Step 4: Communicate in an Essay

Your goal is to write an essay that communicates your thesis and supporting points.

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“Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.”
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~ Sholem Asch
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About this step

Your essay will often include an introductory paragraph, a body expressing your main points in at least three paragraphs and a concluding paragraph that summarizes your point.

  • Begin with a hook—an interesting fact, quote or story—that will catch your reader's attention.
  • Develop your first paragraph/s so that your introduction ends with your thesis statement.
  • Clearly introduce and explain the main points from your outline. Insert information from your sources, being careful to cite each source whether the information is a direct quotation or a summary. Use direct quotes, set off in quotations marks, sparingly.
  • Restate your thesis in your concluding paragraph. Expand your ideas, and make connections for larger ideas or trends, for a grand finish.

Consult a style manual or online guide for specific instructions on how to cite your sources. It is common practice to insert a parenthetical note. For example, if you are following MLA format and are referring to an article written by Tim Johnson in 1999, then insert (Johnson 1999) after the text that refers to the article. The parenthetical citation should come at the end of the sentence in which you have included the quote or summary. Remember to include complete information on this source in your References or Works Cited list.

Draft text and create visuals

Compose a first draft of your essay (don't forget you can always write by hand as well as on a computer). Although you will be the final judge of good grammar and structure, the grammar tools in your word processor can offer helpful suggestions. If you are unsure about a particular usage, ask someone!

Visit the Writing Center! All writers need readers.

Create visuals that will enhance your message. These include photographs, charts and graphs. Only include visuals that directly support your thesis.

Remember that images that you did not create are subject to copyright rules. Obtain permission from the copyright holder or use resources from the public domain.

Revise text and insert visuals

Consider your thesis and the argument that you are presenting. Is the current order of your points the most effective? If not, reorder them and refine your message. Ensure that you guide your reader through your message with effective transitions that explain where you are heading. Ask someone to read and review your paper to ensure that your argument is clear.

Your writing will be more interesting if you find your own voice: don't get lost in the sea of your sources. This is your pulpit. State your case as only you can—armed with your quality research!


Tips for editing papers
  • Conduct a final check.
  • Read your essay out loud.
  • Begin at the end of your paper and carefully read each word. This will allow you to see things your eye may have skipped over when you read it through from beginning to end. Your brain knows what it should say and will insert that—even if the words are not there.
  • Have someone else read your paper again. This time, ask your most detail-oriented friend to look for errors in spelling and grammar. Or, ask a teacher or your library media specialist to proofread your paper. If your professor is willing to read an early draft and give comments, even better.

Prepare the final paper

  • Format your paper according to guidelines of the assignment. If you are unsure about a guideline, ask the professor.
  • Include your name, the date, the class, and the title of your project.
  • Use a serif font (like Times New Roman), no larger than 14 points for your body text. Use the same font throughout your paper. Don't let your font choice distract from your message.
  • Add page numbers.
  • Review the paper carefully before you print.
Schedule | Question | Gather | Conclude | Communicate: Essay - Electronic Slides - Video | Evaluate | Start Over | Printer iconPrinter-friendly view

The Research Project Calculator is a project funded jointly by MINITEX and MnLINK to develop Cool Tools for Minnesota secondary school students and their teachers. It is based on the original Assignment Calculator from the University of Minnesota Libraries.

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