8 steps to essay perfection

Whether you love of hate writing essays, proper planning can make the difference between success and failure. To help you get started, we present Middlesex's 8 stage plan to writing the perfect essay.

Understand the question

Hidden in the question are clues as to what you’ll need to write about – things like names or events, and how you’ll need to write about it, words like showing or describe. Think about what (or who) you’ll be writing about, what, and how you are being asked to write about them.

Brainstorm your ideas

Think about what you’ll need to include to answer the question, it’s much easier to take things out at this stage than try to put them in later.

Depending what your essay is for, you might want to research your topic at this stage. When you have a good idea of what you’ll be writing about its time to hit the library or internet – find out what other people have said about the subject – do you agree with their opinions?

Your response

Now you have brainstormed and researched, think about your response to the question. Write one sentence stating what your essay will do. You can think of this as your essay mission statement, everything in the essay should work towards this.

How many paragraphs

You’ll have a word count or a page count (an A4 page is around 350 words). A paragraph is usually around 150 words, some might be longer, and some shorter, but dividing your word count by 150 will give you a good idea of how many paragraphs you’ll be writing.

Plan your paragraphs

Now you have an idea of how many paragraphs you’ll be writing (don’t forget your introduction and conclusion) you can plan what point you’ll be making in each. Think of each paragraph as one point.

It is time to start writing

Begin with your paragraphs rather than introduction. Work through each of the points you planned in step six, and remember: PEE!

  • 1 sentence - Introduce the paragraph by explaining what it will discuss. This is the POINT you'll make.
  • 5-10 sentences – Write about the EVIDENCE that supports the point you outlined in your plan.
  • 2 sentences – EXPLAIN how this evidence helps to answer the question

We’re nearly there

Now you have your paragraphs completed, putting together your introduction and conclusion should be easier.

Your introduction should outline the original question, and give the reader an idea of how you will be answering it – this doesn’t mean you have to answer it now, just outline the steps you take.

The conclusion is similar (this is why we are doing them at the same time) – we need to re-state the question, and explain how you have answered it.

Read through

Finally, we’ll read through the essay (at least) a couple of times, the first time to check that all the ideas we planned out earlier have been included, and that the work is interesting to read. The second time we’ll be checking spelling and grammar – don’t always trust your computers spell checker.