How to Write a Good Essay

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Welcome to the RGO Library's guide to writing academic essays. This guide presents tips, methods, and strategies for writing a good research paper or essay with a 5 step process:

  1. Develop a topic by understanding the assignment requirements, exploring background information, and forming a working thesis
  2. Conduct research using scholarly sources, taking critical notes and reading closely
  3. Create a thesis statement and outline of arguments that will form the essay
  4. Write the essay and integrate research evidence with properly formatted citations and references
  5. Edit, review and revise your thesis, outline, and writing for grammatical errors and common structural and stylistic mistakes

An essay is a "short formal piece of writing..dealing with a single subject" ("Essay," 2001). It is typically written to try to persuade the reader using selected research evidence ("Essay," 1997). In general, an academic essay has three parts:

  1. An introduction that gives the reader an idea of what they are about to learn and presents an argument in the form of a thesis statemen
  2. body, or middle section, that provides evidence used to prove and persuade the reader to accept the writer's particular point of vie
  3. conclusion that summarizes the content and findings of the essay

Argumentative or Persuasive Essay

An argumentative or persuasive essay takes a strong position on a topic through the use of supporting evidence. It:

  • Requires thorough research and investigation of the topic 
  • Includes a clear, strong thesis statement that is debatable
  • Considers and refutes alternative arguments with cited evidence, statistics, and facts
  • Uses fair, objective language with a well-rounded understanding of the topic

Comparative Essays

A comparative essay requires comparison and/or contrast of at least two or more items. It:

  • Attempts to build new connections or note new similarities or differences about the topic(s)
  • Typically focuses on items of the same class, i.e. two political systems (i.e. democracy or communism) or two theories (i.e. behaviorism versus constructivism)

Expository Essays

The purpose of an expository essay is to describe or explain a specific topic. It:

  • Uses factual information
  • Is written from the third-person point of view
  • Does not require a strong, formal argument

Narrative Essays

A narrative essay tells a story or describes an event in order to illustrate a key point or idea. It:

  • Uses descriptive and sensory information to communicate to the reader
  • Are often subjective rather than objective
  • Usually written from the first-person or third-person point of view
  • May be entertaining or informative

 

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References

Describe the role of the introduction and conclusion in a formal essay. (2010). In The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com.

Essay. (2001). In Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com

Essay, The. (1997). In The Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com

Galli, K. (2013). "What is an essay?" lecture [YouTube video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PXdHB2fbrM 

Massey University (2010). Essay writing [YouTube video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Bkk3PVjDMI