Whether you’re writing an essay to gain entrance to college or you need one for a class in which you’re already enrolled, the task of writing an essay can seem especially daunting. Staring at that blank page or an empty computer screen can create a great deal of anxiety, which may lead to writer’s block or writing paralysis, where you can’t seem to get started. Writing an essay is a large project, but it’s important to remember that every seemingly overwhelming venture can be broken down into manageable parts.

Start by picking a topic.

If your topic has been assigned, you should think about the type of paper that you wish to produce. Is it a broad overview of a topic or subject or a close analysis? If so, you may need to narrow your focus. If you have not been given the topic, you will have a bit more work to do to determine what you will write about. That said, you have an advantage in that you can write about something that is interesting, relevant, or well known to you.

Be sure to define your purpose and your audience. Is your essay to inform someone? Persuade someone? Who will be reading your essay and what does that mean for the content you will want to include? Then do some research on topics that you find interesting and narrow your topics down. Remember the general do’s and don’ts of deciding on a topic that will work for you, your audience, and your purpose.

Organize your thoughts.

Poorly written essays are usually the result of poorly organized thinking. To write well, you have to know what you want to say and where your essay is headed. While you are essentially taking what is already in your head and putting it down on paper, you must remember that your reader will need to understand the connections between the ideas clearly. One way to organize your thoughts and be sure to include pertinent and relevant information is to create an outline or a diagram that allows you to jot down your ideas and organize them. Using graphic organizers as part of the writing process can help you decide how you want to organize your essay, eliminate information that is not pertinent, and develop strong introductions and conclusions.

Write your thesis statement and mold an introduction.

Your thesis statement tells your reader what the point of your essay is. You can refer to your outline or diagram to help you determine what the main ideas are. The thesis statement includes a statement of the topic and also indicates the point of the essay. As such it has two parts and should lead seamlessly into the introductory paragraph. An introduction should attract the reader’s attention and focus your essay. Some writers use dialogue, a quote, or interesting information or statistics to grab the attention of the reader. Others choose to use a story or summarize the topic. Whichever you choose, make sure it ties in with your thesis statement, which you can include as the last sentence of your introduction.

Construct the body of your paper and write a strong conclusion.

The body of your essay is used to argue, explain, and describe your topic. The main idea you indicated in your graphic organizer will become a separate section or paragraph within the body of your essay. It is a good idea to have each paragraph follow the same basic structure, such as using the main idea as an introductory sentence. Following this format encourages consistency and flow. Each of your supporting details should involve several sentences.

The conclusion will close the topic. It summarizes your overall ideas while offering a final perspective on the topic. Usually, a conclusion consists of three to five strong, well-designed sentences that offer closure and reinforces your thesis.

Revise, revise, revise. Read your essay aloud. Share it with others. Often, writers are satisfied with a final project without giving it a thorough once-over. The revising process allows you to add important detail, modify word choices to better describe your thoughts, and add strong verbs. Revision also provides an opportunity to move sentences, reconstruct paragraphs, and add interesting and relevant details you may have forgotten or omitted. Revision quite literally means “to see again,” so it is often a good idea to step back from your essay for a day or two before starting the revision process so that you can take a new perspective when reading your paper or getting essay homework help from an outside source.

What are some tips you have that have worked for you? Feel free to share your ideas for writing a great essay here.