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Beginning the Essay Writing Process

For most students, the most difficult part of writing an essay assignment is the very beginning. Starting off the essay writing task with confidence, in an orderly manner, can ease the anxiety brought on by the looming assignment.

Explore the Topic

The first mistake students usually make is trying to immediately begin writing about the topic. If they don’t become immediately stuck, that soon changes as they struggle to find research to back up their thesis. Instead of immediately putting pen to paper, it’s a good idea to simply do some reading about the topic. In fact, it’s best to put off forming a thesis at all until the student has identified some key points in the research that would be interesting to address. That is, don’t start with a thesis and begin researching: begin researching, and then allow for a thesis to form naturally. First, the student should simply explore the topic, reading relevant and interesting articles, related essays, and book chapters. While doing so the student can jot down notes, memorable quotes, and thoughts that he or she has.

Forming a Thesis

A fully formed thesis may not immediately jump out. That’s okay. If the student is still struggling to form a main idea for their essay, they should consult their notes. In doing so, they can do the following exercise:

  1. Brainstorm a list of ten to fifteen questions posed by the research they’ve already done. These can be broad questions or simple curiosities about details.
  2. Return to the readings, and seek out others, which address the three or four of these questions which are the most intriguing.
  3. Again, take notes, write down interesting quotations. If inspiration for a thesis is yet to strike, take another three or four questions from the list.
  4. Repeat until inspiration hits, and then refine the thesis.

Creating the Outline

An essay outline is a road map that will carry the student through the rest of their journey. Once they have a thesis, the outline is fairly simple. The basic essay format includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. The outline simply keeps the student on track while actually immersed in the writing of the essay. Before beginning, they should return to their research and find a selection of strong points to support their thesis. Having done so, they’re ready to follow their outline and write the rough draft of their essay.


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