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College Prep 101: 2-Three & a Half Steps to Writing a Successful Essay

Research, Writing and Study Skills

Building a Successful College Essay by Mag Evans, Success Centre Coordinator for Writing

Building a Successful College Essay
From original powerpoint by Mag Evans, Success Centre Coordinator for Writing

● Step One - Understanding the assignment / What is the topic of the essay
● Step Two - Planning                                  
● Step Three - Proof reading / Polishing

Step 1 - Know your assignment

Step One …Know and understand your assignment!

  • Read the assignment instructions several times to find
    valuable information onyour instructor’s expectations

  • Highlight and make notations

  • Look for important clues in key words like:

                    … summarize, define, inform, analyze, or  persuade


What is the important mechanical information?

  • Topic

  • Length

  • Due date

  • Audience

  • Number and type of sources you are expected to use … if any. Also … citation style for those sources!


Step 2 - Planning

Step two … Planning

  • Brainstorming

  • Mind mapping … aka … Clustering

  • Outline … formal or informal

    • Plan of Development … this will appear in your thesis statement … which in turn will appear at the end of your introductory paragraph.

What is brainstorming?

  • Thinking … questioning … chatting … sleeping … dreaming …

  • Brainstorming is a “creativity technique” designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem.


  •    Clustering


  • Introductionwith the thesis statement

  • Body Paragraphswith supporting evidence

  • Conclusion with reworded thesis statement

  • Building an essay is like building a building … the big picture


Step 3 - Proof Reading / Polishing

Step 3 - Proof Reading / Polishing

  • Now we’re down to sentences and words we need to do some …

  • Proof reading

    • What is it?

    • How do you do it?

    • Why do it?

  • What is it?

  • You read over the wordsand sentences to see that they’re clean and tidy, you look to make sure your paragraphs are all arranged as they should be, that yourframework is sound, and that your built essay is in good enough nick for you to close the door and walk away.


  • How to do it?

  • It’s a good close reading to look for:

  • … careless mistakes

  • … word choice

  • … sentence structure and variety



  • … transitions between paragraphs

  • … paragraph length

  • … cohesion … or how it hangs together

  • … thesis statement … with plan of development

  • … reworded thesis statement

  • … sophisticated closing comment



Why to do it?

          So you look like you know what you’re doing

          So you look like you care about your work

          So you earn a better mark

          So you can feel proud that you did the best job you could

Done and dusted!


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