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Write a University Essay

What are the parts of an essay?

  • Most writers think of essays as having three main parts:
    • Introduction
    • Body
    • Conclusion
  • Each is made up of one or several paragraphs.

How do I write an introduction?

  • The purpose of this section is to introduce the topic and why it matters, identify the specific focus of the paper, and indicate how the paper will be organized.
  1. Begin your introduction by telling readers what the general topic of the paper is.
    • To keep from being too broad or vague, try to incorporate a keyword from your title in the first sentence.
  2. Explain why the topic matters. Why should we care?
    • For example, you might tell readers that the issue is part of an important debate or provide a statistic explaining how many people are affected.  
  3. Introduce key terms, theories, or texts that will be discussed throughout the paper.
    • Defining your terms is particularly important if there are several possible meanings or interpretations of the term.
  4. State the main point of your paper, and tell us how you will support it.
    • Try to frame this as a statement of your focus. This is also known as a purpose statement, thesis argument, or hypothesis.

How do I write the body of my essay?

  • The purpose of this section is to provide information and arguments that follow logically from the main point you identified in your introduction. 
  1. Identify the main ideas that support and develop your paper’s main point.
  2. Place these ideas in a logical order (e.g., by chronology or importance)
    • For longer essays, you may be required to use subheadings to label your sections.
  3. Develop each idea in a paragraph or series of paragraphs. Not sure how to structure your paragraphs? Try this approach:
    • Point: Provide a topic sentence that identifies the topic of the paragraph.
    • Proof: Give evidence or examples that develop and explain the topic (e.g., these may come from your sources).
    • Significance: Conclude the paragraph with sentence that tells the reader how your paragraph supports the main point of your essay.

How do I write the conclusion?

  • The purpose of this section is to summarize the main points of the essay and identify the broader significance of the topic or issue.
  1. Remind the reader of the main point of your essay (without restating it word-for-word).
  2. Do one (or more) of the following:
    • Summarize the key ideas that supported your main point. (Note: No new information or evidence should be introduced in the conclusion.) 
    • Suggest next steps, future research, or recommendations.
    • Answer the question “Why should readers care?” (implications, significance).

How do I create a reference list?

  • Find out what style guide you are required to follow (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) and follow the guidelines to create a reference list (may be called a bibliography or works cited).
  • Be sure to include citations in the text when you refer to sources within your essay.

How do I improve my essay?

  • Read assignment instructions carefully and refer to them throughout the writing process.
  • Pay close attention to “action” words used in the assignment description
    • e.g., describe, evaluate, analyze, explain, argue, trace, outline, synthesize, compare, contrast, critique.
  • Make an outline of your main sections before you write.
    • For longer essays, you may find it helpful to work on a section at a time, approaching each section as a “mini-essay.”
  • Make sure every paragraph, example, and sentence directly supports your main point.
  • Avoid very short or very long paragraphs
    • Aim for 5-8 sentences or ¾ page.
  • Visit your instructor or TA during office hours to talk about your approach to the assignment.
  • Leave yourself time to revise your essay before submitting.

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