There’s no way to escape essay writing in college. You may be a Math major who worries about problem sets on a weekly basis, but you’ll still be required to pen an essay no matter what. You may be an Engineering student learning about piping and electricity and whatnot, but you’ll still be forced to compose one.
Students who take up Journalism or Communication as their major often think they can perfect their essay even with their eyes closed. However, even the most veteran of writers still make mistakes. So how can a mere student not commit errors?
It’s common for students to adapt the "just wing it" attitude. They often think that they can get an A+ even in something as complex as writing essays even if they just wing it. However, a little effort may get you far, but just imagine how far tumultuous effort can take you.
Essays may be the simplest school papers students writer, but it still needs ample attention and planning. It’s no rocket science, but there’s also a formula to make sure that you write the best essay that’s coherent and comprehensive.
Here’s a writing checklist that students can use when composing essays on any subject:
Think of a specific topic.
The first and foremost thing you have to do is to make sure that you pick an interesting topic, not just for you but for anyone reading it as well. However, it can’t just be any topic. It has to be specific. There should be only one main argument with a number of supporting statements. How do you make sure that it’s specific?
You’ll know if your topic is too general if you can summarize it in a word or two. You must be able to state in a one-sentence thesis statement, and if you can’t, you must narrow it down to answer a focused problem or discuss a particular idea.
Come up with a great title.
Yes, you must not judge an essay by its title, but a great one helps. It may not be the deciding factor whether it’ll get an A or an A+. It makes or break your essay, because it has to say what the content is about.
To put it simply, a great title is not misleading. If you choose "The Secret To Building Your Million-Dollar Empire" as your title, then your essay must really tell the secret to how one can build such an empire. It can’t contain common knowledge but must provide fresh views on how to create one.
The title must also be catchy. It can’t be too common that it will seem like a title of a textbook chapter. Use your wit to come up with a title that will make others read it. Just think of it as a headline in a magazine. Will others read your essay based on your title alone? If not, it’s time to come up with a better one.
Thoroughly understand your topic.
Do not write something you barely understand because it will show. If you’re going to write an academic essay on genetic engineering, don’t bluff your way into writing one. You can’t fool your teacher with an essay that sounds like something you merely copy-pasted.
If a topic is too complicated for you, ask someone to explain it to you. Spend time in the library and read everything you can on the topic. If you can explain your topic without looking at your notes, it’s safe to say that you can proceed to writing it. Though it’s okay to cite sources and to quote passages, an essay must be 90% your own wording.
Back it up with research.
There are many kinds of essay, and some are just based on opinion pieces while others can be critical analyses. Students may think that these kinds of essay need no research, but even a subjective composition can benefit from research content.
No matter what subject you’re writing about, it’s necessary to support your claims with facts to make your composition credible. If you want your readers to believe what you’re saying, then prioritizing research can help you do that.
Prepare an outline.
With your knowledge and research to help you, it’s now time to start planning. Before you jump straight into writing, you must create an outline. Think of it as your battle plan when heading out to war. You cannot proceed to writing just yet without a cohesive plan on how you’ll execute your topic. A lot of great essay ideas fall flat just because the execution of arguments aren’t planned well.
Write based on your outline.
An outline may seem like nuance, but once you’re done with your outline, you’re almost 50%. Having an outline makes writing easier because you only need to refer to it while writing and referencing your research in the process.
Now, this may seem like a contradiction but you don’t have to strictly stick to your outline. Once you’re done writing, read through your essay and figure out its flaws. The transition of ideas must be smooth, and if it’s not, feel free to re-arrange sentences and even paragraphs to achieve a more coherent flow in writing.
Polish your essay with multiple revisions.
The first draft must never be the final draft. Re-read your work a couple of times and do the two types of editing: mechanical and technical editing.
Mechanical editing is the easy part. Here’s where you look out for spelling and grammar mistakes. A simple word editor can help you with this. However, the technical editing is the more complicated as it requires you to double check every bit of information you provided in your essay. A spelling mistake may be easy to overlook, but a factual one bears a heavy consequence.
Proofread again and again. If you have to, have someone else read your work and ask for feedback. Make sure that they’re not too nice to tell you your mistakes. Revising your essay also takes time and doesn’t have to happen in just one go.
Now, imbibe all these steps in your head. Looking at it may seem overwhelming but if you practice these steps faithfully, then essay writing gets easier as time goes by.