Building the Essay Draft
Building a strong essay draft requires going through a logical progression of stages:
Tip: After you have completed the body of your paper, you can decide what you want to say in your introduction and in your conclusion.
Once you know what you want to talk about and you have written your thesis statement, you are ready to build the body of your essay.
The thesis statement will usually be followed by:
- the body of the paper
- the paragraphs that develop the thesis by explaining your ideas by backing them up
- examples or evidence
Tip: The "examples or evidence" stage is the most important part of the paper, because you are giving your reader a clear idea of what you think and why you think it.
- For each reason you have to support your thesis, remember to state your point clearly and explain it.
Tip: Read your thesis sentence over and ask yourself what questions a reader might ask about it. Then answer those questions, explaining and giving examples or evidence.
- Compare and contrast: Show how one thing is similar to another, and then how the two are different, emphasizing the side that seems more important to you. For example, if your thesis states, "Jazz is a serious art form," you might compare and contrast a jazz composition to a classical one.
- Show your reader what the opposition thinks (reasons why some people do not agree with your thesis), and then refute those reasons (show why they are wrong).On the other hand, if you feel that the opposition isn't entirely wrong, you may say so, (concede), but then explain why your thesis is still the right opinion.
- Think about the order in which you have made your points. Why have you presented a certain reason that develops your thesis first, another second, etc.? If you can't see any particular value in presenting your points in the order you have, reconsider it until you either decide why the order you have is best, or change it to one that makes more sense to you.
- Keep revisiting your thesis with three questions in mind: 1. Does each paragraph develop my thesis?
2. Have I done all the development I wish had been done?
3. Am I still satisfied with my working thesis, or have I developed my body in ways that mean I must adjust my thesis to fit what I have learned, what I
believe, and what I have actually discussed?
It is important to link your paragraphs together, giving your readers cues so that they see the relationship between one idea and the next, and how these ideas develop your thesis.
Your goal is a smooth transition from paragraph A to paragraph B, which explains why cue words that link paragraphs are often called "transitions."
Tip: Your link between paragraphs may not be one word, but several, or even a whole sentence.
Here are some ways of linking paragraphs.
- To show simply that another idea is coming, use words such as "also," "moreover" or "in addition."
- To show that the next idea is the logical result of the previous one, use words such as "therefore," "consequently," "thus" or "as a result."
- To show that the next idea seems to go against the previous one, or is not its logical result, use words such as "however," "nevertheless" or "still."
- To show you've come to your strongest point, use words such as "most importantly."
- To show you've come to a change in topic, use words such as "on the other hand."
- To show you've come to your final point, use words such as "finally."
After you have come up with a thesis and developed it in the body of your paper, you can decide how to introduce your ideas to your reader.
The goals of an introduction are to:
- get your reader's attention/arouse your reader's curiosity
- provide any necessary background information before you state your thesis (often the last sentence of the introductory paragraph)
- establish why you are writing the paper
Tip: You already know why you are writing, and who your reader is; now present that reason for writing to that reader.
Hints for writing your introduction:
- Use the Ws of journalism (who, what, when, where, why) to decide what information to give. (Remember that a history teacher doesn't need to be told "George Washington was the first president of the United States." Keep your reader in mind.)
- Add another "W": Why (why is this paper worth reading)? The answer could be that your topic is new, controversial or very important.
- Catch your reader by surprise by starting with a description or narrative that doesn't hint at what your thesis will be. For example, a paper could start, "It is less than a 32nd of an inch long, but it can kill an adult human," to begin a paper about eliminating malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
There can be many different conclusions to the same paper (just as there can be many introductions), depending on who your readers are and where you want to direct them (follow-up you expect of them after they finish your paper). Therefore, restating your thesis and summarizing the main points of your body should not be all that your conclusion does. In fact, most weak conclusions are merely restatements of the thesis and summaries of the body without guiding the reader toward thinking about the implications of the thesis.
Here are some options for writing a strong conclusion:
- Make a prediction about the future. You convinced the reader that thermal energy is terrific, but do you think it will become the standard energy source? When?
- Give specific advice. If your readers now understand that multicultural education has great advantages, or disadvantages, or both, whatever your opinion might be, what should they do? Whom should they contact?
- Put your topic in a larger context. Once you have proven that physical education should be part of every school's curriculum, perhaps readers should consider other "frill" courses which are actually essential.
Tip: Just as a conclusion should not be just a restatement of your thesis and summary of your body, it also should not be an entirely new topic, a door opened that you barely lead your reader through and leave them there lost. Just as in finding your topic and in forming your thesis, the safe and sane rule in writing a conclusion is: neither too little nor too much.
Revising and Proofreading the Draft
Writing is only half the job of writing.
The writing process begins even before you put pen to paper, when you think about your topic. And, once you finish actually writing, the process continues. What you have written is not the finished essay, but a first draft, and you must go over many times to improve it -- a second draft, a third draft, as many as necessary to do the job right. Your final draft, edited and proofread, is your essay, ready for your reader's eyes.
A revision is a "re-vision" of your essay -- how you see things now, deciding whether your introduction, thesis, body and conclusion really express your own vision. Revision is global, taking another look at what ideas you have included in your paper and how they are arranged;
Proofreading is checking over a draft to make sure that everything is complete and correct as far as spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and other such matters go. It's a necessary, if somewhat tedious and tricky, job one that a friend or computer Spellcheck can help you perform. Proofreading is polishing, one spot at a time.
Tip: Revision should come before proofreading: why polish what you might be changing anyway?
Hints for revising and proofreading:
- Leave some time -- an hour, a day, several days -- between writing and revising. You need some distance to switch from writer to editor, some distance between your initial vision and your re-vision.
- Double-check your writing assignment to be sure you haven't gone off course. It's alright if you've shifted from your original plan, if you know why and are happier with this direction.
- Read aloud slowly. You need to get your eye and your ear to work together. At any point that something seems awkward, read it over again. If you're not sure what's wrong -- or even if something is wrong -- make a notation in the margin and come back to it later. Watch out for "padding;" tighten your sentences to eliminate excess words that dilute your ideas.
- Be on the lookout for points that seem vague or incomplete; these could present opportunities for rethinking, clarifying and further developing an idea.
- Get to know what your particular quirks are as a writer. Do you give examples without explaining them, or forget links between paragraphs? Leave time for an extra rereading to look for any weak points .
- Get someone else into the act. Have others read your draft, or read it to them. Invite questions and ask questions yourself, to see if your points are clear and well developed. Remember, though, that some well-meaning readers can be too easy -- or too hard -- on a piece of writing, especially one by someone close.
Tip: Never change anything unless you are convinced that it should be changed.
- Keep tools at hand, such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a writing handbook.
- If you're using word processing, remember that computers are wonderful resources for editing and revising.
- When you feel you've done everything you can, first by revising and then by proofreading, and have a nice clean final draft, put it aside and return later to re-see the whole essay. There may be some last minute fine tuning that can make all the difference.
Questions or feedback about ESC's Online Writing Center? Contact us at Learning.Support@esc.edu.
- Have you ever borrowed some books to start your research and realised you did not know where to begin?
- Have you ever spent time reading a great deal of information that in the end was irrelevant to the essay or assignment you were working on?
- Have you ever started to write your essay and realised you had too much information on one topic, and not enough information on another topic?
If you write the first draft of your essay plan before you begin your research, you will be organised and prepared, and you will save time.
You must write the first draft of your essay plan before you start your research. This will give your research direction and ultimately make it easier for you to write your essay. Having a plan will let you know what you need to research and how much research you need on each topic or subject that you will be writing about.
You will base this first draft of your essay plan on your essay question, and your current knowledge of your subject. You will not often be asked to write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, since you will already be studying the subject and will normally have had one or more lectures or tutorials on the topic.
It is acceptable if your essay plan is rough or vague at this point, or if you do not have a great deal of detail. You will develop your essay plan (expanding it and including more detail) and possibly even change it as you go through the research process.
What does a first draft of an essay plan look like?
The first draft of your essay plan will show you what main topics you will discuss in your essay, how the essay will be structured, and roughly how many words you will spend on each part.
If your essay question was 'Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?' and you had to write 1,500 words, then your essay plan might look like this:
(Please note that this sample essay plan is intended only to serve as a guide for how to develop and write an essay plan, and should not be used as an essay plan by students writing an essay on this topic.)
Introductions and conclusions
As you can see from the example essay plan above, an introduction and a conclusion will normally be approximately ten per cent of the word count of the entire essay. (This is a general guide and does not apply to essays longer than 5,000 words).
In order to be considered a true introduction, your first paragraph must do two things:
- Answer the essay question in a clear statement (this is called your thesis statement)
- Introduce the main points your essay will make to support your argument
Essay question: 'Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?'
Essay length: 1,500 words
Introduction (150 words)
- Thesis statement: Through an examination of the evidence, it is clear that Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse for a number of reasons.
- Introduce main points or topics to be discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
Topic 1: Accuracy of diagnoses (300 words)
Topic 2: Patient outcomes (300 words)
Topic 3: Prevent and solve problems (300 words)
Topic 4: Communication (300 words)
Conclusion (150 words)
- Concluding statement: Thus, it can be seen that the concept of Critical Thinking is invaluable and highly relevant to Registered Nurses.
- Sum up main points or topics that have been discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
You cannot discuss any major points or topics in your essay if you have not introduced them in your introduction. In addition, you must discuss all your main points or topics in the order that you introduce them in your introduction. This helps to maintain the flow and structure of your essay.
Similarly, in order to be considered a true conclusion, your last paragraph must do two things:
- Restate the answer to the essay question (i.e. restate your thesis statement)
- Sum up the main points your essay has made to support your argument
Remember, a conclusion cannot contain any new information.
Body of the essay and topic sentences
You can find out how many words you will write in the body of your essay by taking away the number you will spend on your introduction and conclusion from the total amount. How you divide the number of words in the body of your essay between your main topics will depend on how important each topic is to your argument. How long you spend writing about each topic should reflect the importance of each topic. If all of your topics were of equal importance, you would write roughly the same amount of words on each. If one topic were more important, you would write about it first and spend longer discussing it. If one topic were less important, you would write about it last and write fewer words on it.
Using topic sentences at the beginning of each new paragraph is essential to ensure that your essay is well organised and well structured. It also ensures that the essay flows logically and reads well. (This is something that your essay editor can check for you when you submit your document for editing.) A topic sentence must do two things:
- Introduce the new topic about to be discussed
- Show how this new topic helps to answer the essay question or support your argument in answering the essay question
If your essay question were 'Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?' and you were about to discuss the topic 'accuracy of diagnoses', then your topic sentence might sound like this: 'Another way in which Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse is in ensuring accuracy of diagnoses'. This sentence clearly demonstrates to the reader that you are about to discuss 'accuracy of diagnoses' and you are doing so because it is another way that Critical Thinking is relevant to Registered Nurses, which is what your essay is arguing.
The information in this article is relevant to the second step of writing an academic essay. However, there are five other steps. Please ensure you read all of the articles in the series How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time. When you have completed following the steps and have written your essay, remember to submit it to one of our academic editors for professional editing. Academic essay editing and proofreading helps students to improve their grades.
Other parts in this series;
Step 1: Analyse the Question
Step 2: Draft the Essay Plan
Step 3: Conduct the Research
Step 4: Finalise the Essay Plan
Step 5: Write the First Draft of the Essay
Step 6: Professional Academic Editing
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