Tips for Writing a Final Essay

Finals are right around the corner, signaling the semester is coming to a close. While sitting for exams are rough, they are over in a matter of hours. Essays, however, are a different story—one that requires planning, drafting, writing, and editing. Don’t worry! The WSS team has got you covered with these essay writing tips so you can check off this rite of passage for your well-deserved time off.

1. Plan out your essay: 

  • Find a topic that interests you! There’s nothing worse than writing an essay about something you don’t like. Working on an essay that doesn’t interest you will make it almost impossible to be motivated to work on it. Look for essay topics or arguments that catch your eye – is there anything that you would enjoy reading or researching?  
  • Sketch out a framework for your essay. What is your argument and how will you prove it?
    • Try to organize your paragraphs by topic. This will help keep you on track while writing individual paragraphs and when flowing from one paragraph to another. 
    • It also helps to include some supporting points for each paragraph. Keeping your work organized will help you connect thoughts and it will make the essay look more manageable. 
  • Make sure your framework matches the prompt. Before you begin writing, confirm that you will cover everything asked of you in the essay prompt. Do you need to consider counter arguments, use specific sources, follow a certain citation style? Make sure you know what’s required of you before beginning. 

2. Write your essay: 

  • Make sure all of your examples and points circle back to your argument. If you are writing an argumentative essay, don’t lose sight of the fact that you want to persuade the reader of your argument.
    • One helpful tactic for this is to review the first and last sentence of every paragraph (if it helps, copy and paste them on a separate document). This it a good way to visualize the story you are telling. It can become clear if the content is veering off in another direction, or if it doesn’t match your argument.
  • If you’re using quotes, put them all in one document and do the citations ahead of time (in text and for the bibliography).
    • Having them all in one place makes it very easy to pull them in to your paragraphs as needed. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the citations at the end. 
    • The same works for gathering your sources so it’s easy to see everything from a bird’s eye view and refer to different sources as necessary. 
  • When gathering sources, you don’t need to stay away from Wikipedia! While you shouldn’t quote Wikipedia in your papers, the bottom of the Wikipedia page lists all of the sources used to write the article. If you don’t know where to begin with research, look at the resources listed at the bottom of the Wikipedia page for inspiration. 
  • Start with the body paragraphs. You don’t need to start writing your introduction first! The introduction should start to flesh itself out as you write your essay. Your conclusion can be done last, when you already have completed the rest and know exactly what you wrote about. 

3. Finalize your essay: 

  • Have friends read your work! It’s great to have an external set of eyes reading your work because they’ll be able to see what you’re writing from a different perspective. 
  • For proofreading only, try “reading” your essay backwards. You’ll be surprised how many punctuation errors you may have glossed over when reading the same few sentences over and over. 
  • Print out your essay and read it over on paper before turning it in. Reading the essay in a different format may open your eyes to small mistakes or places you would like to change.  
  • Don’t forget to change the file name of your document if you need to upload it somewhere electronically. The same goes for resolving any comments or notes you left for yourself along the way.

These essay writing tips should help you ace your final essay! Don’t stress out the night before the essay is due – take the time to organize and think about your paper, you will thank yourself later.

For more study tips, click here.

Published by georgialarsenwiley

Associate editor, physical sciences

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