Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

EP 09: Essay Writing Hacks, Essay Outlines, Writing in Stages & Editing

Welcome to Episode 9 of The Homework Help Show! Last week, we investigated the core of what makes a good essay and how to get there. We discussed how to properly read over your assignment instructions and marking rubric, creating a framework, thesis statement, forming your key arguments, the importance of editing, and more!

The Homework Help Show is our brand new show where we will teach, assist, and offer valuable insights on different topics related to students’ academic and personal lives. Want your questions answered? Ask your questions on social media using the hashtag #askHHG


Cath Anne: [00:00:00] It is a super busy time of year so I know that people are probably a little bit backed up on work. I know that I’m definitely feeling the heat and even people who aren’t in the world of academia are definitely feeling like it’s a busy time of year. Christmas time and the holiday season always seems to add that extra level of pressure and sometimes anxiety. But also there’s a lot of good things that go along with the season as well because you know you have the opportunity to take a vacation during the holidays. That’s great too. I’m actually just going to move my Instagram over a little bit so I can look at both cameras at the same time and I’m going to jump into the content.

Cath Anne: [00:00:54] This week we are going to talk about how to write an effective essay. We did talk about how to formulate an appropriate thesis statement. We talked about how to do really great research. This week I wanted to discuss some tips around how to write a really effective essay. I was hoping to be able to show you my screen so we can do a few exercises but I don’t think that I have quite figured that out. We might have to not do that this week unfortunately.

Cath Anne: [00:01:33] Welcome back to this week’s Livestream of the Homework Help Global’s “The Learning Studio”. This week we’re jumping back into some more academic content which is fun and I’m going to be giving you some exclusive tips on how to make your essays the best essays that you could ever write.

Cath Anne: [00:01:51] We want to get you an A+. OK.

Cath Anne: [00:01:53] My cat is just jumping up on my lap here so I’m just going to move him just give me one moment. My apologies for that. That sometimes happens I forget to put him away when I’m in mid prepping for the for the stream. So he’s away now. Otherwise he would just be bugging me the whole time. He’s sweet but I wouldn’t be able to concentrate a few jumping up on me.

Cath Anne: [00:02:32] Homework Help Global, we are a custom essay writing organization and we do help with editing and resume writing as well. Of course we want to give you the best value around how to write an essay and we want you to get good grades as well. So let’s jump in and get into some of the good stuff that I have prepared.

Cath Anne: [00:02:58] One of the first things you want to do when you’re beginning to write an essay is make sure you understand the topic and the question that’s being asked. This is where I wanted to get into some questions, which I did type up and we will go over them. But when you’re doing an essay you want to take the essay prompt and kind of deconstruct it. So I like to go through an essay question and you can even print it off on a piece of paper. I know that we should be saving the trees so if you want to do this on your laptop that can be great too or you can write it out in a little notebook. I just find that it helps to have it in a physical copy so you can go through and actually underline things. Of course if you are doing an essay question during an exam certainly you will have that on a piece of paper as well so you’ll be able to do this. I have found it most effective during an exam to do that because it really deconstructing the essay question really helps to kind of frame what you’re going to write.

Cath Anne: [00:04:24] Basically here is one essay question. So it begins: Critically analyze the key concepts of working cross culturally, specifically in regards to effective communication and the impact on your work practice.

Cath Anne: [00:04:40] I wanted to use that as an example. So if we had this question, how would we break it down? The question begins: Critically analyze the key concepts of working cross culturally. That is the first line. So it begins with ‘critically analyze’. When you’re talking about being critical you want to identify and discuss both the positive and negatives of an issue. So when I’m looking at this question I’m going underline [the word] critically. Analyze it means that you’re also going to bring in some kind of analysis and argument to the question.

Cath Anne: [00:05:21] I’ll underline that or circle it [analyze] just so that I know that that’s the crux of my paper. That is an essential component of the question because [it indicates] that the prof is obviously looking for some specific terms. So you’re going to know that when they say these key concepts or key words that is a really important line to make note of.

Cath Anne: [00:05:48] (To Instagram Viewer): Hi, Coach Kaur. I see that you joined us on Instagram. Thank you. Hope you’re having a good week.

Cath Anne: [00:06:02] To keep going with the question. ‘The key concepts of working cross culturally’, so you’ll probably underline ‘cross culturally’ and maybe circle ‘working’ because that’s not quite as important. You’re going to want to underline key concepts and cross culturally because those are the key components of the question. Then specifically in regards to effective communication and the impact on your work practice so ‘effective communication’, that is one component of the question and you going to relate it to your own work practice. What that implies is that there will be a level of reflection embedded into your response in the paper.

Cath Anne: [00:06:51] As mentioned, you’re going through the process of trying to write an essay you’ll want to print that off or type it up in a Word document or write it out in a book and go through and physically underlying these components. This will give you a sense of what you’re looking for when you are writing your essay. I just wanted to go over so there are different ways that a prof might indicate something to you in terms of what they want out of the essay.

Cath Anne: [00:07:23] If they ask you to describe or summarize that basically just means to give the facts. The process or the event you want to describe the components of whatever they want you to describe. If they’re asking you to explain they want you to analyze something not simply describe or summarize it. You’re going to write you want to write it in a specific order. If they’re asking you to argue something you’re going to systematically report or reject point. If they want you to discuss that they’re asking you to present a point of view. If they’re asking you to critique they’re asking you to identify and discuss both positive and negative aspects of an issue. Compare and contrast asks you do find similarities and differences between two issues or topics. Those are all the ways that a professor might frame an essay question.

Cath Anne: [00:08:27] (To Instagram Viewer): Hi, The Neighbourly Consultant. Nice to see you. I see someone else joining us. Ira, I don’t want to pronounce that name wrong, but it’s nice that you joined us as well.

Cath Anne: [00:08:43] We’re talking about how to write a great essay question and the first kind that I wanted to talk about is when you get the essay question how to kind of break it down and frame it out for yourself. Okay so moving on from there. From there once you have broken down the essay question you’re going to want to go through your course notes and then even do a quick Google search.

Cath Anne: [00:09:22] I know a prof would probably not be happy with me for saying this but sometimes when you want to get a good overall sense of the topic if you don’t already know about it can be good to use Wikipedia just for your own reading because Wikipedia includes a lot of really good open source information. Please don’t rely on that for an academic resource; that’s just for your use in order to give an overview and a sense of what you’re going to be writing about. Just do a little bit of brief research. Go over your content that you’ve acquired in class and then make sure that you have a really good grasp at the topic before you move on to the next question. Make sure you’re using your sticky notes, you are using your highlighters, and you’re really taking some time to figure out what that question means.

Cath Anne: [00:10:24] The second component of writing a really good essay is taking the time to create a framework around your work. This will give you guidance on how to structure the essay. One of the most basic and helpful ways to structure an essay is to use the five-paragraph structure. It is really important to structure at your essay because this gives it a logical flow. Because the five-paragraph essay format is so common your professors or your reader will know what to expect. If anyone hasn’t heard of the five-paragraph essay I’m going to go through it a little bit more in-depth. Basically it is: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and then a conclusion. There are tons of templates that you can use if you’re a type of person that likes to use a template.

Cath Anne: [00:11:22] Take out a piece of paper and write down your topic and your research question or your thesis. Then writer your three body paragraphs and your conclusion. By doing this it gives you a bit of an outline to work with. The really best way to begin your essay is to write down your topic at the beginning of your page. Then you can work on figuring out what to include in your introduction. Use three body paragraphs and conclusion, which equals a standard five paragraph essay. Now, there are some people who might write have their topic and then write their body paragraphs but then write their introduction and conclusion to at the end because then it kind of summarizes everything. But when you’re just starting out if you’re an undergraduate student and you haven’t written many essays, the five-paragraph essay can give you a really strong basis. I would recommend writing your introduction first because it provides kind of a basis for you to go back to. In order to summarize everything and make sure that you’re on the right track and that you’re keeping focused.

Cath Anne: [00:12:41] Then you’re going to want to start planning each of your paragraphs. The introduction should open the discussion, introduce your argument, and indicate your response to the question. Remember that question that we talked about at the beginning you’re going to make sure that in your introduction you are responding to that question. You will be formulating a thesis statement or research question around whatever the essay prompt indicates.

Cath Anne: [00:13:15] You also want to make sure that your intro has a good hook. Even though academic writing can be a little bit dry maybe and somewhat professional, you don’t want it to be boring. You want your reader to want to read your essay. You don’t want them to just kind of toss it aside. What the hook means is that it’s going to hook your reader and so it’s going to make them engaged and interested. So you want to make sure that you’re giving a good argument. You’re going to want to make your reader ask: Who cares about what you have to say. So like I said in Week 3 of “The Learning Studio” we talked about how to write a thesis statement. So if you’re interested in accessing that session we’ll put a link. I’ll put a link in the comments below and you guys can take a look at how to write an effective thesis statement and some tips that I offered around that.

Cath Anne: [00:14:24] Your argument is the most important part of your paper because it holds everything together. You can think about it kind of like the backbone of your essay. When you’re making your argument you’re going to want to make sure that it’s very strong so that you can fall back on that argument. You’ll refer back to it several times throughout the paper. You’ll be making reference to it in your body paragraphs as well. So you really want to make sure that it comes across strongly.

Cath Anne: [00:15:09] In your introduction you’re going to want to introduce your topic, introduce your thesis statement, and then you will want to discuss three points that you’ll be mentioning in each one of your body paragraphs. Keep in mind that you want your reader to know what to expect when they are reading your paper. In the introduction it can be really helpful to introduce the various points that you’re going to be discussing and then tie them back into your argument. It also gives you something to fall back on when you’re reading your essay. Each point that you make in your introduction will in turn correlate with each body paragraph throughout the essay. Once you move onto your body paragraphs you’re going to want to make sure that each of your body paragraphs refers back to the introduction and each of the points that you made in your introduction. So make sure that you connect those dots although that seems kind of obvious. It can be challenging sometimes when you’re in the midst of writing an essay especially if you’re doing it very quickly and within a time crunch to kind of forget and lose your way because you want to finish it.

Cath Anne: [00:16:41] That’s why it can be really good to start with a strong introduction and introduce those body paragraphs and make sure that each body paragraph is referring back to the introduction. In each body paragraph you’re going to use references and data that you’ve retrieved to kind of flush out those pieces of information. You’re going to use supporting evidence to connect it back to your argument that you’re making, the one you introduced and your initial paragraph.

Cath Anne: [00:17:16] Then in your conclusion that is where you’re going to bring everything together and summarize everything. I wanted to make the point that in your conclusion you’re not introducing any new information you are basically just summarizing everything that you already just talked about. It’s really important that you don’t bring up anything new you don’t draw on any new theories or anything like that. You’re basically summarizing your argument and then summarizing all the body paragraphs and linking them back to the argument, that is your conclusion. So, that’s basically the structure of a five-paragraph essay.

Cath Anne: [00:18:01] The next portion that I wanted to discuss is to write in stages. Once you’ve completed the plan for your paper you can begin with the first draft. So the plan is basically your outline. You’ve broken everything down into your introduction. You know what your argument is. You understand each body paragraph and what points you are going to make in your body paragraph and then your conclusion. Once you have completed that outline, then you can begin writing your essay. At that point you’re just going to want to let your ideas flow. It can be really easy when you’re writing to get stuck and get a little bit of writer’s block. But at this point rely on your outline and just let the ideas flow. Get them down on paper especially if you have a high word count.

Cath Anne: [00:19:02] You’re not going to want to hold yourself back because in this if you’re giving yourself enough time you’re going to have lots of time to edit. Let the ideas flow, access all the research you can. Incorporate all your resources and just kind of go from there. Lean on your outline. That’s why it’s important to use an outline.

Cath Anne: [00:19:32] It is also important to be mindful of when you’re writing not to rely on the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ especially in academic writing. Now there are times where the prof will suggest that you are able to use the ‘I’ or ‘me’. However, that would be in a reflective paper. I used to write a lot of those kind of reflective papers in social work school. We were allowed by the prof to use ‘I’ or ‘me’. In general academia you don’t use ‘I’ or ‘me’ in your writing. It’s best to write in third person and not first person. So just make sure that you’re writing in stages giving yourself time to edit and relying on your outline.

Cath Anne: [00:20:32] Moving on to editing. Many of us do not give ourselves enough time to edit. A lot of students do not edit their work. You know I have to be honest I sometimes was a procrastinator. I was pretty good. Like I usually had time to overview my essay a couple of times before I passed it in. Even if you are an incredibly amazing writer you’re still going to need to edit because you’re going to make mistakes. It’s just the nature of human beings. We all make mistakes so we all have to edit. Make sure that you’re giving yourself a lot of time to edit and proofread. And again I know that it is best to save paper if we can, but in this case it can be really helpful to actually print off your essay and do the same thing that you did with the initial essay question just go through and highlight things, underline things, cross things out, and then you can go back onto your computer and type up and insert all of the edits that you made.

Cath Anne: [00:21:48] I know that a lot of people rely on the computer these days running spell checks. I am guilty of that for sure. Those programs can be really helpful. There is one called Grammarly and it helps in correcting grammar. It’s really helpful but really getting in the practice of actually physically editing your work on your own is effective. So I would recommend getting into that habit. When you edit you’re looking for spelling issues, grammar issues, and making sure that the essay flows overall and it’s succinctly focused on your topic. If you’re going off the rails a little bit you want to make sure that you kind of rephrase things in order to bring it back to the topic. You want to at least spend 15 minutes proofreading your essay. If you’re not a procrastinator, it’s going to be really easy and beneficial for you to go back and edit your essay. So make sure that you’re doing that. You can definitely, even if you take the time to do it for 15 minutes or even half an hour. You can you can potentially raise your grade by 5 percent which could be almost the letter grade or half a letter grade. So it’s important to take some time to edit.

Cath Anne: [00:23:22] Another component of essay writing which is essential is to make sure that you’re conscious of all of the components that go into essay writing. The prof will usually, when they’re giving you an outline for an essay, they will put all of their requirements in the description of the assignment. Make sure that you’re paying attention to those. Don’t only pay attention to the essay question and then just start writing. Sometimes professors can dock marks if you fail to adhere to their requirements. What I’m talking about is making sure that you’re using the correct reference style whether it’s MLA or APA or Chicago format. Make sure that you’re using the one that is appropriate for the discipline that you’re writing for and usually your prof will make note of that on the assignment template. The second piece is to make sure that along with that include in text citations and that they are all in the correct format as well.

Cath Anne: [00:24:41] Then make certain that you’re using the correct format for your title page. For APA format you’ll want to have a running header at the beginning up at the top and on each page and you’re going to have page numbers on each one. You’ll have a title page with the title and your name and the institution and the profs name. In MLA format it’s a bit different. You put all the information up in the top left corner. You put a page number up to the right, with your last name beside it. Make sure that you access Owl Purdue, which has the breakdown of the various referencing formats. Make sure that you’re accessing those sites. Where you’re able to see the appropriate format for that discipline and for what your prof is asking you to do.

Cath Anne: [00:25:48] Another thing that you want to check for is that you have the right word count. Make sure that when you’re when you’ve finished your essay that you’re meeting the required word count or required page count depending on what your professor is asking you to do. Also be conscious that you’re not counting words that are in your title page or your references in your word count or your page count because usually those don’t count. There may be the very rare time where a professor might say that counts as your word count but I’ve never really seen it. Make sure that you’re only counting the body of your work in the word count.

Cath Anne: [00:26:34] Another tip is if you can and this is something that I used to really have a problem with when I was in my undergrad because I wrote a lot of English papers and I wasn’t really good at paraphrasing things so I really had trouble kind of taking the information that I read and then paraphrasing it to put it into an essay. I would often rely on block quotations. I’d have a paragraph introduction, and then I’d have four or five lines of an indented block quotation and then another paragraph and then in another block quotation. What happens is that the prof doesn’t recognize if you are really grasping the concepts because you’re relying only on quotations to make your argument. So make sure that you develop the skill of being able to paraphrase and summarize.

Cath Anne: [00:27:30] Let’s discuss a bit of the difference around that. Paraphrasing refers the process of taking some language and reworking it in your own words but still capturing the same theme. You really want to make sure that you are not plagiarizing when you do this because it can be really tempting especially if something’s written very eloquently and you don’t feel that you can do it justice. You may be tempted to copy it and think that no one will notice. That is not the case because we have programs now, which can track where there’s whether things have been plagiarized, or not. So it is likely that when your prof runs something through the plagiarism checker and it comes up as plagiarized then you could be docked for that. So make sure when you’re paraphrasing really break down the concepts in the same way that you did in the initial question really breaks down the concepts in that paragraph.

Cath Anne: [00:28:34] If you think it’s a really strong paragraph that you want to include in your essay then certainly use it but you have to put it in your own words so make sure you’re going through underlining highlighting circling and then reworking it in your own words. There’s no shame in using a thesaurus or a dictionary to flesh out and figure out new words to use that capture the same essence.

Cath Anne: [00:29:01] Then I wanted to differentiate between paraphrasing and summarizing. Paraphrasing is where you’re taking something and putting it into your own words, whereas summarizing is you are regurgitating the same information just in different words. So they’re very similar. Summarizing is kind of getting more to the crux of the theme of something, while paraphrasing is you’re almost saying word for word what it is just in different language. Yes.

Cath Anne: [00:29:50] So make sure that when you do quote some thing, and there are times when you can use quotations. Sometimes profs will you will want you to do that particularly in literature courses or English courses they’ll want you to cite directly from the work. So there will be times when you will have to rely on direct quotations. It won’t be plagiarism as long as you cite it properly so make sure you’re going back to your citation guides. Make sure you’re putting your in text citations into your essay and what that means is just putting a citation right beside where your quotation is and making sure that you’re indicating that that is not your words. That is the words of whoever wrote the essay. Then include that citation within your works cited or your references at the end of your essay.

Cath Anne: [00:30:54] Universities take plagiarism very seriously. You could end up either failing a class or even getting expelled from the program if you are caught plagiarizing. That is something that we take seriously at homework help as well, just making sure that we are offering the highest quality of writing and not plagiarizing at all. All of our stuff is run through plagiarism checkers as well. It is really important that we are all using our own words to communicate in an academic form.

Cath Anne: [00:31:37] So that is actually all the information I have for you guys this week.

Cath Anne: [00:36:50] This week’s session was a little bit short and sweet. I know everyone’s super busy. You guys are doing great. I’m so happy that this semester is winding down and I know that you can get through this next little while with the same vigor that you gave the rest of the year long. Then you get a nice break for the holiday. So this is Cath Anne signing off with Homework Help Global’s “The Learning Studio”.

Cath Anne: [00:37:21] If you guys want to access us we are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube, Medium. Now we are also on SoundCloud Anchor, iTunes Apple Podcast and Google Play Music. So just search Homework Help Global and you will be able to find us.

[00:37:45] Otherwise jump back on with me next week at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Homework Help Global’s “The Learning Studio”. We will probably be talking more academic content next week. If you have any questions leave them on Instagram and our DM’s. You can leave them on Facebook in the comments. You can leave them in on our YouTube channel or even tweet us on Twitter. You can use #askHHG and we will get them. We’ll respond to them and include them in our next session. So thank you guys so much for joining me. I hope that was helpful and good luck with all your essay writing. Have a good week!