The most critical part of the essay-writing process actually happens before you write your first word. When you flip to the essay question, make sure you read it as carefully as you can, noting the difference between words such as `contrast` and `analyze` and highlighting any details which the professor specifically instructs you to include. It`s not uncommon for excellent essays to receive low marks because the student answered a question other than the one that was asked.
Without a clear plan, you run the risk of realizing partway through that you`ve drifted off topic or written yourself into a corner, and fixing these mistakes will consume a ton of extra time.
The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.
Some students react to the time pressure of essay exams by scribbling down their introduction as soon as they`ve read the question and figuring out their points as they go. While it might seem counter-intuitive, taking five or ten minutes before you start writing in order to draw up a plan will be an enormous time saver.
You should formulate your thesis statement—the central argument you`re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long.
It`s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don`t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.