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How to construct an English essay

How to construct an English essay

Want to up your grades? Often, the problem is not so much that students don’t know the answer or have a view on a question but rather they do not know how to structure an essay. In this blog post, we will look at how to introduce an essay, write clear paragraphs and draw a conclusion.

Begin planning by jotting down your main ideas. What will be your key argument? What supporting points will you make? Where are their quotes to support this? This planning can be messy as it is entirely for you.

Now think of the essay as a series of boxes. The first box is the introduction and the last is the conclusion. Between, you will have a series of boxes, each one being a paragraph containing an idea that you support with quotes from the text and some further explanation and analysis. This will help you think about the order in which the ideas should be written about. You are trying to build up an argument by making points.

The opening has to address the question. It is worth finding a way to hook your reader into the essay. Try beginning with a rhetorical question such as, ‘Did the war poets really glorify war’? Having hooked your reader then explain your main idea clearly, in one sentence if possible. Then explain how you have organised the essay.

So, you have introduced the reader to your main idea that refers to the question or title. The main body of the essay will be a series of main ideas. In each paragraph have one idea that is supported by quotes. Spend time explaining or analysing your evidence and backing it up with some explanation. Make sure that each paragraph relates back to the question or title. There may well be four or five paragraphs. Some of these can provide the opposing view as a ‘counter argument’, e.g. ‘some people suggest that… however…’.

End your essay by returning to the initial idea that you explained in the first paragraph. Add to this by drawing on your opinion or relating it to the reader, life today or other texts. This is a chance to provide a broader perspective, making links between texts, historical events or issues on society.

Once you have finished, read the essay aloud so that you can hear whether it works. Do all the paragraphs build up a convincing argument related to the title or question? Does it flow when you read it aloud? If you find a sentence hard to read, then so will your reader so change it! Finally, double check basic spelling and punctuation. It can help when reading aloud to point with a finger at each word as you read as that helps you notice if you have missed a word out. If it is an important essay, then ask a family member or friend to read it. 

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