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Writing an Effective Essay

One of the secrets to writing an effective essay is to be organized in your approach.  Use the following steps as a guideline to writing your next essay.

  1. Understand the topic
  2. Read and annotate articles
  3. Collect quotations and paraphrases on cards
  4. Write a clear Thesis Statement with predictors
  5. Freewrite, brainstorm, or cluster
  6. Outline your essay
  7. Write a topic sentence for each predictor
  8. Decide on a logical order
  9. Write your first draft
  10. Revise checking for unity and coherence
  11. Edit checking for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors
  12. Write your final draft
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Preparing Your Final Draft

Download File pdf-155498_640 

Preparing Your Final Draft

Due date: ________________________

In preparing your final draft for your essay, you will edit, revise, and rewrite.

The first, look at the organization and content of your essay. Make sure your essay has a hook, a thesis statement (topic, controlling idea, three points of development), three body paragraphs with topic sentences, and supporting details, and a conclusion that restates the thesis statement, summarize, and includes closing remarks. Also, delete any sentences that are off topic and make sure your transitions are properly used to walk readers through your essay. (Avoid using first and second person pronouns, contractions, and words such as, always, never, a lot of, etc.).

Then edit your essay by looking for:

  • incorrect sentence structures
  • missing verbs
  • misspelled words
  • incorrect words

Check quotations for proper in-text citation. Use one of the two examples below. Each quote should be no more than one sentence.

Example One: According to, “Plants release water into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration.”

Example Two: “Plants release water into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration” (

You will then take your essay to your tutor and have them proofread it for you. After you have finished editing, revising, and rewriting, you will then write your final draft on the computer using WORD.

To set up your document, go to and follow the directions. (Essays that do not conform to this formatting will not be accepted).

Your essay should use:

  • Font: Times New Roman, 12 point
  • Line Spacing: Double-spaced
  • Indent First Lines: The first sentence of the paragraph is indented five spaces from the left margin.  This shows the reader where a new paragraph begins.
  • Margins: 1 inch on all size
  • Paper Size: 8 1/2 x 11 (Do not use A4 paper size)


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Writing Academically

If we want to convince or persuade others, our writing must be strong and clear.

Words or sentences that are typically appropriate in everyday language often weaken academic ideas if not properly used.

Below is a list of word forms that should be avoided.

There are / there is

When we use there are/is too much, we are using words that often weaken our sentences and ideas.

For example, look at the two sentences below and ask which one is stronger.

  1. There are many people who believe global warming is a critical issue.
  2. Many people believe global warming is a critical issue.

Number 2 is stronger because it comes straight to the point.  Simply by removing There are….who… our sentence is clearer and stronger.

always, never

If we use words such as always or never, we set ourselves up for criticism because, obviously, our claim cannot be supported.  Instead of using these words, we should use words like tend to, or likely, or most likely.

Look at the following examples.

Weak: Factories always contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. (You cannot prove “factories always…)

Strong: Factories tend to contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Weak: Politicians never listen to the concerns of the people.

Strong: Politicians tend not to listen to the concerns of the people.

Other words that should be avoided are all, really, very, and a lot of for the same reasons.

Wordy Verbs

Instead of using verb forms like make a reservation, or conduct an investigation, that tend to be wordy, replace the noun forms with the verb form.

For example:

“The officers investigated the cases.”  This sentence is stronger than, “The officers conducted an investigation into the case.”

“After much research, the team concluded that obesity is primarily caused by fatty foods.”  This sentence is again stronger than, “After much research, the team came to the conclusion that obesity is primarily caused by fatty foods.”

Other wordy forms that should be avoided are make an objection (object), provide assistance (assist), and make a contribution (contribute).


Strong academic language requires words to be clear and concise. Contractions should be avoided not only because they are used in informal language, but because they can also lead to misunderstandings.

Use the full forms instead of contractions.

do not instead of don’t

does not instead of doesn’t

is not instead of isn’t

cannot instead of can’t

he has had instead of he’s had

would have instead of would’ve

and so on

Personal Pronouns: I, me, my, you, your, we, us, our

In academic writing the use of personal pronouns, such as I, me, my, you, your, we, us, our, are generally avoided.  The reason is we do not want to refer to what we think or believe, but to solid evidence.

Instead of using pronouns, use direct language.

  • Instead of: In my opinion, global warming is causing damage to crops.  (This focuses the attention on “my opinion”)
  • Write: Global warming is causing damage to crops. (The focuses is on the evidence)
  • Instead of: I think art education needs to be incorporated into mainstream studies.
  • Write: Art education needs to be incorporated into mainstream studies.
  • Instead of: Before taking the final test of the course,you should study and be familiar with your notes
  • Write: Before taking the final test of the course, students should study and be familiar with their notes. 

Breaking the Rules

Sometimes you will want to use a personal experience in your essay.  This is where you can break the rules.  Use pronouns to establish the subject, but use them sparely — just enough to make your point.

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Using the Internet for Research

Probably one of the most popular sources for information today is the Internet.  If we type in a few key words, we have instant access to almost anything on a given topic.  But as accessible as it is we need to use it wisely as we research for information.

When determining whether a web site is reliable, there are four questions we need to ask.

  1. What is the purpose of the site?  Some sites are for-profit and their intent is to convince the viewer to buy their product.  Other sites offer a service and their intent is to inform the viewer to make the best decisions.
  2. Is the content relevant and clearly written? Content should be well organized and clearly written.  It should be relatively free from spelling and grammar errors.  It also should be up-to-date and accurate.
  3. Who are the writers of the website?  Writers should be qualified to write on the subjects they are presenting.  You should be able to access information about the writers and determine what their education and experience is in their field.
  4. Is the content biased, or is it objective? Some writers purposely slate their articles to persuade readers to their point of view. There is a place for persuasive writing, but generally speaking, academic writers should present their findings as objectively as they can allowing readers to form their own conclusions.

Just a word about Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is an open source for information on just about any subject. It is easy to access and many students use Wikipedia for their projects.  However, there is a downside.  The way the program is set up anyone can edit and add to almost any page.  Because of this there is no way to check the accuracy or reliability of the information. If you choose to use Wikipedias, make sure to compare the information to reliable sources.

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have gone & have been

I am frequently asked what the difference is between have gone and have been. Generally speaking, when we say, “He has gone to New York,” we mean he has left and is in New York now.  When we say, “He has been to New York,” we mean he went to New York and he is back now, or he has left and is not in New York.

Look at the following sentences.

  • She won’t be here tomorrow because she has gone on a business trip.
  • He has been to Hawaii twice, but he hasn’t been to China yet.
  • John has already gone to work, but he hasn’t been to the bank yet.
  • Where has David gone? (Meaning he is not here now).
  • Where have you been? (Meaning you are here now, but you were somewhere).


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Using Commas

When writing compound sentences, use a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

John went to the bank, and he went to the post office.

It was raining hard, but he stayed dry.

When writing complex sentences, use a comma when the subordinating clause is first.

Although the test was canceled, John still studied at the library.

Because the textbooks did not come, the test was canceled.

When the main clause is first, do not use a comma.

John still studied at the library although the test was canceled.

The test was canceled because the textbooks did not come.

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Useful Transitions (Signal Words)

Transitions to Show Addition

and, in addition, also, moreover, furthermore, as well, equally important, besides, again

Transition to Show Time

after, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, following, at last, meanwhile, now, recently, subsequently, simultaneously

Transitions to Show Examples

for example, for instance, specifically, to illustrate

Transitions to Show Cause and Effect

consequently, so, consequently, therefore, thus, due to, stems from, develops from, results from, because

Transitions to Show Results

so, as a result, therefore, thus, as a consequence, consequently

Transitions to Show Conclusion

finally, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, to sum up, in summary

Transitions to Show Sequence

one, two, three, next, then, finally

Transition to Show Place

above, next to, below, beyond, in front of, in back, nearby, here, there

Transitions to Show Objection

however, though, although, while, to be sure, true, it is true, I admit, granted, despite, I concede, regardless

Transitions to Show Contrast

but, however, in contrast, still, nevertheless, on the contrary, nonetheless, yet, and yet, or, on the other hand, for all that, in spite of, notwithstanding, actually, ironically

Transitions to Show Similarities

also, in the same way, likewise, similarly to