9.5 How to Write an Essay

An essay is expository prose (informs, illustrates, or explains) that attempts to communicate an idea to a reader. Since a writer and a reader’s frame of reference are not the same, no real communication can take place unless terms are defined (especially abstract terms). All good essays have a beginning, middle, and end (introduction, body, and conclusion). In order to facilitate communication, there are certain recommended procedures to be followed.

Introductory Paragraph

All communication begins by introducing the subject matter. Students often “throw” the idea at the reader, so that the reader’s natural response is, “who cares?” It is the writer’s job to make the reader care. If, in his introduction, a writer involves humankind in a general fashion, then he also involves the reader. Other types of introduction include quoting an authority, asking a question, or using an attractor sentence.

Thesis Statement

The introductory paragraph is a narrowing down to the assertion statement, otherwise known as the THESIS STATEMENT. This persuasive statement is the KEY TO THE ESSAY; it states the argument, assertion, or proposition to be defended throughout the essay. The Thesis statement is usually found as a transitional sentence at the end of the introductory paragraph.

Body or Middle of Essay

Theses paragraphs (minimum of three in a 500-word essay) are the concrete support for an essay. The student should SHOW the reader what he means–by examples, illustrations, comparison and contrast, to name a few. Never merely tell the reader by generalizations–SHOW him by examples.

Topic Sentence

¬†Each paragraph in the body of the essay should begin with a topic sentence. The topic sentence is the “mini-argument” which relates back to the thesis statement and also signals the reader what to expect in this particular paragraph. The body paragraphs are the attempt at proof for the thesis statement.


Good essays always have a flow of ideas that are unified, coherent, and logical. Each paragraph should be linked to the preceding one by a valid transition. Transitions are the bridge or connections between ideas and may be a word, (“however”), a phrase (“on the other hand”), or a sentence.


Every unit of good communication must lead logically to a conclusion. The student might ask him/herself the following questions when creating a conclusion: What was my purpose in writing this essay? What did I attempt to support? What are far-reaching effects of my topic? Will something be better (worse) if my arguments are not heeded? Is there a solution to the arguments presented in the essay?


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PPSC HUM 1023: Modern Civilizations by Kristine Betts and Kate Pagel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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