Write a first draft
Your first draft will help you work out:
- the structure and framework of your essay
- how you will answer the question
- which evidence and examples you will use
- how your argument will be logically structured.
Your first draft will not be your final essay; think of it as raw material you will refine through editing and redrafting. Once you have a draft, you can work on writing well.
Structure your essay in the most effective way to communicate your ideas and answer the question.
All essays should include the following structure.
A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay should contain:
- a topic sentence that states the main or controlling idea
- supporting sentences to explain and develop the point you’re making
- evidence from your reading or an example from the subject area that supports your point
- analysis of the implication/significance/impact of the evidence finished off with a critical conclusion you have drawn from the evidence
- a concluding sentence that restates your point, analyses the evidence, or acts as a transition to the next paragraph.
See The Learning Centre guide Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting
Tips for effective writing
- Start writing early —the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
- Keep the essay question in mind. Don’t lose track of the question or task. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft, edit and work out your argument.
- Don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end, especially not in a single sitting. Begin with what you are ready to write—a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. Start with the body and work paragraph by paragraph.
- Write the introduction and conclusion after the body. Once you know what your essay is about, then write the introduction and conclusion.
- Use 'signpost' words in your writing. Transition signals can help the reader follow the order and flow of your ideas.
- Integrate your evidence carefully. Introduce quotations and paraphrases with introductory phrases.
- Revise your first draft extensively. Make sure the entire essay flows and that the paragraphs are in a logical order.
- Put the essay aside for a few days. This allows you to consider your essay and edit it with a fresh eye.
See The Learning Centre guides to Introducing quotations and paraphrases and Transition signals
See next: Referencing your essay
If you need help understanding the question, please check with your tutor.
We may also be able to help:
Book an expert for one-on-one advice on improving any element of your academic work.
Workshops and courses
Get practical and engaging instruction on a range of academic skills topics.