An essay is, in general, a written piece that puts the writer’s opinion, usually through an argument, about some particular topic, but the precise definition is unclear, sometimes overlapping with that of a personal letter, a report, an article, pamphlet, and even a short story. In formal circles, essays are generally categorized as literary and academic. Academic writing has certain characteristics that are distinctly different from other forms of creative writing. One of these characteristics is that it must be based on research, and the essay must support its claim with historical, empirical, or logical evidence.
The structure of an essay makes it different from other forms of creative writing because it must start with an introduction, develop the thesis statement, support the thesis statement with evidence, and end with a conclusion. It is the middle part between the introduction and the conclusion that allows readers to draw their own conclusions about the topic. Essays are structured by the length of time it takes to research and write the essay itself, or by the number of pages required to adequately present the information provided in the essay. Some essays require the use of extensive footnotes throughout, especially if they are published, but some allow for simple direct writing of specific information, such as a blog post.
Writing essays is challenging because it requires that the writer develop a topic, develop an argument, and develop a conclusion all in a fairly brief period of time. This is not only a challenge for the writer, but it is also a challenge for the student, as he or she must come to a proper understanding of what the entire point of the essay is. This involves an awareness of the reader and an ability to speak to them in their language, in a fairly brief, succinct, and interesting way.
The first step in writing an essay is to select a topic. The essay will then be centered around the chosen topic, and much of the essay’s content will revolve around this topic. The most important aspect of the essay’s focus however, is the selection of the topic itself. If the essay is very long, the topic must be very specific. For instance, if the essay discusses a fictional character named Alice in Wonderland, then the essay’s title would be “Alice in Wonderland.” However, if the essay only briefly mentions the character Alice, then the title of the essay may simply be “Alice Says.”
After the topic has been selected, the writer must then choose a main idea to support the arguments in the essay. The essay’s thesis statement is essentially its most important premise. The thesis statement states what the essay provides evidence for, whether it is primarily theoretical or empirical. The rest of the essay provides supporting or further arguments for the thesis statement.
After the writer has found a main idea, he or she can then develop an outline to support that main idea. The outline of the essay generally follows the format of a logical sequence or a paralegal diagram. Most writers also include some references in their outline, particularly key research statements, to reinforce the main idea. The final step in the process of developing an outline is to revise and edit the essay topic and its outline to ensure that there are no inconsistencies between the main idea and the rest of the essay.