What is the process for writing an essay?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps the most universal of educational tools is the essay. Considering its traditionally short form, the essay has grown to encompass a wide variety of stylistic approaches and runs the gamut of content sources and subjects.

There are three main kinds of literary essays: informative, argumentative, and literary analysis. Each kind of essay has a different approach and focus.  For the purpose of this discussion, the informative essay will be used.

Begin with a topic.  If the writer is going to inform his reader, he is going to act as a teacher and will only relate the information needed to understand the topic.  For example, the assignment might be to explain the causes of the American Civil War. 

The first thing to do is research.  Use not only the internet but also the library.  Look for specific reasons that led to the war in the nineteenth century.   There are criteria that should be used to choose the best material: recent; relevant; and responsible.  These guidelines will assure that the paper will incorporate the best possible information in the essay.

Steps to writing an essay:

  • Write a thesis statement. This is the sentence that tells what the essay will discuss. 

 Possible thesis: The differences in values between the northern and southern states led to the American Civil War.

  • Have at least three supporting ideas.
  1. Slavery
  2. Economic differences
  3. States’ rights versus federal control

These areas will be what the major paragraphs in the essay.  There will need to be supporting evidence under each of the ideas as well as explanation. 

The paragraphing for an essay should follow this pattern:

  • Introductory paragraph

               Attention Getter

               Introduction of topic

               Thesis statement

  • 1st idea (Depending on the assignments limitations, each idea can be one or more paragraphs.)

               Explanation of idea

               Statistics, authorities, anecdotes

  • 2nd idea


  • 3rd idea
  • Conclusion

Briefly explain what has been said in the essay using different words.  Tell why this is an important topic.  Leave the reader with an interesting quotation, statistic or whatever gives him something to think about concerning the topic.

Be sure to document any material that is included in the paper to prevent plagiarism.

There are many guidelines on enotes that go into much more detail about writing an essay.  Look in the essay lab.  There are guidelines for each of the paragraphs mentioned in the above answer. 

Like anything that is important writing requires practice.  If the new writer follows a set pattern, he will be successful. Notice also the recommended questions on the right side of this page.  They have valuable information to add to the process of writiing the essay.