Building the Essay Draft
Building a strong essay draft requires going through a logical progression of stages:
Tip: After you have completed the body of your paper, you can decide what you want to say in your introduction and in your conclusion.
Once you know what you want to talk about and you have written your thesis statement, you are ready to build the body of your essay.
The thesis statement will usually be followed by:
- the body of the paper
- the paragraphs that develop the thesis by explaining your ideas by backing them up
- examples or evidence
Tip: The "examples or evidence" stage is the most important part of the paper, because you are giving your reader a clear idea of what you think and why you think it.
- For each reason you have to support your thesis, remember to state your point clearly and explain it.
Tip: Read your thesis sentence over and ask yourself what questions a reader might ask about it. Then answer those questions, explaining and giving examples or evidence.
- Compare and contrast: Show how one thing is similar to another, and then how the two are different, emphasizing the side that seems more important to you. For example, if your thesis states, "Jazz is a serious art form," you might compare and contrast a jazz composition to a classical one.
- Show your reader what the opposition thinks (reasons why some people do not agree with your thesis), and then refute those reasons (show why they are wrong).On the other hand, if you feel that the opposition isn't entirely wrong, you may say so, (concede), but then explain why your thesis is still the right opinion.
- Think about the order in which you have made your points. Why have you presented a certain reason that develops your thesis first, another second, etc.? If you can't see any particular value in presenting your points in the order you have, reconsider it until you either decide why the order you have is best, or change it to one that makes more sense to you.
- Keep revisiting your thesis with three questions in mind: 1. Does each paragraph develop my thesis?
2. Have I done all the development I wish had been done?
3. Am I still satisfied with my working thesis, or have I developed my body in ways that mean I must adjust my thesis to fit what I have learned, what I
believe, and what I have actually discussed?
It is important to link your paragraphs together, giving your readers cues so that they see the relationship between one idea and the next, and how these ideas develop your thesis.
Your goal is a smooth transition from paragraph A to paragraph B, which explains why cue words that link paragraphs are often called "transitions."
Tip: Your link between paragraphs may not be one word, but several, or even a whole sentence.
Here are some ways of linking paragraphs.
- To show simply that another idea is coming, use words such as "also," "moreover" or "in addition."
- To show that the next idea is the logical result of the previous one, use words such as "therefore," "consequently," "thus" or "as a result."
- To show that the next idea seems to go against the previous one, or is not its logical result, use words such as "however," "nevertheless" or "still."
- To show you've come to your strongest point, use words such as "most importantly."
- To show you've come to a change in topic, use words such as "on the other hand."
- To show you've come to your final point, use words such as "finally."
After you have come up with a thesis and developed it in the body of your paper, you can decide how to introduce your ideas to your reader.
The goals of an introduction are to:
- get your reader's attention/arouse your reader's curiosity
- provide any necessary background information before you state your thesis (often the last sentence of the introductory paragraph)
- establish why you are writing the paper
Tip: You already know why you are writing, and who your reader is; now present that reason for writing to that reader.
Hints for writing your introduction:
- Use the Ws of journalism (who, what, when, where, why) to decide what information to give. (Remember that a history teacher doesn't need to be told "George Washington was the first president of the United States." Keep your reader in mind.)
- Add another "W": Why (why is this paper worth reading)? The answer could be that your topic is new, controversial or very important.
- Catch your reader by surprise by starting with a description or narrative that doesn't hint at what your thesis will be. For example, a paper could start, "It is less than a 32nd of an inch long, but it can kill an adult human," to begin a paper about eliminating malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
There can be many different conclusions to the same paper (just as there can be many introductions), depending on who your readers are and where you want to direct them (follow-up you expect of them after they finish your paper). Therefore, restating your thesis and summarizing the main points of your body should not be all that your conclusion does. In fact, most weak conclusions are merely restatements of the thesis and summaries of the body without guiding the reader toward thinking about the implications of the thesis.
Here are some options for writing a strong conclusion:
- Make a prediction about the future. You convinced the reader that thermal energy is terrific, but do you think it will become the standard energy source? When?
- Give specific advice. If your readers now understand that multicultural education has great advantages, or disadvantages, or both, whatever your opinion might be, what should they do? Whom should they contact?
- Put your topic in a larger context. Once you have proven that physical education should be part of every school's curriculum, perhaps readers should consider other "frill" courses which are actually essential.
Tip: Just as a conclusion should not be just a restatement of your thesis and summary of your body, it also should not be an entirely new topic, a door opened that you barely lead your reader through and leave them there lost. Just as in finding your topic and in forming your thesis, the safe and sane rule in writing a conclusion is: neither too little nor too much.
Revising and Proofreading the Draft
Writing is only half the job of writing.
The writing process begins even before you put pen to paper, when you think about your topic. And, once you finish actually writing, the process continues. What you have written is not the finished essay, but a first draft, and you must go over many times to improve it -- a second draft, a third draft, as many as necessary to do the job right. Your final draft, edited and proofread, is your essay, ready for your reader's eyes.
A revision is a "re-vision" of your essay -- how you see things now, deciding whether your introduction, thesis, body and conclusion really express your own vision. Revision is global, taking another look at what ideas you have included in your paper and how they are arranged;
Proofreading is checking over a draft to make sure that everything is complete and correct as far as spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and other such matters go. It's a necessary, if somewhat tedious and tricky, job one that a friend or computer Spellcheck can help you perform. Proofreading is polishing, one spot at a time.
Tip: Revision should come before proofreading: why polish what you might be changing anyway?
Hints for revising and proofreading:
- Leave some time -- an hour, a day, several days -- between writing and revising. You need some distance to switch from writer to editor, some distance between your initial vision and your re-vision.
- Double-check your writing assignment to be sure you haven't gone off course. It's alright if you've shifted from your original plan, if you know why and are happier with this direction.
- Read aloud slowly. You need to get your eye and your ear to work together. At any point that something seems awkward, read it over again. If you're not sure what's wrong -- or even if something is wrong -- make a notation in the margin and come back to it later. Watch out for "padding;" tighten your sentences to eliminate excess words that dilute your ideas.
- Be on the lookout for points that seem vague or incomplete; these could present opportunities for rethinking, clarifying and further developing an idea.
- Get to know what your particular quirks are as a writer. Do you give examples without explaining them, or forget links between paragraphs? Leave time for an extra rereading to look for any weak points .
- Get someone else into the act. Have others read your draft, or read it to them. Invite questions and ask questions yourself, to see if your points are clear and well developed. Remember, though, that some well-meaning readers can be too easy -- or too hard -- on a piece of writing, especially one by someone close.
Tip: Never change anything unless you are convinced that it should be changed.
- Keep tools at hand, such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a writing handbook.
- If you're using word processing, remember that computers are wonderful resources for editing and revising.
- When you feel you've done everything you can, first by revising and then by proofreading, and have a nice clean final draft, put it aside and return later to re-see the whole essay. There may be some last minute fine tuning that can make all the difference.
Questions or feedback about ESC's Online Writing Center? Contact us at Learning.Support@esc.edu.
Writing the first draft has never been so easy!
Now that you have completed your research in an organised way and have written a final draft of your essay plan, writing the first draft of your essay will be easier than it ever has been before. All of the following decisions about your essay have already been made:
- What your answer to the essay question is
- What main points you will discuss in order to support your argument
- The order in which to discuss your main points
- How long to spend discussing each main point
- What information each paragraph will contain (i.e. what information you will use to discuss each of your main points)
- What references you will use to support your argument
Thus, there is no reason for you to feel lost or stare at your computer screen not knowing what to write. If you are stuck for any reason, the best thing to do is to keep writing. You can always improve something once you have written it down. If you have not written anything, not much can be done until you do. Don’t forget that our essay editors are here to help you to improve your essay through professional editing. You just need to write your first draft and submit it to us for editing.
When you write your first draft using your essay plan as a guide and including all the information you have organised in your research document, pay attention to the following things:
- Make sure you choose the best examples from your research to use
- Make sure you use topic sentences to link each new topic back to the question and ensure your essay flows well
- Ensure that you write in a formal academic style
- Ensure that you format your essay correctly, according to the guidelines for your particular course (for example, line spacing, font and page margins)
- Make sure you include your in-text references or footnotes as you are writing; do not leave these until the end. Since you will be using information from your research document that provides you with the references to use, this should not be a problem
While of course you need to write your essay to the best of your ability, our professional academic editors, when editing your document, will check over these things for you and make corrections or suggestions for improvements if necessary. Our comprehensive editing service includes correcting and improving your formatting and referencing, as well as dealing with all issues related to language and style.
Academic Writing: Some general guidelines
- Have you ever been told that your writing style is not academic or that it is too informal?
- Have you ever felt unclear on how to write an academic essay?
- Are you unsure what rules to follow, what you can do and what you should not do?
This guide contains some general rules and guidelines for academic writing. You will develop your own writing style or ‘voice’ over time, and the more academic sources you read, the clearer it will become to you what academic writing is and how your essays should sound. However, it is important to learn certain academic conventions as soon as you can and this guide will help you to do that. If in doubt about any of these guidelines, always check with your tutor or lecturer as different disciplines and courses sometimes have different approaches or expectations. Ensuring that your essay is written in a formal academic style and tone is something that our academic editors can assist you with when you submit your essay to us for editing.
Academic writing needs to be formal and impersonal. This means that your writing should be clear, concise and professional. It needs to follow certain rules (such as those outlined below) in order to ensure that it meets academic standards.
Supported by evidence
The most significant difference between academic and non-academic writing is that academic writing puts forward arguments and ideas that are supported by evidence, most often in the form of citing other research or studies. Learning how to reference correctly is an important part of ensuring that your arguments and ideas are always supported by evidence. You must remember that you cannot make a claim or assertion in an academic essay without supporting it. Please see our referencing guides for examples of the most common referencing styles and information on how to use them correctly.
The use of the first person
Although there are exceptions, (for example, if you are discussing a field trip that you personally took in order to conduct research or interviews that you carried out), normally academic writing does not make use of the first person. This means you would not use ‘I’ in your essays. Therefore, instead of writing ‘I will argue’, you might write ‘this essay will argue’. The first reason for this is that academic writing must be formal and impersonal.
Consider the difference between these two sentences:
- ‘In this essay, I will discuss the reasons why Critical Thinking is important to the role of Registered Nurses, including its role in improving the accuracy of diagnoses.’
- ‘Critical Thinking is important to the role of Registered Nurses because it improves the accuracy of diagnoses.’
Not only is the second sentence more formal because it does not make use of the personal ‘I’, but it is also more direct and thus sounds clearer, more concise, and more academic. Instead of stating that a point will be made, as in the first sentence, the second sentence simply makes the point directly.
The second reason why the use of the first person is discouraged is that it is often redundant (unnecessary). Consider the difference between these two sentences:
- ‘I believe that Critical Thinking is relevant to the role of Registered Nurses.’
- ‘Critical Thinking is relevant to the role of Registered Nurses.’
It is unnecessary to state ‘I believe’. The reader knows that the statement is what the author believes, because the author is writing it in their essay. Further, which sentence sounds more convincing? The second sentence sounds more convincing because it is direct and straight to the point.
Grammar, spelling and punctuation
Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation are very important in academic writing. In order to write formally and to a high academic standard, your writing must be accurate. Writing an essay that contains correct grammar, spelling and punctuation can make a significant difference to your final grade. Accurate writing affects not only your marks for presentation. If your grammar and sentence structure is so unclear that your tutor or lecturer cannot understand the point you are trying to make, for example, you could lose marks overall. Handing in an essay that is well written, accurate and highly polished can improve your grades. In order to ensure that you are submitting work of the highest possible standard, it is strongly recommended that you have your work edited by a professional academic editor.
It is important to remember that you cannot rely on the spell-check or grammar-check on Microsoft Word. There are many reasons for this; for example, the spell-check will not detect your mistake if you type ‘four’ instead of ‘for’. In addition, the grammar-check will often provide incorrect suggestions. This is because Microsoft Word is a computer programme and it cannot understand what you are trying to say. While it can be a useful tool, you must remember that it cannot substitute for checking your own work carefully or having it edited by an experienced essay editor.
There are a significant number of rules to follow when writing academic essays, assignments, theses or dissertations. In order to ensure that you have followed all those rules correctly, and in order to ensure that your writing is polished, clear and concise, and free of grammatical and other errors, it is recommended you hire a professional academic editor. This is the final step of academic essay writing, and it will be discussed in the next article. Please ensure that you read all six articles in the series How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time.
Other parts in this series;
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