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How to Write the Perfect Essay: A Step-By-Step Guide for Students


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an essay about a guide

  • What is an essay? 

What makes a good essay?

Typical essay structure, 7 steps to writing a good essay, a step-by-step guide to writing a good essay.

Whether you are gearing up for your GCSE coursework submissions or looking to brush up on your A-level writing skills, we have the perfect essay-writing guide for you. 💯

Staring at a blank page before writing an essay can feel a little daunting . Where do you start? What should your introduction say? And how should you structure your arguments? They are all fair questions and we have the answers! Take the stress out of essay writing with this step-by-step guide – you’ll be typing away in no time. 👩‍💻


What is an essay?

Generally speaking, an essay designates a literary work in which the author defends a point of view or a personal conviction, using logical arguments and literary devices in order to inform and convince the reader.

So – although essays can be broadly split into four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive – an essay can simply be described as a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. 🤔

The purpose of an essay is to present a coherent argument in response to a stimulus or question and to persuade the reader that your position is credible, believable and reasonable. 👌

So, a ‘good’ essay relies on a confident writing style – it’s clear, well-substantiated, focussed, explanatory and descriptive . The structure follows a logical progression and above all, the body of the essay clearly correlates to the tile – answering the question where one has been posed. 

But, how do you go about making sure that you tick all these boxes and keep within a specified word count? Read on for the answer as well as an example essay structure to follow and a handy step-by-step guide to writing the perfect essay – hooray. 🙌

Sometimes, it is helpful to think about your essay like it is a well-balanced argument or a speech – it needs to have a logical structure, with all your points coming together to answer the question in a coherent manner. ⚖️

Of course, essays can vary significantly in length but besides that, they all follow a fairly strict pattern or structure made up of three sections. Lean into this predictability because it will keep you on track and help you make your point clearly. Let’s take a look at the typical essay structure:  

#1 Introduction

Start your introduction with the central claim of your essay. Let the reader know exactly what you intend to say with this essay. Communicate what you’re going to argue, and in what order. The final part of your introduction should also say what conclusions you’re going to draw – it sounds counter-intuitive but it’s not – more on that below. 1️⃣

Make your point, evidence it and explain it. This part of the essay – generally made up of three or more paragraphs depending on the length of your essay – is where you present your argument. The first sentence of each paragraph – much like an introduction to an essay – should summarise what your paragraph intends to explain in more detail. 2️⃣

#3 Conclusion

This is where you affirm your argument – remind the reader what you just proved in your essay and how you did it. This section will sound quite similar to your introduction but – having written the essay – you’ll be summarising rather than setting out your stall. 3️⃣

No essay is the same but your approach to writing them can be. As well as some best practice tips, we have gathered our favourite advice from expert essay-writers and compiled the following 7-step guide to writing a good essay every time. 👍

#1 Make sure you understand the question

#2 complete background reading.

#3 Make a detailed plan 

#4 Write your opening sentences 

#5 flesh out your essay in a rough draft, #6 evidence your opinion, #7 final proofread and edit.

Now that you have familiarised yourself with the 7 steps standing between you and the perfect essay, let’s take a closer look at each of those stages so that you can get on with crafting your written arguments with confidence . 

This is the most crucial stage in essay writing – r ead the essay prompt carefully and understand the question. Highlight the keywords – like ‘compare,’ ‘contrast’ ‘discuss,’ ‘explain’ or ‘evaluate’ – and let it sink in before your mind starts racing . There is nothing worse than writing 500 words before realising you have entirely missed the brief . 🧐

Unless you are writing under exam conditions , you will most likely have been working towards this essay for some time, by doing thorough background reading. Re-read relevant chapters and sections, highlight pertinent material and maybe even stray outside the designated reading list, this shows genuine interest and extended knowledge. 📚

#3 Make a detailed plan

Following the handy structure we shared with you above, now is the time to create the ‘skeleton structure’ or essay plan. Working from your essay title, plot out what you want your paragraphs to cover and how that information is going to flow. You don’t need to start writing any full sentences yet but it might be useful to think about the various quotes you plan to use to substantiate each section. 📝

Having mapped out the overall trajectory of your essay, you can start to drill down into the detail. First, write the opening sentence for each of the paragraphs in the body section of your essay. Remember – each paragraph is like a mini-essay – the opening sentence should summarise what the paragraph will then go on to explain in more detail. 🖊️

Next, it's time to write the bulk of your words and flesh out your arguments. Follow the ‘point, evidence, explain’ method. The opening sentences – already written – should introduce your ‘points’, so now you need to ‘evidence’ them with corroborating research and ‘explain’ how the evidence you’ve presented proves the point you’re trying to make. ✍️

With a rough draft in front of you, you can take a moment to read what you have written so far. Are there any sections that require further substantiation? Have you managed to include the most relevant material you originally highlighted in your background reading? Now is the time to make sure you have evidenced all your opinions and claims with the strongest quotes, citations and material. 📗

This is your final chance to re-read your essay and go over it with a fine-toothed comb before pressing ‘submit’. We highly recommend leaving a day or two between finishing your essay and the final proofread if possible – you’ll be amazed at the difference this makes, allowing you to return with a fresh pair of eyes and a more discerning judgment. 🤓

If you are looking for advice and support with your own essay-writing adventures, why not t ry a free trial lesson with GoStudent? Our tutors are experts at boosting academic success and having fun along the way. Get in touch and see how it can work for you today. 🎒


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an essay about a guide

Academic Essay: From Basics to Practical Tips

an essay about a guide

Has it ever occurred to you that over the span of a solitary academic term, a typical university student can produce sufficient words to compose an entire 500-page novel? To provide context, this equates to approximately 125,000 to 150,000 words, encompassing essays, research papers, and various written tasks. This content volume is truly remarkable, emphasizing the importance of honing the skill of crafting scholarly essays. Whether you're a seasoned academic or embarking on the initial stages of your educational expedition, grasping the nuances of constructing a meticulously organized and thoroughly researched essay is paramount.

Welcome to our guide on writing an academic essay! Whether you're a seasoned student or just starting your academic journey, the prospect of written homework can be exciting and overwhelming. In this guide, we'll break down the process step by step, offering tips, strategies, and examples to help you navigate the complexities of scholarly writing. By the end, you'll have the tools and confidence to tackle any essay assignment with ease. Let's dive in!

Types of Academic Writing

The process of writing an essay usually encompasses various types of papers, each serving distinct purposes and adhering to specific conventions. Here are some common types of academic writing:

types of academic writing

  • Essays: Essays are versatile expressions of ideas. Descriptive essays vividly portray subjects, narratives share personal stories, expository essays convey information, and persuasive essays aim to influence opinions.
  • Research Papers: Research papers are analytical powerhouses. Analytical papers dissect data or topics, while argumentative papers assert a stance backed by evidence and logical reasoning.
  • Reports: Reports serve as narratives in specialized fields. Technical reports document scientific or technical research, while business reports distill complex information into actionable insights for organizational decision-making.
  • Reviews: Literature reviews provide comprehensive summaries and evaluations of existing research, while critical analyses delve into the intricacies of books or movies, dissecting themes and artistic elements.
  • Dissertations and Theses: Dissertations represent extensive research endeavors, often at the doctoral level, exploring profound subjects. Theses, common in master's programs, showcase mastery over specific topics within defined scopes.
  • Summaries and Abstracts: Summaries and abstracts condense larger works. Abstracts provide concise overviews, offering glimpses into key points and findings.
  • Case Studies: Case studies immerse readers in detailed analyses of specific instances, bridging theoretical concepts with practical applications in real-world scenarios.
  • Reflective Journals: Reflective journals serve as personal platforms for articulating thoughts and insights based on one's academic journey, fostering self-expression and intellectual growth.
  • Academic Articles: Scholarly articles, published in academic journals, constitute the backbone of disseminating original research, contributing to the collective knowledge within specific fields.
  • Literary Analyses: Literary analyses unravel the complexities of written works, decoding themes, linguistic nuances, and artistic elements, fostering a deeper appreciation for literature.

Our essay writer service can cater to all types of academic writings that you might encounter on your educational path. Use it to gain the upper hand in school or college and save precious free time.

academic essay order

Essay Writing Process Explained

The process of how to write an academic essay involves a series of important steps. To start, you'll want to do some pre-writing, where you brainstorm essay topics , gather information, and get a good grasp of your topic. This lays the groundwork for your essay.

Once you have a clear understanding, it's time to draft your essay. Begin with an introduction that grabs the reader's attention, gives some context, and states your main argument or thesis. The body of your essay follows, where each paragraph focuses on a specific point supported by examples or evidence. Make sure your ideas flow smoothly from one paragraph to the next, creating a coherent and engaging narrative.

After the drafting phase, take time to revise and refine your essay. Check for clarity, coherence, and consistency. Ensure your ideas are well-organized and that your writing effectively communicates your message. Finally, wrap up your essay with a strong conclusion that summarizes your main points and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

How to Prepare for Essay Writing 

Before you start writing an academic essay, there are a few things to sort out. First, make sure you totally get what the assignment is asking for. Break down the instructions and note any specific rules from your teacher. This sets the groundwork.

Then, do some good research. Check out books, articles, or trustworthy websites to gather solid info about your topic. Knowing your stuff makes your essay way stronger. Take a bit of time to brainstorm ideas and sketch out an outline. It helps you organize your thoughts and plan how your essay will flow. Think about the main points you want to get across.

Lastly, be super clear about your main argument or thesis. This is like the main point of your essay, so make it strong. Considering who's going to read your essay is also smart. Use language and tone that suits your academic audience. By ticking off these steps, you'll be in great shape to tackle your essay with confidence.

Academic Essay Example

In academic essays, examples act like guiding stars, showing the way to excellence. Let's check out some good examples to help you on your journey to doing well in your studies.

Academic Essay Format

The academic essay format typically follows a structured approach to convey ideas and arguments effectively. Here's an academic essay format example with a breakdown of the key elements:

academic essay format


  • Hook: Begin with an attention-grabbing opening to engage the reader.
  • Background/Context: Provide the necessary background information to set the stage.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the main argument or purpose of the essay.

Body Paragraphs

  • Topic Sentence: Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that relates to the thesis.
  • Supporting Evidence: Include evidence, examples, or data to back up your points.
  • Analysis: Analyze and interpret the evidence, explaining its significance in relation to your argument.
  • Transition Sentences: Use these to guide the reader smoothly from one point to the next.

Counterargument (if applicable)

  • Address Counterpoints: Acknowledge opposing views or potential objections.
  • Rebuttal: Refute counterarguments and reinforce your position.


  • Restate Thesis: Summarize the main argument without introducing new points.
  • Summary of Key Points: Recap the main supporting points made in the body.
  • Closing Statement: End with a strong concluding thought or call to action.


  • Cite Sources: Include proper citations for all external information used in the essay.
  • Follow Citation Style: Use the required citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) specified by your instructor.
  • Font and Size: Use a standard font (e.g., Times New Roman, Arial) and size (12-point).
  • Margins and Spacing: Follow specified margin and spacing guidelines.
  • Page Numbers: Include page numbers if required.

Adhering to this structure helps create a well-organized and coherent academic essay that effectively communicates your ideas and arguments.

Ready to Transform Essay Woes into Academic Triumphs?

Let us take you on an essay-writing adventure where brilliance knows no bounds!

How to Write an Academic Essay Step by Step

Start with an introduction.

The introduction of an essay serves as the reader's initial encounter with the topic, setting the tone for the entire piece. It aims to capture attention, generate interest, and establish a clear pathway for the reader to follow. A well-crafted introduction provides a brief overview of the subject matter, hinting at the forthcoming discussion, and compels the reader to delve further into the essay. Consult our detailed guide on how to write an essay introduction for extra details.

Captivate Your Reader

Engaging the reader within the introduction is crucial for sustaining interest throughout the essay. This involves incorporating an engaging hook, such as a thought-provoking question, a compelling anecdote, or a relevant quote. By presenting an intriguing opening, the writer can entice the reader to continue exploring the essay, fostering a sense of curiosity and investment in the upcoming content. To learn more about how to write a hook for an essay , please consult our guide,

Provide Context for a Chosen Topic

In essay writing, providing context for the chosen topic is essential to ensure that readers, regardless of their prior knowledge, can comprehend the subject matter. This involves offering background information, defining key terms, and establishing the broader context within which the essay unfolds. Contextualization sets the stage, enabling readers to grasp the significance of the topic and its relevance within a particular framework. If you buy a dissertation or essay, or any other type of academic writing, our writers will produce an introduction that follows all the mentioned quality criteria.

Make a Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the central anchor of the essay, encapsulating its main argument or purpose. It typically appears towards the end of the introduction, providing a concise and clear declaration of the writer's stance on the chosen topic. A strong thesis guides the reader on what to expect, serving as a roadmap for the essay's subsequent development.

Outline the Structure of Your Essay

Clearly outlining the structure of the essay in the introduction provides readers with a roadmap for navigating the content. This involves briefly highlighting the main points or arguments that will be explored in the body paragraphs. By offering a structural overview, the writer enhances the essay's coherence, making it easier for the reader to follow the logical progression of ideas and supporting evidence throughout the text.

Continue with the Main Body

The main body is the most important aspect of how to write an academic essay where the in-depth exploration and development of the chosen topic occur. Each paragraph within this section should focus on a specific aspect of the argument or present supporting evidence. It is essential to maintain a logical flow between paragraphs, using clear transitions to guide the reader seamlessly from one point to the next. The main body is an opportunity to delve into the nuances of the topic, providing thorough analysis and interpretation to substantiate the thesis statement.

Choose the Right Length

Determining the appropriate length for an essay is a critical aspect of effective communication. The length should align with the depth and complexity of the chosen topic, ensuring that the essay adequately explores key points without unnecessary repetition or omission of essential information. Striking a balance is key – a well-developed essay neither overextends nor underrepresents the subject matter. Adhering to any specified word count or page limit set by the assignment guidelines is crucial to meet academic requirements while maintaining clarity and coherence.

Write Compelling Paragraphs

In academic essay writing, thought-provoking paragraphs form the backbone of the main body, each contributing to the overall argument or analysis. Each paragraph should begin with a clear topic sentence that encapsulates the main point, followed by supporting evidence or examples. Thoroughly analyzing the evidence and providing insightful commentary demonstrates the depth of understanding and contributes to the overall persuasiveness of the essay. Cohesion between paragraphs is crucial, achieved through effective transitions that ensure a smooth and logical progression of ideas, enhancing the overall readability and impact of the essay.

Finish by Writing a Conclusion

The conclusion serves as the essay's final impression, providing closure and reinforcing the key insights. It involves restating the thesis without introducing new information, summarizing the main points addressed in the body, and offering a compelling closing thought. The goal is to leave a lasting impact on the reader, emphasizing the significance of the discussed topic and the validity of the thesis statement. A well-crafted conclusion brings the essay full circle, leaving the reader with a sense of resolution and understanding. Have you already seen our collection of new persuasive essay topics ? If not, we suggest you do it right after finishing this article to boost your creativity!

Proofread and Edit the Document

After completing the essay, a critical step is meticulous proofreading and editing. This process involves reviewing the document for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and punctuation issues. Additionally, assess the overall coherence and flow of ideas, ensuring that each paragraph contributes effectively to the essay's purpose. Consider the clarity of expression, the appropriateness of language, and the overall organization of the content. Taking the time to proofread and edit enhances the overall quality of the essay, presenting a polished and professional piece of writing. It is advisable to seek feedback from peers or instructors to gain additional perspectives on the essay's strengths and areas for improvement. For more insightful tips, feel free to check out our guide on how to write a descriptive essay .

Alright, let's wrap it up. Knowing how to write academic essays is a big deal. It's not just about passing assignments – it's a skill that sets you up for effective communication and deep thinking. These essays teach us to explain our ideas clearly, build strong arguments, and be part of important conversations, both in school and out in the real world. Whether you're studying or working, being able to put your thoughts into words is super valuable. So, take the time to master this skill – it's a game-changer!

Ready to Turn Your Academic Aspirations into A+ Realities?

Our expert pens are poised, and your academic adventure awaits!

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An essay is a common type of writing and assignment that high-school and college students have to deal with.  Essay writing  can be a pretty daunting task, especially when you lack creative writing skills or don’t enjoy writing at all, or both.

Most of the students are not aware of the essential steps to write an essay. Read on and master how to write an essay on any topic that is well-researched, detailed, and tailored for an A grade.

What is an Essay?

Let's begin by learning the definition of an essay. So, what is an essay? An essay is a brief composition based on a certain topic or subject that students do as part of their schoolwork or university coursework.

Essays are one of the most common assignments handed out by colleges and institutions since they are an excellent tool for improving many essential skills including analytical thinking, research, creative skills, and so on.

Let's look at writing strategies that can help you get an A in your essay. Let's start at the beginning and work our way through these steps to write a good essay:

  • Choose the Essay Type
  • Choose an Interesting Topic
  • Create an Essay Outline
  • Write Your First Draft
  • Write an Essay Introduction
  • Develop a Thesis Statement
  • Compose Body Paragraphs
  • Write a Strong Conclusion
  • Review Your Essay

Let's take a look at each step of learning how to create an excellent essay in depth.

Steps to Write an Essay

Here is the basic structure that you need to follow for writing an academic essay:

1. Choose the Essay Type

The first step is to choose the type of essay that you are writing. Choosing the right  type of essay  also plays an important role in the overall success of your paper.

Here are the basic types of papers in which academic essays can be divided.

  • Narrative essay
  • Persuasive essay
  • Descriptive essay
  • Analytical essay
  • Argumentative essay
  • Expository essay

Knowing the type of essay will eventually help you decide on the topic and the overall structure of your essay in the best possible way.

2. Choose an Interesting Topic

If you are given the topic, skip to the next step, create an outline and start the writing process.

If you are not given a topic, you have a little more work to do and choose your topic first.

The key to choosing a good topic is to think of what interests you and what you can relate to, the most.

Also, make sure that the topic you choose has sufficient research material available. Search either on the internet or in books for the topic you have chosen to write on.

You can also find a list of interesting  essay topics  that you can explore and choose the one to write your essay on.

3. Create an Essay Outline

Creating an outline is very important if you want to compose an impressive piece of paper. By putting all the ideas on the paper, you can easily see connections and links between ideas in a more clear manner.

If you don’t know how to write an essay outline, here are the following steps that you need to follow for structuring your essay properly.

  • Write your topic at the top of the page
  • List down all the main ideas
  • Leave space under each idea
  • In this space, list down smaller ideas that relates to the main idea

Following these steps for  writing an essay outline  will give you a complete idea of the themes required to be discussed in your paper.

4. Write your First Draft

Your first writing draft will help you do the following;

  • Set the framework and structure of your essay.
  • The way you will answer the main question.
  • The kind of examples and evidence you will use in the essay.
  • The way you will structure your argument

The first draft is not your final essay. Consider it your essay’s raw material that you can edit and proofread later.

5. Write an Essay Introduction

The introductory paragraph of an essay should be both attention-grabbing and informative.

To learn how to write an essay introduction, you first need all the necessary information required to tell the reader about the main idea of your essay.

A vague or boring introduction will give off the wrong impression, and your reader might decide not to read it any further.

Here are the steps in which you can start your  essay introduction  that is both interesting and informative.

  • Use a hook sentence and add informative or shocking revelations.
  • Provide background information and context on your topic
  • Define the objective of your essay
  • Provide an overview of the whole essay structure

6. Develop a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement defines the main purpose and claims of your essay. It is typically defined in one or two sentences and is added at the end of your introductory paragraph.

A perfect  thesis statement  has two parts. The first part states the topic and the latter states the main point of the essay.

Let's have a look at examples of thesis statements and distinguish between strong and weak thesis statements.

A: “The technological advancement has revolutionized human interaction, medical progress, scientific invention, and economic ventures but also manifested insecurities and privacy issues.”

B: “The Internet has assisted humans in numerous ways but also affected them.”

Without any doubt, A is a perfectly crafted thesis statement.

7. Compose Body Paragraphs

The body of an essay describes or explains your topic. Each idea that you write in the outline will be a separate paragraph within the body of the essay.

Since the body is made up of multiple paragraphs, it is important that they are consistent with one another.

Each body paragraph starts with a topic sentence. For those who don’t know  what is a topic sentence , it is the first sentence that describes the main purpose of each paragraph. The topic sentence forms a transition between the body paragraphs.

Use transitions to introduce new paragraphs such as “firstly.. secondly... thirdly…, finally, moreover, furthermore, in addition”, etc.

It is a good idea to refer to the  transition words for essays  to introduce new paragraphs in an impressive manner.

The main aim of body paragraphs is to support your thesis by presenting evidence, facts and figures, statistics, quotes, examples, and other strong evidence.

Here are the tips that you should follow for writing each body paragraph.

  • Write a clear topic sentence
  • Provide solid evidence to support your argumen
  • Provide examples
  • Make sure the paragraph information is consistent
  • Use transitions between paragraphs
  • Conclude each paragraph by linking the evidence to your main point

8. Write a Strong Conclusion

The conclusion sums up the overall ideas and provides a final perspective on the topic. Concluding your essay holds the same importance as the introductory paragraph.

For writing a perfect  essay conclusion , provide a futuristic overview, persuade your reader about your point of view and restate the thesis statement.

If you have no idea about how to write a conclusion for an essay, here are the key points that you should include.

  • Draw connections between the arguments mentioned in the body section
  • State the outcomes
  • Show the relevance and significance of the thesis statement
  • Mention the broader implications of the topic

Here is the information that you should avoid writing in a conclusion:

  • Don’t introduce new ideas or arguments at this stage.
  • Do not undermine your arguments
  • Do not write phrases like 'in conclusion, or 'to conclude'

9. Review Your Essay

If you think that you are done with your essay after writing your conclusion, you are wrong. Before considering that your work is finished, you need to do some final touches.

Review your essay and make sure it follows the  essay format  properly. Double-check your essay instructions and make sure your essay is in the desired format.

Don’t forget to check your paper for grammar and spelling mistakes as well.

How to Structure an Essay Paragraph?

Here are the factors that are included in each body paragraph of the essay.

  • A  topic sentence  is the first sentence of a paragraph. It sets the tone for the paragraph.
  • Supporting sentences  that help to explain the main idea and topic of the paragraph.
  • Evidence  that you have gathered with research, and supports your point of view.
  • Analysis  of the given evidence and a critical conclusion of the paragraph.
  • A  conclusion  or a concluding sentence that sums up the entire paragraph.

All of these components make up a perfect paragraph for any essay.

Essay Example

The best practice is to learn from the essay examples written by expert writers to avoid common  essay writing problems . The examples can help you know the purpose of each type of essay and how to write a perfect one.

Imitate their writing style, argument construction, and structure.

As you read, highlight the important parts of an essay to learn how they did it. Keep in mind that the length of an essay depends on the level and complexity of the topic.

Here is a well-written sample essay from one of our expert writers that you can have a look at.

Essay Writing Tips

Here are the expert tips that you should follow for writing a perfect essay.

  • Start writing your essay early
  • Remember the main question or idea in your mind.
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Research your topic in-depth
  • Break down the essay into different sections and do not try to finish it in a single sitting.
  • Write and add the introduction and conclusion after finishing the essay.
  • Use transition words to create a coherent flow between the paragraphs.
  • Connect the evidence with the main idea carefully.
  • Do not copy-paste the content.
  • Ensure flawless grammar and punctuation.
  • Cite the references properly.
  • Edit and revise relentlessly.
  • Put the essay away for a few days and check again.

Essay writing can be made easier if you follow a certain pattern and master the steps we have provided you with. Moreover, the tips given above will help you improve your essay-writing skills also.

Try practicing as much as you can and impress your teacher with a well-written essay.

Writing essays can be difficult but the fact is, you can’t escape academic writing no matter what.

This is where the best essay writing service like  MyPerfectWords.com comes in to help students save their academic grades. We are an online essay and paper writing service that offers customer support to high school, college, and university students.

Here are the academic papers in which you can get help from expert writers here.

  • College essays (narrative essays, persuasive essays, compare and contrast essays, etc.)
  • Custom papers
  • Book reviews/book report
  • Case studies
  • Research papers
  • College papers

And much more. Besides, our writing services , we also offer free revision and plagiarism reports with each paper and make sure that the students get flawless work from us.

All you need to do is fill out the order form and leave the rest to us.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an essay format.

The essay format is the set of guidelines that decide how your paper should be arranged. Formatting a paper includes following rules for its structure, title, and citations before you begin writing it.

When formatting this type of document there are certain things to focus on like making sure each paragraph has one main idea which leads into two more ideas in succession.

Remember not to let these paragraphs become too long because they can lose the reader's attention if they go over three pages long.

What are basic writing skills?

Here are the basic writing skills: 

  • Spelling and punctuation 
  • Good reading skills 
  • Knowledge of sentence and paragraph structure 
  • Understanding of different types of writing 
  • Great editing and rewriting skills 

Other than these, there are a number of other writing skills. 

Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers

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Essay writing is an essential skill for every student. Whether writing a particular academic essay (such as persuasive, narrative, descriptive, or expository) or a timed exam essay, the key to getting good at writing is to write. Creating opportunities for our students to engage in extended writing activities will go a long way to helping them improve their skills as scribes.

But, putting the hours in alone will not be enough to attain the highest levels in essay writing. Practice must be meaningful. Once students have a broad overview of how to structure the various types of essays, they are ready to narrow in on the minor details that will enable them to fine-tune their work as a lean vehicle of their thoughts and ideas.

Visual Writing Prompts

In this article, we will drill down to some aspects that will assist students in taking their essay writing skills up a notch. Many ideas and activities can be integrated into broader lesson plans based on essay writing. Often, though, they will work effectively in isolation – just as athletes isolate physical movements to drill that are relevant to their sport. When these movements become second nature, they can be repeated naturally in the context of the game or in our case, the writing of the essay.


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  • 270  pages of the most effective teaching strategies
  • 50+   digital tools  ready right out of the box
  • 75   editable resources  for student   differentiation  
  • Loads of   tricks and tips  to add to your teaching tool bag
  • All explanations are reinforced with  concrete examples.
  • Links to  high-quality video  tutorials
  • Clear objectives  easy to match to the demands of your curriculum

Planning an essay

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The Boys Scouts’ motto is famously ‘Be Prepared’. It’s a solid motto that can be applied to most aspects of life; essay writing is no different. Given the purpose of an essay is generally to present a logical and reasoned argument, investing time in organising arguments, ideas, and structure would seem to be time well spent.

Given that essays can take a wide range of forms and that we all have our own individual approaches to writing, it stands to reason that there will be no single best approach to the planning stage of essay writing. That said, there are several helpful hints and techniques we can share with our students to help them wrestle their ideas into a writable form. Let’s take a look at a few of the best of these:


Whether students are tackling an assignment that you have set for them in class or responding to an essay prompt in an exam situation, they should get into the habit of analyzing the nature of the task. To do this, they should unravel the question’s meaning or prompt. Students can practice this in class by responding to various essay titles, questions, and prompts, thereby gaining valuable experience breaking these down.

Have students work in groups to underline and dissect the keywords and phrases and discuss what exactly is being asked of them in the task. Are they being asked to discuss, describe, persuade, or explain? Understanding the exact nature of the task is crucial before going any further in the planning process, never mind the writing process .


Once students have understood what the essay task asks them, they should consider what they know about the topic and, often, how they feel about it. When teaching essay writing, we so often emphasize that it is about expressing our opinions on things, but for our younger students what they think about something isn’t always obvious, even to themselves.

Brainstorming and mind-mapping what they know about a topic offers them an opportunity to uncover not just what they already know about a topic, but also gives them a chance to reveal to themselves what they think about the topic. This will help guide them in structuring their research and, later, the essay they will write . When writing an essay in an exam context, this may be the only ‘research’ the student can undertake before the writing, so practicing this will be even more important.


The previous step above should reveal to students the general direction their research will take. With the ubiquitousness of the internet, gone are the days of students relying on a single well-thumbed encyclopaedia from the school library as their sole authoritative source in their essay. If anything, the real problem for our students today is narrowing down their sources to a manageable number. Students should use the information from the previous step to help here. At this stage, it is important that they:

●      Ensure the research material is directly relevant to the essay task

●      Record in detail the sources of the information that they will use in their essay

●      Engage with the material personally by asking questions and challenging their own biases

●      Identify the key points that will be made in their essay

●      Group ideas, counterarguments, and opinions together

●      Identify the overarching argument they will make in their own essay.

Once these stages have been completed the student is ready to organise their points into a logical order.


There are a number of ways for students to organize their points in preparation for writing. They can use graphic organizers , post-it notes, or any number of available writing apps. The important thing for them to consider here is that their points should follow a logical progression. This progression of their argument will be expressed in the form of body paragraphs that will inform the structure of their finished essay.

The number of paragraphs contained in an essay will depend on a number of factors such as word limits, time limits, the complexity of the question etc. Regardless of the essay’s length, students should ensure their essay follows the Rule of Three in that every essay they write contains an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Generally speaking, essay paragraphs will focus on one main idea that is usually expressed in a topic sentence that is followed by a series of supporting sentences that bolster that main idea. The first and final sentences are of the most significance here with the first sentence of a paragraph making the point to the reader and the final sentence of the paragraph making the overall relevance to the essay’s argument crystal clear. 

Though students will most likely be familiar with the broad generic structure of essays, it is worth investing time to ensure they have a clear conception of how each part of the essay works, that is, of the exact nature of the task it performs. Let’s review:

Common Essay Structure

Introduction: Provides the reader with context for the essay. It states the broad argument that the essay will make and informs the reader of the writer’s general perspective and approach to the question.

Body Paragraphs: These are the ‘meat’ of the essay and lay out the argument stated in the introduction point by point with supporting evidence.

Conclusion: Usually, the conclusion will restate the central argument while summarising the essay’s main supporting reasons before linking everything back to the original question.


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●      Each paragraph should focus on a single main idea

●      Paragraphs should follow a logical sequence; students should group similar ideas together to avoid incoherence

●      Paragraphs should be denoted consistently; students should choose either to indent or skip a line

●      Transition words and phrases such as alternatively , consequently , in contrast should be used to give flow and provide a bridge between paragraphs.


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Students shouldn’t expect their essays to emerge from the writing process perfectly formed. Except in exam situations and the like, thorough editing is an essential aspect in the writing process. 

Often, students struggle with this aspect of the process the most. After spending hours of effort on planning, research, and writing the first draft, students can be reluctant to go back over the same terrain they have so recently travelled. It is important at this point to give them some helpful guidelines to help them to know what to look out for. The following tips will provide just such help: 

One Piece at a Time: There is a lot to look out for in the editing process and often students overlook aspects as they try to juggle too many balls during the process. One effective strategy to combat this is for students to perform a number of rounds of editing with each focusing on a different aspect. For example, the first round could focus on content, the second round on looking out for word repetition (use a thesaurus to help here), with the third attending to spelling and grammar.

Sum It Up: When reviewing the paragraphs they have written, a good starting point is for students to read each paragraph and attempt to sum up its main point in a single line. If this is not possible, their readers will most likely have difficulty following their train of thought too and the paragraph needs to be overhauled.

Let It Breathe: When possible, encourage students to allow some time for their essay to ‘breathe’ before returning to it for editing purposes. This may require some skilful time management on the part of the student, for example, a student rush-writing the night before the deadline does not lend itself to effective editing. Fresh eyes are one of the sharpest tools in the writer’s toolbox.

Read It Aloud: This time-tested editing method is a great way for students to identify mistakes and typos in their work. We tend to read things more slowly when reading aloud giving us the time to spot errors. Also, when we read silently our minds can often fill in the gaps or gloss over the mistakes that will become apparent when we read out loud.

Phone a Friend: Peer editing is another great way to identify errors that our brains may miss when reading our own work. Encourage students to partner up for a little ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’.

Use Tech Tools: We need to ensure our students have the mental tools to edit their own work and for this they will need a good grasp of English grammar and punctuation. However, there are also a wealth of tech tools such as spellcheck and grammar checks that can offer a great once-over option to catch anything students may have missed in earlier editing rounds.

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Putting the Jewels on Display: While some struggle to edit, others struggle to let go. There comes a point when it is time for students to release their work to the reader. They must learn to relinquish control after the creation is complete. This will be much easier to achieve if the student feels that they have done everything in their control to ensure their essay is representative of the best of their abilities and if they have followed the advice here, they should be confident they have done so.


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Writing an academic essay: a student’s guide from prompt to perfection.

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BA student Saleeta Akbar reflects on her essay writing journey from school to university, sharing tips on what to focus on and how to keep improving. 

University academic essays demand a more in-depth and complex critical analysis, which can take some time to learn effectively. The challenge of meeting such high expectations can be daunting and overwhelming for most fresher students. 

I still remember the stark contrast in university grading standards after I submitted my first assignment in term 1. Navigating through my grades and professor feedback, I realised that mastering critical analysis was paramount in the world of academic essays, which can be hard to master. However, with each essay, I embraced the challenge, gradually adapting and refining my approach. Here are a few tips I wish I knew before writing my first academic essay:

How to prepare for your essay

Understanding the topic before diving in is crucial for many students facing an academic essay. I usually find it beneficial to talk with a friend about it after class or over a cup of coffee. Sharing your insights and debating different perspectives to approach the topic from various angles can be an excellent way to kickstart the essay. Deciphering the essay prompt or question involves carefully reading and analysing the assignment requirements. These encompass the topic, structure, and formatting guidelines.

Part of the joy in this process lies in embracing the journey itself, where unexpected insights and discoveries can lead to valuable shifts in your thinking.

I recommend starting early; otherwise, you might find yourself cramming two hours before the 11:59 pm deadline. I usually go by the reverse planning method; you begin by thinking about the end result of your essay that you want to achieve. From there, you figure out what steps are needed for those results to happen. 

However, I am always open to changing my perspective along the way. Part of the joy in this process lies in embracing the journey itself, where unexpected insights and discoveries can lead to valuable shifts in your thinking. This approach allows for adaptivity and encourages dynamic engagement with newfound sources and structural improvements.

Structure your essay effectively

Using primary and secondary sources for research is essential, and accessing the SOAS Library can be beneficial . A well-structured essay significantly enhances readability and clarity. I would consider adopting the traditional essay structure, which includes an attention-grabbing introduction, body paragraphs supported by evidence, and a conclusion that summarises arguments and/or offers insights for further research. 

SOAS library reading space

Do not just list down the contents, it is essential to add your critics and support it with clear evidence. Make sure you cite sources and evidence accurately by following specific guideline s as this is very specific to academic writing as it lends credibility and authority to your work. Citing is a critical skill that requires consistent practice and mastery over time.

A bibliography should be included at the end of every essay. Lecturers usually specify the referencing style they prefer, such as Harvard, Vancouver, and APA referencing. For example, when citing in Harvard referencing style, include the author, year, title, place, publisher, URL, and date of access. Example: ' Childers, J.W. (2012) 'Social class in the Victorian novel', in David, D. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian novel. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 148-169.' 

Always keep the word count in mind and make sure to structure it accordingly, for example allocating up to 50% of your text body to the introduction and conclusion will not result in a well-rounded essay.

What to ask yourself after your first draft

Finishing a first draft is a great achievement but it's important to remember that it's not the final. If you have time, it can be helpful to put your draft aside for a couple of days and then go back and ask yourself these questions before amending:

  • Does this essay directly address the set task?
  • Does it present a strong, supported position?
  • Does it use relevant sources appropriately?
  • Is the expression clear, and the style appropriate?
  • Is the essay organised coherently?
  • Is there a clear introduction, body and conclusion?

Give yourself time to keep revising

Always save time to evaluate the content of each paragraph, as there is always room for improvement. I regularly proofread my essays for grammar or plagiarism. Do not hesitate to contact your lecture professor with any queries. They can help you with clarification.

Writing your first academic essay can be an overwhelming but ultimately rewarding experience. Remember, every essay is an opportunity to refine your skills and contribute to the scholarly discourse in your academic field. Happy writing!

About the author

Saleeta Akbar is an international student from Pakistan who is in her first-year studying BSc Management and working as a Co-Creator Intern for the SOAS Communications Team. 

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How to Write an Essay: Step by Step Guide With Examples

How to write an essay

An essay is a brief writing that explains, analyzes and interprets a topic; it’s a summary of a particular topic in which the author also expresses an opinion.

The essay is a very useful, practical and simple learning and expression tool and it has rules, specifications or details regarding its format and content you must know to be able to do it correctly. Some of the most frequent questions about the essay are:

Does the essay need a title? How many paragraphs does an essay have? Does it have headings and a conclusion? Does the essay have a full stop? Are the introduction, body and conclusion on separate pages? How do you make the cover of an essay?

Those are some of the various questions that come up when you need to do an essay, all of which are addressed here.

Table of Contents

What is an essay.

An essay is a short writing that explains, analyzes, and interprets a topic. It is an explanatory and analytical summary of a specific topic, where the author not only exposes or explains the subject but also, based on solid information, expresses an opinion on it.

The difference between an essay and the informational text you can see everywhere, is  that an essay is freer, and its parts are not separated by headings.

The format of an essay and most common doubts

The format of an essay refers to the arrangement or location of each of its parts; it is the order of its components that is visually perceived and that gives the essay better appearance and organization.

This is done according to the APA format and it’s norms are the ones that are below

  • Font: Arial or Times New Roman, number 12.
  • Leading: Leading is the vertical space between each line and must be 1.5.
  • Margins : 2.54 cm lower, upper and right margins.
  • The text must always be justified , that a text is justified means that the lines have to be aligned, so they create the shape of a square. However, there can be cases when this can’t be achieved, like when you write a list.
  • The headings “Introduction”, “Body” and “Conclusion ” are not written in the essay. They essay is written continuously, and you should avoid placing such headings.

The essay does have each of these parts but they are not identified as in a monographic work, but rather they are written one after another. An example of an essay can be seen at the end of this article.

  • Full stop. The essays do have a full stop, after each paragraph.
  • Paragraphs : An essay needs to have at least 5 paragraphs, and each paragraph must have a minimum of 3 lines and a maximum of 10 lines.

The parts or structure of an essay

The structural organization of an essay comprises three fundamental parts:

  • Introduction.
  • Conclusion.

The introduction 

The introduction, as its name implies, introduces the reader to the essay with following steps:

  • Expression of a general idea. It consists of expressing a broad or macro idea of the topic, for example, if an essay is going to be about a type of personal pronoun , it begins with the definition of pronoun. Or, if it’s about a sport like soccer, it begins with the definition of sport.
  • Indication of a less general idea. The topic begins to be reduced and concentrated. For example, after having defined what a sport is, it is mentioned that there are many sports and one of them is soccer and present a definition of soccer.
  • Indication of an update . The purpose is to locate the essay in time and space, that is, in the historical moment and / or geographical location where it has context. If you talk about human rights violations , here you write about the violations that are currently taking place and the geographical place of interest where they take place.
  • An exemplification . Here you could write cases in which human rights have been violated.
  • Presentation of the problem, topic, question, this will depend on the type of essay .  The most common essay that is frequently assigned to students is expository, which consists of developing the topic through explanations, comparisons, and exemplifications. Here is where the fundamental idea of the essay is located and that is placed last.

The body of the essay

The body consists of the points that develop the essay in depth. In the example of the essay about soccer, the body could have the history of soccer, the rules of the game, the most important championships, etc

Form and organization the body

  • Each topic should be covered in a separate paragraph.
  • Each topic, preferably, should be introduced by a connector (Regarding… As regard… With respect to…)
  • The development must contain more information than the introduction and conclusion because it constitutes the detailed information of the essay.

The conclusion 

  • The conclusion is preferably written in a single paragraph, and it is also preferred that it be the same or similar in size to that of the introduction. It starts with a connector (To finish…. In conclusion…)
  • There should be a mention of one or two topics covered in the body.

Here goes the author’s personal opinion, (You, the person doing the essay, your opinion) an essay has, of course, personal opinions in its body, however, in the conclusion these must be emphatic.

To make it clear that the author is giving his or her opinion, he or she can use phrases such as “In my opinion…” “I think…” “I hold that …” “From my perspective … etc.

In the last part, you write what you think about the subject, if it’s a typical expository essay. What appears here depends on the type of essay, it can be the answer to the question, or the solution of the problem as the case may be.  

  • References go in a separate page that starts with the heading “References”. Add only those that have been cited, not the texts you read to do the essay.
  • References must be placed in alphabetical order and according to APA standards.

Example of references

Savater, F. (1991). Ética para Amador. Barcelona: Ariel.

Thomas, Ann and Aron Thomas, Jr. (1956 ). Non-intervention: The law and its import in the Americas . Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University Press.

Transtle. (2022). How to Write an Essay: The Ultimate Step by Step Guide. Transtle . Available: https://www.transtle.com/general-learning/how-to-write-an-essay/ [Consulted: 2022, January  24th].

Walzer, M. (2000). Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations.  (3rd edn.).  New York: Basic Books.

Example of an essay

Text in the essay from: Mundanopedia.com

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Essay Writing

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.

This resource begins with a general description of essay writing and moves to a discussion of common essay genres students may encounter across the curriculum. The four genres of essays (description, narration, exposition, and argumentation) are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres, also known as the modes of discourse, have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these genres and students’ need to understand and produce these types of essays. We hope these resources will help.

The essay is a commonly assigned form of writing that every student will encounter while in academia. Therefore, it is wise for the student to become capable and comfortable with this type of writing early on in her training.

Essays can be a rewarding and challenging type of writing and are often assigned either to be done in class, which requires previous planning and practice (and a bit of creativity) on the part of the student, or as homework, which likewise demands a certain amount of preparation. Many poorly crafted essays have been produced on account of a lack of preparation and confidence. However, students can avoid the discomfort often associated with essay writing by understanding some common genres.

Before delving into its various genres, let’s begin with a basic definition of the essay.

What is an essay?

Though the word essay has come to be understood as a type of writing in Modern English, its origins provide us with some useful insights. The word comes into the English language through the French influence on Middle English; tracing it back further, we find that the French form of the word comes from the Latin verb exigere , which means "to examine, test, or (literally) to drive out." Through the excavation of this ancient word, we are able to unearth the essence of the academic essay: to encourage students to test or examine their ideas concerning a particular topic.

Essays are shorter pieces of writing that often require the student to hone a number of skills such as close reading, analysis, comparison and contrast, persuasion, conciseness, clarity, and exposition. As is evidenced by this list of attributes, there is much to be gained by the student who strives to succeed at essay writing.

The purpose of an essay is to encourage students to develop ideas and concepts in their writing with the direction of little more than their own thoughts (it may be helpful to view the essay as the converse of a research paper). Therefore, essays are (by nature) concise and require clarity in purpose and direction. This means that there is no room for the student’s thoughts to wander or stray from his or her purpose; the writing must be deliberate and interesting.

This handout should help students become familiar and comfortable with the process of essay composition through the introduction of some common essay genres.

This handout includes a brief introduction to the following genres of essay writing:

  • Expository essays
  • Descriptive essays
  • Narrative essays
  • Argumentative (Persuasive) essays

A Helpful Guide on How to Start an Essay

Smiling guy in headphones sitting at desk in library and writing

Writing essays is a common part of many students’ lives, especially if they pursue higher education. Many college courses place hefty emphasis on essays. Their content, length, research, writing, and revision will often form large portions of many college students’ curricular efforts, one semester at a time. 

Knowing how to properly write an essay is an invaluable skill. Not only does it ensure the papers are properly written, it also helps establish life skills involving research, critical thinking, and time management. As with most projects, the best place to start with an essay is the beginning. 

As obvious as that sounds, a strong start will help ensure a strong finish. Though it will take more than just a good start to complete a strong essay, everyone needs to begin somewhere.  

We reached out to the popular essay writing service Write My Essays for advice. After all, who understands how to write an essay better than a professional essay writer? 

Review the directions  

This may seem obvious, but before starting the essay, it’s important to review the directions provided by the professor. The directions should include all the important points, such as spacing, fonts, and the expected layout of the content. 

The contents will depend on the subject. Different fields use different methods of citation for their sources, as one example, and that needs to be taken into account. Understanding the guidelines will help direct focus and energy in the right direction, ensuring time isn’t wasted on improper settings or sources. 

The amount of detail within the directions can vary greatly, depending on the level of the course, the subject matter, and the inclination of the professor. Do not be afraid to ask for advice from on-campus resources or the professor themselves to ensure the directions are fully and properly understood. 

Make an outline  

Before working on the paper itself, it is a good idea to create an outline. This might be a part of the assignment requirements, even, or possibly an assignment all its own. Regardless, outlining the essay’s contents and key points will make writing the essay easier. 

Outlines aren’t for everyone, but even if they are not required, they are also a useful tool. Having an idea of the direction of the essay before writing it will help with the writing process and makes for a handy way to start the work before the essay is even written. 

Format the document  

Before actually writing the essay, formatting the document to the required guidelines first will save a lot of time and effort on fixing issues during the revision process. Revising is arduous enough without having to take typesetting issues into account, especially with how easy document formatting has become. 

Standard requirements for an essay are an easy-to-read font at a standard size like 12, with one-inch margins, indented paragraphs, and double spacing for ease of reading. Actually, requirements may vary, which is why it’s so important to review them, especially if working on multiple projects in different classes at the same time. 

Set up the first page  

Depending on the requirements, the first page may simply be a title page with the assignment, class number, and student’s name. Some of that information may be on a second page, with just the title on the first page. These pages generally do not count towards page lengths and are meant to help prevent padding. 

Setting up the title page is part of formatting, but at least it’s finally putting words on a page. This is also a good point to save the document, ideally in a folder created for the various coursework of the related class so that it is easy to find, load, and, eventually, submit. 

How to begin the paper  

Finally, with the document formatted and necessary first page organized, the actual writing of the essay can begin. Presumably the required research and other pre-writing prep has been completed. So, it’s time to actually put some words to virtual paper and start writing the essay in earnest. 

The question is how to start the paper, that is, the actual contents and not just the title or document itself. The guidelines from the professor might have some notes on this matter, and those should be adhered to when required. If the requirements lack such guidelines, the students have some freedom on how to open their essay. 

Open with a quote  

Oftentimes, a relevant quote, especially from a source cited throughout the essay, can help set the tone and ground the reader with what to expect. A proper quote will help set expectations and bring an idea of the content ahead in a quick and quirky format. 

The quote also sets the tone, as previously mentioned. Serious issues will merit a more serious quote, while lighter subjects can get away with pithier wording. Depending on the subject, sources, and topic of the paper, the quote need not be from a serious source. As long as it is cited, a relevant book or movie quote could also be used to set the opening. 

Pose a question  

Another option to open the essay is with a question. This is a direct way to bring the main topic of the essay to the forefront, by immediately leading with the thesis question, the answer to which is generally the entire point of the essay. 

This does not work for all essays, but the question need not be that powerful. A simpler question to grab the reader’s attention and draw them into the topic at hand can work just as well. Just like with an opening quote, the question sets the tone and leads into the introductory paragraph, which is generally a basic summary of the essay as a whole. 

Also as with a quote, the question can be as serious or irreverent as possible when writing scholastic works, depending on the subject matter, the class, and, occasionally, the demeanor of the professor. Though it is ill advised to think about it too much, at the end of the day, most essays are read by two people, and only two people: the student who wrote them, and the professor who reads and grades them accordingly. 

Start with the Thesis Statement  

It will need to be stated in the introductory paragraph anyway, and beginning with it can provide a strong hook to the start of an essay. While the first paragraph is an essential foundation for the essay, the thesis statement is the base for the first paragraph and the assignments as a whole. 

The thesis statement states the thesis of the essay, hence the name. The sooner it is mentioned, the better, and, as with many aspects of the paper, it will likely be mentioned in the guidelines for the essay. Either way, starting with the thesis statement sets a strong tone for the rest of the paper. 

Such a strong start can be a little daunting to live up to over the course of finishing the essay, but if that turns out to be the case, it can be moved. If nothing else, though, starting with the thesis statement gets it stated quickly and efficiently. 

The introductory paragraph  

The first paragraph of an essay is usually referred to as the introductory paragraph. This paragraph, as previously noted, is extremely important for the essay. It provides the reader with a basic summary of the essay’s contents. From the original question, hypothesis, thesis statement, antithesis, theory, synthesis, and potentially even cited sources, this paragraph sets the tone for the entire paper. 

That is a lot of pressure to put on the beginning of an essay, but it also helps guide the direction of the essay moving forward. Along with tone, it is a handy reference for the rest of the essay. The reader, i.e., the professor, will expect the paper to follow the outline set forth in the first paragraph. 

Though the introductory paragraph is the first and most important aspect of an essay in several regards, it is also the easiest to revise. If the sources and data take the paper in a direction different from what was originally intended, then the first paragraph is relatively easy to adjust to fit the new information. 

As with other aspects of the essay, the assignment brief may have instructions on how to format the introductory paragraph, as well as potential guidelines regarding its contents. This will help with writing the first paragraph, and thus starting the essay, a little easier. 


Depending on the chosen course load, essays will likely be a large part of a student’s work throughout their academic career. Learning how to properly plan, format, write, and revise essays will help ensure an easier time over the semesters and years. 

Eventually, writing essays will become second nature thanks to the developed skills. Still, with each essay, turning a blank document into a completed and submitted assignment can be a daunting prospect. 

With proper planning, review of the sources and assignment description, and a good handle on the thesis statement, starting an essay can become as second nature as writing the overall essay. With various ways to begin, mixing it up every now and then will also help fight the tedious nature such papers can garner after the tenth time, and beyond. 

How To Write A Research Paper

Research Paper Methods Section

Nova A.

How To Write The Methods Section of a Research Paper Step-by-Step

13 min read

Published on: Mar 6, 2024

Last updated on: Mar 5, 2024

research paper methods section

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The method and material section stands as the cornerstone of any research paper. Crafting this section with precision is important, especially when aiming for a target journal. 

If you're navigating the intricacies of research paper writing and pondering on how to ace the methodology, fear not – we've got you covered. Our guide will walk you through the essentials, ensuring your methodology shines in the eyes of your target journal. 

Let's jump into the basics of the method section!

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What is the Methods Section of a Research Paper?

The methods section of a research paper provides a detailed description of the procedures, techniques, and methods employed to conduct the study ( American Psychological Association, 2020 ). It outlines the steps taken to collect, analyze, and interpret data, allowing other researchers to replicate the study and assess the validity of the results. 

This section includes information on the study design, participants, materials or apparatus used, data collection procedures, and statistical analyses. Typically, the methodology section is placed after the introduction and before the results section in a research paper.

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Importance of Methods Section

The methods section of a research paper holds significant importance. Here is why: 

  • Replicability: The methods section ensures the replicability of the study by providing a clear and comprehensive account of the procedures used.
  • Transparency: It enhances transparency, allowing other researchers to understand and evaluate the validity of the study's findings.
  • Credibility: A well-documented methods section enhances the credibility of the research, instilling confidence in the study's design and execution.
  • Guidance for Future Research: It serves as a guide for future research, offering insights into methodologies that can be applied or modified in similar studies.
  • Ethical Considerations: The section highlights ethical considerations, promoting responsible and accountable research practices.

Structure of Methods Section of a Research Paper

There are some important parts of the method section of a research paper that you will need to include, whether you have done an experimental study or a descriptive study. 

Provided structured approach below ensures clarity and replicability of the research methodology:

Formatting of the Methods Section 

Make the main " Methods " heading centered, bold, and capitalized. For subtopics under "Methods," like participant details or data collection, use left-aligned, bold, and title cases. 

Feel free to include even sub-headings for more specifics. This formatting helps readers easily follow your study steps.

Next, we will address the most common query, i.e., how to write the methodology section of a research paper. Let’s explain the steps for writing the methodology section of a research paper:

Step 1: Start with Study Design

The initial step in the method section of a research paper is to provide a clear description of the study type. This involves outlining the overall plan and structure of the research. 

Different types of studies, such as cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional, may be employed based on the research objectives.

For instance:

Starting with the study design sets the stage for understanding the methodology. It provides readers with a foundation for subsequent sections in the methods portion of the research paper.

Step 2: Describe Participants

In the methods section, the second step involves providing a detailed account of the participants involved in the study. Start by describing the characteristics of both human and non-human subjects, using clear and descriptive language.

Address specific demographic characteristics relevant to your study, such as age, sex, ethnic or racial group, gender identity, education level, and socioeconomic status. Clearly outlining these essential details ensures transparency, replicability, and a comprehensive understanding of the study's sample.

Sampling Procedures:

  • Clearly outline how participants were selected, specifying any inclusion and exclusion criteria applied.
  • Appropriately identify the sampling procedure used, such as random sampling, convenience sampling, or stratified sampling.
  • If applicable, note the percentage of invited participants who actually participated.
  • Specify if participants were self-selected or chosen by their institutions (e.g., schools submitting student data).

Sample Size and Power:

  • Detail the intended sample size estimation per condition and the statistical power aimed for in the study.
  • Provide information on any analyses conducted to determine the sample size and power.
  • Emphasize the importance of statistical power for detecting effects if present.
  • State whether the final sample size differed from the originally intended sample.
  • Base your interpretations of study outcomes solely on the final sample, reinforcing the importance of transparency in reporting.

Step 3: State Materials or Apparatus

In the third step, thoroughly describe the materials or apparatus used in your research. In addition, gives detailed information on the tools and techniques employed to measure relevant outcome variables.

Primary and Secondary Measures:

  • Clearly define both primary and secondary outcome measures aligned with research questions.
  • Specify all instruments used, citing hardware models, software versions, or references to manuals/articles.
  • Report settings of specialized apparatus, such as screen resolution.

Reliability and Validity:

  • For each instrument, detail measures of reliability and validity.
  • Include an explanation of how consistently (reliability) and precisely (validity) the method measures the targeted variables.
  • Provide examples or reference materials to illustrate the reliability and validity of tests, questionnaires, or interviews.

Covariates and Quality Assurance:

  • Describe any covariates considered and their relevance to explaining or predicting outcomes.
  • Review methods used to assure measurement quality, such as researcher training, multiple assessors, translation procedures, and pilot studies.
  • For subjectively coded data, report interrater reliability scores to gauge consistency among raters.

Step 4 Write the Procedure

Next is the procedure section of the research paper, which thoroughly details the procedures applied for administering the study, processing data, and planning data analyses.

Data Collection Methods and Research Design

  • Summarize data collection methods (e.g., surveys, tests) and the overall research design.
  • Provide detailed procedures for administering surveys, tests, or any other data collection instruments.
  • Clarify the research design framework, specifying whether it's experimental, quasi-experimental, descriptive, correlational, and/or longitudinal.
  • For multi-group studies, report assignment methods, group instructions, interventions, and session details.

Data Analysis 

  • Clearly state the planned data analysis methods for each research question or hypothesis.
  • Specify descriptive statistics, inferential statistical tests, and any other analysis techniques.
  • Include software or tools used for data analysis (e.g., SPSS, R).
  • Provide a brief rationale for choosing each analysis method.

Step 5: Mention Ethical Approvals

In the fifth step of the methods section, explicitly address the ethical considerations of your research, ensuring transparency and adherence to ethical standards. Here are some key ethical considerations: 

  • IRB Approval:

Clearly state that the research received approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or an equivalent ethical review body.

  • Informed Consent:

Specify the process of obtaining informed consent, including the provision of information sheets to participants.

  • Confidentiality:

Describe measures taken to maintain confidentiality, such as assigning unique identification numbers and securing data.

  • Participant Rights:

Emphasize participants' right to withdraw from the study at any point without consequences.

  • Debriefing:

Mention if debriefing procedures were implemented to address any participant concerns post-study.

Methods Section of Research Paper Examples

Exploring sample methodology sections is crucial when composing your first research paper, as it enhances your understanding of the structure. We provide PDF examples of methodology sections that you can review to gain inspiration for your own research paper.

Methods Section of A Qualitative Research Paper

Methods Section of Research Paper Template

Methods Section of Research Proposal Example

Methods Section of Research Paper APA

How To Write A Method For An Experiment

Journal Guidelines to Consider

When writing the methods section, be mindful of the specific guidelines set by your target journal. These guidelines can vary, impacting the structure, word limitations, and even the presentation of your methodology. 

Here's a detailed explanation, along with an example:

Structure & Word Limitations

If a journal follows APA guidelines, it might allow flexibility in structuring the method section. However, some journals may impose strict limitations on the manuscript's length and the number of subsections. 

For instance, a journal might specify a maximum of 3000 words for the entire paper and limit the method section to 500 words. In such cases, ensure you adhere to these constraints, potentially submitting supplemental files for additional details.

Standardized Checklists

Journals often request authors to use standardized checklists for various study types to ensure completeness. 

For a randomized clinical trial, the CONSORT(Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) checklist might be required. If your research involves observational studies, the STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology) checklist may be applicable. 

For diagnostic accuracy studies, adherence to the STARD (Standards for the Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies) checklist is common. These checklists serve as a systematic way to include essential details in your manuscript, aligning with the journal's preferred reporting standards.

Blind Review Procedures

Some journals implement single- or double-blind review procedures. If a double-blind review is in place, authors need to remove any information that might reveal their identity or institutional affiliations. 

For instance, the method section cannot explicitly mention the institution's name, researchers' identities, or the institutional ethics committee. This ensures an unbiased evaluation of the research without reviewers being influenced by the authors' affiliations.

The Dos And Don’ts Of Writing The Methods Section

While it's important to be thorough, certain elements are better suited for other sections of the paper. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts of writing the methods section:

Dos of Writing the Methods Section

Here are what to include in the methods section: 

  • Clarity and Precision: Clearly and concisely describe the procedures used in your study. Ensure that another researcher can replicate your work based on your explanation.
  • Chronological Order: Present the methods in a logical and chronological sequence. This helps readers follow the flow of your research.
  • Detail and Specificity: Provide sufficient detail to allow for replication. Specify equipment, materials, and procedures used, including any modifications.
  • Consistency with Study Design: Align your methods with the overall design of your study. Clearly state whether it's experimental, observational, or another design.
  • Inclusion of Participants: Detail participant characteristics, including demographics and any inclusion/exclusion criteria. Clearly state the sample size.
  • Operational Definitions: Define and operationalize key variables. Clearly explain how each variable was measured or manipulated.
  • Transparency in Data Collection: Describe the data collection process, including the timing, location, and any relevant protocols followed during the study.
  • Statistical Information: Outline the statistical methods used for analysis. Specify the software, tests employed and significance levels.
  • Ethical Considerations: Discuss ethical approvals obtained, informed consent procedures, and measures taken to ensure participant confidentiality. Address any potential conflicts of interest.

Don'ts of Writing the Methods Section

  • Extraneous Details: Unlike the discussion section avoid including unnecessary details or information that does not contribute directly to understanding the research methods.
  • Results Discussion: Refrain from discussing or interpreting the results in the methods section. Focus solely on describing the methods employed.
  • Ambiguity and Vagueness: Steer clear of vague or ambiguous language. Be precise and specific in your descriptions.
  • Overemphasis on Background: While some background information is relevant, avoid turning the methods section into an extensive literature review . Keep the focus on the research methods.
  • Personal Opinions: Do not include personal opinions or anecdotes. Stick to factual and objective descriptions.
  • Excessive Jargon: Minimize the use of technical jargon that may be confusing to readers who are not experts in your field. If necessary, provide clear explanations.
  • Inadequate Explanation of Modifications: If you deviate from standard procedures, clearly explain the modifications and justify why they were made.
  • Inconsistency with Design: Ensure that your methods align with the study design. Avoid inconsistencies that could create confusion for readers.

In conclusion , learning the art of writing the methods section is pivotal for any research paper. Following a step-by-step approach, from defining the study design to detailed data collection and analysis, ensures clarity and replicability. 

Remember, precision matters. If you find yourself grappling with the intricacies of your methodology, don't hesitate to reach out to CollegeEssay.org.  

Our professional writing service is ready to assist you in crafting a robust and well-structured methods section. 

Connect with our research paper writing service for expert guidance and conquer the challenges of research paper writing.

Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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When the Supreme Court Rules on Colorado’s Ballot, Pay Attention to What It Doesn’t Say

A guide to understanding what the ruling could mean, and what the media will simplify it into meaning..

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court opted to hear the Jan. 6 immunity challenge from the District of Columbia this spring, a matter they could and should have summarily affirmed weeks earlier. The effect will be to roll the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection trial, which ought to have started this week, into early fall. Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a separate case, seeking to remove the former president from the Colorado ballot as a result of his conduct on Jan. 6, 2021. We are currently awaiting a decision in that case—one that could come as soon as tomorrow—but it will affect the ballots in Maine and Illinois as well as other states.

In neither election-related case, however, is the Supreme Court likely to rule on the central issue: the question of Donald Trump’s culpability for his participation in an insurrection against the United States. In the immunity case, the issue before the court is a broader question about presidential untouchability and separation of powers. And oral argument in the ballot access case strongly suggests that the court’s ruling will ultimately focus on one or more legal technicalities about who decides ballot access questions and how. (Oddly enough, the only real discussion of the underlying issue of the insurrection at arguments was initiated by Trump’s own lawyer, Jonathan Mitchell, who described the events as “ a riot … shameful, criminal, violent.”) But the fact that the court may be silent on the insurrection itself does not mean it won’t send a signal about Trump’s conduct in connection with the events of that day. The real question is whether our media will be savvy enough to hear it.

Courts and other legal actors have a way of saying one thing with their legal conclusion and another with the way they reach it. James Comey, for example, absolved Hillary Clinton of legal violations with respect to her email server, while sending a very different signal about his views of her conduct more broadly. More recently, special counsel Robert Hur absolved President Joe Biden of legal liability in the classified documents matter he was tasked with investigating but used his report to let it be known his personal and even medical-via-a-lawyer-not-a-doctor views of the mental acuity of the president.

The Supreme Court itself has a famous history of ruling for one party on the legal bottom line even in cases that deliver a broader loss to the legal winner. Take one of the most famous Supreme Court cases of all time, Marbury v. Madison , in which the court technically ruled for the incoming Jefferson administration in thwarting the outgoing Adams administration’s attempt to pack the courts, while in fact dealing the Jeffersonians a more consequential loss by seizing to the court itself the power to overrule laws.

When the Supreme Court issues its opinion in the ballot access case, therefore, smart court watchers will be looking for not only the legal bottom line on whether Trump can stay on the ballot, but also what signal the court sends the public about Trump’s underlying conduct. Because pending before it is a case in which the Colorado courts expressly found that Trump did engage in an insurrection. In fact, every entity that has ruled on the merits of that question—from the Colorado courts, to the Maine secretary of state, to now the Illinois judiciary, to the findings of the Jan. 6 committee and the House impeachment inquiry—have so agreed. Will the court reject all those conclusions? Will the court take this opportunity to absolve Trump of insurrection? If the court declines to do that, it will speak more loudly than whatever it formally holds on the technical legal arcana it seems likely to focus on in its opinion.

That doesn’t mean everyone will hear it. If history is any guide, one likely reaction from the press will be a host of “Trump exculpated!” stories, in much the same way the Mueller report was treated as a blanket exoneration. It’s a forgivable error. Technical legal arcana is technical and arcane, and “Trump exculpated!” is journalistic dopamine. But that doesn’t mean that reporters should knock over the proverbial phone booths in rushing, en masse, to announce that Trump has “won” or “lost” the case once the opinion is released. Journalism focused on the horse race and not the stakes will be unlikely to capture the fact that the court may not dispute Trump’s participation in an insurrection when presented with the chance to do so, although that latter is the headline as well as a fact more relevant to the things voters will need to weigh come November. To our minds, “Court Rules Trump Can Remain on Ballot, Declines to Absolve Him of Insurrection” feels like a more accurate framing of the actual stakes of the Colorado case, assuming that the case goes how we anticipate.

One might wonder why it is that when it’s Donald Trump openly committing crimes and evading responsibility, the default media narrative is that he didn’t commit crimes, yet when Democrats are found to have committed no crimes, the story becomes that they are still sufficiently crime-adjacent to be maximally crimey. The coverage of the Comey and Hur reports focused orders of magnitude more on their non-conclusion details than the decision not to press charges. Whereas our press largely fell for Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump’s efforts to spin the Mueller report into an “exoneration” at the expense of the damning facts about obstruction of justice that were laid out in its pages.

Maybe it’s just that everyone, reporters included, already knows that Trump commits crimes. We all saw Trump’s followers carry his banner into the Capitol, overrunning police barricades, smashing windows, and bludgeoning law enforcement, in acts many of them have said, in court, during their own prosecutions, they did at Trump’s direction. And perhaps reporters are less sure about all that legal jargon and technical conclusions than they are of the non-legal assertions made by Comey and Hur. “But Her Emails” or “Biden So Old!” thus become more newsy than legal conclusions—because shiny objects are gonna shiny. But that’s not an evenhanded approach, and it’s certainly not the approach a self-governing citizenry needs from its Fourth Estate, with democracy itself on the line.

Maybe this is all unfair. Maybe we can expect better. Maybe if the Supreme Court issues an opinion ruling for Trump on technicalities while still remaining silent on the lower court’s finding that he engaged in insurrection, we’ll see headlines and reporting capturing the dual nature of such a ruling and the momentous implications of a court that seems to accept that he did what we know he did. But we’re not holding our breath.

We all know Jan. 6 happened because we witnessed it, we impeached him for it, a select committee exhaustively reported on it, in sessions that were televised. Hundreds of participants have been sentenced for participating in it. The only material question for the high court is whether he will be allowed to get away with it. What the media should be reporting when these cases come down would not so much be about picking the “winner” or “loser” in a highly technical appeal around ballot access. Instead, it would be repurposing the old punchline: We know exactly what Donald Trump is. Now we’re just haggling about the price.

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Report Helps Answer the Question: Is a College Degree Worth the Cost?

The analysis found that former students at most colleges had an annual income higher than high school graduates a decade after enrollment.

A diploma being swiped through a green device with a clock on it.

By Ann Carrns

Most people go to college to improve their financial prospects, though there are other benefits to attending a postsecondary institution. But as the average cost of a four-year degree has risen to six figures, even at public universities, it can be hard to know if the money is well spent .

A new analysis by HEA Group, a research and consulting firm focused on college access and success, may help answer the question for students and their families. The study compares the median earnings of former college students, 10 years after they enrolled, with basic income benchmarks.

The analysis found that a majority of colleges exceed minimum economic measures for their graduates, like having a typical annual income that is more than that of a high school graduate with no higher education ($32,000, per federal Scorecard data ).

Still, more than 1,000 schools fell short of that threshold, though many of them were for-profit colleges concentrating in short-term credentials rather than traditional four-year degrees.

Seeing whether a college’s former students are earning “reasonable” incomes, said Michael Itzkowitz, HEA Group’s founder and president, can help people weigh whether they want to cross some institutions off their list. Someone deciding between similar colleges, for example, can see the institution that has produced students with significantly higher incomes.

While income isn’t necessarily the only criterion to consider when comparing schools, Mr. Itzkowitz said, “it’s a very good starting point.”

The report used data from the Education Department’s College Scorecard to assess the earnings of about five million former students who had attended about 3,900 institutions of higher education, 10 years after they first enrolled. (The analysis includes data for people who didn’t complete their degree.) The report includes public colleges as well as private nonprofit and for-profit schools; the schools may offer nondegree certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees.

The analysis found that schools where students earned less than their peers who never attended college were generally those offering nondegree certificates, which can often be completed in 18 months or less, as well as for-profit institutions, although the list also includes some public and private nonprofit schools. At 71 percent of for-profit schools, a majority of students were earning less than high school graduates 10 years after enrolling, compared with 14 percent of public institutions and 9 percent of private nonprofit schools, Mr. Itzkowitz said.

“College is, indeed, worth it,” Mr. Itzkowitz said, but paying for it can be “substantially riskier” depending on the type of school you attend or the credential you seek.

(Another report found that former students of for-profit colleges tend to experience more financial risk than those who attended similarly selective public colleges. Those risks include having to take on more debt for higher education, a greater likelihood of defaulting on student loans and a lower likelihood of finding a job.)

Jason Altmire, president and chief executive of Career Education Colleges and Universities, a trade group representing for-profit career colleges, said lumping together schools offering mainly short-term certificate programs with colleges offering four-year degrees didn’t make sense. People who want to work in certain careers — hairdressing, for instance — generally can’t work in the field unless they earn a certificate, he said.

Mr. Altmire also said that income data from for-profit certificate schools might be skewed by “gender bias” because the programs had a higher proportion of women, who were more likely than men to work part time while raising families, lowering a school’s reported median income.

The HEA report also compared colleges’ performance with other benchmarks, like the federal poverty line ($15,000 annual income for an individual), which is used to determine eligibility for benefits for government programs like subsidized health insurance and Medicaid. Incomes at the “vast majority” of colleges exceeded this cutoff, the report found, although 18 — nearly all of them for-profit schools offering nondegree certificate programs in beauty or hairstyling — had students with median incomes below that threshold.

Majors also matter, since those in science, technology, engineering and nursing typically lead to significantly higher salaries than majors in the arts or humanities. (Last year, HEA published a separate analysis of the college majors that pay the most.)

When comparing the earnings after college, students and families shouldn’t look at the data in a vacuum, said Kristina Dooley, a certified educational planner in Hudson, Ohio. Many schools where former students go on to be top earners have programs focusing on health sciences, technology or business, but that may not be what you want to study.

“Use it as one piece of information,” Ms. Dooley said.

She said that students shouldn’t rule out a college just because it wasn’t at the pinnacle of the income list. Do ask questions, though — like whether its career services office helps with setting up internships and making alumni connections to assist you in finding a good-paying job.

Amy S. Jasper, an independent educational consultant in Richmond, Va., said postgraduate income might matter more to students and families who had to get a loan for college. “How much debt do they want to incur?” she said. “That is something that needs to be taken into consideration.”

But, she said, the benefits of college are not just financial. “I’d like to think that picking the right school is also about becoming a better person and contributing to the world.”

Here are some questions and answers about college costs:

What colleges had the highest median incomes?

Marquee names, like most Ivy League schools, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are heavily represented at the top of HEA’s analysis. Their students had median incomes of at least $90,000 a decade after enrollment. (A handful of for-profit schools, focused on careers like nursing and digital production, can be found there as well.) But the highest-earning colleges on the list? Samuel Merritt University, a nursing and health sciences school in Oakland, Calif., and the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, each with incomes above $129,000. You can see the data on the HEA website .

How much does college cost?

The average estimated “sticker” price for college — the published cost for tuition, fees, housing, meals, books and supplies, transportation and personal items — ranges from about $19,000 a year at a two-year community college to about $28,000 for in-state students at a public four-year university to almost $58,000 at a four-year private college, according to 2022-23 data from the College Board . Some students, however, may pay much less because of financial aid.

Are some college programs required to meet income benchmarks?

A federal “gainful employment” rule , which aims to make career programs more accountable, is scheduled to take effect in July. The new rule, which mostly affects for-profit schools but also applies to certificate programs at all types of colleges, requires schools to show that at least half of their graduates earn more than a typical high school graduate in their state and that their graduates have affordable student loan payments. Colleges that miss either benchmark must alert students that the school could lose access to federal financial aid. Schools that fail the same standard twice in three years will become ineligible for federal aid programs.

A Guide to Making Better Financial Moves

Making sense of your finances can be complicated. the tips below can help..

Credit card debt is rising, and shopping for a card with a lower interest rate can help you save money. Here are some things to know .

Whether you’re looking to make your home more energy-efficient, install solar panels or buy an electric car, this guide can help you save money and fight climate change .

Starting this year, some of the money in 529 college savings accounts can be used for retirement if it’s not needed for education. Here is how it works .

Are you trying to improve your credit profile? You can now choose to have your on-time rent payments reported to the credit bureaus  to enhance your score.

Americans’ credit card debt and late payments are rising, and card interest rates remain high, but many people lack a plan to pay down their debt. Here’s what you can do .

There are few challenges facing students more daunting than paying for college. This guide can help you make sense of it all .

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  • The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples

The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

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Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

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Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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