How to Write an Effective Essay


An essay is a piece of writing from a personal point of view that methodically examines and evaluates a topic. Often academic, an essay describes, clarifies and analyses a subject with a specific agenda, and is usually short and focused in its scope. It can cover a wide range of topics, from the best form of government to whether peppermint leaves are good for your breath. Its flexibility and brevity make it an ideal vehicle for philosophical reformers, as evidenced by the Federalist Papers in America or the tracts of French revolutionaries.

A good essay requires planning and research. Identifying the key points of your essay is the first step. It is also useful to brainstorm ideas, or use a technique such as clustering or mind mapping to help develop your essay concept and recognise connections between various facets of your essay.

The next step is to consider how your essay will be structured. The most obvious option is a chronological approach, which will work well for an essay about a series of events or the causes and effects of a particular phenomenon. However, a non-chronological approach can be used to give the essay a more dynamic structure. It may be useful to write a draft, as Ernest Hemingway suggested, claiming that “the first draft of anything is always crap.” This allows you to work out any kinks in your essay, and will also help you to develop a clear idea of what you want to say.

Once you have developed your draft, it is time to begin writing your essay. Begin by writing your introduction, which is typically a paragraph in length. It will set the scene for what you are going to discuss in your essay, and it is important that it grabs the reader’s attention. Then move on to the body, which is where you will discuss your main arguments and provide a critical analysis. The body is typically a number of paragraphs in length, but this can vary depending on the type of essay.

Finally, you will need to wrap up your essay with a conclusion. The aim of your essay’s conclusion is to bring everything together into a single, coherent argument, and this should be presented in a way that is easily digestible by the reader. Ensure that you have cited your sources correctly, and that you have provided a full reference list or bibliography in the correct style. It is also a good idea to get someone else to read over your essay and check for any spelling or grammatical errors.