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7 Steps to Writing a Brilliant Essay

When most people have the task of writing an essay or paragraph, whether for college applications, TOEFL, IELTS, or class assignments, they cringe at the thought of preparing to write. As a teacher, I know every time I assign a writing assignment in class, most, if not all my students moan and groan about it. Writing an effective paragraph or essay could be a simple task if the writer considers it as following a formula or step-by-step process.

Step 1: Analyze the Question

The first and most important step is to analyze the prompt or question. The writer must fully understand what is being asked. Take time to read the question and process in your mind what you need to do to answer the question. Do you need to define, explain causes or effects, narrate a story in chronological order, or give your opinion about something? If the writer does not process what is required in the question and how to respond, an effective written response is highly unlikely.

Step 2: Write a Topic Sentence

Once the question is fully understood, the second step  is to write a topic sentence; it can be a paragraph or thesis statement if the assignment requires an essay response. A good topic sentence or thesis statement should contain part of the question in the answer. For example, if the prompt says, “What are the causes of obesity”, the topic sentence or thesis should read something like, “The main causes of obesity are poor eating habits, lack of exercise and hereditary factors.”

Step 3: Outline a Response

The third step is to outline or map the response in terms of main ideas and supporting details. For example, in the prompt stated above, the outline will have the three causes with explanations and examples for each. In the outline phase, there is no need for full sentences but rather words and phrases to keep the writer on track when developing the full version of the writing. To illustrate, for the first cause, poor eating habits, the writer would jot down under poor eating habits: eating high calorie foods, eating unhealthy foods late at night, and not including fruits and vegetables in one’s regular diet. Examples next to these items could include, hamburgers, french fries, candy bars and sugary cereals that have very little nutritional value. Each subsequent cause will have its own explanations and examples.

Step 4: Fill in the Outline with Complete Sentences

Once all the elements for the answer to the question is outlined and explained, the next step in the process is to take the outlined notes and write the ideas in complete sentences using appropriate transitions and signal words such as first, next, then, finally, for example, and to illustrate, therefore, in conclusion, etc. When each cause is fully discussed, you are ready for the next step, which is writing the introductory sentence or paragraph depending on the length of the writing.

Step 5: Create a Hook Sentence

In the fifth step, the writer needs an interesting opening sentence, which is often called a” hook” to begin the writing. For the example above about obesity, a hook could be: “compared to previous decades, the obesity rate in the United States has reached an all time high.” For an essay introduction, the writer would explain what obesity is and its ramifications and then end the introduction with the thesis sentence: “The main causes of obesity are poor eating habits, lack of exercise and hereditary factors.”

For a paragraph opening, a good “hook” could be, “Many more Americans are obese today than ever before. There are three common causes of obesity.”

Step 6: Fill in your Supporting Ideas & Create a Conclusion

Once the introduction is complete, you are ready to tackle the supporting ideas of the causes of obesity. Each cause will be explained and examples given for an essay, the writer will include more details and explanations in comparison to a paragraph, which will only touch on the supporting details and examples. Keep in mind, each detail is to echo (support) the main idea, which is causes of obesity.

When the introduction and supporting ideas are complete, you are ready for the conclusion. It is important to remember that the conclusion should never introduce a new topic to go off the main topic. The conclusion is basically a summary of the details discussed. The final thought could be a recommendation on how to prevent obesity or the importance of keeping a healthy diet.

Step 7: Final Review

When all the writing is complete, the final stage is to review your writing to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. You should also make sure all the details you have written are relevant to the topic and the sentences flow smoothly. It is helpful to read it once over for mistakes and leave it for a while so it will be less familiar the next time you look at it. You a can often find more mistakes with fresh eyes.

The essay below was produced by Claudia Parada Aria, a student currently enrolled in our TOEFL class, using the step by step method described above:

Causes of Obesity

By Claudia Parada Arias

Obesity is a disease that is characterized by excessive accumulation of fat in the body. It is considered a chronic disease because it progressively deteriorates the person, producing other diseases such as high blood pressure problems, diabetes, heart conditions, bone problems, etc. At present, this problem has grown considerably and has been considered a worldwide epidemic that has resulted in a large number of deaths associated with obesity-related problems. It is in this scenario that it is necessary to delve into the causes of obesity. The three main causes of obesity are poor eating habits, lack of exercise and hereditary factors.

First, one of the most common causes of obesity is poor eating habits. What we eat and the different schedules we use to feed ourselves are essential to have a healthy body that can meet daily requirements. However, in today’s world where everything is done very quickly and without rest, it is common to choose to eat in a disorderly way and unhealthy food. Preferring to eat food with high caloric indexes, eating unhealthy food at night and not including fruits, vegetables or legumes is an important factor that helps obesity and causes serious health problems. Some of these foods are: Burgers, candies, French fries, ice cream, high sugar cereals, etc.

Second, lack of exercise and sports is a cause that allows the development of obesity. The sedentary life, the excessive time in video games, televisions and computers, generate an environment that allows the development of a little active life and therefore with tendency to the excessive accumulation of fat. Physical exercise allows you to burn calories and prepare the body to better face the daily routine, however, currently the option of not doing sports and being inactive is a serious problem that causes different diseases and particularly helps to develop an obese body.

Third, there are hereditary factors that cause obesity. Each person and each body is different from each other, but we must consider that genetics plays a fundamental role in how we develop physically. For example, a recent investigation carried out by the American Diabetes Association, an institution that directs the initiative called Stop Diabetes, conducted a study where stem cell samples from umbilical cords of mothers with normal weights and obese mothers were used. These researchers found that babies of obese mothers had higher fat accumulation, compared to mothers whose weight was normal. They also concluded that children of obese parents are at greater risk of being obese and having metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

In conclusion, in today’s world, a technological world, where everything progresses very fast and there is no rest, it is common to encounter obesity problems. Obesity is a chronic disease that affects the lives of many people throughout the world, which is why it is necessary to analyze the various causes that cause this disease so that this way can be tackled and improve the quality of life of people. One of the main causes is poor eating habits such as eating food with high calories and at night. Another cause is the lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle that allow the development of an adequate environment for the proliferation of obesity. Finally, there are hereditary aspects to consider, since this will allow us to better face this disease.

Embrace Writing & Express your Thoughts & Imagination

These steps are basic suggestions for an effective writing sample. Writing can be fun and a great way to express ones’ thoughts and imagination. At Excel English Institute, writing is a separate class with its own full curriculum. Students are taught not to fear writing but to embrace their writing tasks methodically and systematically. The American writing system for writing English papers and such is very specific and should follow the main idea and supporting detail formula. If students utilize this method of writing, their next writing task may not seem to be as daunting, and it might actually be a pleasant experience. The next time you are faced with a writing assignment in English, follow the steps above, and you will get a better grade and might realize you actually like to write.

Write away, students!

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