An essay can be seen in the university as a mixture of housework and discussion. It follows a clear structure and deals with a clearly defined topic, a question or a problem. Compared to other genres, it is noticeable that an essay contains a personal opinion and often looks at the topic from a subjective point of view.
At the university, students learn to write essays, especially in humanities subjects. This requires some practice, since the essay structurally and substantively follows clear rules that must be known to the author. In any case, it is a treatise that – roughly described – has a “witty content” and discusses it quite briefly, but nevertheless with a high level of sophistication. The aim of the essay is to discuss a specific topic or problem, to reflect and justify the author’s opinion, and to give the reader food for thought as to the topic being dealt with. The essay follows clear rules and has a clear structure, so this will be briefly explained below.
The introduction serves as an introduction to the topic to be dealt with. It makes sense to explain why this topic has been chosen and which problems are associated with it. In this context, it can be helpful to pick up current events. Such “hangers” generally make it much easier to get started on the topic to be dealt with and help the reader to grasp the problem and to create concrete references to the lifeworld.
Determine the topic and explain the problem
The topic can either be chosen freely or specified by the lecturer. In any case, an essay deals with a problem, an empirical or scientific problem, a contentious question or similar circumstances. As a student you have a wide range of possible topics at your disposal. You should choose the content of your essay wisely. The topics that interest you should be considered. If the topic is specified by the lecturer, you must of course arrange with this.
As a rule, the topic choice is justified in the introduction. How you do this is completely up to you – even anecdotes or other exhilarating explanations for taking up the topic are possible. You should want to use the introduction to animate the reader to read your essay.
The main part
This part is the centerpiece of your essay and in this you will deal with the topic described above. It contains three to five logical arguments for the thesis. To do this, you should explain key statements and definitions that are related to your topic – be sure to take multiple perspectives and not stick to a single point of view.
The aim of the main part is to justify and / or substantiate positions or theses. In doing so, you should not only analyze your own assumptions, theses and opinions, but also other people – those of scientists who have dealt with the topic. In the end, it does not matter what your point of view is, as long as you can substantiate it with examples and justifications. Of course, it is important to mention and critically consider prevailing opinions.
Look at the topic from several perspectives
The aim of the essay is not to make a scientifically sound statement, but to look at the topic from several perspectives and to justify the chosen position logically and conclusively. This ultimately aims to familiarize the reader with the chosen topic and give it food for thought. If, after reading your essay, the reader continues to engage with the topic, you have reached your goal.
Many students find it hard to justify their own thoughts and explain them logically. This can be achieved by structuring one’s own thoughts and then looking at them from a neutral point of view. For this purpose, “mind maps” and similar structuring methods are quite helpful – they show connections between individual thoughts and opinions. It is recommended that you create such a mind map before you begin to write your essay.
The final section is not intended to recount the aforementioned arguments. Much more should be written an opinion on the chosen topic. However, you should make sure that this does not make a conclusive statement. Much more, it should be balancing and show other issues that arise from your essay. Please keep in mind that you want to animate the reader to engage in and engage with the subject. It is not expedient to make a definitive statement like “XY says Z.”. Instead, try to weigh up the considerations of the main part – “Using X and Y, we find that Z and A are in relationship B, which, however, would be discussed further.”. Of course, it is not enough to replace the variables with aspects of your topic.
Tips for writing an essay
In an essay, no subheadings are used and the sections are separated by paragraphs. A contentwise division into several sections does not take place. Your essay should therefore consist of only three sections – Introduction, Main section and conclusion.
Sources, unlike most scientific papers, are not given in footnotes. It is sufficient to create a list of references and sources. Nevertheless, foreign ideas, thoughts and statements should be clearly identified as such. Indirect speech is used for this, and direct speech is out of place in an essay.
No logical structure of the arguments
The arguments in the main section should be logically structured and not arbitrary. Make a logical and understandable transition between the arguments, while all opinions and thoughts should be substantiated by the arguments mentioned.
Create a schedule
Writing an essay creates work. However, it is also an activity that can be enjoyable because personal opinion can be reproduced and explained. For this reason, essays are quite popular among students – they provide a place for subjective engagement with exciting topics and train the students’ argumentative skills. So you do not lose the joy of writing essays, you should set a schedule. An essay that has to be written in a very short time, as the deadline is threateningly close, will not be of good quality – and will not cause any joy for the writer.
Watch your language
An essay should be understandable and the language should not be banal – it has to stand out from the everyday language. In order to support the validity of their arguments, you can fall back on a variety of linguistic means. Using such stylistic devices greatly enhances your essay and creates true reading pleasure for the reader. It also helps to illustrate their thoughts, theses and justifications.