If you’ve only experienced essay writing through tests like the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST), it’s time to expand your skills. In college, essay writing is a common task; mastering it can make a significant difference in your overall performance.

So, let’s break down the process into five manageable steps, each with tips and tricks to make your essay shine.

Step #1. Choosing Your Topic and Developing a Thesis

The topic of your essay is the general subject matter you’re going to be discussing. In contrast, a thesis is a definitive statement that you plan to prove through your essay. For example, the color of the sky might be a topic, while “Blue light has shorter, smaller wavelengths, compared to other light colors. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time” is a thesis statement.

✓ Understand Your Assignment

First, grasp what the essay requires. Is it argumentative, descriptive, or analytical? This understanding shapes your approach.

✓ Select a Topic

Choose a topic that interests you and meets the essay’s requirements. If you have free rein, pick something you’re passionate about.

✓ Craft a Thesis Statement

Your thesis is your essay’s backbone. It should clearly state your main argument or point in a concise manner. It guides the direction of your essay.

Step #2. Conduct Research and Gathering Information

When researching, you want to look for primary sources. Wikipedia won’t cut it; you need to find credible resources that are viewed as reliable and trustworthy by readers.

✓ Find Reliable Sources

Use credible sources such as academic journals, books, and reputable websites. Avoid overly biased or unverified information.

✓ Organize Your Research

Take notes and organize your findings. This will help you reference your sources easily and keep your thoughts structured.

✓ Avoid Plagiarism

Always credit your sources. Use quotations for direct statements and paraphrasing for general ideas, citing them appropriately.

Step #3. Planning and Outlining Your Essay

Creating an outline may seem like an extra step, but it will actually save you time in the long run. By outlining your essay, you create a roadmap of the points you want to make, and the order in which you want to make them. You can quickly and easily see that everything adds up and makes sense.

✓ Create an Outline

Start with your introduction (including your thesis), list out your main body points, and end with your conclusion. This keeps your writing focused.

✓ Determine the Structure

Decide how you’ll present your arguments or information. Will you compare and contrast different ideas? Or, should you aim to present a problem and solution? The structure should align with your thesis and topic.

Step #4. Writing the Draft

Here’s where we get down to business and actually write the essay. If you’ve followed each of the following steps, this should be a fairly simple process; you’re just taking the ideas you already mapped out in your outline, and arranging them in paragraph form.

✓ Craft an Engaging Introduction

Start with a hook — a quote, a question, a startling fact — to grab the reader’s attention. Then, introduce your thesis.

✓ Develop Body Paragraphs

Each paragraph should focus on a single idea supported by evidence from your research. Refine your writing to transition smoothly between paragraphs.

✓ Conclude Effectively

Your conclusion should restate your thesis and summarize your main points, driving home your point. Then, end with a thought-provoking comment or question to leave a lasting impression.

Step # 5. Revise and Refine Your Essay

You’ve finished your draft. Now, time to read through it to ensure that everything adds up, and that you’ve made all the points you intended to make. Try to read it with the mindset of someone else; does your writing make sense to another person? Remember that no draft is perfect the first time, so make improvements where needed.

✓ First Review

Look for coherence and flow. Do your ideas make sense and flow naturally? Are there gaps in your arguments?

✓ Edit for Clarity & Style

Check your sentence structure, word choice, and overall readability. Remove jargon and complex language unless necessary.

✓ Proofread Your Draft

The final step is to eliminate grammatical errors, typos, and formatting issues. Tools like spell check are useful, but don’t rely on them solely as they may miss some errors.

✓ Seek Feedback

If possible, have someone else read your essay. They can offer valuable insights and point out things you might have missed.

✓ Final Touches

Make adjustments based on feedback and your own critical analysis. Sometimes, this might mean rewriting sections for clarity or strength.

Remember, essay writing is not just a task but an art that gets refined with practice. Take each of these steps seriously, and you’ll be on your way to crafting essays that are not only well-structured but also engaging and insightful. 

Happy writing!