Letter I Starting Words For Essay

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’.

Next steps

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 finin the end
à mon avis / quant à moi / selon moiin my opinion
alors quewhereas
autrement ditin other words
avant de conclurebefore concluding...
bien que je puisse comprendre quealthough I can understand that
cela va sans dire queit goes without saying that
cependantnevertheless
considéronslet's consider
d’après moiaccording to me
d’une part, d’autre parton one hand, on the other hand
en ce qui concerne...as far as ... is concerned
en outrefurthermore / moreover
enfinfinally, at last
grâce àthanks to
il est donc question deit is a matter of
il faut bien reconnaître queit must be recognised that
il semble que les avantages l'emportent sur les inconvenientsit seems that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages
il serait absurde de dire queit would be absurd to say that
il vaut mieuxit is better to
je crois quei think/ believe that
je soutiens donc queI maintain that
je suis contreI am against
je voudrais souligner queI’d like to underline that
la premiere constatation qui s'impose, c'est quethe first thing to be noted is that
ne… ni… nineither… nor
pas forcément la faute denot necessarily the fault of
pour commencerto start with
selon moiaccording to me
tout bien considéréall things considered

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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 +

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