Essay Writing Guide

essay writing guide

Welcome to guide to writing short essays. We give tips, systematic procedures, and strategies for writing the essay.

An essay is a short piece of writing about a personal view on a particular subject. Usually, we persuade critical readers that our opinion is correct in the essay. We use essays to express our opinion and give best recommendations about an issue in society. Consequently, It can be helpful because offers an option that is best for society.

  • Find an important and interesting topic or understand the topic of the assignment.
  • Exploring topic background. Why does the topic matter?
  • Plan topic question.
  • Create hypothesis
  • Conduct research, reading, and taking notes.
  • Create a thesis statement and outline.
  • Write an essay based on the outline
  • Review, edit and revise your essay

The essay is less formal than a dissertation or thesis. It is more subjective than the article or news.

Three parts of Essay and Its basic Structure

In general, A short essay has 3 different parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

The introduction tells what the essay talks about a topic, the thesis statement, and the hook. A body provides breakdowns of the thesis statement and its supporting ideas. The conclusion gives a summary of the body. Usually, we also connect it to the topic question.

Essay Types: Argumentative, Expository, and Narrative

The essay has several kinds of characteristics. To simplify, we can categorize the essay into several types.

Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay is an essay supporting your main opinion by using evidence. Sometimes, we also give counter-arguments for opposed opinions.

In this essay, we convince readers that our position is true. We prove it by evidence, not by emotional sentiments. We can prove the main opinion by using evidence, statistics, and facts. So, it needs research and investigation of the topic.

Usually, the main idea of argumentation is debatable, rather than uncontested describing fact. For example, government debt during the pandemic time is a good policy. So many people will oppose this idea. But by using argumentation, we can reduce the opposition.

On other hand, the expository essay tends to break down, not prove, the main idea. It separates the main idea into smaller parts. InWe breaks down because the smaller parts are easy to understand. But, the argumentative essay does not emphasize on break down the idea. This essay type emphasizes on support the main opinion by using evidence.

Expository Essays

An expository essay is a description or explanation of a specific topic. It exposes a topic. In other words, it breaks a topic down the main idea into smaller points as an explanation. An expository essay informs, describes, or explains a topic. In this essay, we can break down some topics by time, component, or factors. That is why many kinds of expository essays.

There are several kinds of the expository essay:

  • cause and effect,
  • compare and contrast,
  • how-to,
  • recipes,
  • news stories,
  • process essays,
  • and so on.

Expository essays emphasize on expose accepted facts about a topic. That is why It eliminates personal opinions about the topic. In this essay, we show facts, statistics, reasons about a topic.

Comparative Essays

Comparatif essay also called comparison and contrast essay. It is one kind of expository essay because it exposes something. In this essay, we write about the comparison between people, places, and things. The comparison includes similarities and contrast between them.

The essay type asks a question about the comparison between two or more things. For example, what difference is between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in healthcare policy? What similarities between Palestine and Israel in theology?

Narrative Essays

A narrative essay is a type of essay that tells a story to illustrate the main idea. All series of events and characters revolve around the main idea. A narrative essay is part of an essay because it is writing tell personal views on topics. We can tell our views by using stories. We can tell recipes of some food by using expository essays or narrative essays.

Develop Topic and Hypothesis

An essay is an answer to a question topic. Therefore, the essay consists topic and a statement about the topic.


A topic is something that we talk about in writing. A topic is an idea that expresses what an essay is about. The essay will explain or argue about a topic. Something that we will explain in the writing.

Writing is part of social communication. So, the purpose of communication is mutual understanding. Without a clear topic, misunderstanding may occur.
Your interest, purpose, and audience dictate the choice of topic. You may be interested in computer programming, then you choose a topic about python program for summarizing. Maybe you are a student, and your teacher gives you the assignment to write about propaganda on social media. Several factors dictate the choice of topic.

The topic scope of the essay should be neither too general nor too specific for a short essay. A too general topic can be unmanageable. That is too many things to talk about. If a topic is too specific, then too small audiences. It looks unimportant.

A good topic is also realistic for you to do. If you have no access to get resources, you have a problem doing the job.

A topic also something you interested. If you are not interested, you will bore to research.

Sometimes, to choose a topic, we have other criteria than our interest. That is community interest. So we choose a topic for several options. The options are to reach new insight, solve problems, identification, produce a new text, and interpretation in the community context.

Topic Questions

A short essay talks about a topic. It also answers a question about the topic question. A topic question asks a question about a topic, and then we answer it in the essay. It is important as a reason what we write. Without the topic question, our writing will disorganized and pointless. That is difficult to write and read. The topic question helps us in the next step: create a thesis statement.

Not all question about the topic is a good topic question. A good topic question is an open-ended question. The question is not closed-ended. Because a closed-ended question needs a short answer. A word or a sentence. An essay is not necessary for the closed-ended question. Where is the capital city of Indonesia? The answer is Jakarta. An essay is not necessary to answer the closed question.

To create a topic question, we can brainstorm about the subject, topic, and find the missing issue. We can also ask the expert who knows unsolved issues in their expert community.
There are several kinds of open-ended topic questions.

  • How does this theory/ principle explain the events? Who use it? Is it the best one?
  • How this theory/principle solves problem? Who use it? Is it the best one?
  • How I do describe [topic]?
  • How do I define a [topic]?
  • How [topic] similar to or different from another?
  • What factors that cause [an event]?
  • What effect of [an event] to [something or someone]?
  • How did [an event] develop?
  • How to create [something]?

In classical rhetoric, topic question called stasis. Stasis is a procedure by which a speaker asks questions to clarify the main issues. This is part of the invention, one of the five canons of rhetoric.

According to Crowley and Hawhee, the following advantages may get in the application of stasis theory.

  • Allows the speaker to clarify his or her thinking about the point in dispute.
  • Allows the speaker to consider the assumption and values an audience holds.
  • Establishes certain areas in which more research and effort needs to be spent.
  • Distinguishes which points are crucial to an effective argument.
  • Guides the speaker towards building an effective arrangement for their argument or speech.

There are several types of stasis.

  • conjectural (is it factual?),
  • definitional (what is it?),
  • qualitative (is it good?), and
  • Translator (is it an appropriate process to handle the matter?).Understand the Assignment

If we are a student, sometimes we don’t make a topic question. Our teacher creates a topic question as an assignment. We create an essay to answer the teacher’s assignment. In this case, understand the assignment is important. If we misunderstand their assignment, our job will useless.

To understand the assignment, we need to consider several points in the assignment.
Usually, assignments have several points:

  • An overview of the topic. It is an introduction to the topic.
  • Verb that describes the task. The task may be about connection or interpretation. Examples of connection verbs are: compare, contras, apply, cause and relate. Examples of interpretation are: assess, prove, justify, evaluate, respond, support, synthesize, analyze, argue.
  • Additional suggestions about materials, for example books, videos, pictures and so on.
  • Style tips. Several kind about style tips: concise or unabridge.
  • Technical details: deadline, minimum or maximum words, paper size, and so on.
  • Based the structure of assignment, we think about purpose of the assignment, audience, and its materials.
  • The purpuse of this essay is [purpose] in order to [mission].

Explore Background Information

Reinvent the wheel is unnecessary. To minimize this risk, explore the background of a topic to know key concepts and issues. We can learn an introduction book about the topic or read Wikipedia. We can also get a topic background in newspaper articles, webpages, encyclopedias, journals et cetera. Read title, table of content, summary, heading before commit to read all articles.

Build a Mind Map

After having a topic and question, we can create a mindmap to brainstorm. Brainstorm is useful because it answers a topic question. We explore concepts and terms and their relationships.

Create a Working Thesis or Hipothesis

A working thesis is a tentative thesis statement that we create before research. We can adjust it after research and writing. The hypothesis is required to guide our research. We can revise the thesis based on what we learn during the research and writing process. Hypothesis helps us to direct our research. We can modify the thesis based on our learning during research and writing.

What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement is a proposition that is maintained by argument. The proposition is an answer to the topic question. For example, the topic question is how gravitation theory explains the event of a fall of a paper in the earth? Based on this topic question, we can make the hypothesis “ gravitation theory can not explain event a fall of a paper in the earth”. We also make the hypothesis “gravitation theory and wind force can explain event a fall of a paper in the earth”.

A thesis statement is useful as an organizing principle for all content of the essay. In other words, it is an overarching idea of the essay. The essay contains an argument or explanation of our thesis statement.

Find Scholarly Source

To get a reliable source to support our thesis, it is important to choose a scholarly source. Because scholar community create reliable knowledge by expert and based on scientific methods. So, cite their works more reliable to support our thesis statement by using their scholarly source.
Google Scholar makes it much easier to conduct a broad search for scholarly literature. You can search across many disciplines and sources from a central site. For example, the sources are articles, dissertations, books, abstracts, and judicial decisions from intellectual publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other websites.

Form a Thesis and Essay Statement

A thesis statement is the main point that the content of your essay will support. That is to say, a topic in a concise sentence. Thesis comes from a Greek noun meaning “setting down” or “placing or a position. Topic only has non or phrase. The thesis consists of subject and predicate. It consists topic (subject) and our opinion about the topic. For example,” gun” is the topic. But, “gun is dangerous” is the thesis statement.
The thesis statement is important in the essay. That is the summary or conclusion of the essay in the beginning. The beginning has a conclusion because it helps the reader know what the writing is about, then they get the supporting factor detail. Without conclusion at the beginning, the reader guessing at the writer’s main idea. That is difficult for the reader.

Standard Essay Outline

An essay outline is an idea map of our essay. It is like a table of content of your essay, but it creates for a writer. The outline helps a writer to organize and memorize ideas. It is a short plan of our essay. The outline illustrates contain each paragraph. It also shows an arrangement of paragraphs. Therefore, an outline is not only an idea list. The outline is also about the order in which paragraphs will appear, and how all the points fit together as a whole. Most outlines use bullet points or numbers to arrange the information and convey points.

Essay outline based on essay structure, that includes a short essay. On other hand, the common structure of the short essay consists of 5 paragraphs. This is an introduction (1st paragraph), a body (2nd -4th paragraph), and a finding (5th paragraph). Therefore, the essay outline contains the main idea of every paragraph.


In the introduction, we can mention the background, topic, thesis statement, and table of content.

Body Paragraph

A body paragraph has three paragraphs. Then, to create an outline of every paragraph, we write ideas that support the thesis statement. In an argumentation and persuasion essay, we write ideas that support the thesis. While the exposition essay, the body paragraph contains an explanation of the thesis statement.


In conclusion, an outline will restate the thesis statement and summarize the goal of the essay.

Commonly, the argumentation essay outline looks like this:
Essay Outline
I. Introduction
a) Introduce a topic and context of the essay
b) a thesis statement
c) Outline of key supporting points

II. Body. Paragraph-1
a) Write a topic sentence (the argument for your thesis)
b) Support this argument: data, facts, examples
c) Explain how they relate to your thesis

III. Body. Paragraph-2
a) Write a topic sentence (another argument for your thesis)
b) Support this argument: data, facts, examples
c) Explain how they relate to your thesis

IV. Body. Paragraph-3
a) Write a topic sentence (another argument for your thesis, or a counterargument)
b) Support this argument, or explain why the counterargument doesn’t work: data, facts, examples
c) Transitional device: Explain how they relate to your thesis

V. Conclusion
a) Summarize all main points
b) Restate your thesis
c) Add a call to action.