If I had a dollar for every time I heard friends dreading to write their next essay or complaining how bad they are at writing them, then I wouldn’t have any loans left to pay. College essays are something worth trying to master because it’s a skill that most students will carry with them into their career paths. Whether it’s writing a business or grant proposal, marketing materials, news stories or advertisements, knowing how to write a good college essay will help lay the foundations to writing almost anything. But until then, here are 5 must know essay writing tips to help you slay your next assignment.
1. Choose a topic that actually interests you.
When you’re assigned an essay, your professor usually provides you with a list (or at least two to three) topic ideas to choose from. Depending on the class and if it’s one of your major courses, at least one of the topics should be of interest to you. If it’s for an elective class and not something you find very interesting, then try to do some prior research on each topic and find an interesting angle to go on. And if you want to go the extra mile, try proposing a topic that isn’t on the list but still relevant to the assignment and more interesting to you. Most of the time, they’ll say yes. This is one of the most important essay writing tips. If you write about something you have absolutely no interest in, your reader will know.
A common mistake is that students will just choose any topic or the easiest topic to write about, and then it ends up being more complex than they thought. So, it’s important to know what your research on the topic will actually entail before choosing it. Plus, writing a 10-page paper will become a lot less dreadful if you find some interest in the research you’re doing. You may not think so, but professors can definitely tell the difference between papers written by students who are interested in the subject and those who just need to the pass the class.
2. Academic sources are your BFF.
Believe it or not, there are many college students who still don’t know the difference between academic sources and less formal, unaccredited information that’s just been posted for the mass public. Academic sources are written by professionals in the field and are edited by their scholarly peers. When you find these sources, the author is always identified, usually along with their academic credentials.
Non-academic sources or non-scholarly sources are those that are typically found on sites like Wikipedia, Sparknotes, Cliff Notes, Shmoop, or other independently published blog posts and prezi slideshows. Although these sources can contain helpful information, most of the times it’s uncited or subjectively written, which makes it a lot less accurate than the hard facts found in scholarly sources.
3. Outlines aren’t just for the nerds.
By now I’m sure you’re probably whispering “nerd…” under your breath at me, but creating an outline for your essay is actually a pretty important step that many tend to skip over. Most students get too impatient to start with an outline, and instead decide to dive right into the essay, which is fine for those who don’t care much for an organized paper.
Starting with an outline helps you think about the big picture of your topic and get all your main points in order before you start writing. I think it’s actually less time consuming so that when you actually start writing, you don’t have to pause as much to think about what your next point is going to be. These essay writing tips will save you during college.
4. Transitions and topic sentences are crucial.
Anytime there’s a shift or advancement in your topic, there should be a smooth transition from the point you just made to where you’re going next with it. This could mean using simple transition words at the beginning of a new paragraph like furthermore, moreover, in addition, therefore, on the other hand, etc.
Equally as important are topic sentences, since they’re what gives the reader a heads up about what the paragraph is going to be about. These sentences usually introduce a new topic or perspective and are followed by supporting evidence to that claim or statement. Without these two elements, your essay can get very unorganized and choppy.
5. Always proofread your essay and edit any mistakes before submitting it.
Trust me when I say that proofreading every essay before submitting is one of the most important steps in any writing process. When you’ve just spent the last few days (or hours) researching and writing an essay, your eyes can start to deceive you into thinking everything looks correct and makes sense. But, in reality, you missed a couple words in a sentence, you went off topic, or maybe you didn’t cite an important source. This happens to just about everyone, which is why it’s so important that you go back and check your work so these mistakes can be fixed.
What are your go to essay writing tips? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image source: weheartit.com
Recent Barry University graduate and Florida girl living in Dallas. If I'm not up writing or editing at 3AM, then I'm probably still up binge-watching Grey's Anatomy, again.