do you have any tips/advice about writing essays? I seem to always get stuck and discouraged
*puts on nerd glasses* okay, this is going to be a pretty lengthy help/advice (??) post (⌒▽⌒) basically, I outlined the general essay writing process, tips on coming up and collecting ideas + links to some posts. hopefully, that’ll help you on your essays (cmon let’s do this anON I’M CHEERING FOR YOU)
I. COMING UP WITH A THESIS
1. keep a working inventory of articles/sources: it’s hard to figure out how you want to tackle a certain topic, but it helps if you’ve already got some inspiration
- I do a lot of readings over the school break (for fun, but we usually have 2-3 research-intensive essays over the school year so I have a general idea of what I need), so every time I find an interesting bit, I upload the article in my Pocket app
- if I have time, I do index cards — each card has a citation and a summary of the source, then I organize them based on how cool/useful the topic seems; once the teacher tells us to write about so-and-so, I just flip back through the articles I’ve collected and handpick a few relevant ones that I think I can work with
2. write about something you’re PASSIONATE about: always try to relate the essay prompt to something you enjoy ヾ(*´∀｀*)ﾉ you’ll sound fantastic bc you’re genuinely invested in the topic and it’ll be hard to run out of things to say
ex. movie lover + Austen essay due Monday? then maybe you can:
- talk about the re-emergence of Austen fandom through Hollywood
- use a comparison of Emma and Cher from Clueless to discuss the transformation of feminine achievement and class in 20th century America
3. LIMIT, LIMIT, LIMIT: if the topic of your essay’s too extensive (aka the meaning of life omG DON’T EVEN), it’ll be too hard to find a concrete answer
- believe me, it gets unreasonably complicated once you’re going through the archives for something that dates farther back than the 1300s?? especially if there’s a page limit/word limit/‘not an official academic professor so they won’t let me check out these manuscripts’ limit
II. ACTUALLY WRITING THAT ESSAY
1. MAKE CONNECTIONS: find a way to connect the topic of your essay to other literary works, personal experiences or real world issues
- like in english class, we had to write about the cultural losses that come with being raised in a foreign country (using Santha Rama Rau’s “On Learning to be an Indian” as a reference point), so our teacher suggested that we draw from our own experiences as third-gen immigrants
- it's also a great way to increase word count and shows that you have deeper insights into the material, other than classroom-based knowledge
2. make an outline: planning out the direction of your essay will give you a better idea on the progression of arguments and how to defend them
introductory paragraph (hook + thesis statement)
3 body paragraphs (1 topic sentence + 2-3 evidences each)
conclusion (restatement of thesis + optional call for action)
- your hook can be an anecdote or a surprising statistic — use of emotive/inclusive language is highly encouraged
- don’t apologize (PROJECT CONFIDENCE!! BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING!)
- don’t use encyclopedia or dictionary definitions that much (if you need to define something, use relevant words or quotes from well-known philosophers or something)
3. START YOUR ESSAY EARLY
- haha don’t do it the day before like me
- you won’t have time to edit properly if you start late
- if you find out most of your arguments/evidences are wrong (and biased) HAHA ALSO LIKE ME it’s really, really hard to change your thesis last minute
- JUST DO IT WRITE A LITTLE BIT EVERY DAY
4. BACK IT UP WITH LOGIC-BASED EVIDENCE °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°
for EACH and EVERY claim you make, you HAVE to find credible evidence to prove that you have a valid argument (from non-biased sites):
- find other academic/scientific papers on the topic
- pencil in some quotes from the book (especially if it’s a literary analysis) and include interpretations from other recognized scholars who’ll back up YOUR interpretation
- take quotes (said directly by the author) or pieces from the author’s other works
- use passages from widely-distributed, official newspapers (especially if it concerns modern events)
- contrary to popular opinion, I like Wikipedia and its ‘free-for-anyone-to-update’ feature, but I KNOW teachers hate that, so just double-check and get sources from the bibliography section of the page
- GOOGLE BOOKS IS A BLESSING (that’s actually where I read ‘Romantic Austen: Sexual Politics and Literary Canon’ which you should really check out yAS I AM THAT WEIRD KID)
5. always remember to CREDIT your source
- if you’re going to quote, don’t forget to say “according to Aristotle/Plato/random Greek dude”
- always use your teacher’s preferred format for citations
- RefMe is great, yeah? You can search book/journal articles, input websites, scan barcodes, etc. and it’ll just format the whole thing for you
III. OKAY. IT’S THE FINAL STRETCH. LET’S EDIT.
1. you should read it. again.
2. let your friends read it.
3. let your family read it.
4. check your transitions. they must be smooth. like butter.
IV. STILL STUCK?
check out these great posts (made by much, much more qualified people):