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Essay writing: What you need to keep in mind

Sometimes lecturers offer you the opportunity to write an essay instead of a term paper at the end of the seminar. This type of text is more compact and gives you the chance to express your own opinion. What you need to consider when writing an academic essay?

What is an essay?💬

An essay is a text in which you usually deal with a scientific question in an argumentative way. This type of text is often associated with a "thought experiment": the point is to present your argument as convincingly and wittily as possible, and to get creative in the process. In contrast to a term paper, the focus of an essay is not on scientific work, but on the development of your personal position. You don't have to keep the sober scientific language in your essay either, but can enrich your text with rhetorical stylistic devices and fancy thoughts and develop your own ideas.

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How is an essay structured?📖

Just like a term paper, an essay is divided into three parts - introduction, main body, and conclusion. In the introduction, you first introduce your topic in general, then address the question and finally go into the relevance of this topic. Your argumentation takes place in the body of the essay. In this part of the essay, develop your position and also present counterarguments. Do not forget the scientifically proven facts and examples that support your argument. In a following conclusion, you briefly summarize your results. You can also give an outlook on the scientific discussion or evaluate the topic itself. While a table of contents is usually not necessary for an essay, you absolutely have to create a bibliography. After all, your essay is still a scientific paper that cannot do without evidence to support your arguments.

What types of essays are there?📝

Depending on the topic and the goal of your argument, different types of essays come into question. Probably the most common form is the argumentative essay, in which you contrast pro and con arguments and derive your own position from them. You try to convince the reader of your point of view on this basis. In a comparative essay, you discuss the similarities and contrasts between two different topics that are fundamentally related. An analytical essay is most often written in literature courses, because in this type of text you interpret a literary work in terms of points of view of your choice. The goal of an explanatory essay, on the other hand, is to explain a subject as precisely as possible, citing the most important aspects of that subject. Since the argumentative essay is particularly common in college, our tips are primarily aimed at this type of text, but most of them can be applied to the other essay types as well.

What should not be missing in any essay?🎯

A structured argumentation is central to every essay. This must be based on scientific sources, with which you can prove both your own arguments and the opposing point of view. Both the elaborated arguments and the appropriate references must not be missing in an essay. However, you should derive your own considerations from the given literature and not just paraphrase the views of other authors. As is quite seldom the case in term papers, an essay finally requires your own opinion, which should be clearly recognizable and which you can also present with linguistic creativity. The famous red thread must not be missing in your essay. You will usually find it in your scientific question. Build the discussion around this question and always refer back to the starting point of your argumentation.

What does not belong to an essay?👀

Because an essay thrives on the development of your personal position, many students avoid direct quotations altogether in this type of text. While you can paraphrase the findings of others to support your own arguments, you should not reproduce other opinions. If you do wish to use direct quotations, be sure to use this device sparingly. Also out of place in an essay are digressive arguments that may lead away from the chosen topic rather than help clarify it. An essay is much shorter than a term paper, so you need to think carefully about which arguments really get to the heart of your topic. Otherwise, you will pick up numerous other problems that hardly contribute to answering your actual question.

Tip: Make an outline💌

To avoid these mistakes, it is helpful to prepare a detailed outline of your essay beforehand. Develop the argumentation and write down exactly which arguments you want to explain in which order. In doing so, you can directly plan which evidence you will cite for which arguments and how you will meaningfully link the individual positions. You can also see directly in which order the arguments emphasize your position. For example, you could place your strongest argument at the very end of the essay, so that the reader remembers this statement particularly well. Weaker arguments, on the other hand, should be placed at the beginning. Once you have a detailed outline, you can work through the essay according to this plan. Writing will be much easier for you.

Tasha Reynolds

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