This Part takes you, step-by-step, through the writing process, from generating ideas, through organizing those ideas, and finally to producing a superb finished essay. Throughout the site we will teach you one skill at a time and then build on that skill to move you up the ladder to your goal. What is the foundation? It’s knowing what an essay is, what it aims to do, and how to put it together. When you have a solid foundation to begin the writing process, you build confidence for each of the following steps. Let’s start with a stable foundation so your ladder doesn’t wobble.

We use the following:

  1. Prompt. A question or instruction, in the form of a word, sentence, phrase, or idea, that is the subject of your assignment. Thesis statement. A sentence, usually at the end of your introductory paragraph, that sets up the whole essay; it has a subject and a controlling idea.
  2. Subject. What your paper will be discussing.
  3. Controlling idea. The stance you will be taking on the subject.
  4. Topic sentence. A sentence, usually the first in a developmental paragraph, that presents the point you plan to develop in that paragraph.
  5. Introductory paragraph. The first paragraph in your essay.
  6. Developmental paragraphs. Three to five paragraphs that develop the points of your essay.
  7. Conclusion/concluding paragraph. The last paragraph of the essay.

Reasons for Writing

Let’s face it, in most cases, you don’t write for yourself you write for an audience. You need to know what they know and what references and images will appeal to them. Consider the following when establishing who your readers or audience will be:

  • Whom do you most want to reach?
  • Are they likely to be sympathetic or unsympathetic to your views?
  • How are your readers different from you or similar to you in terms of age, education, region, gender, ethnic and cultural heritage, political ideology, and other factors?
  • What, if anything, do you want your audience to do as a result of what you write?
  • How can you make clear what exactly you want to happen?

What You Need to Know

Essays are written for three major reasons:

To inform. You want to share your knowledge with the readers.
Use Narration (a Story). You have information that you merely want to share with your readers. For example, you might want to tell what happened on your trip to Hawaii or to France. You will need to make a point, such as how wonderful or unusual your experience was.
Use Description. You might want to describe the beach at Waikiki or Parisian architecture so your friend will drool in envy.

To explain. You want to make a more specific point and help your readers understand what you are discussing. Use one of these three major techniques.
Use Process. In process you want to show readers how easily or effectively they can complete the process or understand why the process works the way it does.
Use Comparison/Contrast. Comparison compares things that are similar. Contrast indicates how things are different. Generally these are developed in the same essay to show the readers which of the two objects, ideas, or topics is being discussed is better.
Use Cause and Effect. In cause and effect you want your readers to see how one thing caused another and know why this matters.

To persuade. (Sometimes Called Argument) You want to present a position and convince your readers that it is reason- able and that they should take some action.
Use Argument/Persuasion. The difference between these is that per- suasion appeals more to emotion and argument more to logic. Most writers, however, use both.

Depending on the result you hope to achieve, you can use various methods of writing called methods of development which we will cover in the following chapters:

  • Narration tells a story.
  • Description presents a picture.
  • Process tells how to do something or shows how something works.
  • Comparison/Contrast shows similarities and differences between two or more things.
  • Cause and Effect examines how one thing leads to another.
  • Argument/Persuasion aims to convince the readers.

So how do you know which method of development to use for your essay? It depends on your goal.

Parts of an Essay

No matter which method of development you choose, every essay has five parts, each with a specific function in the essay:

  • The title gets the readers’ attention and gives a clue as to what the essay will be about.
  • The introductory paragraph grabs the readers’ interest and sets up your subject.
  • The thesis statement contains the subject of the essay and the controlling idea (what you plan to say about that subject) and is usually the last sentence in the introductory paragraph.
  • The developmental paragraphs develop the points of your essay. Each starts with a topic sentence that sets up the point to be developed in that paragraph.
  • The conclusion reinforces or summarizes your point in a final paragraph.

In order to develop and write a top-notch essay you should include all of the following steps. Depending on the time you have to write briefly in class or at length at home some steps may be combined or abbreviated. On some level, however, it’s important to complete each of them.

Once you have been assigned or have chosen your prompt – the general subject of your essay you will:

Step 1: Narrow your focus and determine your thesis statement
Step 2: Choose your method of development
Step 3: Develop your outline
Step 4: Write your first draft
Step 5: Prepare for your final draft
Step 6: Revise and finalize your essay
Step 7: Proofread your essay