Essay writing is the primary style taught in high school. The style is great for many different projects include essay tests, homework and term papers. Term papers are often secondary research projects. The primary consideration in this type of writing is that you are making an ARGUMENT.

An argument for the paper is expressed as a thesis. For an essay test or homework it is the first sentence or topic sentence of a paragraph. It is essentially your main point. The point you would put on the presentation slide. The elevator pitch. The explanation which follows is expected to support or prove the claim you’re making.

Finding your Thesis

The trick about formulating a good argument or thesis is that you can’t state it clearly until you’ve already thought about it, even done a first draft and come up with your ‘answer’, with what you want to say. In effect, your thesis is the CONCLUSION of your thoughts on the idea, but it goes at the top of the paragraph or in the introduction. Often you need to go to the end, cut that sentence and paste it at the top.

Do a Writer’s Draft first to learn what you think about the topic. Then reverse engineer your Readers’ Draft. For example your concluding sentences into the top position of the paragraphs and from conclusion to intro.

Write your conclusion first and your intro last

Your conclusion and intro are mirrors of each other. The conclusion is easier to write since it comes after you’ve worked through all of your evidence. The intro is hard to write because it’s for some imaginary reader. It’s a waste of your time to start writing with the intro, because the intro needs to introduce the reader to your paper, but the content of your paper will have changed as you began to write out, rethink, come to conclusions, etc. The intro begins with a general statement and ends with the thesis. DO NOT SUMMARIZE your main points in your intro. The conclusion should restate your thesis, summarize the main points, and then end with a call to action. What should the reader do, now that your paper has inspired them. Here’s a visual for intros and conclusions.

Fleshing out your Paragraphs

You should explain and support your topic sentence by giving examples, by explaining the concept–often done by comparison to other similar concepts, by adding and interpreting data.

Transitioning between Paragraphs

It’s important to transition between paragraphs. The best place to do that is at the beginning of the following paragraph. Sometimes that means the topic sentence moves to position number 2. AVOID using transitions like FIRST, SECOND, FINALLY. It’s just as easy and much more effective to use transitions like ANOTHER REASON, THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON. Even more sophisticated transitions are done by summarizing some aspect of the previous paragraph.

Avoid Data Dumping

If you are doing a research paper, work to ensure that you don’t summarize one source in one paragraph and another source in another paragraph, etc. This is called data dumping. Your job is to integrate the sources. Make close comparisons between them as if they are “having a conversation.”

Sample Essays in MLA and APA