Easy Essay Helper

Easy Essay Helper

An essay is a very structured piece of writing; it needs an introduction, an exploratory middle and a conclusion. This sheet is designed to help those students who have difficulty staying on task (wafflers); students who haven’t much experience writing essays and those who would like to revise their old skills. It is not a prescriptive format, simply a suggested one.

Step 1: Essay topic

Do you understand the essay topic? Do you know what you need to write about? If you are not 100% sure, ask your tutor for clarification. Highlight or underline key words in the topic and ensure you understand the terms. Don’t be embarrassed to look them up in a dictionary.

Step 2: Brainstorm

This step is frequently overlooked by students, but can mean the difference between an H2 and an H1. Brainstorming allows you to put your ideas on paper, discount those that don’t fit, highlight those that require more research and order the points so the finished essay reads coherently.

Whether you simply write words onto a page, complete a concept map or draw pictorial representations, get those ideas out. Look back at the essay topic; are there any ideas that don’t match? If so, discard them. Are there any points that you need to elaborate on? If so, research them.

Put your ideas into order. Some students make these the paragraph topics. If you are worried that you don’t have enough detail, ask a friend or check with your tutor.

Step 3: Research

A paragraph has a formal structure; it’s basic and easy to follow. A key component of this structure is having evidence to back up your points. To support your ideas, you need to know what it is you’re discussing and what theorists/experts/body of knowledge supports you. So, research your points. Aim to refer to at least one expert in each paragraph. If someone refutes your point, you can also discuss that.

Step 4: Paragraphing

A single line of text is NOT a paragraph. A single sentence is NOT a paragraph. This is therefore, not a paragraph!

Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence (TS). This sentence introduces what you will be talking about in your paragraph. Once you have established the topic of your paragraph, you will need to explore your point. A few sentences that discuss your point in more detail are required. Evidence, as in references, quotes, statistics should be used, but make sure they don’t stand alone. In ‘old teacher talk’ a piece of evidence needs to be explained in or explained out, they cannot stand alone.

For example, the below paragraph has a ‘stand alone’ quote.

Humphrey B Bear was genetically a male. Research identified that viewers believed his waistcoat to be symbolic of a traditional male figure. Humphrey was a great role model of young males as he enjoyed reading, was energetic and confident (Peterson & Smyth, 1981). “He reminded them of their brothers, who they played with before or after school” (Bell, 1982, pg 8). Young girls liked to watch him. Children were enthralled with the show as it featured a happy bear that was active, positive and cuddly.

In that paragraph, you cannot identify who the ‘them’ is – it doesn’t make sense. By contrast, the following paragraph intertwines the quote into the discussion of the point.

Humphrey B Bear was genetically a male. Research identified that viewers believed his waistcoat to be symbolic of a traditional male figure. Peterson and Smyth (1981) stated that Humphrey was a great role model of young males, as he enjoyed learning, was energetic and confident. Young girls liked to watch him as he “reminded them of their brothers, who they played with before or after school” (Bell, 1982, pg 8). Children were enthralled with the show as it featured a happy bear that was active, positive and cuddly.

You’ll also see in the two examples above, two different options for including references, specifically Peterson & Smyth (1981). Both are acceptable, see which comes easier to you.

After you have discussed your point and included evidence, you need to conclude. The concluding line (CL) of a paragraph is equally important at the TS. The CL is a sentence that sums up what your paragraph was about and if you are able too, leads into the next paragraph.

A key point to remember about the body of the essay is paragraph length. A whole page of writing is rarely a single paragraph. Each paragraph has ONE point, one sole focus. It shouldn’t take you an entire page to explore one point, you need to be concise and stick to your word limit.

Step 5: Introductions and Conclusions

Depending on when you went to school and what subjects you studied, you may have been taught to write the introduction first, before the body, or afterwards at the conclusion of the body. There are strengths and weaknesses of both. If you write the introduction first, you will know what each part of your essay should explore and in what order. If you realize, whilst writing the body, that one of your brainstormed points doesn’t have enough information and you change the topic, you’ll need to rewrite that portion of the introduction. If you write the introduction after the body, you will have a clear indication of what needs to be highlighted in the introduction, however, it may sound a little repetitive whilst writing it.

Regardless of when you write it, the introduction begins the essay. It is a paragraph that introduces the reader to your topic (the essay topic) and what you will be discussing (your paragraphs). It is only a few lines long, not a great slab of writing. There is no need for quotations in this section as you are not providing evidence to support your introduction – leave this to the body of the essay.

The conclusion is generally written last (or second last, some students actually write the conclusion before the introduction) and simply sums up what your essay was about. The job of the conclusion is to condense your main argument and leave the reader feeling that they have learnt something. Some students enjoy using a quote as the final line, but make sure you ‘explain it in’ it shouldn’t be sitting all on its lonesome.

Step 6: Referencing

Each University has its own style guide. During this semester, you can use a variety of referencing systems so long as you use it correctly and consistently. When you use resources, photocopy pages or summarise from papers, make sure you write down the following:

Author(s) including surname and first name (or at least the initial)
Year of publication
Name of publication – the books title, the name of the journal
Name of book / journal. If you are using a book with multiple chapters by different authors, you must note down the title of the chapter and the book. The same applies to a journal with multiple titles of papers.
Pages of the article, paper, chapter etc
Publisher and location

Step 7: Proofreading

Do not rely on the spell check! A spell check will not pick up typographical errors that you have made, if they form another legitimate word. For example: for and foe; as and ass, however and howdy, etc. If you are working in a group, as you will this semester, ensure that all group members have read the work before it is submitted. Many people become too familiar with their own work, to the point that they may not find simple errors, fresh eyes will.

Make sure you have your name on each page – it’s a good habit to put a page number and name on each essay (as a footnote). Make sure the font is 12 or above. Most teachers also like one and a half or double spacing – they can write notes and give you feedback easier. Make sure you include your references and if you have appendices, these go after the references, not before them.