How to Write a College-Level Essay: A Complete Guide

When a student suddenly finds themselves in a college-level course, the writing becomes a bit more challenging. Gone are the days of high school essays written the night before. In learning how to write a college-level essay, a student should master the process that can be applied to all written assignments. Since writing an essay is a common event in college, knowing the proper steps make a college career far easier.

  1. Develop idea and genre
  2. Research the choosen topic and prepare a thesis statement
  3. Create an outline
  4. Write the essay
  5. Format in the appropriate style
  6. Proofread and make final edits

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Part 1: How Should an Idea and Genre be Developed in a College-Level Essay?

Before any actual writing can occur, a student must decide on the idea and genre for the paper. Choosing specific interesting essay topics can require some thought. While it might be a process deciding on an idea, there are ways to narrow your choices.  The first way to do so is the broadest option: choose a genre. Genres include synthesis, compare and contrast, literary review, reflective, description, etc.

Other ways to develop essay ideas or an essay topic is to make a list of ideas and choose the best. This is often most successful with a good brainstorming session. Brainstorming is basically ideas that stem from a group discussion. It can also be helpful to consider the length of the essay required. If a topic can’t fill a 5 paragraph essay or is too bulky for a 3 paragraph essay, it should be avoided.

Part 2: What are the Essay Writing Tips for Research and Creating a Thesis Statement?

Knowing how to research a topic is just the beginning of the research portion of writing a college essay. In order to find credible sources for essay research, more is required than a popular search engine. Truthfully, most colleges teach students how to find good sources with an online educational database. The sources from this type of search are most usually articles written from studies and other forms of academia.

The evaluation of the evidence found in reliable sources will help to develop the paper and establish a thesis statement. Writing a thesis statement is one of the most important aspects of a college-level essay. If a student asks, “What is a thesis statement?” The best answer is that a good thesis statement describes the entirety of the paper at once.

Part 3: How Should One Create a Good Outline for a College-Level Essay?

Simply put, an essay outline is the steps to write an essay. It acts as a guide to the writer so that all information is already laid out in order. It is a key step to starting an essay. An outline will generally follow this structure: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Each section has its own aspects that require involvement.

An introduction is comprised of a hook, topic sentences, and thesis statement. If confused about how to start off a paragraph, know that the hook not only starts the paragraph, but it starts the whole paper. A hook is designed to capture the interest and attention of the reader so that they want to continue. The topic sentence or sentences come next, where the topic’s main ideas are introduced. Finally, the thesis statement should be at the end of the introductory paragraph and meet the following essay guidelines.

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook: Attention-getting statement
    2. Main ideas from topic
    3. Thesis statement

The body paragraph structure comes next and determines how many paragraphs are in an essay. This portion of a college-level essay is where the evidence gathered will be discussed and analyzed. While a large part of the essay’s size depends on the topic and information available, it also comes from the genre. Remember, an essay genre simply means the style – from synthesis to argumentative to definition genres, there are many to choose from.

When going from one paragraph to another, it can be helpful to include body paragraph transition words. Words such as ‘although’ and ‘next,’ allow for smoother reading. These words can also act as body paragraph starters, as the topic sentence can begin with such words. A body paragraph topic sentence will introduce the paragraph and inform readers of what to expect. The following parts of a body paragraph should be carefully crafted:

  1. Body Paragraph
    1. Topic Sentence
    2. Evidence from credible sources
    3. Analysis of evidence

Writing the perfect college-level essay conclusion starts with repeating the thesis in different words. This reminds the reader what the most important takeaway from the paper is. A conclusion will also rehash the important details found in the body paragraphs. Finally, it will end with a final statement that leaves no question as to whether it’s finished or not.

  1. Conclusion
    1. Repeat thesis statement in a new way
    2. Describe main ideas from body paragraphs
    3. Final, closing statement

Part 4: What Steps are Included in Learning How to Write a Proper Essay?

When it’s time to actually write, the first thing a student should do is go over his or her essay notes. Ensuring that notes are detailed and include the sources from which they came helps move the process along faster. Doing so helps writers to find inspiration to write, as the feeling of progress motivates.

Writing inspiration can also come from essay prompts. Rather than struggling with an idea, going off a prompt allows students to have some sort of starting point. It can also be helpful to skip the title for essay and introductory paragraph and write the body first. Since the body writing is often based on sources and factual analysis, skipping these aspects at first helps to get things moving.

Although it was previously mentioned how to write a body paragraph outline, there are additional essay writing tips that can help. One of these tips is to play devil’s advocate. In order to be sure that all angles have been covered in the essay, try to imagine what others might say in response. By including that possible response and inserting a counterargument, a college-level essay will be more thought-out.

It is often easier to draft the essay introduction once the body paragraphs have been completed. Making guesswork of the exact contents of the body makes the conclusion more difficult. It’s far simpler to introduce what is already known. The same goes for the conclusion, which is most commonly the last portion to be written. An essay conclusion requires repeated information, but many people struggle with how to finish an essay.

The final sentence of a paper should be designed to inform the reader that there is nothing further. Sometimes it’s a challenge finding the words that close out so much information. A common closing statement method is to inform the reader of why he or she has benefitted from the essay.

Crafting a catchy title that appeals to the intended audience is a task that students often over-think. There are a variety of ways to create titles, but the important part is that it tells what the essay is about. If grappling with how to title an essay, many writers take a sentence from the paper and morph it into a title.

Part 5: What is the Best Format for a College-Level Essay?

There are four styles of essay writing format that are commonly used: APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian. While each has its own way of using parenthetical or in-text citations and references, all are widely accepted. Many college professors will assign a specific style of essay formatting to use, but if that is not the case, there are guidelines.

For example, the basic essay format of APA is usually used in academia, as it covers the sciences and research. MLA, however, typically covers humanities – the arts, theatre, and English, for instance. Chicago is an essay format example often used in History topics. Turabian is a condensed version of Chicago and is often used by students.

Part 6: What is the Best Method for Proofreading and Editing?

After drafting a paper, it’s important to read over it to check for necessary content revisions. If statements are not checked for logic, there can be major gaps in the flow and understanding. It’s also important to check for any grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors made in the text. There are a few proofreading tips that can be of great assistance in this process.

  1. Use classmates or friends to proofread the document. It’s easy to miss mistakes when the writer has been looking at the document for several hours. Peer review is one of the most helpful of proofreading techniques!
  2. Download a proofreading software or app. There are a variety of online options that will double check essays and documents.
  3. Take a break and come back to the paper. Write the paper one day and proofread it the following.

Finally, analyzing the readability is the last and final job. Read through it a few times to ensure there are no hang-ups on wording or confusion regarding an idea. Check that transitions are smooth and that concepts are clear. Once complete, the essay is ready for submittal.

All in all, writing a college-level essay is a task that will take some time. However, if the proper steps are followed, a quality paper can be turned in. A good idea, proper research, full outline, smart writing process, well-formatted, and edited essay makes a college-level essay worth reading. Professional essay writers follow the same steps and find success daily.

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