Answers to the Top 25 Questions About Essay Writing
Professional writers often get asked same old questions, like basic questions about the types of essays, or more specific questions about the structure and proper language. For such a reason, we decided to gather all necessary answers together so that any student could clarify most common questions.
Check out our list of common questions and answers, and make every step of the writing process easier.
- How to write an academic essay?
You have to read available sources and take notes, developing your knowledge of the general topic and the specific issue which your essay is devoted to. First, you have to draw up a plan or write an outline, in order to understand the structure of your essay and sort your claims by priority. You must bring up an argument and support is as good as you can. Your structure must be appropriate, consisting of an introduction, body, and conclusion. You have to use information from your sources to consider counter-arguments and rebut them using evidence and logic. If you want to learn more, check out our articles and blog.
- Can I start an essay with a quote?
The answer to this question depends on how you do it. If a quote reflects the essence of your entire essay, it may be a good thing to start with. At the same time, many students use quotes at the beginning just to not write a complicated introduction, thus trying to avoid applying their creativity. Placing a good quote in the title of the essay about some artistic piece, such as a book or a movie, might be a good solution.
You shouldn’t start your essay with a quote from a dictionary. If you’re asked to explain the meaning of a certain term, we suggest considering it in the context of your particular discipline, which can’t be done by quoting any dictionary definition. In this case, such an approach will speak of your inability to conduct a qualitative research.
- How to write references?
Each time you quote works of other people or paraphrase them, you have to include references. One of the most important skills for undergraduates is their ability to use the citation style supported by their institution. There are three most common citation styles:
- Parenthetical (MLA, Chicago, Harvard): The in-text references include the author’s name, date of the publication, and page numbers. They are written in parentheses.
- Footnotes (Oxford, MHRA): Information on each reference is written in the text, in a special section at the bottom of every page.
- Numbered (Vancouver): All sources are referred to by number. Once a source was assigned a number, every next citation of this source includes the same number.
We are going to consider Harvard and Oxford references in more detail below
- What is Oxford referencing?
It’s a citation style that provides readers with the information on sources used in a form of the footnote. Every quote or paraphrase refers to a footnote which consists of two parts:
- A superscript number in the text which points to a particular note the reader should look up.
- A section at the bottom of the page which includes detailed information and bibliographic details of the referenced work.
Footnote citation styles are used in humanities and arts, which allows writers to provide not only a reference for the source, but also expanded information on a certain argument or the context.
- What is Harvard referencing?
It’s a style of academic referencing that provides bibliographical data in the brief form. The author’s name, date of the publication, and page numbers are written in parentheses in the text, allowing readers to find the necessary information in the reference list at the end of the paper. This citation style is commonly used in social sciences. It allows you to mention several sources in a relatively small text segment. References of this kind look like this: “see Thomas 1999; Smith 2002; Jones 2010”. If you want to include ten or more sources, this system won’t allow you to do it easily, so in this case, we suggest choosing numbered systems.
- What is an essay structure?
Every essay must include an introduction, a body part, and a conclusion. However, good essays usually have more complicated structures. The purpose or the sense of your entire essay must be described in the introduction, and the main idea of your essay must be supported and developed throughout the essay. Here are a few useful tips:
- Create proper transitions to establish a logical connection between different arguments. Make sure that your readers understand how the previously established principles are related to the next argument.
- Signpost your essay. List issues and subjects that you’re going to discuss in the introduction, and make sure that your readers understand how these arguments lead to the conclusion.
- Address counter-arguments. If you know some obvious counter-arguments that may be raised by your readers, address them and explain why they are wrong. When you address the counter-arguments, it helps you in supporting your point.
- What should I include in the introduction?
The introduction should describe the context of your arguments. It has to outline the discussion and position of your point in relation to other points on a subject. It must begin with a pitch that explains the significance of the considered issue and your idea in particular. The essence of your point is a thesis statement. It must be clear and supported by a brief overview of your arguments and evidence.
The broad pitch at the beginning of the introduction must explain the significance of your claims in the context of the discussion. Every your statement, including this one, must be supported by evidence. Thus, don’t try to make it too broad, using phrases like “Throughout the history…” Instead, we suggest focusing on your essay and its ideas.
- What are the common types of essays?
Generally, there are three types of essays that are most commonly assigned to university students:
- Persuasive essays (argumentative essays) are usually used in undergraduate modules and exams. These essays require you to consider arguments of all sides about a certain issue. You also have to develop your own point and convince your readers to accept it.
- Expository essays are a popular task in first-year modules. This type doesn’t require strong argumentation; it’s aimed to demonstrate your knowledge of the material.
- Research essays are common in postgraduate and upper-level undergraduate courses. Here you have to study a big amount of existing research and conduct your own research, considering it in the context of the existing material.
- How to write an essay plan?
A good plan is a thing that can make your essay really successful. You have to write a brief outline of your essay, creating a structure for paragraphs and arguments. You can also define the estimated number of words for each of your arguments. The plan is more detailed than a regular essay outline, and it must be written according to certain requirements:
- It must be based on the sources gathered previously;
- It must address the question mentioned in the introduction and conclusion;
- It must reflect the paragraph structure of different points related to an argument.
The most useful feature of writing an essay plan is that you have an opportunity to study your own argument. If you face the need for more than 2500 words to prove your argument, you must narrow your thesis statement. Similarly, if you’re writing a long essay, but cannot figure out more than two or three arguments, you have to make your thesis broader.
- How to write a persuasive essay?
Essays of this type are aimed to show that you understand a certain debate and are able to provide arguments to support a certain point. Good persuasive essays consider both sides of the argument.
You also have to convince your readers that your point is right by supporting it with evidence and rebutting the arguments of the opposite side. By considering arguments of both sides, you demonstrate the deep understanding of the issue and your ability to draw conclusions based on strong evidence.
- How to write an essay outline?
An essay outline helps you not only define your main arguments but also understand how they should fit together. You can sort your arguments by priority, making sure that each one is in the right place. Generally, an outline consists of headings and subheadings that help you sort your ideas and arguments by category. We suggest using numbered lists and the Tab key to make a convenient structure. Once your initial thesis statement is completed, write headings and sub-headings for arguments, assigning a certain place in the structure for each one of them.
- How to write a research proposal?
A research proposal serves two main functions: it explains your trainers or supervisors what you’re going to do, so that they can estimate its advantages, and gives you a plan that you can refer to in the future and modify if you need. Your proposal may change as you write along with your research questions and methods. At the same time, the research proposal must reflect the following features of your paper:
- The used methodology, including the protocols you follow;
- The main question of your research, and your thesis;
- The limitations and ethical features of your project;
- A brief literature review, noting the influence of some sources on your research.
- Can I publish my essay in a journal?
Ask your supervisor or instructor. If they consider your work worth publishing, they will let you know. If you’re asking such a question, you may be a Master’s student. However, many undergraduate student journals often publish outstanding papers. These journals are run by institutions for students.
In case you’re a postgraduate student, you may publish your works in other journals which audience includes not only students but serious academics as well. Such journals can give you an excellent first-time publishing experience. However, we suggest asking your instructor first so that you’ll get a feedback.
- How to write a paragraph?
Every paragraph should describe one idea or argument, being a single block in the structure of your entire essay. At the same time, each block must reflect the whole structure, including a short introduction in the first sentence, a body part of the paragraph with the detailed discussion, and a mini-conclusion in the final sentence.
These mini-conclusions and mini-introductions are especially important because they create a transition between different arguments and ideas. In good essays, transitions are organically integrated into the text, serving a rhetoric function, therefore helping you convince readers to take your side and accept your point.
- How to write a five-paragraph essay?
It’s the most common type of assignment among first-year undergraduate students. It must be written according to the classical structure of the introduction, body, and conclusion. The first and last parts are one sentence long, while the body consists of three paragraphs. The whole essay must be based on a single thesis statement.
The most common mistake is trying to change the thesis statement so it could reflect all three parts of the body, instead of making sure that three body paragraphs lead to a single thesis.
Remember that the structure of three major sections is applied not only to five-paragraph essays but to longer essays as well. Don’t sacrifice your arguments and structure of the essay just to achieve five paragraphs.
- What’s the difference between introductions and conclusions?
For the majority of students, these two parts are the most difficult to write. Their functions are somewhat related but also quite different: the introduction defines the context of your argument and provides the thesis statement; the conclusion must explain how you’ve proved your argument, and explain its significance, thus serving rhetorical purposes.
Generally, the introduction and the conclusion work in different ways. The first one begins with broad thoughts about the topic and then narrows to a specific statement, while the latter one begins with narrow statements and then broadens out, in an attempt to reflect the essay and the topic as a whole.
- What does ‘to what extent’ mean?
If you see these words, you must pay your maximum attention, for a good reason.
This phrase means how much you agree with the idea of the topic. The point is that you have to always agree with it (at list a little bit), and also be able to disagree with it in some cases. “To what extent…” means that a certain statement is partially true or includes a partial explanation. It may also be a kind of a simplification. Thus, your answer to such an essay question must reflect both strong and weak sides of such a statement.
Questions that include “to what extent…” are somewhat similar to persuasive essays, because here you have to demonstrate your understanding of different points and balance between them.
- Is punctuation really important?
Simply put, yes, it is really important. The point is that if your punctuation is good, it demonstrates that you are good in English grammar, so anyone who read your essay will likely give it a better grade, in case he or she cares about grammar. In fact, everyone who grades students’ essays usually cares about language. Thus, we suggest considering good grammar as an opportunity rather than a challenge. The lack or incorrect use of commas, periods, semicolons or apostrophes will play a bad joke with your essay, even if your ideas are great. Moreover, punctuation is what helps your readers get the sense of your sentences right and suggests how exactly they must read it.
- What is a reflective essay?
This type of essays is a tricky one. It requires you to provide the academic research along with your personal experience. You also often need to explain how these two things are related to each other. Reflective essays include most features of formal academic writing, at the same time allowing you to write in the first person.
Reflective essays are quite common in such disciplines as teacher training or nursing, because they are focused on practice. Thus, these essays allow students to explain how theory impacted practice, or how practice helped in understanding theory.
The most difficult thing about reflective writing is that you have to balance the narrative voice with the formal language of academic papers. Make sure that you don’t become too informal, forgetting about the necessary rigor.
- How to improve my writing?
One of the most important purposes of higher education is that your writing must improve with time from that of the young applicant to that of an academic. You can improve your writing by expanding your vocabulary and using it better.
It’s all nice and good, but how you can improve your vocabulary? Obviously, the best way to learn new words and phrases is reading. You have to read academic writings, digging deep into the meaning of each term. You may feel a temptation to just jump from some unknown word to another. Of course, such an approach may still allow you to get the general meaning of the text, but if you really want to improve your writing, we suggest looking up every strange word in a dictionary. We also suggest paying special attention to how phrases are built, as well as to positions of arguments, because academic writing has many specific features that make it different from other styles.
- How to avoid plagiarizing?
Plagiarizing is a thing that most of the students are afraid of. In fact, universities and colleges are often more focused on warnings and threats against plagiarism that on clearly defining what it actually is.
Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s ideas as your own. Even if you do it unintentionally, it doesn’t change this definition. Thus, we suggest citing others in your work with accuracy, no matter if it’s a direct quote or just a paraphrase.
If you want to avoid plagiarism, just make notes while reading any source. If you’ve noted some phrases or ideas but didn’t write a proper citation, these things in your essay will be considered plagiarism, no matter if you did it intentionally or accidentally.
- How to make a strong argument?
Arguments are the backbone of your essay. The best argument is interesting for readers and relatively easy to support by evidence. To understand whether or not your argument is good, ask yourself three important questions:
- Is it original? Are your thoughts unique and new or they just reflect something written before?
- Is it supportable? Even if your idea is original and really interesting, you have to support it with evidence. Do the facts really support your argument?
- Can you refute the counter-arguments? Even if your argument is supported by evidence, it’s still in danger if you don’t consider the counter-arguments. Make sure that you address at least the most obvious arguments of the opposite side.
- How Masters essays differ from undergraduate?
If you have already got your first degree and now you’re working on postgraduate studies, it may be a little shock for you. The expectations differ quite considerably, since if in the first case you should just demonstrate your good understanding of the core concepts, now you have to create something that looks like writings of seasoned academics or that is at least close to such high standards. Some Master’s writings are published in various academic journals, so you have to demonstrate the deepest understanding of the subject, perfect knowledge of sources, independent opinion, and awareness of the relevant issues in your field. At the same time, stylistics and references of your essays must meet all academic requirements.
- Does my writing need to be formal?
Well, the word “formal” may be defined in quite different ways, depending on who gives the definition. Most scientists agree that you should never refer to yourself in the first person. We suggest avoiding referring to yourself in academic essays at all. Many scientists also think that the methodology, experiment, or a study must be described in the passive voice only.
It’s hard to give the one and only answer to the question what formal writing should look like. For you, it’s what your instructor considers to be formal. However, we can give you some tips on general do’s and don’ts. For example, you shouldn’t use colloquialisms or abbreviations. The only exception is if you use them in quotations.
You also have to get used to the academic style in general, using proper framing and transitional phrases. All these features will help you create the best impression.
- How to write a conclusion?
First of all, here you recap your arguments and push your readers towards the broader understanding of your topic and the importance of your argument. You must explain the value of your essay, and remind your readers how certain arguments support your thesis.
At the same time, you have to avoid simply repeating your arguments just like you did it before. Your conclusion should lead to broader interpretations, thus performing the rhetorical function. Here you shouldn’t be afraid of writing some assumptions of how your ideas can be implemented in the considered field.
Essay writing is quite a challenging task, but don’t be afraid to ask for help! We can always help you with academic writings of any kind, as well as with other essays and assignments on any topic. Just order our professional writing help, and get your highest grades with no extra effort!