4 things to do before you start writing an essay
As tempting as it might be to just launch into the process of writing, there are important steps to take before actually setting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were). These four steps in essay preparation should give you a solid footing before you start the essay-writing process.
1. Plan out your time
Plotting out a schedule for how you plan to approach writing the essay is a crucial first step. You will want to set aside time for effective brainstorming, as well as time for doing the appropriate research. You should also set aside plenty of time for the actual writing of the essay, making sure to leave a one-day gap between first and second drafts.
For an example schedule, see ‘How to plan time for essay writing’.
2. Understand the essay question
This might sound obvious, but grasping the full implications of the essay question or prompt is an important part of the process. Make sure that you set time aside to explore the meaning of the question and think about what you are being asked to do.
Another helpful way to approach an essay question is to break it down. For instance, a standard essay question might include words like analyze, contrast, and illustrate. Spelling out the meaning of these words may help in properly exploring the essay question; for instance, you might think about ‘breaking down an issue into its main features and looking at them in detail’ instead of just ‘analyzing’.
For more of these common essay words and how to better understand them, see the list on ‘How to understand the essay question’.
3. Plan and execute your research
Your research for an essay topic should be systematic rather than general. In other words, you should not worry about learning everything that has to do with the subject of your essay. You should target the information that is relevant to the essay question.
Deciding how much research is necessary for the essay is a major consideration. How many books or articles will you need to read? What sorts of online resources will you need to explore? Are there audio/visual sources that you will need to locate?
You will also want to consider what sort of primary sources you might need, and whether or not you should set aside time for gathering original data or planning museum/gallery visits.
For a list of specific research tactics, see ‘How to do research for an essay’.
4. Organize your material
At this point, you have finished with your research, and have collected all the material needed to write the essay. However, before you begin you should take a moment to step back and re-evaluate the essay question or topic. Consider your approach to the question, the main themes or ideas that are emerging, the arguments you can pursue, and the kind of evidence that you need.
Another important step is outlining the structure of the paper. You are probably aware that an essay needs an introductory paragraph, a main section, and a conclusion, but that basic format should be expanded upon in your specific essay plan. Think about creating an outline of headings for the main section based on the different themes and points you plan to touch on. You might also consider adding drafting notes under these headings to help you once you begin writing.
For more tips on how to approach outlining your essay, see ‘How to organize material for your essay’.
Of course, planning is important, but the actual writing is, too. Visit ‘Writing essay drafts’ and ‘Top tips for writing better essays’ for further help.
- The opinions and other information contained in OxfordWords blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.
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Reading time: 2 minutesDifficulty: Intermediate
Are you struggling to write essays in French? In this article, I have shared a list of 30 useful French words and phrases that will help you create more sophisticated written arguments for your exam (at school or for DELF exam).
If you want to learn even more, check out one of my e-books here: Improving French Vocabulary (the most complete French Vocabulary e-book available).
I also offer an extended version of this blog post, (57 French phrases instead of just 30) saved as a PDF which you can print for daily use. Click on the button below.
|à la fin||in the end|
|à mon avis / quant à moi / selon moi||in my opinion|
|autrement dit||in other words|
|avant de conclure||before concluding...|
|bien que je puisse comprendre que||although I can understand that|
|cela va sans dire que||it goes without saying that|
|d’après moi||according to me|
|d’une part, d’autre part||on one hand, on the other hand|
|en ce qui concerne...||as far as ... is concerned|
|en outre||furthermore / moreover|
|enfin||finally, at last|
|grâce à||thanks to|
|il est donc question de||it is a matter of|
|il faut bien reconnaître que||it must be recognised that|
|il semble que les avantages l'emportent sur les inconvenients||it seems that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages|
|il serait absurde de dire que||it would be absurd to say that|
|il vaut mieux||it is better to|
|je crois que||i think/ believe that|
|je soutiens donc que||I maintain that|
|je suis contre||I am against|
|je voudrais souligner que||I’d like to underline that|
|la premiere constatation qui s'impose, c'est que||the first thing to be noted is that|
|ne… ni… ni||neither… nor|
|pas forcément la faute de||not necessarily the fault of|
|pour commencer||to start with|
|selon moi||according to me|
|tout bien considéré||all things considered|
If you are hungry for more, do not hesitate to take a look at my French language e-books and audio here. One of which is the most comprehensive French vocabulary e-book available in the market.
Get it now for only $14.90
Let me know which you find the most useful for you in the comments section.
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About the Author Frederic
Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +