Magically transforming your jumbled ideas into a great essay

Once you’ve completed your research, you can begin putting your ideas into formal sentences. This is where the magic happens. If you’ve taken the time to make a really good rough outline, turning it into a formal essay should be a breeze. Just look at your point-form ideas, reword them using academic language and put them into formal essay structure.

Introductory Paragraph

Every essay should start with an introduction (and, in other news, the sky is blue). Your introductory paragraph should highlight the path down which you are about to take your readers. It should hint at what’s to come but not give too much away. You absolutely must state a clear thesis somewhere in your introduction. Take a firm position and briefly discuss how you plan to back it up.

Body Paragraphs

Your body paragraphs are the “meat” of your essay. They are what will, ultimately, make or break it. Each body paragraph should support the thesis argument that you made in your introduction. They should all have a unique topic sentence and cover a single aspect of your argument. Always cite specific evidence in your body paragraphs.

Be sure to use active sentence structure in your body paragraphs. For example, don’t say “the French revolution was caused by high bread prices.” That’s a passive structure, which is frowned upon in academic circles. Instead, form the sentence like this: “High bread prices caused the French Revolution.”

Keep your paragraphs relatively short. If you have a paragraph that’s approaching a full page in length, you’re probably putting too much information in it. Break it up into smaller points and spread them out over several short paragraphs. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all good essays must have exactly three body paragraphs. Many students are taught this in high school, but it’s simply not true and will make your writing look amateurish.


Your conclusion should start by restating your thesis in different words. Briefly summarize everything you covered in the essay, but be sure not to introduce any new information. Finally, discuss the significance of the ideas in your essay. Take a step back from it all and answer the question “so what?”

When discussing the significance of your ideas, be sure not to overgeneralize. Stay away from words like all, every, always and never. Don’t try to have all the answers or make profound statements. You aren’t solving the problems of the world in your essay; you’re simply trying to prove a point.

The conclusion can be the hardest paragraph to write. Leave it until the very end. Some students prefer to edit their entire essay before writing the concluding paragraph so they can get a feel for the overall tone of the writing.

List of References

To avoid being punished for plagiarism, you must cite all the sources that you reference in your essay. You can do this using footnotes or endnotes. Different colleges and professors favor different style guides (e.g., Chicago, APA, etc.), so use whatever style is preferred. Include an alphabetical list of your sources in a page at the end of your essay titled “References” or “Works Cited.”

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