If you don't know how to write an essay, going back to college or starting a university course can be a daunting prospect. If it is years since you have done any type of studying, let alone essay writing, don't worry - most colleges, including online universities - have study skills information, including homework study tips and essay writing guides.

So if you are concerned about your writing skills, consider getting some help with things like paragraph structure, punctuation and grammar and spelling. Most colleges provide this free and you will also be able to find many free resources online. The first thing you need to be clear about before you start your essay is the type of essay you will be writing.

There are many different essay styles and it is crucial to know what is expected of you. Universities, colleges and individual tutors will tend to have their own preferences and so it's important to make sure you know the right formula for your course. You can find a lot of information to help you online, but do check everything with your tutor or writing support tutor before you go ahead with writing your essay.

Types of Essay

There are many different types of essay and the names may vary according to where you live. These include argumentative essays, academic essays, cause and effect essays, descriptive essays and narrative essays. You might also have to write an admissions essay if you are applying for a place at university or you could be asked to write an essay for a scholarship. Other types of essay include comparison essays and research essays. Knowing the type of essay expected will help you to come up with the best format. If you are new to essay writing, ask your tutor to explain.

Understanding the Essay Title

This is one of the most important aspects of essay writing. You can write a brilliant essay, but will get very low marks and probably fail your assignment if you have not answered the question which was asked. So before you put pen to paper make sure you have interpreted the title correctly. If you are asked to choose your own essay title, it is a good idea to check with your tutor that it is suitable.

Brainstorming Once you have a firm essay title and are clear what it means, you can have a brainstorming session to come up with as made ideas as you can which relate to your essay title. If you have a lot of ideas, the next stage is to narrow them down to the most important and most relevant points.


Depending on the topic of your essay, you may need to do some background research. This could be to find evidence to support your point of view or argument or to find out what people who are experts in the field thing about a particular subject. Or it could be to find scientific or historical facts or statistical data.

You will need to keep a record of your sources so that you can include them in your bibliography. So when you find useful information which you might use, write down the name of the book or journal, the edition, page number, author, date of publication and publisher

Or the website, with the exact URL and the date on which you accessed it. If you do this as you are doing your research, it will save you a lot of time later. It's very annoying and time consuming if you find you have a wonderful piece of information or a great quotation and you can't remember where you found

Planning Your Essay

Planning your essay involves organizing your ideas into a logical order. You can do this by creating a mind map or by making a list of headings with bullet points under each. Your essay needs to be well structured

Essay Structure

Before you begin, make sure you know the word limit for your essay. You will usually be given a definite number eg 1500 words or 2000- 2500 words. If you are given a fixed number, it is usually acceptable to write 10% fewer or 10% more words. If you are given a range, try to stay within that range. However, check this with your tutor as you don't want to be penalized.

You will need to write an introduction which explains what you are writing about, introduces your central idea and the point of view you plan to support.

Then you will go through each of the relevant points, linking them in a way that flows and makes sense of the topic.

Finally, you will write a short conclusion which reminds readers of your main argument and summarizes the way in which you have supported that argument, adding strength to your position. In some essays you will include additional material to the conclusion, for example pointing out areas which still require research or the limits of your own research, but this is something to discuss with your tutor or study skill support staff who are teaching you how to write an essay.



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