Essay writing steps

Stepping stones in water

Writing a successful university essay is easier if you follow these essay writing steps. Build your essay writing confidence by working through the steps to complete a sample essay. (Note: this is not the only way to write an essay. You may encounter other approaches that can work well).

Choose an essay topic

You may have to choose an essay topic from a list of alternatives. If you do, here are three questions to ask yourself.

Dissect your essay topic

Identify the key instructions in your topic to help you focus your answer.

Rewrite the essay question

Write the question so it makes sense to you and becomes easier to answer.

Begin gathering broad ideas

Turn to your readings to gather relevant ideas and to eliminate the irrelevant.


List all the relevant ideas you find, then sort and organize them. The emerging patterns can provide a shape for your argument.

Develop a thesis

What’s your answer? And can you tell me in one sentence?

Read to support your thesis

Your thesis needs an argument and evidence to support it. Here’s an example.

Draw a mind map

Find relationships between ideas and evidence to help build your argument. This sample mind map needs your help to complete it.

Write an essay proposal

Put the ideas, argument and evidence together to plan your essay.

Draft your introduction

A draft introduction acts like a mini essay answer. It helps you establish control over your work. Here is an interactive sample.

Write a first draft of the essay

Now you are ready for a full first draft. It’s good you have all the pieces ready to put into place.

Read the essay through carefully checking for problems

No essay is perfect on a first draft. This sample is full of mistakes to help you identify things to check.

Write the second draft

Now the sample is nearly finished. This version shows you the key features of a completed essay.

Proofread what you have written

This is a final check, for all those fussy details.