Example Essay: How to write an essay

The following example essay was written as an example of how to complete an essay assignment with a 1000 word limit. It is intended to be instructive, addressing the student directly. It is exactly 1000 words.

How to write an essay

This example essay addresses the issue of how to write an essay. The processes of writing are described: preparing to write, writing the essay and editing. The importance of planning and research is discussed. This is followed by an explanation of how essays should be constructed, including how to write the introduction, main body and conclusion, and the use of sentences and paragraphs. The use of word processors is considered in relation to essay writing, including for editing.

Preparation is very important and involves the following: (1) analysing the task; (2) making a plan, and (3) collecting, reading and organising relevant information. Before writing an essay the author must know what is expected, or what they wish to write! Given essay titles must be read and analysed carefully. Key-words can be underlined to help with understanding. (If you are unsure about what is wanted then ask the teacher.)

A plan is vital to ensure that an essay is constructed in a logical and coherent manner. Using a plan should increase the flow of the essay. Care must be taken to ensure the plan addresses only relevant issues. An example - the plan for this example essay - is shown:

1. preparing to write - planning and research 2. writing the essay - how essays should be constructed i) how to write the introduction, main body and conclusion ii) sentences and paragraphs 3. the importance of editing - the use of word processors

Once a plan is determined it is easier to decide what to put in the introduction, and how to construct the main body of the essay. Some people find mind mapping useful for organising their thoughts and ideas. In this case a linear plan can be drawn up afterwards, for following during essay writing. A plan should be made either before, during or after reading, depending on what you already know: it can be used to direct reading and vice-versa.

Selecting relevant reading material is important: don't read information of marginal relevance unless you're sure you have time! During reading identify quotes and examples that might be useful. All sources of information must be identified in the text of the essay, e.g. (Ryndaws et al, 2000), and fully referenced in a section at the end, for example:


Ryndaws, H.E., Brookes, T., and Chater, R. 2002. The re-discovery of Mesocricetus auratus in the wild. Rodent Conservation 560, 211-215.

References should be organised into groups, each relevant to a particular part of the essay. The author can then work on one part of the essay at a time, alternating between research and writing.

An essay should consist of an introduction, a main body (or middle) and a conclusion. The introduction should say what going to be said, the main body should say it and the conclusion should say what's been said, and possibly give an opinion. Essays should be written using paragraphs, each conveying one main idea. An essay is a continuous piece of prose and should not contain sub-titles.

The introduction of an essay is a paragraph in which the reader is told what the essay is about, and what kind of information it will contain. A good essay plan is very useful for constructing an introduction. "Attention grabbers" can be included as long as they indicate what the essay is about.

The conclusion of an essay should summarise the main points. No new material should be included and examples should not be given. An overall conclusion or opinion can be included.

Each main point or argument should be discussed in one or a few paragraphs in the main body of the essay. Following a plan can help in structuring the main body, and for ensuring that only relevant information is included - and that nothing is forgotten.

The sentence structure of each paragraph is similar to the paragraph structure of the essay. First an introductory sentence indicates what the paragraph is about. Next a main body contains further information and ideas, and may give examples. Concluding sentences summarise the main point and lead the reader to the next paragraph. Each sentence should be concise and convey a single idea. A mixture of short and long sentences can be used, but using too many long sentences is not a good idea. Be especially careful to punctuate long sentences correctly.

The first draft of an essay should be read through and edited at least once. Sometimes it is best to do this after a break, when you are more likely to spot mistakes and identify changes that need to be made. Check that the essay really covers the issues it is meant to. Look for omissions and also for text that is not to the point. Be ruthless - if it doesn't contribute significantly to the subject of the essay then cut it out. Remember that most teachers can spot waffle a mile off - and they don't want to read it!

When the content of the essay is "right" check to see that the paragraphs, and the sentences within them, are arranged in a logical sequence. Word processors can greatly simplify this since sections of text can be edited and moved around easily. They are also a great asset if your spelling or hand writing isn't very good! Word processed essays look neatly presented, and you should be able to make them read more smoothly.

One of the keys to successful essay writing is to produce a plan. This should be used to direct research appropriately, help structure the essay and serve as a check during editing. Another key is to ensure the essay is structured into an introduction indicating what is going to be said, a main body that says it, and a conclusion summarising the important points. An essay should be ordered logically, and as concise as possible without leaving out important points. An essay is much easier to edit - and looks more neatly presented - if it has been written on a word processor.

This example essay is exactly 1000 words long, showing how it is possible to write to a target length.

The example essay could be written in other equally valid variations. Perhaps as practice you might like to try to rewrite this example essay in your own words. Doing this would not only help to improve your own writing skills, but it would also help you to really get the overall important ideas into your mind.

The above example essay, “How to write an essay”, is copyrighted by Night Owl Above Average Publications.

For more details than are given in this example essay see the pages on essay writing.