How To Write A Brilliant Academic Essay: Quick Tips For Beginners
Need a crash course in writing papers? Look no further! Here are the basics you need to know in order to write a great paper, for any class, no matter what your writing skill level!
- Make sure your thesis is strong.
Your thesis is the foundation of your essay. It should more or less encapsulate all the major points in your essay in one sentence. That sounds complicated, but really it’s not as hard as it seems. Sometimes it helps to outline your essay first and figure out what your topic sentences will be. Topic sentences are the first sentences of every paragraph, and they explain what the paragraph will be about. A thesis should be like a topic sentence for your paper; be specific, and talk about the specific points and areas you will cover in your paper. If you find yourself deviating from your thesis statement during the paper, don’t worry, you can always change the thesis statement! Here are some good examples of thesis statements:
- Cigarettes should be taxed because they raise healthcare costs, hurt the environment, and are addictive.
- Walt Whitman showed his love for America through his portrayals of daily life, in-depth descriptions of nature, and his acceptance of all types of people in “Leaves of Grass”.
- America should invest in sustainable energy because it is cheaper, will last longer, and doesn’t require dependence on foreign sources.
A strong sentence will either lead or end with the main idea, not have it buried in the middle. Here is an example of a bad sentence:
- Because of the effects of cigarettes on lung health, many people who smoke cigarettes get lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, and that shows that people who smoke are less healthy than those who don’t
- Many people who smoke cigarettes get lung cancer and other respiratory diseases due to the effects of cigarettes on lung health; in general, people who smoke are less healthy than those that don’t.
The important part of that sentence is “many people who smoke cigarettes get lung cancer and other respiratory diseases”, but it’s buried in between two less-important facts. A stronger sentence would be:
This puts the most important part of the sentence in the foreground.
You want to use a healthy mix of short, medium, and long sentences. This makes your paper easier to read, and more natural. A paper full of short sentences sounds too choppy, while a paper full of long sentences sounds too verbose and complicated. A mix of the two makes for a good paper.
Passive voice is when the subject of the sentence receives an action or verb, but don’t worry about the technicalities; here are some examples of passive voice:
- The papers were handed out by the teacher.
- Germany was ruled by the Nazi party.
- The tree was struck by lightning
As opposed to these active-voice statements:
- The teacher handed out the papers.
- The Nazi party ruled Germany.
- Lightning struck the tree.
There are a lot of technical reasons for why active voice is better than passive voice, but the only one you need to worry about is that active voice sounds better and more authoritative. Watch out for any place in your paper that you use passive voice, and replace it with active voice for an immediate improvement!
Don’t use words like “very”, “really”, “actually”, or “practically”. These just clutter up your paper with unnecessary words that don’t add anything to the substance of your paper. Just delete them, and your sentences will be much stronger!
Spellcheck is great for some words, but sometimes two words can be spelled differently but are still right, even though they mean different things. Print your paper out and go through it line by line, circling anything that doesn’t sound or look right. Don’t stop at spelling; if the grammar seems off in a specific place, or a sentence looks “weird”, it’s worth going back and checking it out! You can never be too thorough.