There’s a bit of science behind article writing. No, seriously. I wish I’d understood that a long time ago, rather than agonizing every time I received a writing assignment. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the kind of person who crams for weeks on end, or flies by the seat of your pants. Knowing how to apply the essay formula is a crucial skill to have. 

Okay…but how does it work? Here are 6 tips for writing the best formal essay ever. 

1. Introduce Your Topic

You need to begin an essay with an introduction that gives the reader an understanding of what to expect. There are three main things you should cover in your intro:

  • Your title and the subject matter. It’s what you’re writing about.
  • Your thesis; the statement you want to make, summing up your argument
  • Two main points that support your thesis statement 

You want to try and deliver this information in two or three paragraphs. Here’s an example: 

Title: Blue is a Warm Color 

Intro question: Is blue really a cool color? Supporting statement 1. According to some psychologists, the color can be associated with feelings of calm, relief, and comfort. Supporting statement 2. Some of the readers polled (provide links) found the color more soothing than green or even lavender. Thesis statement: Therefore, it’s fair to assume that blue might be the warmest color of all. 

The rest of your essay should work to support your thesis statement, and nothing more. Avoid tangents and make sure you incorporate your supporting statements into your body paragraphs. 

2. Why Your Thesis Statement is True

Okay, so you have your supporting sentences which prop up your argument. Now is the time to expand on those. 

First, break up your supporting statements into three parts, from 2-3 paragraphs each. Format it like this:

  • Intro
  • Reason One
    • 2-3 paragraphs
  • Reason Two 
    • 2-3 paragraphs
  • Reason Three
    • 2-3 paragraphs

If your essay has to be on the longer side, you can either add more supporting statements to your body sections (like adding reason 4 or 5) or by adding more paragraphs to each section. The point is to hyperfocus on the argument you are making, and narrowing that argument to clear, verifiable research that supports that thesis. As always, make sure any exterior data you use is cited properly, because you cannot be your own expert. 

3. Stick to Your Thesis!

Don’t wander around your points and add opinions from all over the place. Choose supporting data that is brief, clearly communicated, and comes from a reliable source. 

That last bit is super important. 

You need to cite every bit of information you use from the internet or textbooks. Peers, friends, and family are not reliable sources for data. A good rule of thumb to follow here is if you can’t get the information you’re looking for on an .edu or .gov website (and I doubt that), perhaps your subject is too broad or not suitable for a scholastic essay. 

Remember, you’re making an argument (thesis) that you should be able to support with legitimate sources. Choose your sources wisely, and stick to the point. 

4. Don’t Skimp on Quotes

When used wisely, quotes can demonstrate that you’ve researched your topic carefully, and that the thesis you’re stating has legs. Used improperly, though, they can make you appear lazy and under-researched.

What I’m getting at here is don’t fill your essay up with quotes to avoid doing any actual writing. Every quote that you use should support your thesis statement from an expert perspective. You should be able to introduce that quote, and remark upon its conclusions in your body text. If not, you’re not using it correctly. 

Another point to watch out for here is paraphrasing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, your essay can get tagged for plagiarism (which is a guaranteed fail). Paraphrasing is a good way to get around this.

When you are going to sum up someone’s quote in order to support your thesis, always preface the paraphrased quote with a variation of ‘according to’ and supply footnotes or links as applicable. Also, be careful that you’re interpreting the quote correctly. You don’t want to misrepresent someone else’s words.

5. Don’t Overuse Your Thesis 

You want your thesis statement to be clear, and for your reader to understand it. However, don’t drive it into the ground. Saying ‘Blue is warm because of this’ and ‘Blue is warm because of that’ can make you feel amateurish.

You want to include a smattering of thesis reminders throughout your text, but beware of doing so constantly, and also of being lazy about it. Trust your reader to remember the thesis without constant reminders.

Consider some questions you might have if someone made your argument to you, and maybe use those as a leaping-off point for your body sections. For example:

  • The Science Behind Color Association and Feeling: Hard data that helps prove your point, well cited.
  • Studies Show that Traditionally Warm Colors are Less Soothing: Show more studies to further your argument. 
  • In Therapy, Psychologists Prefer Blue: Expert opinions to support your argument. 

6. Restate your Thesis at the End

If this was a video game, this would be your final move.

You should be able to write an inverse of your introduction at the end of your essay that sums up the argument you’ve made in a crisp, clean way. It doesn’t have to follow the exact same formula as your intro, but it should restate your thesis. 

Your conclusion should wrap up your essay like this:

Outro question: What color speaks most to you? Supporting statement 1: According to all the data I’ve provided above, the color blue is %60 more likely to be your favorite color. Supporting statement 2. If this information is true, a majority of people find the color blue relieves stress, soothes aggression, and improves comfort personal levels. Thesis statement: Therefore, it’s fair to assume that blue might be the warmest color of all. 

Now that you’ve got the formula down, nothing can stop you. Go out there and crush your next essay.