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PUT YOUR BEST FOOTNOTE FORWARD:

Writing a Great Essay

by Maureen Pollard,

Emotional Health Editor

Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario.  Visit her online at: maureenpollardmsw.com

Writing an essay can be a real challenge, especially if writing isn't your thing! Yet, whatever your interests and areas of study are, if you're a high school or post-secondary student,  chances are there are more than a few essays in your future.  Whether you're struggling with an upcoming assignment or need to write an essay for a University or scholarship application, here are some useful tips to help you find success:

 

Plan ahead.

Manage your time. Think about how easy or hard it is for you to look up information, get ideas and write about them. Make sure you give yourself enough time to meet the needs of your personal learning style.

Manage your topic.

Decide what you’ll write about and try to ensure it’s an idea that will give you enough to write about without being much to broad to fit into the word or page limit.

Be smart about research.

Know where and how to look for information. Whether you’re using on-line or print sources of information, make sure it’s current and credible. Check the instruction guidelines to see what’s acceptable to use.

Know how to cite the work of others.

When you include information from your research, it’s important to identify it as someone else’s work. Most often, instructors will want you to use APA style for citations. There should be instructions so you can meet their expectations.

 

Outline it first. 

Know what format your instructor prefers and create a one page outline. It might include the following:

  • Introduction. Tell the reader about your topic.

  • Thesis statement. Tell the reader what you believe is true about the topic.

  • First key point and proof. 

  • Second key point and proof.

  • Conclusion. Tell the reader what you believe is true about the topic again.
     

Once you’ve created a thorough outline, you can fill in the sections with the information from your research and your thinking process.

 

Watch Your Language, Spelling and Grammar

Make it readable. Use plain language, and include key words from the assignment instructions.

Read it aloud. This is an easy way to catch some of your errors.

Ask someone else to read it. This is the best way to catch as many errors as possible.

Revise and revise again!

Be prepared to adjust your wording several times in order to be clear and to say what you mean. 

It’s worth the effort to develop good essay writing skills that ensure your instructor can follow your train of thought from the introduction to the conclusion. You’ll likely find you’ll get a better grade, and good writing skills will help make your application stand out when applying for a scholarship, University or a job or internship.