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How to Write Better Essays | 5 Practical Tips

Writing essays can feel unnatural to some of us. Unlike talking and having a conversation, essay writing requires structure, referencing, and research. It's no wonder many students struggle with it. For those who find it difficult to write great essays, it’s common to turn to the internet for help. However, while there are numerous websites that claim to help you write better essays—or even write them for you—these should be avoided.

Instead, focus on identifying what might be causing your writer’s block. Some find essay writing boring, others feel overwhelmed by the variety of topics, and some struggle with meeting deadlines. Once you’ve identified your specific challenges, you can target these problems and set yourself on a path to becoming a more proficient essay writer.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled our top 5 tips to help you write better essays. Align them with your personal challenges, and you’ll have all the necessary tools to improve your essay-writing skills.

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Tip #1 - Planning/Preparation

Before writing your essay, it’s important to plan ahead. Planning involves selecting what to include in your essay and determining the overall structure. This planning stage helps you put your thoughts together, making your points clearer, more logical, and thoroughly explained.

Depending on the type of essay you are writing, formulating your plan can vary. However, assignments are usually given in one of the following ways:

  • As a question.
  • A statement that you must create an argument for or against.
  • A task to ‘outline,’ ‘discuss,’ or ‘critically assess’ a particular argument or point of view.

The Process of Essay Planning:

Everyone writes and plans differently. However, it’s important to find a process that suits you. Here is an example of a planning process you might find helpful:

  • Break down the assignment question: Understand what the question is asking you to do. Identify whether it’s asking you to ‘discuss,’ ‘argue,’ ‘describe,’ etc. This will help you develop your main ideas to answer the question.
  • Brainstorm everything you know about the topic: Identify your thoughts on the subject and your initial response to the essay question. This will help you narrow down key topics to research further. Remember to review your class notes, as they can remind you what was covered during lectures and seminars.
  • Research: Use your reading list, if provided, to skim through recommended texts. Identify key points that will help you answer your question, and compile these in a mind map or on a large piece of paper.
  • Organise your points: Once you’ve done your research, organize your points that relate to your question. Begin structuring your arguments and include evidence you’ve gathered.
  • Decide on your main points: Summarise each point you’ve researched. Use cards or sticky notes to arrange these points, finding the best flow for your argument. Ensure that each point links to the next and builds on your overall argument.

Once you have a clearly defined essay plan, the task of writing it becomes more efficient.

Tip #2 - How to Write an Essay Introduction

Now that we’ve learned how to structure an essay, let’s discuss how to write a compelling introduction. A good introduction generally consists of three parts:

  • General statement: This part shows the reader why the topic is important and captures their attention, leading them into the essay question.
  • Thesis statement: This is your response to the question and is the most important part of the introduction. It tells the reader what your essay will be about, briefly explaining both sides of the question.
  • Outline of the main points: This part tells the reader what to expect from the essay’s body and outlines your arguments.

Here’s a checklist to ensure you hit all three aspects of a good introduction:

  • Does the essay begin with a general statement introducing the topic?
  • Does the introduction include the thesis statement?
  • Does the introduction outline the main points?
  • Does your essay have a clear, well-organized structure?

Tip #3 - Use Creative Writing Techniques

Did you know you can use creative writing techniques to strengthen your essay? Incorporating these techniques can make your essay unique and engaging. Here are a few techniques to consider:

Think About Your Reader

Your reader is likely your teacher or lecturer, who will be marking numerous essays. You need to answer the question effectively and get straight to the point, ensuring they easily find the information they need to mark your essay highly.

The Three-Act Structure

The three-act structure is commonly used in creative writing, films, and TV. These acts flow seamlessly to give a natural movement of motion and plot. For essays, you can adapt this structure:

  • Setup: Establish what you are talking about and set the scene. Create an introduction by opposing the essay question, and highlighting your main concerns with evidence.
  • Confrontation: This will be the longest part. Introduce all surrounding problems, develop your arguments, and ensure you relate back to the original question with evidence.
  • Resolution: Summarize your arguments with your point of view, including evidence supporting your conclusion. Offer alternative explanations for counterarguments.

For more information on incorporating creative writing into your essay, check out our article “10 Top Tips: Creative Writing Techniques to Improve Your Essays.

Tip #4 - Critical Writing

Critical writing involves analyzing and evaluating text and supporting your arguments with evidence to prove how you reached a conclusion. Here’s a process to succeed at critical writing:

  • Examine a source: Read it carefully and critically.
  • Organize your thoughts: Identify the core claim and evidence, and research secondary sources.
  • State a thesis: Make sure it has both a claim and details sustaining it.
  • Write an outline.
  • Write a draft.
  • Edit and improve your essay.

Examining a Source

Practice smart reading by identifying specific details and claims, and describing how the author presents them. Highlight parts that support your arguments and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Stating a Thesis

Direct your evidence towards the thesis question. Avoid saying “in my opinion” or “I think.” Express your opinion using the third person.

Using Evidence

Evidence is the foundation of an effective essay. It provides proof for each of your points, helping the reader see your point of view. Critical writing tests your thinking skills, analysis, and argument-building process.

Don’t fear critical writing. With practice, you’ll develop a structure that works best for you.

Tip #5 - Read Widely

If you’re writing an essay for a university module, you’ve likely chosen a subject you’re passionate about. This brings enjoyment to the activity and deepens your understanding. However, if you’re not familiar with the topic, it can be challenging to know where to start.

Using the Reading List

Your course usually provides an extensive reading list, including core and recommended readings. Engage with these texts, as they are often referred to during lectures and seminars.

Going Beyond the Recommendations

Search for book recommendations online, browse the ‘People Also Bought’ sections of bookstores, scroll through journals, or join discussion forums. There’s no shortage of secondary reading material to enhance your essay.

Setting Reading Goals

Before you start reading, ask yourself what you are reading and what you aim to achieve. This will guide your research and help you find topics that build your essay.

Here are some tips to read according to your motivations:

  • For general interest and background information, read widely without much depth.
  • For essay writing, focus your reading around the essay question and dive deeply into small areas of the subject.


Writing better essays involves planning, understanding the structure, using creative writing techniques, mastering critical writing, and reading widely. By incorporating these tips, you can make your essay more engaging, structured, and insightful, ultimately achieving higher marks.

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Improving writing skills takes effort. Instead of using essay writing websites, identify obstacles and address them. Plan, structure, and answer questions effectively. Use creativity and critical analysis. Read widely and utilise recommended resources for success.

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