Category Archives: Essay Writing

How To Organize Your College Essay Properly

how to organize college essay
College freshman may get a rude awakening when they hand in their first college paper. What would have earned them high marks in high school is simply not acceptable anymore. High school papers, namely the five-paragraph essay, were your training wheels for more in-depth writing. Instead of looking at facts and pointing out general themes and concepts, college writing asks you to take a deeper look into logic, reasoning, context and analysis and structure your college essay well.

Ok, fine. But how do you accomplish that exactly? What does it look like? Here are some basic guidelines for how to organize your college essays:

Introduction

Your introduction should accomplish several things:

  • Introduce the topic you will be writing about.
  • Make the reader care about the topic.
  • Give them important information about the topic.
  • Convey your position on the topic in your thesis statement.

You can accomplish these with a few different introduction styles:

  • Offer a compelling example.
  • Quote statistics.
  • Use a knock-out quotation.
  • Tell a relevant anecdote.
  • Pose an intriguing question.

Tips on getting your introduction right:

  • Try writing it last. Sometimes, the introduction is the hardest part to write. After you’ve written your supporting paragraphs, you may have an easier time finding the right way to introduce them
  • Don’t be too broad. The “Since the dawn of time humanity has…” introduction should be eliminated. Give some of the above examples a try. Overly broad introductions are a waste of words. Get to the point.

Thesis statement

Your thesis statement defines your take on the subject you’re writing about. It guides the rest of the paper’s arguments. Ask yourself the following questions about your thesis statement:

  • Is it polemical? Can someone argue for or against this statement? If not, it’s weak and needs to be reworked.
  • Does it answer the question or prompt proposed by the professor?
  • Is it contained in a sentence or does it sprawl? A thesis statement is one sentence long and usually comes at the end of the introduction paragraph. Don’t use the introduction paragraph to write a long sprawling thesis statement. Instead, make it concise, specific and packs a punch.

Body paragraphs

This is where your essay will differ from high school writing the most. Body paragraphs will be developed in order to support your thesis statement, just like in a five-paragraph essay. However, the type of research and analysis you will use will be different. In the five paragraph essay, it was okay to write a paper on MacBeth by providing plot point summaries. But in a college paper, you can skip the summary.

You’re not proving to the professor that you read MacBeth. You’re proving that you did research and have developed an interesting and original analysis of it. Same goes with high school history papers where you basically listed events in your supporting paragraphs to prove your thesis statement. That’s no longer acceptable. Instead, you’ll be analyzing why and how certain events occurred, not affirming that they occurred.

Good body paragraphs should contain the following:

  • Well-researched evidence. Use credible sources from experts in the subject. Don’t quote dubious sources or statistics. Forget Wikipedia or someone’s personal blog (unless it’s a professor’s blog). Look for academic publications from known authorities on the subject.
  • In-depth analysis. This is where you start to develop critical thinking skills. Go beyond “who,what,where,when” and start to answer “why and how.” Consider historical context. If you’re writing about an artist, what was the political era in which his work was produced? What were his influences? How did he come to develop his particular style? Why was it important then and why should we care about it now?
  • Contain counter-arguments. It’s not enough to support your thesis statement. That alone doesn’t make for a strong essay. If you wrote a great thesis statement, that means there should be a strong counter-argument to be considered. Your research should reflect not only why you chose the side you chose, but the scope of your choices. What does the opposition think? Why do they feel that way? What is the basis of their argument? Your essay will be all the more convincing if you show the reader that you’ve considered all sides of the subject, and chose the position presented in your thesis statement.

Conclusion

In high school, your conclusions were a summary of the main points in your essay. College essays require a more elaborate conclusion that goes beyond summary and shows reflection, analysis and synthesis of the ideas presented. Here are some ideas for how to conclude a college paper:

  • If you introduced your essay with an anecdote or example, revisit it at the end to close the circle. How have your arguments shed new light on this story?
  • If you didn’t use a quote in your introduction, consider using one at the end. Especially if it seems to capture the essence of your arguments.
  • Suggest ideas for next steps in this area or further research needed in order to make advances and solve problems.
  • Indicate why this issue is relevant and why people today should care about it.

Edit

After you’ve written your first draft using the guidelines from above, it’s a great practice to do a reverse outline. A reverse outline provides a thorough review of your essay draft by checking for flow and helping you spot gaps in your logic as well as spelling and grammar mistakes.
After you’ve written your draft:

  • Read and take notes on your draft. Does it make sense? Is there a better example you could have used? Have you stayed close to your thesis statement or did you start to stray?
  • Number your paragraphs. Sometimes you may find that reordering your paragraphs will help the essay flow better. Numbering them will make it easier for you to reorganize it later.
  • Make your outline. Dissect your draft by using it to make a basic outline. What are the main points of each section? Then take a look at your outline and analyze which areas need to be reworked for coherence and flow.

Persuasive Essay Writing Techniques: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

persuasive writing techniques

Persuasive writing is a delicate endeavor. There are those who make an art out of it, and those who make a mess out of it. When persuasive essay is written by an experienced author, it can be inspiring, moving and, dare I say, persuasive. But, when it’s done poorly, it will turn the reader off, confuse them rather than draw them in.

So, how do you do it right? Here are some guidelines for writing great persuasive essay.

Things to avoid in persuasive writing

    • Hyperbole. Don’t exaggerate. If your argument is that President Reagan’s economic policies damaged the American middle class, don’t write “Ronald Reagan destroyed America and threw our economic progress back to the Stone Age.” It’s too dramatic and only serves to undermine your authority. The reader won’t trust the rest of your argument if you come out guns blazing without any facts, stats or historical analysis to back you up.
    • Don’t use first person. A persuasive essay earns its credibility by achieving a certain level of objectivity. By making it personal and using “I” statements, you make it sound more like a personal opinion, rather than a well-researched analysis.
    • Don’t leave out opposing arguments. One of a persuasive essay’s greatest strengths is recognizing the arguments that exist against your position. That way, you’re presenting the reader with all the facts and allowing them to choose which side they find more valid. By ignoring the other side, you lose the opportunity to address it directly, and discredit it with your own argument. Providing an analysis of the opposition’s opinion also shows that you’re an expert on the subject: you’ve studied both sides of the issue before making your decision.
    • Don’t rant. Nobody appreciates being on the receiving end of a rant. Even if you’re convinced that the Republican or Democratic party are spawns of the devil, unless you have specific facts and evidence to prove it, your words won’t be taken seriously. If you go rambling on with no structure or organization and pure emotional impulse, then your readers may get bored and stop reading.
    • Don’t be mean, catty or rude. No name-calling or swearing. Strong language and insults once again do more damage to your reputation than they do to your opponents. Nobody wants to be verbally assaulted, and reading offensive and aggressive commentaries will turn the reader against you.

Things to use in your persuasive essay

  • A good hook. Get the reader’s attention right off the bat with a powerful quote, an anecdote or a statistic.
    Quote. “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
    -Mahatma Gandhi
    Anecdote. Last week’s scandal of financial corruption and pedophilia that shook Smalltown, USA’s church community poses the following question: are church leaders really following Christ’s example?
    Statistic. A shocking 40% of Catholic Churches in the United States have been the subject of investigation over pedophilia charges.
  • Refine your thesis statement. Your essay’s thesis statement is the crux on which the rest of your essay hangs. If it’s strong and solid, then you’ll have an easier time backing it up. If it’s weak and rambling, then it will be harder to defend. It should be a polemical statement, meaning that someone could easily argue the other side of the issue.

Example of a weak thesis statement: “College graduates are facing hard times.” It’s okay. You’ll be able to find research to defend this. But it’s not polemical enough. There’s no counter-balance to it. It would be difficult to find a counter-argument.

Example of a strong thesis statement: “This year’s college graduates will have a harder time finding a job than their parents did thirty years ago.” It’s easy to find credible research to back it up and it provides two specific groups that are being compared: this year’s college graduates, and college graduates from thirty years ago. There could be a strong counter-argument for this statement, so it’s a better choice than the first one, even though they’re both expressing a similar idea.

  • Provide credible research from reputable sources. Personal blogs that spout opinions by people who hold no degree in the subject they write about aren’t credible sources. Wikipedia is not a credible source. Newspaper articles, reputable magazines and specialized publications should be used to support your ideas.
  • Include your research in well organized supporting paragraphs. Structure your essay in a way that’s easy to follow and that provides clear examples to support your thesis statement. Don’t forget to include opposing arguments.
  • Use transition words. Transition words can do wonders for the flow of your essay. A persuasive essay isn’t just about proving your point, but making it easy for the reader to follow you. Words such as “moreover”, “furthermore”, “in spite of”, “however” serve as guides throughout your essay. They help to:
    1. Reinforce a point already made.
    2. Alert the reader of a contrasting statement.
    3. Signal the introduction or conclusion of an idea.

    Here’s a comprehensive list of transition words and their uses.

  • Take advantage of the conclusion. Don’t just summarize the main points of your essay. They’ve already read your essay and know what it says. The concluding paragraph is an opportunity for you to explore further questions to be answered about your subject.

If you’re writing about conflict in the Middle East, raise the question about the next steps. What are the risks of withdrawal? What are the benefits of continued presence?

If you’re writing about global warming: who can provide answers or offer guidance? What kind of research is needed to solve the problems presented?

The conclusion should demonstrate your expertise on this subject and should leave the reader inspired, intrigued and, hopefully, on your side.

Must-Dos For Improving Your Essay Writing Skills

how to improve essay writing skills

Most writers could stand to improve their essay writing skills. That’s because essay writing is an art honed over time and with practice. Though some people may be naturally good at writing, a good essay is more than that. It requires a tight, well-defined thesis, and a developed argument that’s simply stated and uses credible research to back it up. And of course, the artistry of writing requires precise vocabulary, transition words and active voice.

If you’re in need of some improvements in your essay writing, here are some areas to focus on:

Read more

One of the first things you can do to improve your essay writing skills is dedicate more time to reading. The more you read, the more you’ll be exposed to different styles of writing. Eventually, you’ll identify qualities that you want to adopt in your own writing.

Do research before you write

It’s important to do all of your research before you write. You should take notes while doing your research, but the actual essay writing should only come later. Make sure your ideas have had time to mature enough before you start trying to put them together.

Be patient and take things one step at a time. If you’ve done all of your research and taken good notes, the arguments you’ll use should be fairly easy for you to define. Rushing into the writing process prematurely can mean you have to change your arguments as you come up with more research. This will make for a jumbled essay in the end.

Avoid repetition

Writers often make the mistake of repeating the same word or group of words too many times in their essays. This causes boring reading. Use a thesaurus to see what other words you can use to capture the same idea. If there is no replacement for the word(s) you’re writing, try using third person pronouns more often (he/she/it/they) or abbreviations for long titles.

Example:
The Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation met in January to vote on whether or not to allow a mining company do a land survey on their reservation. The Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation voted against granting permission. The mining company attempted to file a law suit and the Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation held a meeting at the city hall.

A better version:
The Council of Elders of the Cherokee Nation met in January to vote on whether or not to allow a mining company do a land survey on their reservation. They voted against granting permission. The mining company attempted to file a law suit and The Council held a meeting at the city hall.

Cite facts, statistics, dates and expert opinions

Using numbers and statistics gives credibility to your argument as well as creates an impact. Which of the following statements has a stronger impact?

There are far fewer polar bears in the Yukon today than there were a few decades ago.
Vs.
The population of polar bears in the Yukon has been reduced by 1,000% between 1980 and 2010.

Citing the opinions of experts in the field also allows the reader to trust the rest of your observations.

Example:
The devastation of the polar bear population in the Yukon is one of the most severe of any species on the planet.
Vs.
Dr. Sheffield from the University of Toronto gave a speech at a convention on wildlife conservation where he lamented that “few places on the planet have suffered such severe loss of a single species as in the Yukon.”

Improve your vocabulary

The more words you know, the more variety of words you can use in your essays. Simple math. A more ample vocabulary can provide you with the tools to write more interesting essays. It can also help you acquire a higher level of precision in your arguments. For example, if you’re writing about bee-keeping, you could use the word “apiculture” which is the technical word for bee-keeping.

If you’re writing about religious cults, you could use the word “indoctrinate” which means “teach a person or group of persons to accept a teaching uncritically”. Precise language helps you economize on explanations.

But know when to keep it simple

Writing with precise language is one thing. Showing off is another. Don’t litter your essay with sophisticated vocabulary words. Don’t use “insouciant” when you could use “indifferent” or “turgid” when you could use “tedious”. You don’t want to force your reader to reach for the dictionary every few sentences. The majority of readers wouldn’t bother. You want your essay to be readable to the layperson. The feature of your essay is your argument: if you present it simply, it will be easy to grasp. And that’s one of the goals of good essay writing.

Use transition words

Transition words are key to guiding the reader from one argument to the next. They help improve the essay’s readability and flow.
Some transition words to incorporate in your essays:

  • However
  • Furthermore
  • Moreover
  • Nevertheless
  • Also
  • Including
  • On the other hand
  • In spite of

Check out this site for a comprehensive list of transition words and when to use them.

Use active verbs

Writers often fall into the trap of using passive voice in their essays. Try using active voice instead. It’s more direct and gives more life to your sentences.

Example:
The research done on nuclear energy has left many questions still unanswered.
Vs.
Nuclear energy research still has many questions to answer.

The last surviving member of the Terena tribe had died the year before.
Vs.
The last surviving member of the Terena tribe died in 2014.

Use a writing app

Since we live in the digital age, there are apps that can tell you how your essay can be improved. Try one or all of the following:

Hemingway – highlights problem areas of your essay with color coding for things like passive voice, adverbs, complex sentences and more.
Grammarly – advanced spell checker and grammar checker as well as plagiarism detector.
ProWriting Aid – checks for grammar, style and readability.

Let’s Write a Winning College Application Essay!

writing a college application essay

Why is it that most students freeze up when it comes to writing the college application essay? It’s an essay about a topic you know very well: yourself.

Many students think that in order to write a great essay, they have to be a straight-A student or a star athlete or have done volunteer work in a Nicaraguan orphanage over the summer. In fact, the beauty of the college application essay is that it’s not about what you’ve done – it’s about how well you’re able to write about yourself. Anyone can write a great essay if they focus on the right things.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing the best college application essay you can:

Brainstorm

The essay is a chance for the college application officers to get to know you better. Think about something that you wish to communicate about yourself. If you already know what you want to write about, great! If not, sit down and make a list of your personality traits, activities, strengths and passions. Talk to your friends, teachers, coaches or parents and ask them if they would add anything to the list. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you see things you weren’t aware of.

Identify your strengths

If you are a star athlete, straight-A student, class president, or some other form of superlative, then the essay will probably be made infinitely easier. But most people aren’t stars. You’ve got to work with the strengths you do possess. Maybe you’re not the best athlete at your school. Maybe you’re a middle ranking one. But, maybe you started out at the bottom of the pack and worked your way up. Instead of quitting, you now secure your position on the team and support the star athletes who couldn’t do it without you. Maybe you never missed a practice. Maybe you also have strong leadership skills or have a knack for boosting team morale and were voted player of the year. Those things are worth mentioning to a college application officer. Don’t think about generic ideas of strengths. You don’t have to be number one. You just have to recognize what’s great about you.

Tell them about your passions

What do you enjoy doing with your time? Are you an artist? An IT fanatic? Do you enjoy leadership positions and participate in the student body? Are you a musician? An actor? An environmentalist? Are you an introvert who sits quietly in the library during lunch and writes poetry? What’s your thing? If you have a calling, write about it. Describe how that activity makes you feel. Have you earned any accolades or awards, officially or unofficially for your talent? Include them.

Don’t be boring

Admissions counselors will love you if you write something creative and original. Do you have any idea how many essays they have to read each year? A lot of students are afraid to say something that the counselors won’t like and end up taking the safe route instead of daring to be different. Be creative, look at the question or subject from a different angle. Explore an uncommon point of view. Just don’t be boring!

Don’t be afraid of controversy

Don’t be afraid to tackle controversy in your essay. If there’s a specific issue that you feel strongly about, express it. Maybe you’re anti-war and feel that the past two presidential administrations spent too much time and energy fighting wars abroad. Maybe you’re pro-war and you feel that the nation’s military programs need to be expanded. Whatever your stance on the subject you choose, make sure you allow time to consider counterarguments and give examples of why you feel so strongly and how this particular issue affects you.

Don’t make a list

Don’t write a resume or make a list of your accomplishments. There should be plenty of space to list them on the rest of your application. The application essay should have a specific theme that you identify in the beginning and carry through to the end. Don’t try to talk about a bunch of different topics and experiences. It will sound muddled and it’s not the point of the essay. The point of the essay is for the college application officers to see how well you can express yourself and to get to know your personality, not just your test scores. They want to see the student behind the grades and numbers.

Write in your own voice

If you had some assistance from someone else, especially if it’s an adult, in crafting your essay, please make sure that the final outcome has your own voice. Admissions counselors will be able to tell if the essay was mainly written by a parent or if it reflects a student’s viewpoint. Remember, they don’t want a perfect paper. They want to get to know you better. And hiding behind the sophisticated language of adults isn’t going to allow them to accomplish that. By trying to craft the perfect essay, you will end up robbing the readers of the opportunity to find out who you are.

Ask for feedback

You may want to show your essay to a trusted teacher or your college counselor or a parent or your friend. Or all of the above. Getting someone else’s feedback may help you identify weaknesses in your essay that you could address before submitting it. But remember that the essay is yours and if you don’t agree with the advice, don’t take it.

How to self-edit

Read it through several times out loud. Reading out loud is a much more effective way to spot awkward phrasing and errors than reading to yourself. If you find yourself stumbling over your words, go back and edit. Keep editing and re-reading out loud until it comes out smoothly. Rigorously submit it to spelling, grammar and punctuation checks. If those things aren’t your strong suit, let someone else with better editing skills read it.

Good luck on your college applications!

10 Essay Writing Tips For College Students

college essay writing tips

Freshman college students often feel overwhelmed by the new set of expectations on their essay writing. What earned them praise in high school may no longer meet the criteria of their college professors. Though the learning curve may be steep, students often find that by their junior and senior years, their essay writing skills have become finely honed.

Here are some tips for college students on how to write excellent essays:

Organize your ideas

Some students need to write outlines in order to organize their thoughts. Outlines are kind of like training wheels that are the teacher’s way of helping you learn how to organize an argument. If you don’t need an outline anymore, you may want to just write down some key ideas and sentences to get you started.

Write your essay out of order

Many students find it difficult to write the introduction first. They know what their argument is going to be and how they’re going to defend it, but they don’t know how to introduce those ideas to the reader just yet. So, skip the introduction and get straight to the body paragraphs. You’ll find that after working through your arguments and supporting your thesis, you’ll have an easier time writing the introduction.

Introductions

Okay, so now it’s time to actually write the introduction. Whether you’ve opted to write it first, second or last, there are good introductions and there are not so good introductions.

Some of them to avoid:

  • General introductions. Introductions like “Human history shows that man has always been obsessed with technology.”
  • Dictionary definitions. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “law” as “the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.” This is not only boring, but it’s stating the obvious. Everyone knows what “law” means. What’s different about your take on the law that will show us something we didn’t know before? That’s an interesting introduction.

Some introductions to adopt:

  • Ask a thought-provoking question. Something that will get your readers thinking about this subject and eager to read your arguments
  • Provide an interesting anecdote.  An anecdote can provide a great lead into your arguments by telling a compelling story.
  • Open with a strong quotation. Sometimes a quotation says it like nothing else. If you have that perfect quotation that will nail the essence of your essay, use it.

Conclusions

Conclusions can be just as tricky as introductions. You’ve done your research, you’ve presented your arguments, and…now what?

A good conclusion should achieve the following:

  • Leave your readers pondering the arguments you raised.
  • Make them feel they learned something useful.
  • Impress them with your knowledge of the topic.

One of the best ways to write a great conclusion is thinking about the next steps of the issue you’re arguing. If you’re arguing about legalizing gay marriage, for example, think about what are some of the next steps involved in this issue. What are the implications for the future?

How to research

Sometimes, a professor asks you to read a specific text and write a paper on it. In that case, you should read that text with the topic question in mind:

  • Take notes on sections that reflect the topic.
  • Use a highlighter to highlight sentences that will support your argument or serve as counterarguments.
  • Write down questions that could provide topics for further research.
  • Ask yourself what may be missing from the author’s argument? What other perspective might they have taken? Have you read other texts that provide complimentary arguments? What have other experts argued?

Avoid plagiarism

There are two kinds of plagiarism: blatant copying and simply rewording an argument. The first one is pretty straightforward and usually completely intentional: you’ve simply cut and pasted someone else’s text into your paper without giving credit. Depending on the frequency and degree to which it’s done, it can result in suspension, grade deflation or even expulsion.

The second type of plagiarism is trickier because sometimes students do this without even realizing it. You should do research and seek out the knowledge of experts in the subject. But you shouldn’t copy their argument and original ideas. The point of writing a paper is to practice coming up with your own argument based on the reading you’ve done.

Don’t over-quote

Okay, so you’ll avoid plagiarism by quoting your sources and giving them credit for it. And the occasional quote from an expert that clearly supports and illustrates your point is fine. But sometimes students rely too much on quoting others that they forget to develop and write their own paper. A couple of well-chosen quotes will show the professor that you did a good job with your research. But littering your paper with quotes will rob you of the chance to develop your own writing style and make it impossible for the professor to evaluate your ability to argue a topic.

Don’t write last-minute papers

Editing and rewriting can do worlds of good for your paper. It will help you work out the kinks in your argument, correct grammar issues, and leave your paper so polished it practically sparkles. But, editing also requires time. Not just for the editing itself but for you to have time away from your paper to let your thoughts settle, so you can look at it again with fresh eyes. Don’t leave your writing assignments to the last minute. Start on them as soon as possible so that you can leave yourself the time it takes to do an A+ editing job.

How to edit a paper

Here are some quick tips for your editing process:

  • Remove any sentences that use the passive voice.
  • Make sure you used the correct version of commonly confused words such as their vs. they’re, your vs. you’re, its vs. it’s.
  • Read each paragraph out loud and make corrections. You’ll be looking for grammar mistakes, awkward phrasing, holes in your argument, missing information to support your argument or miscellaneous information that could be left out.

Works Cited

A lot of students lose points because they haven’t learned how to format the Works Cited page. It’s best to learn it once and for all since you’ll be using it for every paper you write throughout college and beyond. Here’s a source that lays it out simply for you: http://writingcommons.org/process/format/formatting-styles/mla-formatting/608-formatting-the-works-cited-page-mla.

How To Write a Good Introduction For an Essay

how to write an introduction for an essay

Essay introductions can be the hardest part of the writing process. You’ve done the research, crafted your arguments but how do you begin? How do you get readers interested in what you have to say? How do you avoid being too general, too academic or too boring?

A good introduction sets the tone and context for your argument in a way that’s concise, clear and interesting. A tall order. Here are some tips for delivering a great essay introduction:

Start With an Anecdote

Stories and anecdotes lend a personal touch to an introduction. Readers would rather hear something they can relate to than jump into a sea of academic wordiness:

In 1995, when I was 22, I hiked the Appalachian Trail. Back then, there were warnings about brown bears and a set of protocols to follow to avoid running into one. When pushing through a particularly difficult day, I ended up hiking through the night to make my day’s distance goal. I broke protocol. And found myself face-to-face with a brown bear on a rock cliff in the dark. Today there’s no longer a chance for such encounters as the brown bear population has been all but decimated along the Appalachian Mountain chain.

By giving the reader a background story, they’re now emotionally invested in learning more about the topic.

Find a Killer Quote

Sometimes a quote can sum up the essence of your argument like nothing else. If this is the case, then by all means, use one. For instance, an essay that argues that Christians don’t follow Christian values could use a quote by Gandhi, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This quote has the benefit of not only being concise and clear, but it was stated by one of the most admired public figures in history. Just make sure not to use quotes that have become cliches. That will detract from your introduction instead of adding to it.

Use Statistics and Facts

Using facts and statistics helps establish your authority on the topic. They’re also useful in getting the reader’s attention and helping them understand why something is important. For instance, “Today, there are over 15,000 child soldiers in South Sudan.” A sentence like this makes the reader understand the gravity of the situation you’ll be talking about. It gives them a sense of scope and measurement.

Ask a Question

A question has the benefit of tempting the reader to answer it. It gets them involved in your essay and makes them feel like you’re speaking to them. It’s a great technique to get people to read on. If it’s a polemical topic, even better. Ex: Are we responsible for stopping climate change? You can bet that a lot of readers will fall on one or other side of this issue. And therefore be tempted to read on to see if they agree or disagree with your take on the subject.

State Your Thesis

After you get readers interested with any of the above techniques, it’s time to hit them with your thesis. A thesis is the summary of your essay’s argument. It deserves time and attention to get it right. The thesis is a statement that is crafted so that it could be argued for or against. Ex: “The best way to prevent crime is to impose harsher sentences.” One could argue for or against this statement.

A Word About Length

An introduction should consist of about 1/10 of the total word count. So, for a 500 word essay, the introduction should be about 50 words. As you write more essays, you’ll get a feel for the appropriate length. It shouldn’t be too short, otherwise you probably haven’t worked enough on crafting the hook. Nor should it dominate the essay. The majority of your essay is going to consist of your argument and research. Find the balance.

A great essay introduction reels the reader in with an interesting story, a fact or statistic, a question to be answered or a quote that sums up your argument well. And, of course, the introduction includes your well-crafted thesis statement. Good luck and happy writing!

Improve Your Academic Writing With 7 Simple Tricks

improve your academic writing

There is virtually no such thing as being naturally good at academic writing. It’s a skill honed over years of training, starting from your first expository essay in middle school and gaining momentum throughout high school and university.

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn. If you’re struggling with your academic writing or would simply like to improve the skills you already have, here are some tricks to get you writing better essays:

Craft a clear thesis

One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to spend time fine-tuning your thesis statement. The clearer, more well-defined and specific it is, the easier your essay will be to write. That’s because you’ll have a good idea of exactly what to look for. On the other hand, the more vague and broad it is, the harder it will be to research and find supporting evidence for it.

For example: “Young children who are exposed to reading in their home environments tend to perform better academically throughout their education.” vs. “Reading is good for you.” For the first one, you know what age group you’ll be researching, what kind of evidence you need to support it, the types of academic journals you can look for to find evidence to support it, etc.

The second statement could apply to any age group or demographic and could mean anything from staving off Alzheimer’s to alleviating depression. It’s just too broad to know where to begin.

Make it readable

The common belief is that academic writing has to be stiff, boring and full of words that require a dictionary to understand. Actually, an essay’s greatest strength is in its readability. If the ideas are conveyed in simple terms in a way that flows and with supporting evidence, that’s the best you can ask of an academic piece.

Overusing of sophisticated terminology may confuse your reader and make it difficult to understand your thesis. Don’t let your point get buried under unnecessary academic frills.

But don’t be too casual

Though you don’t want to be too stiff, you don’t want to be too casual either. Slang, curse words and colloquial phrases don’t belong in an academic paper. Keep the point of view in the third person present or simple past.

Don’t use the first or second person. Ex: “The beginning of the 21st century can be defined by the use and misuse of social media.” vs. “These days, you need to be careful who you friend on Facebook.” The first one is appropriately formal, the second one is too casual for an academic paper.

Stay objective

Writing an academic paper is a little bit like being a diplomat. You have to make a statement but at the same time tow the line between making an objective observation and stating a subjective opinion. An academic essay should always be objective.

Blanket statements that express bias are not appropriate. Ex: “All Republican politicians are corrupt.” That’s a biased statement and an accusation. It’s also too broad. Try this instead: “Widespread allegations of voter fraud in Florida districts during the 2004 elections have cast a long shadow of corruption on the Republican party.”

Avoid subjective statements that include “all”, “every” and “always”. Instead use objective phrases such as “It’s likely that…”, “It’s possible that…” and “Evidence suggests that…”.

Quote sparingly

There’s nothing wrong with using quotes. At the very least, they show that you’ve done some research. But it’s all too easy to cross the line into over-quoting. Of course it sounds good coming from the mouth of an expert and it’s tempting to let them do all the talking. But the essay is yours and the professor wants to read your words and your perspective on the subject. Over-quoting not only drowns out your voice, but it robs you of the chance to practice writing. And the more you practice writing, the better you’ll get.

Be specific

When producing evidence to support your thesis statement, be as specific as possible. Don’t say “A lot of people use alternative forms of medicine these days.” Instead say “According to a study by the American Journal of Medicine, from 2000-2010, use of alternative and holistic medicine has increased in the United States by 23 percent.” Fill your essay with credible information.

Use numbers, statistics, dates, facts, titles, names of institutions and experts. These things lend authority to your writing, making your research so transparent that the reader can essentially trace your steps and verify your research for themselves. No fuzzy blanket statements or fabricated opinions, just solid facts.

Leave time to edit and proofread

Probably one of the most overlooked skills in academic writing is editing. That may be because of a common ailment called procrastination. You wouldn’t be the first or the last student to write their essay at the last minute, but by doing so, you lose a chance to edit. Editing requires time – not only the time it takes to edit, but time in between the writing and the editing process to let your thoughts settle, so you can look at your words with a fresh perspective.

By doing this, you’re more likely to spot grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, identify and fix awkward phrasing and catch any contradictory theories that don’t add to or support your thesis. An essay that’s been edited at least 3 times is usually good to go. Make sure you leave time for this process. There’s really no substitute for it.

For a helpful guide to common grammar errors, crafting an argument and other writing tips, check out this link from the University of Essex.

College Writing Prompts: 7 Hacks to Boost Your Productivity

college writing prompts

Whether you’re working on your mid-term paper or just a regular essay, writing can be a difficult job. Creativity doesn’t always flow when it should and plenty of writers sit down with every good intention, only to find themselves an hour later having accomplished nothing aside from trolling around online, playing games or suddenly feeling the need to reorganize their entire office. Although writing can be a daunting task, these 7 college writing prompts will help you get your creative juices flowing and get you on track to producing better papers without sweating the deadline.

Go Old School

When you’re stuck with that blinking cursor on your screen, it may be time to switch back to old school pen and paper. Several studies suggest that writing by hands helps to boost comprehension and improves the ability of writers to develop ideas. Many authors – including the likes of Truman Capote and Susan Sontag – have gone on record with their preference for writing in longhand and science has found there’s a reason why. One study out of the University of Washington had two groups of elementary students write an essay. The group writing by hand completed their essays more quickly and used more complete sentences than their keyboard using counterparts. Additional studies have found that writing by hand can:

  • prevent writers from being distracted
  • improve the flow of ideas for outlining
  • actively engage more areas of the brain, including motor skills and memory

Break Free From the Internet

When it comes to potential distractions, the internet reigns supreme. While having the internet on hand for on the fly research can be useful, it also proves too tempting for many people who find themselves distracted by incoming emails, instant messages, news feed updates and other routine distractions. Even a simple mission to do pure research can easily lead to skipping from one article to another, then another, then another, resulting in information overload. The best way to cut the habit even if your willpower is the size of a gnat? Applications that prevent you from hopping online. The problem of internet based distractions is common and there are several applications that can come to your rescue.

Anti-Social – If you find yourself scrolling through FaceBook, YouTube, Hulu, Twitter or any other social based website, Anti-Social is the answer you’ve been looking for. The program blocks any set of websites you determine and keeps you from logging onto them for a set amount of time.

Stay Focused – This addon for Google’s Chrome browser offers users the same option – name the websites you want to have off limits and set a timer.

Self Control – This open source program was originally programmed only for Mac OS systems, but has since been coded for both Linux and Windows users. It can be used to block websites, email or to keep you off the internet completely.

The Three B’s of Creativity

German psychologist Wolfgang Köhler originally wrote about the “Bed, Bath, Bus” phenomena in terms of its relationship with creativity. Inspiration tends to strike at the most unlikely times, but understanding why this happens can help you set the stage to get those ideas flowing. Scientists, researchers and writers who should be finishing their work have come up with several reasons why inspiration tends to hit during the most impractical moments. First, these activities tend to require little, if any, actual brain power, leaving your mind free to wander. These activities also make us very relaxed which increases the release of dopamine in our brains and throughout our nervous system.

Dopamine is responsible for just about every happy emotion you can imagine – including creativity. While the 3 B’s have become the standard list for helping to boost creativity, the truth is that any mindless but relaxing task can produce the same effect. When you’re stumped on where to go with a piece of writing take a walk, do the dishes, go for a run or head to the store to do some grocery shopping. The trick is to be sure you keep a pen and paper on you or use the voice notes function on your smartphone to capture those ideas when they hit.

Write About What You REALLY Want to Write About

Sometimes, no matter how good your intentions, all you really want to write about is the time you got beer drunk at your cousin’s wedding and professed your undying love to the bartender. If your brain is stuck on a particular theme, scene or story, just get it out. Writing about whatever has your mind so preoccupied will help to clear the slate and get the ball rolling. Just because you write it doesn’t mean you have to show it to anyone and the process of simply getting it down on paper (or screen) can get your creative juices flowing as well as giving your brain a chance to stretch, so to speak.

Break Out the Right Music

The effects of music has become one of the more popular areas of research in recent years. This is due, in part, to how portable music has become. Many people now carry entire libraries of music with them and can, at any time, call up favorite albums or playlists with the simple swipe of a finger. Researchers have found that music has a direct impact on our brains and have broken it down to music that is over 60 beats per minute (BPM) and that which is under that threshold. As you might imagine, the higher the beat the more energizing the effects. High energy techno, dance music and hard rock all quicken the heart rate, breathing and can even increase blood pressure. Slower music produces a calming effect and can reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Mix up your favorite music to keep yourself going – keep up the beat, keep up the work!

Time Yourself

Tim management skills are sometimes seen as only useful for those in the corporate world but the truth is most people could do with some help when it comes to prioritizing and getting things done. There are a number of ways to go about this and one of the most popular is the Ten Minute Blitz. Simply set a timer for 10 minutes and focus on getting one task done. Ten minutes may not seem like much, but you’ll probably be surprised at just how much you can get accomplished. For more involved tasks, such as research or writing, many people prefer the Pomodoro Technique, which sets up time in 25 minute intervals, with a 5 to 10 rest period between cycles. The cycle is repeated four times in a row, with a longer break (15-30 minutes) after the fourth round of focused, 25 minute work. This can be done easily by using a kitchen timer or you can use applications such as Time Out to track how long you’ve worked and build in automatic reminders to take a break in order to keep your mind sharp and avoid burn out.

Burn that midnight oil. Getting up early is one of the best ways to stay ahead of the game and increase the chances of you getting into the flow of essay writing.

7 Writing Tips You Will Never Hear in College

Writing Tips College

Most students learn how to write by composing essays, term papers and research projects for history, literature, political science and other classes. Writing classes themselves tend to be filled with people who already love to write and who simply want to find ways to hone their craft more fully.

While there’s nothing wrong with being attracted to the writing life, others simply need to find ways to compose papers that communicate effectively and stand out just enough to score a few extra points. There are plenty of standard tips on how to write more effectively, but here we’ve unearthed seven unconventional tips you won’t likely hear from your professors, but which can easily help you impress them.

1. Play to Your Strengths on Subjects

The old adage of ‘write what you know’ may work for struggling artists, but college students don’t always have that option. When your class is studying the colonization of the Americas, you can’t exactly turn in a paper about how to survive a zombie apocalypse. However, usually students are able to choose which specific story or slice of history their paper will focus on in addition to the type of paper it is. For example, early American history may still be new to you, but you can use your interest in post-apocalyptic movies to write about the challenges, obstacles and life threatening viral outbreaks settlers had to contend with.

2. Find Your Voice

When writing an essay, you’ll typically choose between writing a narrative, descriptive, expository or persuasive paper. In some cases, the tone of the paper may be assigned, but when you have the opportunity to choose the type of paper yourself, once again, play to your strengths. If you grew up arguing with brothers and sisters, a persuasive essay will be an easy approach for you. Conversely, if you’ve been described as having a Vulcan-like personality, an expository essay will allow you to deliver the facts and leave readers with the opportunity to draw their own conclusions. Choosing the right approach and the right topic can make your essay writing experience much easier.

3. Go Old School

The most difficult part of any writing project can be simply getting started. Recent studies in the field of neuroscience have suggested that writing in longhand stimulates different areas of the brain and can even have an impact on editing and even writing style. One study asked participants to write creatively both in longhand and using a keyboard. Participants changed the style in which they wrote with each change. Overall, writing in longhand appears to encourage more creative thinking and brainstorming than typing on a keyboard.

4. Watch the Jargon

Writing on a difficult or complicated subject at the college level lends itself to using plenty of jargon. Although you want to establish that you understand the subject and the field you’re writing in, stuffing an essay with too much jargon can cloud your message and make it hard for readers to understand what you’re saying. You don’t need to impress your professor with a jargon filled paper. Instead, use industry related terms and phrases sparingly and prove that you can discuss this complex issue or intricate topic in a way that makes it accessible and easy to understand for any audience.

5. You Don’t Have to Start at the Beginning

It’s human nature to feel as though we need to start at the beginning but writing doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you’ll know where you want to end up, so beginning with your conclusion gives you the chance to set the stage for your destination, then you just need to get there. Other times, you’ll have the perfect wording for the body of your essay even though you have no idea how you want to begin or where your essay may lead. That’s fine – start with what you know or where you feel more comfortable, the rest will come naturally as you write.

6. Write Drunk, Edit Sober

This bit of advice was originally made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who also warned that “The first version of anything is shit.” The art of writing has long been linked to the love of drinking and, for some, it’s the best way to loosen their tongue and get those creative juices flowing. Drinking lowers inhibitions and silences your critic long enough for you to pound out that all important first draft. Once you’ve gotten the bones of your essay written down, begin tweaking and revising at least a day later.

7. Read Out Loud

Reading through your final draft a few times is pretty standard advice. Reading through that final draft out loud, however, can highlight clumsy phrasing and awkward word choices that would otherwise get glossed over. Read your paper aloud or, better yet, have someone else read it for you. If they stumble over something or pause as they’re reading, chances are you need to tighten up your wording.

How to Use Comma in a Sentence with Because

comma in a sentence with because

Communicating effectively is as much about punctuation as it is about vocabulary. Knowing which words help you to express yourself clearly is important, but how the message gets across can be hugely impacted by choices in punctuation.

Understanding this and mastering proper grammar usage can help to make communication more effective and more entertaining since it frees you up to express yourself with clarity and humor. In many cases, understanding basics, such as comma usage, is fairly straightforward. Sometimes, however, it can become a tricky issue, depending on the words you want to use.

Because, Commas And How They Go Together

Understanding when to use a comma when using because means understanding exactly what you want to say. Simply put, comma placement can determine the message your writing conveys. Consider these two examples:

Michael did not win, because he changed lanes.

Michael did not win because he changed lanes.

In the first example, Michael lost because he chose to change lanes during the race. In the second example, however, the meaning is less clear. Did Michael lose because he changed lanes? Or did he win, but for some reason other than changing lanes? In this case, using a comma makes the sentence more readable and helps to improve clarity.

A sentence beginning with the word ‘because’ will often require a comma as a way of separating the two independent, but connected, clauses. Because we use so many sentence structures, it is important to understand how grammar helps to improve communication. See how that works? In this example, the use of a comma is the same as it would be for any other sentence – it simply makes the sentence read better.

Because Changes! Linguistic Evolution in Action

The word because has evolved from a simple conjunction to a prepositional phrase. The used of ‘because’ with a noun, as in “I didn’t get my paper done in time because Internet” has become increasingly popular thanks to internet memes and online usage in order to assign blame or determine an origin. A few examples include:

  • Evolution is real, because science.
  • I made this picture because procrastination.
  • Students today can’t spell, because spell-checker.
  • No work Monday because holidays!

This new and evolving use of the word ‘because’, referred to commonly as ‘Because + Noun’ brings with it a whole new level of comma usage – one that hasn’t fully been worked out yet. As a rule, this new usage doesn’t hit the mark in terms of proper usage for papers, tests and essays. Watching how this new usage evolves, however, gives people the chance to see linguistic evolution in action, much in the same way people were able to see the evolution of ‘friend’ from common noun to verb after the advent of ‘friending’ someone through social media.

Using a comma in a sentence which uses ‘because’ as a conjunction is determined by the message you want to convey. Simply put, when ‘because’ is used to establish information which cannot be separated from the main idea, leave the sentence comma free. A comma should be used in order to improve readability and meaning or to separate two independent, but connected, sentences. As with any sentence, the inclusion or exclusion of a comma can later the meaning significantly, so read it both ways in order to determine if your comma is necessary.