Essays

by eNotes

Start Free Trial

What is the process of writing an essay?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You already have plenty of answers, but I'll add this cotribution anyway, since I wrote it and all....There are three large components of an academic essay, each with important subdivisions. The three main components are (1) Introduction, (2) supporting paragraphs, (3) Conclusion. The following is a brief sketch of these parts.

The Introduction is a short paragraph (about 5 - 7 percent of the whole essay) that tells the who or what, where, when, why and how of your essay. Specifically this is who or what your topic is; where and when the topic is (e.g. London, 1813); why you chose the topic (e.g., you disagree with critical opinion) and the how of the form of your essay (descriptive; analytical; literary analysis; persuasive; etc.). Most importantly, it tells the special idea you have about your topic (silly example: Oliver would have been happier if he had not asked for "More."). Your special idea is called your thesis statement (also called argument, assertion, question, hypothesis). 

The paragraphs following the Introduction tell the reasons for your assertion of your idea. It first provides background information important to understanding the topic. The most important part of an essay comes after you tell the reasons when you proceed to explain the importance of the reasons for your special idea (this is analysis). Important words for these paragraphs are supporting evidence, quotes, proofs, main points, supporting points; these all refer to the reasons proving your idea to be true. Another important word here is analysis, which is your explanation of the importance of your reasons, of how they prove your idea. 

Finally comes your Conclusion in which you remind your reader of your special idea and clearly state how you've proven your idea, then suggest what other idea about the topic might be explored. A Conclusion is also short and 5 - 7 percent of the whole essay. Basically, in your Conclusion you tell your reader what you told them and then tell them what else they might like to know about the topic.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If the essay topic is given by the teacher, you must structure the essay in paragraphs along the guidelines of the teacher. If you don't have an assignment, first choose a topic.  Then, ascertain how many paragraphs the assignment requires.  Start with an introductory pargraph with a thesis statement to explain what you will discuss in the essay.  Next, a body paragraph or more will consist of statements answering the topic, along with supporting details, if necessary.  To conclude the essay, discuss the major points of your discussion, and apply your own experiences in life with the topic if possible, or project the future with your analysis.

Brainstorming with a web can be most helpful in getting ideas for your paragraphs.  Don't forget to organize info, plan your essay, revise and proofread until you are satisfied for your audience to enjoy reading it!

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do I write an expository essay?

Edward P. Bailey and Philip A. Powell's The Practical Writer provides an excellent source of writing instruction and tips that the student may wish to consult, for this book will provide a blueprint for the composition of a five-paragraph essay. First of all, here is a definition of an expository essay taken from a Writing Lab of Purdue University:

The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. This can be accomplished through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc.

Therefore, the expository essay is very objective and should be written in third person, of course. If, for instance, the student wishes to write expository essays on a poem, he/she can point to how certain poetic devices serve to develop the theme of the poem, or how the tone, diction, and rhyme of a poem contribute to the theme and meaning of a poem. Thus, the essay becomes a literary analysis. This analysis, then, follows a distinct pattern:

  • Paragraph 1

1. Motivator - This is the first sentence which strives to gain the reader's attention. It can be a quotation, a personal inflection--sometimes, even a question. This sentence relates to the thesis.
2. Thesis Statement - This is a general statement that the author can support, and it carries the main idea of an essay. For example, if discussion of a poem is the topic, the writer can state that the use of figurative language and a certain style of diction direct the reader to the theme of the poem. 
 

  • Body Paragraphs (3)

In the body of the essay, the student develops the thesis which has 3 opinions. Each opinion about the general statement becomes the topic sentence of the paragraph. This topic sentence is, then, developed through the use of supporting details such as examples from the poem that the student is analyzing. It is very important to support any points that are made since doing so lends credibility to the essay. (State a point and then provide an example from the poem--"evidential support"). Using transitions between ideas and sentences creates coherence since transitional words act as links to the chain of thought in an essay. Lead into the first line of the next topic with the last sentence of a previous paragraph that is reworded.

  • Conclusion

A sense of finality is created by the last paragraph if it contains a reworded thesis statement and what is called "a clincher." The conclusion summarizes the "evidence" provided in the analysis. A clincher is the finishing touch; it is the final sentence that erases all doubt in the reader's mind that the essay has ended. 

With the example of the essay as an analysis of a poem, the writer will, then, summarize the main points made and tie them together with the "clincher," a sentence that leaves no doubt that the essay is at an end and reminds the reader of the motivator. Often this sentence begins with such words as "clearly,"  "certainly," "finally," "indeed," etc.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do I write an expository essay?

The purpose of an expository essay is hinted at in its name; compare "expository" to "expose." You're going to expose a certain subject in a way that makes some facts and information about it clear to the reader.

Be careful not to confuse an expository essay with an argumentative or persuasive essay; they have substantial differences in purpose. An expository essay should emphasize clarity. You should focus on making smooth transitions, clear points, and displaying a strong understanding of your subject. Typically an expository essay will not ask for your own opinions on the subject, but you can discuss expert opinions as they factor into the topic itself, though you will be expected to critically evaluate the facts for strengths and weaknesses.

Expository essays require a thesis statement. The thesis is the distilled essence of your central point. If you don't have a thesis in mind right now, I would recommend reading more about your subject and reviewing the aspects that interest you the most, as well as considering what aspects of it are controversial and to whom.

Once you have your thesis, establish a framework for it. Give it an introduction, a discussion and evaluation, and conclusion. Conclude by demonstrating how your thesis has been proven through the data presented and through your evaluation of the data.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do I write an expository essay?

"Expository" means to "state in detail"; it may be thought of as "explanatory." An expository essay is written to give a very detailed and thorough explanation about the subject of the essay. The author of an expository essay should assume that the reader of the essay has no background knowledge of the subject and should provide all the explanation needed for that person to acquire a basic understanding of the subject.

Begin your essay with a statement identifying what you are going to explain through the essay. If you are describing a procedure or process, it will be very important that you present each step in order so that the reader can understand how to proceed through the process.

The purpose of an expository essay is to present information. The exact format of your essay will vary, depending on whether you are reporting on research you have done, presenting directions to reproduce an experiment, recording a conversation and reactions during a meeting, or for some other reason.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do I write a literary essay?

A literary essay involves choosing a piece of literature that has merit and interests the writer.  The literary work should have at least three qualities: "The first significant thing is the essentially artistic quality of the literature."  It expresses some aspect of truth or beauty. Secondly, the literature should appeal to the emotions.  Finally, the work has to have a permanence quality that will or has lasted the test of time. These  are the works from which to choose.

After selecting the literary work, the next step is to read and reread.   Comprehension of the work is a requirement to adequately analyzing any literature. Include in the  reading the background of the author.

Then, decide what will be the thesis of the essay.  In other words, what argument will you make concerning the work.  For example, this thesis might be selected:  "In 'The Story of an Hour,' there is a rich mixture of situational and dramatic irony." 

The writer's job now is to find quotations and secondary information which will support this thesis. This should include research of the literary criticism that has already been written  on the work.  The library (librarian) and the internet provide the best sources for this aspect of the preparation to write. Be careful to choose reliable authorities to incorporate because there are many "blogs" which have no value at all. 

After this,  you should be ready to put together a rough draft about the topic and thesis.  Depending on the length required for the assignment, the essay might be seven or eight paragraphs: Introduction (1-2 paragraphs); the body (4-5 paragraphs) which supports the thesis with your ideas, direct quotations, and secondary information; and the conclusion (one paragraph). 

Always revise and rewrite.  Look for spelling and grammatical errors to correct. Never trust the computer's spell check. Use it but look for yourself.  Use third person in your academic writing, not 1st or 2nd person. Review the paper for mechanical errors, i.e., punctuation and capitalization. Have someone reread your work.  Take the criticism to heart. 

If a writer follows this procedure, he should be able to put together an essay that will get the grade desired.  Remember, attitude toward the assignment and the literature must be positive to do the best work.

[Paragraph one quotation and paraphrase: (Long, William J., Ph.D. English Literature: Its History and Its Significance for the Life of the English-Speaking World. Chapter 1)]

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the process for writing an essay?

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. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the steps for writing a great essay?

There are three basic points you need to consider to get an essay going.

First, you need a topic and thesis. This is the most important part of your essay. A good thesis is debatable. Perhaps the best way to explain this is to give an example. If you were going to write a paper on Oedipus Rex, a good thesis would be: Oedipus's downfall was due mainly to his pride. Not all will agree with this statement. So, it is debatable, which is what you want.

Second, if you will need reasons why you think your thesis is correct. The better your reasons are, the better your thesis will be. So, if we use the example above, then you are say the following about Oedipus. First, you can say that he thinks he can solve any problem. Second, you can say that he takes no advice from people (even the gods). Third, you can say that his pride ultimately blinds him.

Finally, you need a conclusion. Do not add new material here but summarize your thesis and supporting points. The goal is to bring resolution.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does one write an expository essay?

"Expository essay" is actually a category for other essay types. All expository essay types have thesis statements, introductions, conclusions, arguments and supporting facts. These types are defined by Dr. A. Ball of Stanford University as "expository organizational patterns." These organizational patterns include: description (or, descriptive essay); comparison (or, comparison essay); sequence; cause and effect; and problem and solution. Two other organizational patterns that may be included are classification and definition; process analysis may also be included but it is quite similar to the sequence organizational pattern.

Two essay types not included as expository, even though they too require thesis statements, argument and supporting facts, are persuasive and discursive. "Why?" you ask. The reason is that these are opinion-driven, whereas expository essays are fact-drive, excluding opinion altogether.

Knowing this prompts the question, "What is an expository essay?" Expository essays are ones that explain, describe, provide information or inform (slightly different from providing information) (Ball). Expository essays assume no prior information on the topic is known by the reader. Exposition uses clear, descriptive or informative vocabulary rather than "blatant" vocabulary: the reader is lead to clearly understand the points of the essay. [Dr. Ball, formerly of University of Michigan, provides graphical organizers for most expository organizational patterns.]

Writing an expository essay in any organizational pattern requires perhaps less research than other essay types, though you must certainly be well acquainted with all the particulars of your topic, generally necessitating research to some extent. Your research and own understanding will form the basis of your essay argument proving the thesis statement presented in your Introduction. To give an illustration of how an argument is an integral part of expository writing, consider a comparison between a songbird and an ocean.

While on the surface, such a comparison seems unlikely, suppose I give this as a thesis statement: "Though unlike in most aspects, a songbird and ocean are alike in the effects they produce." I would then prove this by arguing similar effects. Both produce soothing sounds: the one, a lilting song; the other, a soothing roar of waves. Both produce a pleasing breeze: the one, a stirring flutter of wings in the air; the other, the refreshing landward wind. Researched facts will provide my support evidence and, by my Conclusion, I will have proven my thesis.

It may be harder to conceive of a thesis and argument in relation to a descriptive expository essay, it nonetheless is applicable. To illustrate, suppose I want to describe the air in South Africa. My thesis may pose this assertion: "Though all air has the same chemical composition, air is nonetheless affected by the mineral content of soil and water in local vicinities rendering distinct differences in air characteristics, as is true for South African air." To prove my assertion, I will go on to describe South African air providing mineral data as argument proofs.

Expository introductions and conclusions, which begin and end your essay, respectively, serve as in other essays to (1) orient attention to the topic and pose your assertion in a thesis, then to (2) reiterate that thesis with comment on how you've proven it while offering suggestion of a continuing significance to your topic, perhaps suggesting future measurements of wing movement or trace elements in air.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do you write a thesis for an essay?

A thesis statement should be a short but complete statement that describes what you will talk about in your essay.

A thesis is a statement that tells the reader what you are writing about.  If you have a prompt that you are answering, you need to make sure to address it in the thesis statement.

A good thesis statement is going to specifically and completely address the content of the essay.  For example, if you are asked to describe a theme for a book in an essay, your thesis would include the title of the book and the theme you are describing.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How do you write a thesis for an essay?

A thesis for an essay tells the reader what to expect from your paper. In other words, it is a statement or argument that you make at the  beginning of your essay. You then use the rest of the essay to prove or explain your thesis.

I am not sure what you mean by "get" a thesis for an essay, but
you would select a thesis by determining what you are going to prove. Whatever argument you wish to make in your essay becomes your thesis.

In short, when you choose a thesis, you take a position on a subject; and then you spend the rest of the essay defending or proving
that position.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How to write an opinion essay?

An “opinion essay” is a type of formal essay where the writer gets the power to express his or her personal opinion or viewpoint on a particular topic. Even if the subject of the topic is controversial, original and genuine ideas are always welcome. However, this does not imply that one should keep a sarcastic and demeaning tone. In fact, all the ideas and arguments should always be presented carefully. The essay can be short or lengthy, depending upon the range of his or her ideas as well as what one is writing on. The writer should give requisite examples and evidences from trustworthy sources to support his or her personal opinion presented in the essay. Exhaustive research related to the topic is, therefore, utmost essential. A good opinion essay exhibits clarity and brevity in the choice of words, which ensures smooth delivery of the writer’s views to the readers. Like any essay, an opinion essay can be divided into three parts. The first part is where the writer needs to introduce the topic of the essay. Next comes the essay body, which is the lengthiest and most important part of the essay. The body contains all the arguments backed with examples. One should end the essay with a clear and concise conclusion. A good opinion essay is where all the points are well connected, linked and unambiguous. To achieve this, one can draw a rough sketch of his or her ideas separately before writing the essay and decide the path of transition from one point to another. The essay should be edited for redundancy and language errors.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on