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What Is the Most Important Key to an Effective Essay?


Whether for a humanities course, a scholarship application or an admissions statement, you will be expected to write an essay. What makes an essay effective is proper organization, reflection and evidence. Avoid procrastinating so that you will have sufficient time to invest in the key components required for a strong essay.

A Single Point

Every essay should have a clear point that stays consistent throughout the essay. Knowing what you are writing about guides the research and brainstorming you will do before you write. The main point of an essay is called a thesis statement; it should not be a fact, and should require support to be proven. Your thesis statement should properly address the prompt and give the reader a sense of what the rest of the essay will be about.

Organization and Logic

Making an outline before you write the essay is essential to writing effectively. An outline provides organization and logic, and also allows you to identify body paragraphs that stray from the thesis statement. Purdue University's writing lab states that "each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph." Once you have planned your paper, the essay writing process becomes far easier and quicker.

Analysis and Reflection

One of the most important elements of essay writing is expressing what you think. Through analysis and reflection, the writer looks at an issue or a text, thinks about it and draws conclusions. The analysis serves to explain and prove the thesis statement by examining various factors. For example, in an argumentative essay about labeling genetically modified food, the writer can analyze the negative impact of patented genetic modification on the livelihood of small farmers.

Evidence

Every essay should include specific examples that support your analyses and explanations. The examples provide concrete evidence for the points you make in the body paragraphs. For example, in a literary analysis essay you might include properly cited quotations from a text. For an argument essay, you might provide personal anecdotes as evidence. Every specific example you include should be bound to some form of analysis or explanation.

About the Author

Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.

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