The process of writing an effective essay is quite simple. In fact, it can be outlined in three steps:
Let’s look at each of the above and understand what needs to be kept in mind for each.
In fact, you can use two very effective techniques for brainstorming.
Technique-1: The SPHELTIR technique of brainstorming
This serves as an effective tool to control and brand the diversity of ideas which come to one's mind while brainstorming. This approach is a yardstick to evaluate the topic from multiple environmental dimensions- social, political, historical, economic, legal, technological, international, and religious. This method is more useful for brainstorming on factual topics.
Let’s use this technique and analyse one topic. This will help you understand how to use this approach in order to generate content.
Sample Topic : Should there be reservations?
- Social inequalities in rural and urban India like untouchability
- Reservations for socially and educationally backward classes (Art 15)
- Caste-based vote-bank politics
- Women Reservation Bill
- Genesis of Caste System in India
- Was there any timeline set by constitution?
- Creamy Layer
- Reservations in jobs and educational institutes
- Indian Constitution - Right to equality (Art 14)
- However, 'positive discrimination' allowed (Art 15)
- Reservations in private sector like IT/ITES
- Is Reservation in IITs / IIMs killing merit
- Is Reservation making India less competitive in world?
- Similar policy of affirmative action in USA too.
- Reservations for Minorities?
- Sachar Committee Report
Technique-2: The POPBEANS approach to brainstorming
This is also a useful tool to think about topics require both structure and diversity. The tool assesses the following aspects surrounding a given topic- people, objects, place, behavior, event, action, nature, and society. This method is particularly useful for expanding abstract topics.
Let’s take up an example topic and see how we can use this technique.
Sample Topic: "Black"
As you can see, this single-letter is extremely abstract in nature and requires you to think outside of the box. Using the POPBEANS approach, you can think of the following pointers for this topic:
- People - Corrupt/ dishonest people
- Objects - Black hole, manipulated balance sheet (commerce point)
- Place - Historical monuments, graveyard, South or North pole
- Behavior - Rude and aggressive behavior
- Event - 26/11, other tragic events
- Actions - Honor killing, female foeticide, negligent behaviour
- Nature - Environmental degradation, catastrophic events,
- Society - Decline in values, morals
Remember, the above are simple pointers that you can relate with the topic in any way possible. You can build content on these pointers and take the essay in any direction you wish.
Another aspect of organizing your ideas for the essay is to prepare effective outlines and thesis statements. You can keep the following points in mind for these two activities.
- Edit the main points- consider: chronology, logic, sequence
- Put the strongest points at the start and the end, leaving the weakest in the middle
- Ensure a logical and structured flow
- Thesis Statement
- Tells the author the domain and range of the essay
- Tells the reader what the essay will be about
- The Thesis Statement follows from the main ideas you have listed about the topic-what do they say or indicate about the topic?
The Thesis Statement has two parts:
- The first part states the topic
- The second part either states the point of the essay or lists the ideas you will discuss
In its most basic and traditional form, an essay has three elemental parts: introduction, body and conclusion. Each of these parts has a specific purpose which means the reader will be looking for expected features.
Any introduction starts with a general opening statement which informs readers about the subject and gradually narrows to a specific thesis. The thesis, or thesis statement, tells the reader what you are going to say about your topic.
Thesis statements often come at the end of the introductory paragraph. A good introduction keeps a check on the following:
- Attract attention- quote, anecdote, statistic, etc.
- Give an overview of the essay's focus and flow
- Finish the introduction with the Thesis Statement
- It is NOT a summary but merely an introduction to what is to follow
- As a thumb-rule, should not exceed 10% of the total length of the essay
- Writer's block occurs the most here-so consider writing it AFTER the rest of the essay is clear to you
The body is made up of the paragraphs which support your thesis. These paragraphs contain the evidence, arguments, and examples that support your thesis. The number of paragraphs will depend upon on the number of ideas covered. Try to follow one point one paragraph rule.
The following need to be kept in mind at this stage:
- Each main idea becomes a body paragraph
- Start each body para. by writing a main point
- Next, write supporting points for the main point
- ELABORATE on the supporting points
To be effective, body paragraphs must possess three important qualities:
- Unity: Focus on one main idea.
- Development : This occurs when the idea is elaborated in the paragraph. This elaboration usually consists of the evidence you have gathered from your research to support the point you are making in the paragraph.
- Coherence: Here, everything in the paragraph relates to and expands on the point you are making.
The conclusion starts with a summary of the specific points of your essay, followed by a restatement of your thesis (usually in a slightly reworded form), and ends with a rather general statement about the implications of your thesis). Considering the time given to write an essay, please try to conclusion concise and do not try to introduce new idea.
Remember the following while writing a good conclusion:
- Review the main points (but DO NOT RESTATE them)
- Provide a final perspective on the topic-feel free to describe your feelings about the topic
- Remember not to violate the intent specified by the Thesis Statement
As you begin writing the essay, do remember that this is an assessment of not just your knowledge about the subject. The examiner is also assessing your command over the language, the clarity and consistency of your thoughts and your ability to persuasively communicate your views on the subject.
Final Tips for writing a distinctive essay
To sum it up, there are four key ingredients you need to get right in order to right an effective essay. In this final section, we explore this one at a time:
- Interpreting the topic the right way
Your interpretation of the topic is based on your familiarity with the topic as well as on the wording itself. For example, consider this topic: Corruption- a necessary evil? v/s Corruption- a necessary evil.
A simple change in the punctuation has changed the implication of the topic itself. This is something you need to vary while interpreting topics: make sure you are on the lookout for minor details and you can understand the subtle nuances that these topics contain.
Does the topic allow you to choose your stand? If yes, then you are writing an essay intended to persuade; If no, then you are writing to explain/educate.
For example, consider the topic "UN-Reforms". Let’s see how this topic will look if any takes any one of the above lines of thinking.
- Persuade : Does the UN need reforms? (list arguments FOR or AGAINST)
- Explain : The UN needs urgent reforms ( list the steps proving why)
- Educate : The need for UN reforms (list the areas that need attention)
There are three kinds of ideation that you can up for essay topics:
- Theoretical-the underlying basis
- Conceptual- the tools/concepts
- Empirical-the illustrations/examples
All three refer mainly to the body paragraphs
- Theoretical – the main point of a body paragraph
- Conceptual - the elaboration of the body paragraph
- Empirical -the example to substantiate the body paragraph
Let’s take up two sample topics and built the ideation table for these topics.
Topic 1 : Combating Corruption
|Socialism / Liberalism||Democracy||Anna Hazare|
|Capitalism||Competition||Enron / Kingfisher|
Topic 2: Educational Reforms
|Levels||Primary, Sec., Higher||SSA, Mid-day meal, online CAT|
|Gender||Equality||Gender ratio, financial independence|
This is the final part of the jigsaw and once you have this in place, you have solved the puzzle for writing effective essays. In order to present your well, you need to keep the following parameters in mind:
- Mention the TITLE
- Indent (for each new paragraph)
- Avoid slang/casual references
- Avoid too many corrections/cuttings
- Avoid spelling mistakes
- Handwriting should be neat and legible.