You have an essay due in two weeks!

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Should you dive right in and get started?

While it's good to get moving as soon as possible, taking time to PREPARE will set you up for success!

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📝 Identify The Requirements

It's essential to carefully review the assignment directions so you know what the teacher expects from the essay.

Batman Slapping Robin: So I'm going to get right to it; Read the directions first!

Make note of:

The Topic

What will you be writing about?


Are you being asked to describe, explain, compare & contrast, provide examples?

Other Requirements

  • Length (# of pages or words)

  • Number of sources required

It's a good idea to print the assignment question. Then take time to highlight topic words and underline instructions. This will help you stay on track.

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An assignment question, with the text

📝 Do Your Research

Even if the assignment asks you to state your opinion, you'll need to do some research to learn more about the topic and back up your ideas.

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📚 Gather your materials: books, articles, videos, class notes

👀 Read/review them

📒 Take notes

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There are many ways to take notes:

  • Google or Word doc if you prefer typing

  • On paper if you prefer to write by hand

  • On index cards if you prefer to rearrange your ideas when it's time to write

Want to learn more about note taking? Check out these Bytes:

How to take research notes

The benefits of taking handwritten notes

📝 Form A Thesis

Now that you're more familiar with the topic, it's time to plan the main argument you're going to make in the essay.

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thesis is a sentence that sums up the central point of your essay. It should clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

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Kiki's assignment: Write an essay taking a position on whether zoos are harmful or beneficial to animals and why. Provide at least 3 reasons that support your stance.

Kiki's thesis: Zoos are beneficial to many animals and allow them to live longer, healthier lives.

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Zack's assignment: Many cities are in favor of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Which of these statements could Zack use as a thesis?

a. Christopher Columbus was a great Italian explorer of the 1400s who was determined to find a direct water route from Europe to Asia.

b. Columbus Day should be replaced with Indigenous People's Day because it celebrates a man who was immoral and committed evil acts against Indigenous people.

c. Columbus Day should remain a holiday, but we should also establish a new holiday to honor Indigenous people who live in the US.

d. Many countries throughout the world celebrate holidays to honor Indigenous people who live within their borders.


Which of these would be an appropriate thesis? Choose all that apply.

📝 Gather Your Thoughts

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Now you need to connect your thoughts and notes to your thesis. One way to do this is with a mind map.

A mind map is a diagram for representing tasks, words, concepts, or items linked to and arranged around a central concept or subject. A mind map can turn a long list of monotonous information into a colorful, memorable and highly organized diagram that works in line with your brain's natural way of doing things .

To make a mind map:

  • Write your thesis in the middle.

  • Add supporting ideas* around it.

  • Add details off of each supporting idea

* You can also add opposing views. Seeing the other side can help you find any weaknesses in your argument.

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Here's a brief mind map based on Kiki's thesis.

Kiki's thesis is in the middle. Main points radiate off of the thesis, and additional details radiate off of the main points.

Want to learn more about mind mapping? Check out this Byte:

Learn to use a mind map to generate an idea

📝 Make An Outline

It's time to start putting your argument together! Lay out your argument with bullet points so that you can see the flow of your essay.

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An outline should include:

  • Introduction: Catch your reader's attention with an interesting opening, give them some background info on the topic, and then finish with your thesis statement.

  • Body: 3 relevant points that support your thesis, each expanded with supporting details.

  • Conclusion: A summary of your argument and a strong closing statement.

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Kiki's outline might look something like this:

Notebook showing outline that includes introduction, opening sentence, thesis, the first main point with 3 support points


What else is needed in the outline above? (Select all that apply).

Take Action

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You're ready to begin writing your essay!

You'll be thrilled to see how easy everything flows once you've done your prep work.

Check out more Bytes that can help you up your essay game:


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