Academic Success: Writing

Essay writing is a critical skill for success in college and one that provides challenges for many students. In addition to the review information provided below, CCBC offers writing help through the Online Writing Lab (OWL) and the campus-based Writing Centers.

Parts of an essay


  • The introductory paragraph is the first paragraph of your essay.
  • It introduces the main idea of your essay. A good opening paragraph captures the interest of your reader and tells why your topic is important!
  • When writing an introduction, you should:
    1. Write the thesis statement. The main idea of the essay is stated in a single sentence called the thesis statement. You must limit your entire essay to the topic you have introduced in your thesis statement.
    2. Provide some background information about your topic. You can use interesting factsquotations, or definitions of important terms you will use later in the essay.

  • Supporting Paragraphs

    • Supporting paragraphs make up the main body of your essay.
    • They develop the main idea of your essay.
    • When writing supporting paragraphs you should:
      • List the points that develop the main idea of your essay.
      • Place each supporting point in its own paragraph.
      • Develop each supporting point using facts, details and examples.
    • To connect your supporting paragraphs you should make use of transition words.
      • Transition words link your paragraphs together and make your essay easier to read.
      • Use them at the beginning and end of your paragraphs.
    • Some examples:
      • First, second, third
      • However, even though, on the other hand, never the less
      • Another, in addition to, related to, furthermore, also
      • Therefore, thus, as a result of, consequently
    • Each supporting paragraph should have a topic sentence, supporting sentences and a summary sentence.

    Summary Paragraph

    • The summary paragraph comes at the end of your essay after you have finished developing your ideas.
    • The summary paragraph is often called a conclusion.
    • It summarizes or restates the main idea of the essay. Your goal should be to leave the reader with a sense that your essay is complete.
    • When writing a conclusion, you should:
      • Restate the strongest points of your essay that support your main idea.
      • Conclude your essay by restating the main idea in different words.
      • Give your personal opinion or suggest a plan for action.

    How to write an essay


    • The pre‐writing stage is when you prepare your ideas for your essay before you begin writing
    • You will find it easier to write your essay if you create an outline first, especially when you are writing longer assignments
    • Six Steps for Pre‐writing:
    1. Think carefully about what you are going to write. Ask yourself: 
        • What question am I going to answer in this paragraph or essay? 
        • How can I best answer this question? 
        • What is the most important part of my answer? 
        • How can I make an introductory entrance (or thesis statement) from the most important part of my answer? 
        • What facts or ideas can I use to support my introductory sentence?
        • How can I make this paragraph or essay interesting? 
        • Do I need more facts on this topic? 
        • Where can I find more facts on this topic?
    2. Open your notebook. Write out your answers to the above questions. You do not need to spend a lot of time doing this; just write enough to help you remember why and how you are going to write your paragraph or essay.
    3. Collect facts related to your paragraph or essay topic. Look for and write down facts that will help you to answer your question. Here’s a timesaving hint: make sure the facts that you are writing are related to the exact question you are going to answer in your paragraph or essay.
    4. Write down your own ideas. Ask yourself: What else do I want to say about this topic? Why should people be interested in this topic? Why is the topic important?
    5. Find the main idea of your paragraph or essay. Choose the most important point you are going to present. If you cannot decide which point is the most important, just choose one point and stick to it throughout your paragraph or essay.
    6. Organize your facts and ideas in a way that develop your main idea. Once you have chosen the most important point of your paragraph or essay, you must find the best way to communicate it clearly to your reader. Look at the facts you have written. Look at your own ideas on the topic. Decide which facts and ideas will best support the main idea of your essay. Once you have chosen the facts and ideas you plan to use ask yourself which is the most logical way to order them in the essay. Develop this sequence in a simple list to guide you as you write your essay.


  • The writing stage is when you turn your ideas into sentences.
  • Five steps for writing:
    1. For the introduction, write the thesis statement and give some background information.
    2. Develop each supporting paragraph and make sure to follow the correct paragraph format.
    3. Write clear and simple sentences to develop each point you want to make.
    4. Focus on the main idea of your essay.
    5. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to help you find additional words to add variety in how you express yourself.

  • Editing

    • The editing stage is when you check your essay for mistakes and correct them.
    • Be aware of using correct grammar and spelling throughout your essay.
      • Check your spelling
      • Check your grammar
      • Read your essay again – try reading it out loud
      • Make sure each sentence has a subject
      • Make sure your subjects and verbs agree with each other
      • Check the verb tenses of each sentence
      • Make sure that sentence expresses a complete and clear idea
    • Style and Organization
      • Make sure your essay has an introduction, supporting paragraphs and a summary paragraph.
      • Check that you have a thesis statement that identifies the main idea of the essay.
      • Check that you have included all key parts needed for a complete paragraph.
      • Re‐read your essay to determine if it is interesting.


    • The publishing stage is when you are ready to produce and submit a final copy of your essay.
    • Steps to follow when publishing:
      • make a paper copy of your essay;
      • show your work to your teacher, tutor or parents;
      • ask your teacher, tutor or parents for hints on how to improve your writing.

    Types of Essays


    • When you are writing a definition essay, you provide a complete and expanded description of a particular term or idea.
    • Often, definitions are combined with classification or other forms of organization in the essay.
    • Be careful to provide a clear definition of the key term before going on to discuss other ideas.


    • In a sequence essay, you are describing a series of events or a process in some sort of order.
    • This order is usually based on time or chronology.
    • The essay is organized by writing about each step of the process in the order it occurred.


    • In a classification essay you separate things or ideas into specific categories and then discuss each of them.
    • The essay is organized by defining each classification and by giving examples of each type.


    • In a description essay you are writing about elements specifically define a person, place or thing.
    • The essay is organized by describing different parts or aspects of the main subject.


    • In a choice essay, you are given the option to choose which object, idea or action you prefer.
    • The essay is organized by then describing each option and then giving your own opinion.

  • In an explanation essay, you explain how or why something happens or has happened.
  • You will need to explain different causes and effects.
  • The essay is organized by explaining each individual cause and related effect in detail.

  • Compare and Contrast

    • In a compare and contrast essay, you write about the similarities and differences between two or more people, places or things.
    • You can organize the essay by writing about one subject first and then comparing it with the second subject.
    • Another effective way to organize the essay is to compare each subject by category.


    • In an evaluation essay, you make judgments about people, ideas and possible actions.
    • You make your evaluation based on certain criteria that you develop.
    • This type of essay is organized by discussing the criteria you used to make your judgment.