if you present your argument as "obvious" then the reader might just do the same.

DO NOT – Copy the First Paragraph

Although you can reuse the same key words in the conclusion as you did in the introduction, try not to copy whole phrases word for word. Instead, try to use this last paragraph to really show your skills as a writer by being as artful in your rephrasing as possible.

Taken together, then, the overall structure of a five paragraph essay should look something like this:

Introduction Paragraph

  • An attention-grabbing "hook"
  • A thesis statement
  • A preview of the three subtopics you will discuss in the body paragraphs.

First Body Paragraph

  • Topic sentence which states the first subtopic and opens with a transition
  • Supporting details or examples
  • An explanation of how this example proves your thesis

Second Body Paragraph

  • Topic sentence which states the second subtopic and opens with a transition
  • Supporting details or examples
  • An explanation of how this example proves your thesis

Third Body Paragraph

  • Topic sentence which states the third subtopic and opens with a transition
  • Supporting details or examples
  • An explanation of how this example proves your thesis

Concluding Paragraph

  • Concluding Transition, Reverse "hook," and restatement of thesis.
  • Rephrasing main topic and subtopics.
  • Global statement or call to action.

More tips to make your essay shine

Planning Pays

Although it may seem like a waste of time – especially during exams where time is tight – it is almost always better to brainstorm a bit before beginning your essay. This should enable you to find the best supporting ideas – rather than simply the first ones that come to mind – and position them in your essay accordingly.

Your best supporting idea – the one that most strongly makes your case and, simultaneously, about which you have the most knowledge – should go first. Even the best-written essays can fail because of ineffectively placed arguments.

Aim for Variety

Sentences and vocabulary of varying complexity are one of the hallmarks of effective writing. When you are writing, try to avoid using the same words and phrases over and over again. You don’t have to be a walking thesaurus but a little variance can make the same idea sparkle.

If you are asked about "money," you could try "wealth" or "riches." At the same time, avoid beginning sentences the dull pattern of "subject + verb + direct object." Although examples of this are harder to give, consider our writing throughout this article as one big example of sentence structure variety.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

In the end, though, remember that good writing does not happen by accident. Although we have endeavored to explain everything that goes into effective essay writing in as clear and concise a way as possible, it is much easier in theory than it is in practice.

As a result, we recommend that you practice writing sample essays on various topics. Even if they are not masterpieces at first, a bit of regular practice will soon change that – and make you better prepared when it comes to the real thing.

Now that you’ve learned how to write an effective essay, check out our Sample Essays so you can see how they are done in practice.

Essay Writing Center

Related Content:

"WP:ESSAY" redirects here. For the Wikipedia policy on personal essays as articles, see WP:NOTESSAY. For the wikiproject on Wikipedia essays, see WP:WikiProject Essays.

Essays, as used by Wikipedia editors, typically contain advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. The purpose of an essay is to aid or comment on the encyclopedia but not on any unrelated causes. Essays have no official status, and do not speak for the Wikipedia community as they may be created and edited without overall community oversight. Following the instructions or advice given in an essay is optional. There are currently about 2,000 essays on a wide range of Wikipedia-related topics.

About essays

Although essays are not policies or guidelines, many are worthy of consideration. Policies and guidelines cannot cover all circumstances, consequently many essays serve as interpretations or commentary of perceived community norms for specific topics and situations. The value of an essay should be understood in context, using common sense and discretion. Essays can be written by anyone and can be long monologues or short theses, serious or funny. Essays may represent widespread norms or minority viewpoints. An essay, as well as being useful, can potentially be a divisive means of espousing a point of view. Although an essay should not be used to create an alternative rule set, the Wikipedia community has historically tolerated a wide range of Wikipedia related subjects and viewpoints on user pages.

The difference between policies, guidelines, and some essays on Wikipedia may be obscure. Essays vary in popularity and how much they are followed and referred to. Editors should defer to official policies or guidelines when essays, information pages or template documentation pages are inconsistent with established community standards and principles.

Avoid "quoting" essays as though they are policy—including this "explanatory supplement page". Essays, information pages and template documentation pages can be written without much—if any—debate, as opposed to Wikipedia policies that have been thoroughly vetted by the community (see WP:Local consensus for details). In Wikipedia discussions, editors may refer to essays provided that they do not hold them out as general consensus or policy. Proposals for new guidelines and policies require discussion and a high level of consensus from the entire community for promotion. See Wikipedia:How to contribute to Wikipedia guidance and Wikipedia:Policy writing is hard for more information.

Essays are located in the Wikipedia namespace (e.g., Wikipedia:Reasonability rule) and in User namespaces (e.g., User:Tony1/Beginners' guide to the Manual of Style). The Help namespace contains pages which provide factual (usually technical) information on using Wikipedia and its software (see below). The {{Essay}}-family templates (with several variants like {{Notability essay}} and {{WikiProject advice}}), versus the {{Guideline}} (and variants, like {{MoS guideline}}) and {{Policy}} templates give an indication of a page's status within the community. Some essays at one time were proposed policies or guidelines, but they could not gain consensus overall; as indicated by the template {{Failed proposal}}. Other essays that at one time had consensus, but are no longer relevant, are tagged with the template {{Historical}}. Current essay policy nominations are indicated by the banner {{Proposed}}. See Wikipedia:Template messages/Wikipedia namespace for a listing of namespace banners.

Types of essays

Wikipedia essays

Further information: WP:ESSAYPAGES

Essays in the Wikipedia namespace – which are never to be put in the main (encyclopedia article) namespace – typically address some aspect of working in Wikipedia. They have not been formally adopted as guidelines or policies by the community at large, but typically edited by the community. Some are widely accepted as part of the Wikipedia gestalt, and have a significant degree of influence during discussions (like "guideline supplements" WP:Tendentious editing, WP:Bold, revert, discuss cycle, and WP:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions). Many essays, however, are obscure, single-author pieces. Essays may be moved into userspace as user essays (see below), or even deleted, if they are found to be problematic.[1] Occasionally, even longstanding, community-edited essays may be removed or radically revised if community norms shift.[2]

See also: Category:Wikipedia essays

User essays

Further information: Wikipedia:User pages

According to Wikipedia policy, "Essays that the author does not want others to edit, or that are found to contradict widespread consensus, belong in the user namespace." These are similar to essays placed in the Wikipedia namespace; however, they are often authored/edited by only one person, and may represent a strictly personal viewpoint about Wikipedia or its processes (e.g., User:Jehochman/Responding to rudeness). Some of them are widely respected by other editors, and even occasionally have an effect on policy (e.g., the WP:General notability guideline originated in a user essay). Writings that contradict policy are somewhat tolerated within the User namespace. The author of a personal essay located in his or her user space has the prerogative to revert any changes made to it by any other user, within reason. Polemics against particular people, or against Wikipedia itself, are generally just deleted, as unconstructive or disruptive.

See also: Category:User essays

WikiProject advice pages

Further information: WP:PROPAGES

WikiProjects are groups of editors who like working together. Advice pages written by these groups are formally considered the same as pages written by anyone else, that is, they are essays unless and until they have been formally adopted as community-wide guidelines or policies. WikiProjects are encouraged to write essays explaining how the community's policies and guidelines should be applied to their areas of interest and expertise (e.g., Wikipedia:WikiProject Bibliographies#Recommended structure).

See also: Category:WikiProjects

Historical essays

The Wikimedia Foundation's Meta-wiki was envisioned as the original place for editors to comment on and discuss Wikipedia, although the "Wikipedia" project space has since taken over most of that role. Many historical essays can still be found at Meta.Wikimedia.org.

See also: Meta:Category:Essays

Wikipedia how to and information pages

Further information: Wikipedia:Information pages

Wikipedia's how-to and information pages are typically edited by the community. They provide technical and factual information or supplement guidelines and policies in greater detail. Where "essay pages" offer advice or opinions through viewpoints, information pages are intended to supplement current community norms in an impartial way (e.g., Wikipedia:Administration).

See also: Category:Wikipedia information pages and Category:Wikipedia how-to

Creation and modification of essays

Main page: Wikipedia:Wikipedia essays

See also: Wikipedia:Project namespace § Creating new project pages

Further information: Wikipedia:Project namespace § Deletion of project pages

Before creating an essay, it is a good idea to check if similar essays already exist. Although there is no guideline or policy that explicitly prohibits it, writing redundant essays is discouraged. Avoid creating essays just to prove a point or game the system. Essays that violate one or more Wikipedia policies, such as spam, personal attacks, copyright violations, or what Wikipedia is not tend to get deleted or transferred to user space.

You do not have to be the one who originally created an essay in order to improve it. If an essay already exists, you can add to, remove from, or modify it as you wish, provided that you use good judgment. However, essays placed in the User: namespace are often—though not always—meant to represent the viewpoint of one user only. You should not normally edit someone else's user essay without permission. To be on the safe side, any edits not covered by REFACTOR and MINOR should not be made without agreement with the author. More radical edits should be discussed with them on the talk page. If the original author is no longer active or available, then a consensus should be sought from the other editors who have edited the essay. Another option is to just write a different essay.

Finding essays

Wikipedia:Essay directory - lists about 800 essays to allow searching for key words or terms with your browser. The gist of user written essays can be found at Wikipedia:Essays in a nutshell. Essays can also be navigated via categories, the navigation template (as seen below), or Special:Search (as seen below; include the words "Wikipedia essays" with your other search-words).

Notes

  1. ^Miscellany for deletion (WP:MFD) is one process that can be used by Wikipedians to decide what should be done with problematic pages in the namespaces which aren't covered by other specialized deletion discussion areas. Items sent here are usually discussed for seven days; then they are either deleted by an administrator or kept (sometimes with modifications, which may include moving or merging), based on community consensus as evident from the discussion, consistent with policy, and with careful judgment of the rough consensus if required. Pages which are not specifically being posted for deletion can also be moved through the requested moves (WP:RM) process.
  2. ^Two examples are "WP:Don't be a dick" and "WP:Don't feed the divas", replaced by the heavily revised WP:Don't be a jerk and WP:Don't be high-maintenance, respectively, after too many incivility complaints. Conversely, an attempt to replace the rather stern WP:Give 'em enough rope with a much more mild-toned "WP:Let the tiger show its stripes" was rejected by consensus, and the latter eventually deleted as redundant. Some essays, like WP:Advice for hotheads, are intentionally written with such history in mind, and are worded to not offend and to advise against using them in attempts to offend.

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