Essay Writing Guide

Opening Paragraph

  • Introductory Statement: name the author(s) and title(s), and/or the subject of the essay
  • Thesis: state the thing you’re arguing as an assertion in one sentence
    • Expanded Thesis: name your main arguments (i.e., your sections)
  • Overview: name your essay’s sections (if you have an expanded thesis, you do not need an overview)
  • Background (optional): one key term or fact (maximum one sentence)


Body Paragraphs (Sections)

  • Topic Sentence: first sentence of every paragraph states its main claim
  • Evidence: quote text whenever possible, paraphrase only if you have no other option, always cite
  • Interpretation: explain how this evidence supports the topic sentence
  • Significance: explain how this evidence supports the thesis of the essay
  • Transition: explain how this paragraph/section leads to the next one

*  Repeat for as many paragraphs/sections as is necessary for your essay! *


Closing Paragraph

  • Review: summarize the paragraphs/sections of your essay (i.e., major pieces of evidence and arguments)
  • Conclusion: rephrase the thesis as if the readers now agree with you
  • Memorable Statement: say something witty or pithy, raise questions unaddressed in the essay, etc.



  • what you’re essay is arguing
    • the conclusion that you came to after analyzing the evidence
    • not how you came to your conclusion (that goes in the body paragraphs)
    • not a summary of the whole argument
    • (don’t argue, say what your argument is going to be
  • a truth claim, an assertion
    • verb in the simple present tense: e.g., is, shows, demonstrates, etc.
    • not a hypothetical: e.g., would, could, might, may…
    • not subjective reasoning: e.g., I think, I believe, it seems to me, etc.
  • must be controversial, begs to be proved
    • cannot be obvious/well-known or a statement of fact
    • cannot be a generalization: i.e., a claim about a universal rule
    • no generalizations; e.g., always, forever, all, etc.
  • simple thesis: one clause, a single assertion (one thing that is true)
    • no evidence (examples, quotations) or argument (reasoning, logic)
  • expanded thesis: includes reasons why the thesis is true
    • an expanded thesis must reflect the outline of your essay