How to Write a Good Essay

How to Write a Good Essay


How to Write a Good Essay

Basic Structure

An essay is a “short formal piece of writing..dealing with a single subject” (“Essay,” 2001). It is typically written to try to persuade the reader using selected research evidence (“Essay,” 1997). In general, an academic essay has three parts:

  1. An introduction that gives the reader an idea of what they are about to learn and presents an argument in the form of a thesis statemen
  2. body, or middle section, that provides evidence used to prove and persuade the reader to accept the writer’s particular point of vie
  3. conclusion that summarizes the content and findings of the essay

Tips on How To Write a Good Essay

  1. Develop a good essay topic

    STEP ONE: The first step to research is developing a topic that is not too broad or narrow in scope. To begin, think about:

    • what topic(s) interest you?
    • what questions do you have about the topic(s)?
    • what you would like to learn more about?

    STEP TWO: To narrow or broaden the topic, add or remove a time period, place, person(s), event or subtopic:

    Problem: Topic is too general and broad to address through a short piece of writing

    • The Metis Nation in Saskatchewan


    • Add subtopic and time period:  The politics of the Metis in 19th century Saskwatchewan
    • Add person(s), event and place:  Louis Riel and the Metis rebellion in Saskatchewan
    Problem: Topic is too specific and narrow

    • The representation of animals in sculpture by female Metis artists from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


    • Remove subtopic, person(s) and time period:  Visual art of the Metis in Saskatchewan
    • Remove place and expand time period:  The representation of politics in visual art of the Metis in the 20th century

    STEP THREE: Restate the topic using “who, what, where, why, when, and how” questions. For example:

    • Why did Louis Riel lead a rebellion of the Metis Nation in Saskatchewan?
    • How are politics represented in visual art of Aboriginal peoples in Canada
  2. Find Scholarly, peer-reviewed sources

Peer review is a publication processbased on peer evaluation that ensures contributions made to the scholarly community are based on accurate, reliable, and original research findings and analysis:

Scholarly, peer-reviewed articles will have most of the characteristics listed below. Ask yourself these questions and look at the article to check if if the way it looks and is written indicates it is a reliable, accurate source:


1. Is it written by a scholar?

Look for clues that indicate the author(s) is a scholar/researcher:

  • Do the author(s) have advanced degrees and/or credentials, like Ph.D. or M.D.?
  • Does the author(s) have an affiliation or association? For example, do they work at a university, hospital, or similar knowledge-based organization?

2. What is it about? Who’s the intended audience?

Check if the purpose of the article is to provide original research that further our understanding about a topic:

  • Is the scope and topic narrowly defined with a theoretical and/or technical focus (scholarly), centered on professional practice (trade), or broad and general (popular)?
  • Is the content research-based and analytical with the aim of creating new knowledge? Or is the intention to merely persuade, entertain, inform, or report?

3. How is it structured?

Look at the length, formatting, and headings/sections inside the article:

  • Does it have a clear structure that indicates a scientific research study? For example, an abstract followed by headings/sections indicating the study’s purpose, design, results and discussion of findings?
  • Is it lengthy (more than 5 pages)?
  • In general, the less structured it is the more it is likely NOT a scholarly source.

4. How is it written?

Review the language, tone, and point of view of the article:

  • Is the language formal and technical (indicating a scholarly, peer-reviewed source), professional jargon (indicating a trade source), or plain and simple (indicating popular source)?
  • Would the general public be able to understand the article, or does it require a higher level of education and knowledge?
  • A scholarly, peer-reviewed article will have an objective point of view and logical, argumentative tone with many citations to published research that support its claims.

5. What’s the publication type?

Look for clues that tell you the article is published inside of an academic/scholarly journal:

  • Go to the website or description and read the “About” or “Aims and Scope” sections. Is the primary purpose to publish new knowledge and original research (scholarly), provide news and information relevant to professional practice (trade), or entertain, persuade, and inform (popular)?
  • Is the visual appearance of the website plain, with minimal advertising and colour? Or is it colourful and flashy with a lot of graphics and advertisements?

3. Create  A Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is the main point that the content of your essay will support. It is an contestable assertion, usually made in one or two sentences, that makes a clear argument about your research topic.

For example: Story-telling should be incorporated into the curriculum of early childhood education programs in order to encourage language development in young children.

A good thesis statement will:

  • Assert a strong position that can be challenged and debated, rather than merely describing or stating facts that cannot be contested
  • Form a complete sentence that clearly explains to the reader the overall direction of the essay
  • Be sufficiently narrow rather than broad, so the topic can be adequately addressed in the essay
  • Communicate a single, overarching point rather than multiple points that may be too difficult or broad to support
  • Be clear and specific, as opposed to overly vague, open-ended, or general

4. Write the Essay


Moving from the general to the specific, a good introduction to an academic essay should:

  1. Capture the reader’s attention with an interesting “hook” (such as a compelling fact or anecdote)
  2. Provide a clear thesis statement that provides a strong, debatable argument
  3. Refer to the arguments that will be made to support the thesis statement throughout the essay



The body of an essay has a series of paragraphs with arguments, ideas, and/or interpretation that supports your thesis statement.

Each paragraph should have three parts:
Topic Sentence
  • Tells the reader what will be discussed in the paragraph, indicating the central point or argument that will be made
Supporting Evidence & Analysis
  • Claims with cited research and/or interpretation that provides supporting evidence
  • These sentences may define key terms, provide explanations, give examples and additional details, or otherwise support or expand on your thesis statement
Transitional Device or Concluding Statement
  • Provide a transitional link or cue that leads the reader to the next paragraph or a concluding sentence that briefly summarizes the paragraph



Editing and proofreading your work is crucial as there are many mistakes even the best of writers make.

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