How to (mostly) write an essay.

Whether you find yourself in a STEM class (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or in creative writing class, essays will follow you throughout your time at Cal and any other higher education institution you find yourself in.

Some may rejoice while others may think it is just an unnecessary way of reaching a conclusion. I am not here to debate its necessity, rather help provide advice and some ideas for you when that day arrives where you sit down for several hours to brainstorm and write your essay.

The first thing to establish is that every professor and every subject and every topic will not work with the same exact format. A review of a book will be different than a report on the existence of kangaroos. Make sure you understand the prompt and if you have any questions or things that pop into your mind, and I mean any, please ask your instructor. It is the worst thing in the world to do an essay only to find out at the last second that you are slightly off course at the beginning and because of that it made you way off at the end.

Secondly, whatever topic you choose, make an outline and break it down in a way such as this:

Have the main topic/argument very clear on your paper. Sometimes the argument you make (and by argument I mean what you want to achieve with the reader interacting with your paper) will change throughout the course of the essay. This is okay, but have a starting off point so you do not stray too far from the course.

Next write down the main points you’d like to make in the essay. This could be the topics for each body paragraph or the quotations you will be analyzing, etc. This helps to keep your paper from feeling like you are going everywhere with no regard. Maybe there will be a part where you go into a counter-argument, or maybe there’s a break from qualitative evidence to quantitative evidence. All these points, however, should still relate back to your main point. Try to stick to one topic to paragraph until you are comfortable interweaving concepts between them.

Finally, add in the finer details. These can be quotes, to date, to analytical points, to even things you want to point out. These are what the bulk of your body paragraphs are. It can take some work to make sure they have sufficiently helped move your paper’s goal, so take time here to make sure you have what you need.

These few tips will definitely help set you up for the time you write your essay. If your outline, evidence, and ideas are there then your first draft and then final draft will feel like second nature. I still spend a lot of time writing, in different languages, and it has always been daunting to start something new, but just like running, the first few steps are the hardest and the middle can feel like a breeze. Just try not to sprint from start to finish if it’s a long race, it can definitely have a bad impact on you. These tips and tricks on writing an essay have worked for me, and they might for you, but some other people may not find use from them. That is 100% ok. However, don’t give up finding a way that suits your writing style, and it is never bad to ask someone for help!

Author: Andres Larios

Hello my name is Andrés. I'm from Fontana, CA and I use the he/him/his pronouns. I am left-handed, a twin, and a proud papa of a German Sheperd-Husky mix named Echo. I am majoring in Political Science with a focus on International Relations in Latin America as well as Latin American languages and cultures (this is the Spanish and Portuguese Department.) I hope to study abroad and travel in Latin America while helping my community!