Often, writing an essay without planning leads to
frustration. Poor planning can lead to disorganized writing, which is a
common problem for many students.
Primary sources are the direct facts, usually
found in books or articles. Usually, it's a good idea to first examine primary
sources of information with a brief skim reading (scan the table of contents,
index, and get a general overview of the subject.
Be careful about relying heavily on secondary
sources (they are important to the research, but do not substitute for active
reading of primary sources.
If you can choose your own topic, avoid picking
a topic that is too broad. Ask yourself basic questions about the topic like:
who? what? where? when? why? and how?
Ask yourself what are the major "changes" that
occur with regards to the topic; what are the causes of the change, and what
are the effects of the change.
||Develop a Hypothesis:
Even though not all essays are argumentative,
they require a specific thesis that is really just a working hypothesis that
can be changed at any stage. Eventually you will want to make your hypothesis
an explicit thesis statement, which should be limited, unified, and exact.
Commonly, students read around a subject
before deciding on an essay topic. To save time, and create a
more original essay, narrow your scope before turning to secondary sources.
Learn to use the libraries at your college
or the public libraries. Besides books and journals, vast quantities of
information can be obtained from the databases on the Internet. Use
"search engines" like Google,
Alta Vista, or Yahoo.
The exact format of your outline will depend
on the pattern you use to develop ideas (whether you are defining, classifying,
or comparing). Usually, a few words on scraps of paper will serve as an
outline. In the outline, mark categories according to their importance and
be sure that all categories are connected to the central thesis. Use a
parallel structure for headings and don't be afraid to change your outline.
Nothing is "carved in stone."