Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.
According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:
1. Pick a topic.
You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.
If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?
Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.
Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.
2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.
In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.
To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.
If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.
3. Write your thesis statement.
Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?
Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”
Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”
4. Write the body.
The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.
Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.
5. Write the introduction.
Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.
Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.
6. Write the conclusion.
The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.
7. Add the finishing touches.
After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.
Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.
Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.
Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.
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Mrs. Beeton researching her book in PBS drama
Happy Birthday Isabella Beeton, best known as Mrs. Beeton, the Victorian Domestic Goddess. Her cookbook Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management published in 1861 when she was only 23, was aninstant success. It sold a whopping 2 million copies in 1868.
March 12 marks her 176th birthday. Had she lived in biblical times, Bella would have been a mere child compared to Adam who lived a total of 930 years (Genesis 5:5). As it was she died at age 28 of complications from childbirth. Speaking of which, we can thank Eve for labour pains as punishment for eating the apple from the forbidden tree: “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe” (Genesis 3:16).
Mrs. Beeton’s appeal has endured for well over a hundred years, most recently achieving renewed celebrity through her influence on Downton Abbey. Series creator Julian Fellowes used her work to stage the show’s dinner scenes, and producers used recipes from her famed cookbook. Other cooks around the world continue to be inspired by her work: my other tribute to Mrs. Beeton and her recipes are sprinkled throughout this site, Biscayenne in Spain shared her wonderful Apple Charlotte, and my foodie friend Eva recently put her own spin on Mrs. Beeton’s Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly recipe which was served in 1st class on Titanic. When in doubt go to Mrs. Beeton when cooking from this period. The book was widely used at the turn of the century, and is still in print today. You can even find it online at www.MrsBeeton.com.
Surprise! Mrs. Beeton didn’t cook
Mrs. Beeton’s book contained over 900 recipes
The volume of work she produced at such a young age is impressive. As eldest of 21 children, it would explain where she may have picked up some tips. She married a publisher which explains how she may have been published. But the big surprise about Mrs. Beeton was that her persona was manufactured to help sales. She didn’t cook, and was a small slip of a woman who preferred working at her husband’s publishing house than “keeping house”. She published under the name “Mrs. Beeton” to give her credibility. The facade was maintained after her death, as her publishers continued producing material under her name.
Also known as Mrs. Beeton’s Cookbook, the book contains 1,112 pages, and over 900 recipes illustrated with coloured engravings. As an editor who never claimed to have original content, Mrs. Beeton saw the need for providing a guide to Victorian women on how to run a household with fashion tips, child care and animal husbandry advice, as well as the hiring servants. What she lacked in originality she made up for in innovation. She was the first to organize recipes as we see them today: listing ingredients at the beginning of the recipe, and to indicate the length of time to cook dishes. She even listed the costs, and what seasons to best enjoy the dishes, promoting the novel idea of buying local and in season.
Celebrating The Life of Mrs. Beeton
While her work speaks for itself as the legacy she left behind, there is some biographical materials available to learn more about her.
PBS produced a documentary about her in 2006 titled The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton. Interesting connection to Downton Abbey. Jim Carter who plays Mr. Carson, portrays Mrs. Beeton’s stepfather. Here is the trailer (sorry, the video quality isn’t that great):
While PBS has stopped showing this docu-drama you can get your own copy in the US or Canada.
Wellesley Fudge Cupcakes
- Nothing says birthday like cupcakes
What would a birthday celebration be without cupcakes? A double celebration, my father is also celebrating his birthday today and he is very much alive. Tomorrow’s Tea Tuesday will be dedicated to him and his love of fishing. And why yes, I did celebrate my 50th birthday last week and made these cupcakes for my friends.
Bella would have known these as “fairy cakes”, but I believe that Brits now also call these lovely little cakes by the American name “cupcake”. As a modern woman, I thought she might appreciate this recipe from Gourmet magazine, adapted from a rich chocolate cake first served in the late 1890s at the Wellesley Tea Room, a genteel establishment catering to students at the well-known Massachusetts women’s college.
So tip your cup and lift up your cupcake, scone or biscuit today and say “Happy Birthday, Mrs. Beeton, your legacy lives on with us”.
Yield: Mrs. Beeton was a stickler for economy and this recipe makes 6 cupcakes for a small gathering. For the full recipe or to make the cake, click here.
For the cupcakes
- 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the frosting
- 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine (the best chocolate yields the best results)
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons milk plus additional to thin the frosting
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C, Gas Mark 5
- In a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the chocolate with the water, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and remove the bowl from the heat.
- In a bowl whisk the butter with the brown sugar until the mixture is blended well and whisk in the yolk and the chocolate mixture.
- Onto a sheet of wax paper sift together the flour, the baking powder, and the salt and add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in batches alternately with the milk, stirring well after each addition.
- Stir in the vanilla, divide the batter among 6 paper-lined 1/2-cup muffin tins, and bake the cupcakes in the middle of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
- Transfer the cupcakes to a rack and let them cool
Make the frosting while the cupcakes are baking:
- In a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and remove the bowl from the heat.
- Stir in the confectioners’ sugar, 2 teaspoons of the milk, and the vanilla and blend the frosting well (the frosting will thicken as it stands).
- When the cupcakes are cool, thin the frosting to the desired consistency with the additional milk, stirring in the milk drop by drop.
- Spread or pipe each cupcake with the frosting.