With all the research and grammar check, essay writing can be a handful. Here are 10 essay writing tips that are sure to lift some weight off your shoulders.
There is something about writing essays and research papers that make any student cringe.
For one, there’s the matter that it takes time to do – the amount of research that needs to be done, the writing itself that exposes your flaws in spelling and grammar.
The fact that it does take time to complete means that it ends up stealing away hours that you would rather spend studying something else or engaging in leisurely pursuits.
However, all that writing is important because it teaches you how to express yourself in a more organized and logical way. It also enables you to improve your grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and other writing skills. The result of this is that you end up developing your own writing style.
If you are struggling with those papers that your teacher is asking you to do, here are ten essay writing tips that will surely be of big help. These tips will not only enable you to write faster; they will improve the quality of the papers themselves so that you will get better grades.
Essay Writing Tip 1: Have a better understanding of your assignment
When your teachers assign papers for you to write, it is because they have a question that needs to be answered. Of course, they already know the answer. The problem is your teacher wants you to answer their question in the way they want it to be answered.
Teachers are supposed to be experts in their field. They often make the mistake in thinking that certain topics and ideas should already be obvious to you, the student, because they have been teaching you these same things in the classroom. However, the way you understand the assignment may not be the same as the way your teacher wants it done. There are numerous instances wherein teachers give a failing grade to a paper, despite it being well-researched and well-written, because it does not answer their question.
If there are aspects to the paper assignment that is unclear to you, go to your teacher and ask not only for clarification, but also what their expectations are in the paper that you will be writing for them. This will demonstrate to your teacher that getting the paper right is important to you and that you have the drive and initiative to complete it the way they want it to be. The more your teacher sees how engaged you are in the assignment, the higher your grades will be. In addition, asking for clarification this early on will help to prevent demands for rewrites, which is unnecessary extra work.
Essay Writing Tip 2: Research efficiently
I’m very sure that you have spent hours on Google doing research. It’s like being a detective; once you find an interesting fact, you dig deeper and deeper, only to be saddled with so much information that you want to include in your paper. Also, you may not be aware of it, but by prolonged digging for facts, you are procrastinating and delaying the inevitable task of writing the paper itself.
Let me tell you this. Efficient library research for one whole paper should take two and a half to three hours ONLY. You can further reduce your research time by asking your teacher if there are any references that he/she can recommend. You can then add updated information from sources on the Internet.
Essay Writing Tip 3: Prepare your citations list as you research
I’ve heard so many people advising that you make your list of citations last. But I say NO! While doing your research, you already have your references and sources right in front of you, so it should make perfect sense that you already jot down the titles, authors, and other pertinent information for your citations before you even start writing your paper.
If your teacher didn’t tell you what citation style they want, better ask right from the start. MS Word has the function of automatically adding citations in APA, Turabian, and other styles as you type on your computer. You can also use citation apps such as Zotero and EasyBib.
It is recommended that you have your list of citations already typed into MS Word. You then type the main text of your paper on top of your citations list. Having the citations already encoded will also help you in cross checking facts, linking to source websites in the paper’s main text, and makes it easier for you to write footnotes.
Essay Writing Tip 4: Create a flat outline
When you think of outlines, you may have numbers and bullets of short topics in mind. However, if you want to write an excellent paper, I highly recommend creating a flat outline instead.
A flat outline is like a numbered summary of your paper. Start by creating a list of the topics of your paper in the order that you want to tackle them. Under each topic, write a brief paragraph on what it is about. Include pertinent quotes and other key facts (jot down the source as well). If you find that there are certain topics that lack vital information, go back to the library to research the needed data. Again, add this data to your outline.
Many people don’t actually suggest this, but I strongly recommend that you show your flat outline first to your teacher before you start writing your paper. Your teacher can give you important comments and feedback so that you will be able to write the specific points that they want you to address.
Essay Writing Tip 5: Create the best writing environment
In order to write well, you need to create an environment that is conducive for writing with deep work and focus. In a way, your perfect writing environment can also be the place where you study quietly. It can be your room, your local library, or your favorite coffee shop. Make sure that you have all the stuff you will need for writing, including your research notes, your laptop, pad paper for jotting down thoughts, pens and/or pencils.
If you prefer to write in your room, you must do so on your desk or a sturdy table. Sit in a comfortable chair. You can also have some snacks prepared in front of you in case you get hungry. Never write in bed as it may only cause you to fall asleep.
Eliminate distractions from the Internet by blocking sites, using apps like Freedom and SelfControl. If you are often distracted by calls on your smartphone, put it on airplane mode. One great app that you can use is Cold Turkey Writer, because it forces you to complete your work for a programmed period of time or number of words before you can do anything else on your computer.
Essay Writing Tip 6: Observe standard structure
Sometimes when writing a paper, you may have trouble figuring out if there is a fixed format or standard structure that you should follow. Your teacher may propose essay or research paper types, like “narrative”, “analytical”, “interpretive”, or “compare and contrast”. However, you may ask your teacher for samples of these types so you can structure your writing accordingly.
I must emphasize though that you should not sacrifice originality for structure. While it is okay to present your ideas in accordance to standards defined by the structure of the paper, it is often better to pose any ideas or arguments that you may have in your own words, using examples based on your personal learnings and experiences.
Essay Writing Tip 7: Practice brevity by going directly to the point
Most teachers will either give a page or word count limit for your paper. What they do not tell you is that they don’t have the time to read papers that exceed five pages. Therefore, even if your teacher gave you a higher limit, it is best to present your researched facts and arguments within five pages.
To do this, present facts direct to the point. Avoid rambling when giving explanations or arguments. You also don’t have to use too technical or sophisticated vocabulary. Keep your discussion and arguments simple, concise, and focused on the questions that you are answering in your paper.
Essay Writing Tip 8: Do not draft and edit at the same time
Drafting and editing are two writing tasks that should not be accomplished at the same time. This form of multitasking is counterproductive and distracting, so that you cannot concentrate fully on setting your ideas on paper.
To keep yourself within the flow state of writing, draft your paper first with your full attention and effort. You also should not stop to do a fact check or if there’s something in your notes that is not clear to you. Instead, continue writing away, but jot a small note in the problematic section so that you can fix it later.
Essay Writing Tip 9: Always write the conclusion and introduction last
Once you have finished writing the main body of your paper, write your conclusion first. This should be a brief summary of the paper together with your recommendations. After you have written your conclusion, write your introduction. Writing the introduction last will ensure that it fits the content of your paper.
Essay Writing Tip 10: Get a friend to edit your paper
While you yourself can edit your paper, more often than not, you tend to miss errors because you have been writing and reading your draft for so long. Because you are too familiar with the text, the mistakes you have made will not be apparent to you.
You can ask your friend to read and edit your paper. Having a fresh pair of eyes will help to uncover any errors you have missed. You might also want to consider asking for help from the staff of your school paper or writing center.
Take advantage of any opportunity to show your teacher your draft, especially if they encourage it. Getting your teacher’s feedback early will enable you to correct your errors, check for loopholes in your arguments, and answer any further questions that they may have before you submit the final version.
By following these essay writing tips, you will churn out papers of excellent quality that will help you earn higher grades. However, if you are not that confident about your writing skills, you may want to take an extra writing-intensive subject in school. These subjects and courses will not only help you improve in your writing, but it will also help build up your research skills.