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Academic Skills

A student studying on the floor

Academic Skills

How to Write an Essay

What is an essay?

Essays are a primary means by which scholars communicate their ideas with one another. Within their essays, students and professors focus on significant questions or problems in their field, create arguments to respond to those questions and problems, and support their arguments with specific evidence and citations. While essays differ widely in terms of how they are structured and organized, they generally begin with an introduction that introduces the topic and the thesis of the essay, contain body paragraphs that develop and support the essay’s thesis with evidence, and end with a conclusion that highlights the significance of the thesis.

Common problems

  1. Topic too broad: Essays topics or questions must be focused and contained enough that they can be examined with depth and complexity.
  2. 5-paragraph model is too general or simplistic: The 5-paragraph essays works to prove a single point with three examples or to examine three unrelated points within the same topic. University essays often require students to prove several different points that relate to a larger argument and students can choose how many examples they need to use.
  3. Descriptive not analytical: Essays need to move beyond reporting or summarizing information to analyse and explain that information.
  4. Improper use of sources: It is essential that students properly paraphrase and quote sources in their essays and that they cite the source of all the information, words, and ideas contained in their essays.
  5. Lack of editing and proofreading: Most first drafts contain errors in organization, grammar, and style, errors that prevent the reader from understanding the points within the essay.

Resources for Essay Writers