Effective essay writing: 10 pieces of vital advice

Don’t let a daunting essay assignment get you down! Follow these ten tips to ensure you produce an essay that is well-researched, well-written, and easy to read.

  1. Pay Attention to the Style Guidelines
  2. Your instructor has probably indicated on their syllabus which style handbook you should follow when writing your essay. Popular options include MLA, Chicago Style, and APA. Each style has a handbook full of highly specific guidelines pertaining to format, layout, and even word choice!

  3. Write an Outline
  4. Many students believe they can skip this step of the writing process, but the truth is that everyone can benefit from a well-written outline. It will keep your thoughts clear and help you organize your paper as you write it.

  5. Do Research First
  6. Before you choose a thesis or topic statement, conduct the research for your topic. Read everything on the syllabus that is relevant to your topic and look up additional books and journal articles. Ask your research librarian for assistance if you’re struggling.

  7. Allow Time for Creativity
  8. After you’ve read up on your essay topic, give yourself ample time to run the new information through your mind and make sense of it. Creativity flows best when you don’t force it, so try not to stress about the assignment for a few days.

  9. Start Early
  10. The above tips are only feasible if you have a great deal of time with which to tackle your essay assignment. Begin thinking about your essay long before it’s due, and start researching immediately.

  11. Look for What Interests You
  12. You will be far more motivated to write your essay if there are aspects of the topic that you find genuinely interesting. Choose a topic or thesis that you truly believe in or would enjoy arguing. Find a research question that relates to your own personal interests or events in your own life. The writing process will go much more smoothly that way.

  13. Don’t Write All at Once
  14. Many students make the mistake of gathering up all their research, sitting down in the library, and trying to complete their whole essay assignment in one long, marathon writing session. This is not only very grueling, it’s also likely to result in an essay that is riddled with errors and which diminishes in quality as the essay goes on. Instead, give yourself several writing periods and chip away at the task!

  15. Make a Writing Schedule
  16. To avoid having a grueling binge-writing session, you should find several two or three hour periods to spend working on your essay. Devote those hours entirely to writing your assignment, and quit when the time is up.

  17. Use a Peer Editor
  18. Find a peer in your class and exchange essays with them. Another set of eyes is always helpful for discovering errors!

  19. Wait to Edit Your Own Work
  20. Do not edit your essay when it’s hot off the presses; you will miss many errors and not notice logical flaws in the paper. Instead, use your peer editor first, then return to your assignment after a few days.