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The first place to start is with your group of students. Find out what their interests are. If they can write about topics that interest them, you will find that their essays improve considerably. Of course, they will need guidance, but if they are enthusiastic about a topic, words will flow from their pens, laptops or tablets.

Ask your students to come up with topics that they would like to write about. Set some parameters so that they understand what you require. For example, tell them that the essay will be an argumentative one, or an opinion essay. These are the types that students typically like writing. Explain the conventions for writing each type.

Explain that you are building up a bank of interesting essay topics which you will allocate for homework. The whole class will write the same topic, but every student’s suggestions will be covered.

Discuss the suggested topics with the class and let students vote for their favourites. If there are some topics that students don’t want to write about, perhaps you could ask for further suggestions, or they, together with you, can re-jig the topics so that they are more appealing. Sometimes all that needs to be done is to change the wording of the topic.

Also, before you start to write, brainstorm vocabulary and useful words and phrases that could be included in the essay. For example:

  • on the one hand... on the other hand
  • in contrast/by contrast
  • for example/for instance
  • firstly/secondly/thirdly and so on
  • finally/in conclusion/to conclude/lastly/finally
  • in addition/additionally/moreover/furthermore/what is more/yet another
  • in other words
  • alternatively/one alternative.../ another possibility...
  • in fact
  • however/although/despite/in spite of
  • in comparison
  • therefore/as a result

This list is not exhaustive and doubtless you will be able to come up with more useful words and phrases.

The purpose behind an argumentative essay is to persuade the reader to agree with your ideas. That means that writers will need to present their ideas logically and follow a predetermined pattern. It is always important to plan an essay carefully before writing it, then the writing part is easy as there is the plan to follow.

Here is a suggested plan:

  • Introduction

State the topic and say why it is important, relevant, controversial and so on, also mention why there is some debate surrounding it. Compare and contrast what people believe regarding the topic. Both sides of the argument surrounding the topic should be given.

  • Thesis

Say exactly what your opinion is as regards the topic. Phrases that can be used to do this are, I firmly/strongly believe/(most) sincerely believe/ In my opinion... and so on.

  • Make supporting claims

Now it is necessary to back up the argument with facts and to do this it is possible to quote relevant experts and their ideas. Then give further examples to underpin the claims made. These claims should take up 3 or more paragraphs depending on the levels of students. Give evidence to support each claim. It is also important to explain exactly why and how the evidence is relevant to the thesis.

  • Rebuttals

At least two are needed, again, depending on your students’ levels. State the opposite of the thesis statement. Say why people refute the thesis are wrong. Give reasons from the research on the topic.

  • Conclusion

State the evidence you have in support of your thesis statement and refute the beliefs/opinions and statements of those who oppose it. Review the evidence and the main points of your argument.

It is important to research the topic thoroughly in order to give a balanced and convincing argument in an argumentative essay.

Perhaps an opinion essay is the easiest formal piece of writing. However, students don’t always write these well. That is usually because they are so caught up in their own opinions about the topic that they don’t present them logically, but rather let their opinions run away with them and their writing.

As with an argumentative essay, opinion essays have to be well researched so that the opinion can be backed up with factual evidence. These types of written work are, however very popular with students who want to write interesting essay topics. That’s probably because the opinion essay is, quite naturally, about what students believe and think. Everyone has an opinion about most topics and people love to express their opinions. Because the opinion is personal, students sometimes write informally, so at the outset they should be reminded that an opinion essay should be written in formal language.

Structure of an opinion essay

Use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph or include them somewhere else in the paragraphs. Not all topic sentences are found at the beginning of paragraphs, although they usually are. A topic sentence gives writers and readers a clear idea of what the paragraph is about.

  • Introduction. This will contain your thesis statement (like the argumentative essay format), which is really the main point of the essay. The writer should explicitly state what his or her opinion is regarding the thesis statement, which it is possible to debate. This introductory paragraph can also contain three reasons to support the thesis, saying why the writer believes it to be true.
  • Second paragraph. Take the most important reason for holding the opinion and expand upon it. Give examples to illustrate the point that is being made.
  • Third paragraph. Expound on the next reason for having your opinion. Give statistics and facts to support it.
  • Fourth paragraph. Give one or more examples to justify the reason outlined in this paragraph.
  • Conclusion. Restate the thesis statement and summarise the reasons given for holding the opinion.

Certainly, narratives are potentially interesting essay topics, and students generally enjoy writing them. However, within the genre are several types of writing.

Students often believe that a narrative is simply a short story, and it may be. Younger students usually love using their imaginations and embark on their stories with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the short story type of narrative is very difficult to write because students need to have a very good grasp of tenses. If they don’t have this, their story will get low marks. In an examination, students should not attempt a short story unless they are proficient users of English.

This may seem strange, but examination boards, such as the Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate publish detailed analyses of candidates narks with explanations as to why the marks were awarded. The short story is the type that gets consistently lower marks than others, mainly because of the erroneous use of tenses. It would be best to inform students of this fact and suggest they only tackle the short story if they really can’t write one of the other choices. It is interesting to not that the short story is never the compulsory question in an exam writing paper.

Types of narrative

There are four main types of narratives:

  • the story
  • expository essays which consist of factual information
  • descriptive essays which may be written portrait of a person, place, object and so on.
  • persuasive ones which focus on an argument. These are written to convince the reader of the truth of what the main thesis.

When writing these students need to analyse a subject, concentrating on the facts. An explanation of these is required, so that the reader can make up his or her mind about the topic without being swayed by the writer’s opinion or their emotions when writing.

General format

  • Introduction. The opening sentence should be eye-caching and grab attention. It is this that will decide the reader whether to continue reading or not. This opening paragraph should provide the reader with a clear idea of what the topic of the essay is. There should also be a thesis statement.

Main body of the essay

  • Paragraph 2. Start with a topic sentence and expand on it, giving evidence to support it and the thesis. It is possible to write from one’s own point of view, or sometimes interviews are used as evidence which supports the thesis.4
  • Paragraph 3. Again, begin with a topic sentence and give supporting evidence for your thesis. In this paragraph, explain why the evidence is significant.
  • Paragraph 4. Continue to provide evidence to support your thesis and explain its significance, so that the reader understands why it is important. Remember to start the paragraph with a topic sentence.
  • Conclusion. Summarise the main ideas in the essay. Demonstrate your thought processes and offer suggestions, solutions or new questions that may need to be answered.

When writing an expository essay, it is important to connect the paragraphs with a sentence that shows a logical progression from one paragraph to the next. The paragraphs need to be linked.

Descriptive essays paint pictures with words, so it is important to use various adjectives and adverbs. Also, metaphors and similes can be used. The writer needs to appeal to all the readers’ senses. The writer may choose to write about their feelings which are roused when writing about the person, place or object being described.

In these types of essay, the writer tries to convince the reader of the veracity or falsity of a point of view. These two types of essay are fundamentally different and not to be confused.

  • Argumentative essays do not attempt to persuade a reader to a particular point of view. Instead they usually summarize a piece of writing and discuss how far the writer agrees or disagrees with the point of view outlined in the text, justifying the opinions given. Research into the topic can be quoted to back up the arguments presented, and statistics can be used. These essays are necessarily logical and unemotional.
  • Persuasive essays, on the other hand, can be more emotional than argumentative writing. However, there must be clear evidence so that readers can be convinced by the writer’s arguments.

These types of essay can generate interesting essay topics and it is worth having a bank of titles which students can work though as their academic year progresses.

These essay writing tips should help students improve their writing. However, some students need help with their writing, and this can be got from this website. It is hoped that, rather than see this as cheating, it will be viewed in a positive light. If a student has a professionally written essay, he or she can study it and try to emulate it the next time he or she is asked to write the same type of essay.

If students have model essays to refer to, these can be very beneficial, and hopefully the student’s own writing skills will improve. Students who don’t feel confident about their writing skills can become more confident when they are not under pressure to write their own essays. However, it should be noted that as there are examinations, and no help is to hand, it is in the students’ best interests to try to improve their writing ability. Why not find out more about the writing services we offer? You may need them, or you may know someone who does. Get in touch with us now and find out more.

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