7 Steps to Writing a Great College Essay Part 1

Just when you thought you were done with all of the scary parts of writing your essay, now comes the big step: writing.

Don’t be scared! If you followed through on what we’ve taught you so far, you will already have a narrowed-down topic, a solid thesis statement, and a structured essay outline ready to go. When all of those things come together, the writing part can actually be fun – as long as you’re not pulling an all-nighter cramming it all in hours before the deadline, that is.

This is going to help guide you through the writing process, from the beginning to the end of your essay. We’re going to break down each section of the essay and give you some helpful information that will take your writing skills to the next level. Along the way, we’ll give you our best tips and tricks from the top writers on our team that they put into practice on a regular basis.

Writing an Introduction That Hooks Your Reader

Let’s start where your essay begins: the introduction. An introduction is an important part of your essay. It’s the first impression your essay makes on the reader, and just like in real life, you don’t always get a second chance to make a good impression. Make sure you do it well the first time.

So how do you make a good first impression on your reader? Your introduction should be catchy enough to grab their attention, with enough information to tell them what you’re saying and why it matters. Essentially, you’re convincing them to keep reading.

No matter what type of paper you’re writing, your introduction should always begin with a hook. The first line of the introduction is the ultimate first impression, so you want to use something that will catch
your reader’s attention and make it impossible for them to put your paper down. Avoid using clichés, dictionary definitions, or quotes. All of these are overrated and, quite frankly, lazy writing. Your professor has likely already seen enough essays beginning with these things for one lifetime, and it will make it appear as though you haven’t put any thought into your paper.

The same goes for sweeping phrases such as “Throughout history,…” or “In today’s society…” You want to write something original, and using an overrated phrase is just going to result in an eye-roll, boredom, or both.

Now, in some cases, there are exceptions. For example, you could get away with using a quote if it’s from one of the authors you’re going to quote in your paper, or if it explains a theory that’s going to guide the rest of your paper. But be careful when doing this, as there’s a fine line you shouldn’t cross. So, what should you use as your hook, then? Here are some great ideas:

  • A startling or surprising statistic
  • A relevant anecdote, narrative, or story
  • A controversial statement or misconception about your topic
  • A thought-provoking question
  • A theoretical scenario
  • An observation that brings something new to the table

Once you’ve settled on a catchy hook, it’s time to fit the rest of your introduction together. This will depend on what type of paper you’re writing. On many occasions, including some background context or a plot summary makes sense to give your reader the information they need to understand your arguments.

Sometimes it can be helpful to write your introduction after you’ve finished writing the essay. When you’ve already written all of your arguments and major points, it’s a lot easier to understand what
information needs to be included in the introduction. This also gives you a fresh idea about your topic and could lead to more inspiration. Here are some more quick tips for writing your essay introduction:

  • Only include relevant information to the arguments you’re going to make.
  • Keep it to the point and save the deep dive for your body paragraphs.
  • The length should be relative to your paper. If you’re writing a five page paper, your introduction should only be half a page. For larger papers, such as a 20 page essay, it’s acceptable to write one or two pages for your introduction.
  • Start broad, and then narrow down until you reach your thesis statement.
  • Write with the assumption that your reader doesn’t really know a lot about your topic.

Building Solid Body Paragraphs

Your body paragraphs are where your supporting arguments will live. Each supporting argument should be in its own paragraph, with its own topic sentence at the beginning that introduces the argument
you’re going to be making.

In each body paragraph, you want to follow the structure you used in your essay. Start broad, and then narrow down with evidence to support your points.

When including supporting information and evidence, there are two main techniques that you can use: induction and deduction. Induction relies on specific facts, details or data to support a general argument.

Deduction begins with a general premise and narrows it down to a specific conclusion. Another way to look at it is this: induction is based on facts and logic, while deduction is based on reasoning.

Arguments that use deduction are more debatable because they tend to rely on assumptions instead of factual connections.

Here’s an example of these techniques in action. Let’s say you are writing an essay about Shakespeare’s Macbeth and trying to argue that he is not a good leader. If you are using the induction technique, you would indicate how many people died while he was in power and how many people turned against him.

These are both facts that prove he is not a good leader. On the other hand, if you are using deduction, you would point out that good leaders do not kill kings and that they show remorse when they do something wrong. Therefore, with deduction, you could reason that because Macbeth does not embody those characteristics, he is not a good leader.

Still feeling a little lost? Here’s a very, very basic example. You are adopting a golden retriever named Fluffy. Using deduction, you would make the general assumption that all dogs make wonderful pets, and because Fluffy is a dog, he will make a good pet, too. This argument relies on the idea that everyone agrees that dogs are good pets, which is not necessarily true. On the other hand, with induction, you could say that golden retrievers have a low bite rate compared to other breeds, so Fluffy would be a safer dog to own than a Pitbull. This is a harder argument to debate.

Choose your arguments wisely and make sure you’re backing them up with reliable evidence where appropriate and relevant. Make sure you contextualize your sources and indicate clearly why you are
using that particular piece of evidence. Use as many quotations or citations as you need, but always be sure to explain everything you cite.

At the end of your body paragraphs, be sure to include a transition statement that leads into the next paragraph. This helps with the overall flow of your paper. Some best practices for writing good body paragraphs:

  • Never end a body paragraph with a citation.
  • When using statistics, facts, or data, be sure to elaborate.
  • Use at least one citation in each body paragraph.
  • Remember the acronym PIE: point, illustration, explanation. Each time you bring up a point, provide an illustration and an explanation.