How to Write an Essay

Answer the Question

Your first step in essay writing is to consider the essay title. You need to look at the wording to work out exactly what you are being asked to do. It might help you to underline what you think are the keywords in the question/title: these are vital phrases or words that will decide the content, the style and the structure of your essay.


It is essential to plan and structure your essay before you start reading.

A good essay will be one that:

  • Has a sound structure
  • equally weighted paragraphs that demonstrate you are in control of the material
  • Relevant content, correct grammar and punctuation and all backed up by referencing.

Divide your essay plan into three stages; the beginning, the middle and the end.

Now divide the middle part (the main part of the essay) into a further three stages; the first stage will prepare the argument; the second stage will push the argument forward; the third stage will draw your argument together. If you think of your plan in these terms, then the essay immediately begins to take shape.

Take a 5,000-word essay as an example. It might look like this:

Introduction1 paragraph (150 words)
Point One6 paragraphs
Point Two6 paragraphs
Point Three6 paragraphs
Conclusion1 paragraph (200 words)

If this format is followed, you will create a well-formed and well-structured essay that has a clear direction.

Tips for Writing Each Section of the Essay


  • Do not over-elaborate; one paragraph is sufficient
  • Identify the subject/title of the essay
  • Start with a paragraph of about 150 words that states what you will explore/discuss within the essay e.g. ‘This essay will explore the following three issues’, or ‘This assignment will specifically identify the following three key themes’:
  • Do not begin to answer the essay at this stage
  • Do not wander around the issue
  • Your instructor is looking for coherence, understanding and insight

Main Body (or the three points of your essay)

Presenting effective arguments is at the heart of good essay writing – in almost every essay you should aim to make an overall point in response to some issue or debate. Remember, your instructor is looking for accuracy, clarity and a tight argument. Below are some pointers that may help. Not all of them apply every time.

  • Identify a problem statement: what is the issue or conflict?
  • Make an assertion: have something to say and clearly state it
  • Only use quotes if they are accurate and appropriate
  • Provide evidence to back up your position and explain why it should be believed
  • Use examples to illustrate
  • Anticipate objections: what are the arguments against
  • Modify your argument if the counter arguments are strong
  • Order your points to make your argument most believable
  • Be precise
  • Be consistent in what you say
  • Avoid making personal criticisms
  • Avoid personal opinions not supported by analysis/evidence

Check out the following article if you want more advice on making a great argument.


  • Write one paragraph of approximately 10% of the total words
  • Sum up, summarising the key points of your essay
  • Do not introduce any new ideas: all your ideas should have been discussed already
  • Avoid introducing quotes – these should have been used in the main body of your essay