The introduction to your essay should have a clearly stated thesis so that the reader knows what you are going to do. The introduction should contain your primary thesis and a statement explaining how you are going to substantiate it A thesis is an analytical framework into which facts fit. "In this essay we will see how this organization developed" is not a thesis. A thesis should answer the question "why".
Decide on three or four main points you intend to use to substantiate your thesis or answer a question. Go through these points one at a time.
The essay is supposed to be your work, not someone else's. Part of the purpose of writing is to explain other people's ideas. It is a good guideline to use no quotes of more than two lines. Reserve such quotations for short passages that are either exceptionally brilliant (such that it could not be said any other way) or exceptionally stupid (such that no one would believe you unless you included the actual quote). Footnotes should be used instead of direct quotes to cite sources of your information.
An example of a general statement: "Nineteenth century novelists were preoccupied with issues of madness, poverty and disease." Concrete examples: Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte. Is there contrary evidence that has been considered in the course? If so, you have to bring it up and explain how it fits or isn't relevant to your thesis (an example in this scenario: Mark Twain). Do you have the best possible evidence to substantiate your points?
Imagine how ignorant it would sound for someone to claim that Bob Dylan was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln. Yet students routinely make similar errors with regards to people and events from the past. It matters that Pearl Harbor occurred before Hiroshima. Also common are vague statements like "the people thought. . ." Which people? All of them? It is generally dangerous to make sweeping claims. Example: "Germans unswervingly followed Hitler" (ignoring the presence of dissenting elements of the population interned in concentration camps). "It is safe to assume" or "it seems likely that" are phrases that should never occur in a scholarly essay.
Terminology which isn't in general usage should always be defined. Example: kavannah, "intention", refers to concentration in prayer. Do not assume reader omniscience. Assume that you are the teacher and the reader is the student. This perspective has the added advantage of insuring that you show the professor you know what you are talking about.
A good essay builds incrementally so that each point clarifies your overall argument, and is clearly related to earlier points. Example: an essay on features of rabbinic Judaism might include a discussion of the roles of Torah, liturgy, and commandments, and would explain how each of these concepts are linked together in a way that makes them both "rabbinic" and "Jewish".
The conclusion should succinctly restate your thesis and sum up what you've done. An example from this guideline: Explain what you are going to do, do it, and then explain what you've done.
This essay represents your own work. Take enough pride in it to make sure it is the best it can be. Spelling and syntax errors make the reader suspect your thought as well as your typing is sloppy. Most computers have spell checks and grammar checks. Use them. Citations should enable a reader to refer to your sources. Sloppy footnoting is poor scholarship. Examples of recognized formats: Chicago Manual of Style, MLA Manual. Be aware that different disciplines use different citation formats because they view the purposes of footnotes differently. For example, in Religious Studies and History, in addition to reference citations, footnotes often furnish information that is not in the body of the paper. In Psychology footnotes are generally limited to reference citations. Thus Psychology uses a shorter citation format (APA style). Information about style formats is available in the library. Ignorance of the format is no excuse!
You’d better take a pew and listen very carefully.
I say onto you that I have visited the promised land of Exceptional Grades. As I was tempted to coast through the Valley of Scrape-By, a voice spake with me and bade me to listen, for he had knowledge to share.
The celestial power handed down these ten rules for writing a great essay and I present them to you, my brothers and sisters. Follow them all, or you shall perish in the hell of infernal bad grades (failing that, you can hire an essay editor!)
(No offense intended to the author of the original Ten Commandments.)
Thou shalt research and thou shalt recognize that Facebook is not research
Yep, you really do need to read the books, search the journals and scour the web to find as much information about the topic as you can. Even though this element of the essay writing process is somewhat dull, it will actually make writing the damn thing much easier in the long term. Trust me on this.
Thou shalt structure thy essay before thou writes it
Ever heard the phrase “It’s all in the planning?” Well, it really is. Your essay should have a very clear structure that consists of an introductory paragraph, three to five paragraphs that develop the ideas and arguments, and a conclusion. Create a high-level plan of which ideas and points you intend to develop in which section and this will make the writing process much more effective.
Thou shalt write a thesis statement and shalt buildeth thy entire paper around thy thesis statement
Once you have a good idea about what you are actually going to say in your essay, you should know what type of answer you intend to give. If you don’t, you need to do more research… did you read what I wrote about Facebook?
Before actually writing the essay you should form a thesis statement. This statement will tell the reader what you will be writing about and what your essay will seek to prove. Include your thesis statement in your introductory paragraph so that you set the scene for the information that will follow. If you want a short cut to creating a great thesis statement, check out our thesis statement formula.
Thou shalt answereth the question set, and it will be good
It is very common for students to reel off tons of facts and figures without actually answering the question that has been set. What a total waste of time! Make sure you read the question several times and are 100% certain that you know what is being asked. Repeatedly ask yourself if you are answering the question as you write your essay. One great method to ensure that you are, is to refer back to the question at the end of every paragraph by including a statement that confirms how the information you have provided answers the prompt or supports your thesis statement.
Thou shalt avoid waffle and shalt not use jargon when common language will serve
Every single sentence that you write in your essay should serve a purpose. They should be clear, straight to the point and informative. Don’t be tempted to use up your word count by repeating the same idea several times using different words: you will fool no one. Waffle will bore your reader and damage the overall coherency of your paper.
Thou shalt present one idea per paragraph and never shalt thou write a paragraph that serveth no purpose
Present and write about just one idea per paragraph. This will help you to create a structured argument and will make your paper easy to follow. Refer back to your thesis statement or question at the end of every paragraph (yep, it’s that important I have written it twice), by doing this you ensure that you are actually answering the question in a methodical manner.
Thou mayest covet other authors’ works, but thou shalt not steal them
Never, ever copy an essay off the Internet or from a friend. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no point in doing this because you will learn absolutely nothing, the majority of educational establishments now use plagiarism software. Even if you don’t get caught out now, there’s a chance you will in the future and, in the worst-case scenario, you qualification may even be cancelled. Can you imagine breaking that news to your parents?
Always ensure that you fully reference the work of any publications you have utilized within your essay and include full and accurate citations where required.
Thou shalt write thy essay thyself and shalt not pay thy neighbor
There are websites out there that offer to write your essay for you for a very substantial fee—avoid them like the plague. Regardless of the fact that using these sites is actually cheating, you will not learn anything from your essays and will not have the knowledge that you need to get on in life.
If you have no morals and don’t care about learning there’s another problem with paying for essays; unless you can avoid using these sites for every essay you submit, there’s a chance that your professor will notice discrepancies in the quality of your writing, and you may be forced to answer some very serious questions. Good luck with that.
Thou shalt avoid the use of passive voice
Overuse of the passive voice can lead to writing which is unclear and flat. If you repeatedly use passive voice throughout your essay, you will bore your audience to tears, and the reader will lose all concept of the agent (no, I am not referring to 007).
Thou shalt not forsake thy proofreading, and thou shalt honor English rules
Do you think Stephen King or J. K. Rowling publish their work without ensuring that that it is painstakingly proofread? Of course they don’t, and neither should you. There’s no point in putting hours of work into an essay if you are going to damage your credibility by handing in something that is full of mistakes. Your professor won’t take you seriously, and your grade will suffer.
If you need help perfecting your essays, check out our academic editing services.