Essay writing part 2: Writing your essay

Writing an essay can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if you haven’t written one before. But once you begin to break down the individual components, you will see that as long as you adhere to a clear structure, essays don’t need to be challenging. 

For most essays, you will need to include an introduction, two to three main points or ideas and a conclusion. Your key ideas will be covered in separate paragraphs in the main body of the essay. If you get each of these individual components right, then you’ll be able to write a successful essay. Here’s how to do it.

How do you write an introduction?

Often, my students give little thought to their introduction, sometimes just repeating the essay question and telling me that they will look into the topic ‘further.’ Actually, your introduction is crucial to setting out your argument or key idea, so that the rest of your essay can investigate it further. One good rule of thumb is to write about the ‘general to specific.’ 

For example: 

“It is important for young people to keep themselves healthy, both physically and mentally. Mental health and wellbeing are particularly important, and mindfulness and meditation have been proven to be pivotal to young people finding the time and space to look after their own mental health.”

The first sentence in the example is a general idea, and as you move through the introduction, the writer gets more specific. By the end of the introduction, you know that you are going to read an essay about mental health and wellbeing and that at least some of the keys points will relate to mindfulness and mediation.

What is the purpose of a paragraph?

Using paragraphs is important across all forms of writing. In essay writing, it is particularly useful to guide your reader through each new point that you are presenting them with. As a general rule, you would use a new paragraph each time you begin to write about a new Time, Place, Topic or Person (Use TiPToP to remember this). In an essay, this would usually be when you begin to explore a new idea.

Paragraphs will typically begin with a topic sentence. This sentence introduces the reader to the overarching ideas presented in the rest of the paragraph and signposts their attention to the change in direction. Each new paragraph should begin with one of these topic sentences to ensure your essay has a clearly outlined structure.

What is a conclusion?

Conclusions can sometimes feel challenging, but they don’t need to be. One key thing to remember is that a conclusion should never present the reader with any new information. It should refer back to your introduction, summarise the key ideas from your essay and provide the reader with an evaluation of your thoughts or a final observation. It doesn’t need to be long, but it does need to be precise.

How do I add references?

You don’t always need to add references to an essay, but if you refer to other texts, quotes, studies or webpages, you should be referencing them to avoid plagiarism. In order to reference comprehensively, you will need to keep a record of any texts you read, so that if you choose to use them in your essay, you have got all the information that you need for your citation. 

There are several ways to reference and cite texts in your work, and your institution of study is likely to have a preference. Most often, you will be asked to use APA, Harvard or MLA style. All of these styles have similarities, often citing the writer’s surname and publication date either in the text or as a footnote and in a bibliography at the end of your work. The devil is in the detail here, so be sure to keep the format of your preferred style close to hand and check your referencing carefully.

What do you need on your essay checklist?

  • Include an introduction that outlines the theme of your essay and gives an overview of some of the details (remember: general to specific).
  • Use paragraphs in the main body of your essay each time to write about a new Time, Place, Topic or Person (TiPToP), using a topic sentence to introduce your reader to the new paragraph.
  • Finish with a conclusion where you summarise and evaluate the information in the essay, offering the reader a final observation.

Part 1: How to plan an essay.

If you’ve jumped straight into writing your essay, you might want to slow down and take a look at how to plan your essay and why it’s important to do so.

> 📖 Read part 1