Seven Steps for Writing an Academic Essay
Abstract: Many students do not understand that there is a process to writing. This lesson provides students with seven steps for writing an academic essay at the first-year university level. It can be easily modified for grade 11-12 students.
1. pick a topic
* often a teacher will assign you a topic, but if you have a choice, pick something that you are personally interested in.
2. brainstorm (or research)
* benefits of brainstorming: it will indicate if you have enough information to write a full paper & it will generate new ideas
* ask yourself, "what are the connections between these ideas?"
* topics for brainstorming
o discuss the effects of global warming
o should animals
be used for cosmetic testing
* Types of Brainstorming
a. web brainstorming
b. compare/contrast brainstorming
c. Burke's brainstorming target
o I would suggest using Burke's target for literature papers
d. clustering - jot down only words or very short phrases. Use different colored pens as ideas seem to suggest themselves in groups. Use printing or longhand script to suggest that ideas are main thoughts or supportive ideas. Don't bother to organize too neatly, though, because that can impede the flow of ideas. Don't cross anything out because you can't tell where an idea will lead you. When you get a few ideas written down, you can start to group them, using colored circles or whatever. Draw linking lines as connections suggest themselves
3. develop a thesis statement/sentence
* a university level academic
essay usually requires you to take a position in an arguement and then support your position. Arguement doesn't mean you are fighting. It means that you are trying to convince your readers of an idea or persuade them to act.
* you will want to pick something that reasonable people will disagree over and that you are interested in.
* "Many writers think of a thesis statement as an umbrella: everything that you carry along in your essay has to fit under this umbrella, and if you try to take on packages that don't fit, you will either have to get a bigger umbrella or something's going to get wet."
* Avoid announcing the thesis statement as if it were a thesis statement. In other words, avoid using phrases such as "The purpose of this paper is . . . . " or "In this paper, I will attempt to . . . ." Such phrases betray this paper to be the work of an amateur. If necessary, write the thesis statement that way the first time; it might help you determine, in fact, that this is your thesis statement. But when you rewrite your paper, eliminate the bald assertion that this is your thesis statement and write the statement itself without that annoying, unnecessary preface.
* once you know what you want to say, you have to come up with a plan for how you are going to say it. Here are some questions to ask:
o How are you going to support your thesis?
o What are your main points?
o What are your sub-points?
o In what order are you going to say them?
o How do you order points that are not equally strong?
* The five paragraph essay - introduction (say what you are going to say)
- body (say it)
- conclusion (say what you said)
5. Write the essay!
* Don't be intimidated by a blank screen - just write!
* Keep the assignment sheet beside you
* Discuss your assignment with your professor or TA (that is what they are there for)
* read it out loud
* read it backwards, sentence by sentence
* have a friend read it
* ask your teacher to read it and offer comments
7. Insure proper citation
* MLA, APA, etc.