8 Tips to Ace Your Essay

8 Tips to Ace Your Essay
  1. Understand the assignment

I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing the specifics of the assignment. Read any directions. Also pay attention to the teacher’s guidance. Be aware of the topic if one is provided. If you are to choose your own, check with the teacher to ensure that it is suitable. Be aware of the expected length and formatting of the task. Of course, not the deadline – but also plan for your research, rough draft, and editing times.

  1. Research thoroughly

If you are writing a personal essay, there won’t be a lot of research; however, you still might want to find data that supports your claims. Other essays require more extensive research. Always use credible sources. Aim for primary sources whenever possible. Often secondary sources can lead you to documents that will provide you with primary sources. Look to academic journals and reputable institutions or authors. Take notes so that you can cite your sources but also make it easier for you to access the information quickly while writing. Also, you need the source information for your works cited page.

  1. Plan Your Essay

Once you have your topic and have done preliminary research, it’s time to generate “working” topic sentences for your body paragraphs. If you do this before you write your thesis statement, you can use points from the topic sentences to be more concise in your thesis statement.

Write your thesis statement. (Again, this might be a “working” or tentative thesis statement.)

I said “preliminary research” because you will do more specific, detailed research once you have your plan. These tips are not exclusively chronological. You need to move between them as you progress.

  1. Organize Your Paper

Ensure that your essay will have an introductory paragraph, body (supporting) paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. The number of body paragraphs will vary depending on the stipulations of the assignment. (Note point #1.)

Writing your body paragraphs before the introductory paragraph is a great idea. In this way, you have made your arguments, presented the facts and examples, and drawn conclusions.

All this information will make writing the introductory paragraph much easier.

  1. Use Clear and Concise Sentences

Ensure that you use clear and concise language. Clarity will communicate your ideas effectively.

Choose active over passive sentences.

Simple almost always trumps complex. Of course, this will vary depending on your topic and audience, but make sure the reader will easily comprehend your message. If necessary, define potentially unfamiliar terms.

Avoid slang or colloquial language.

  1. Provide Evidence and Examples

Your research needs to support your arguments. Use relevant evidence and examples from your research. Your evidence may include quotations, statistics, interviews, and real-life examples. In all cases, you should clearly connect the evidence to your arguments and show how they support your thesis statement.

  1. Proofread and Edit

Picture2So many people skip this very important stage!

Proofread and edit your essay carefully. Look for technical mistakes in spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, and so on. Also, look for clarity, coherence, and consistency within your work. Be sure to look at individual units – sentences and paragraphs - but also examine the essay as a whole.

Seeking feedback can be very helpful in this regard. Ask classmates, instructors, friends, or tutors to read your essay and provide suggestions. Consider their comments and incorporate the ones you feel improve your paper.

  1. Follow Formatting Guidelines

Your essay should follow the required formatting guidelines. Some instructors specify what they want for font size, margins, spacing, and citation style.

Generally, arts and humanities papers follow the MLA (Modern Language Association) style, and the sciences use the APA (American Psychological Association) style.

Your teacher’s preferences take precedence.

More About Essay Writing

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