Tips to getting started in the essay writing process

When it comes to writing an essay, many students feel stuck. They might get off to a good start, but then they hit a wall and can’t seem to move forward. This can be frustrating and demoralizing, but don’t worry – we’re here to help! We’ve got some great ideas to help you if you need to write an essay, but are feeling stuck.

Go back to the research

If you’re stuck, you might want to take a step backwards and take some time to rewrite the main ideas of your sources. If you go back over the sources, you might come up with more ideas and content to write about. One of the most important things to keep in mind when writing an essay, is to rewrite the research in your own words and then cite it accurately. This is not only important to make sure you understand it, but to avoid plagiarism. In case you have literally never been to school, plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as your own. It’s unethical, and moreover, it can confuse your reader: Sometimes, when students try to rewrite research, the result is a confusing jumble of text, straight out of a thesaurus. So how can you avoid this?

The obvious way to introduce these ideas is to use direct quotes, but be sure to introduce them with a flag phrase. Generally speaking, direct quotes should never be the first or last sentence in a paragraph. For instance: “As John Doe claims in his article ‘The Importance of Being Serious,’ . . .” From this, your reader will come to know that the words that follow are not written by yourself, and it will also be of help to you to assess the reason for including each source. What value does it offer to your argument? If you don’t have a good answer, you might want to pick a different source.

Regardless, going through and adding quotes or the (attributed) main ideas can help you get unstuck. What else? Another way to get unstuck is to think carefully about how your ideas relate to each other. Yep, we’re talking about…

Transitional words and phrases

Another thing to work on if you feel stuck is transitional sentences. Another important tip is to use transitional words and phrases. These words and phrases help to connect your ideas and make your essay flow smoothly. However, it is important to use them sparingly and not to overuse them. It is also important to use different ones and to vary your sentence structure – this is true of all sentences, not just transitional ones. Ideally, transitional phrases are like bridges from one main idea to the next. Writing these can help you see how the information all comes together, so they can aid in your development of the argument. Without transitional words and phrases, your essay will sound choppy and disjointed – like a listicle!

Write an outline

It might seem counterintuitive to go back and write an outline when you’ve already started writing, but hear me out. Outlining can help remind you of the main points, and even how they relate to each other. Sometimes, essay writers get stuck because they only had a clear strategy for part of their essay. If you find yourself struggling to write an outline for your essay, or if you never wrote one to begin with (Hey, it happens!), you’re not alone. Many people find it helpful to write a basic outline before they begin writing. However, you shouldn’t take too much time for this. A simple outline with a few bullet points is usually sufficient. Writing out topic sentences is a good way to help organize your thoughts, and can be a good enough outline if you don’t have time to write one (We’ve been there!).

Final thoughts

If you’re still stuck after all of this, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Talk to your professor, a tutor, or a friend. Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone else look at your work with fresh eyes. They might see something you missed or be able to give you some feedback on how to improve. An essay writing service can also help to refine or edit your essay.