- By Jason Bacot
- Published 11/29/2010
Sometimes you’ll be assigned a college essay and you’ll have very detailed instructions about what it should contain and how it should be structured. But other times, you’ll have to write a college essay without much guidance other than perhaps a list of possible topics. If you have to write an essay but don’t know where to begin, here is an explanation of what elements a solid essay should contain. 1. It needs an introduction that culminates in a thesis statement. The first sentence of your introduction should be a fairly broad statement about your topic. If, for example, you’re writing an essay about the Socratic Method, your first sentence might be something like, “The Socratic Method is a way of defining and examining truths and determining their consistency with commonly held beliefs.” Your next sentences should develop this topic and come to a specific statement that your essay will focus on: your thesis statement. An example thesis statement here might be something like, “Teachers in law school use the Socratic method to play ‘devil’s advocate’ in order to force students to learn to successfully defend their positions and learn proper rebuttal techniques.”
2. It should lay out facts coherently. Each paragraph in the body of your essay should put forth the facts and the information necessary to support your thesis. In general, a college essay will have three to five paragraphs covering the facts th
at support your thesis. Your facts may include relevant historical information, factual information from your coursework, and information gathered from outside sources. Be sure you have resources to back up your facts and arguments. Each paragraph should be about one basic fact, and it should analyze that fact, connecting it to the topic at hand and not just regurgitate information from your course materials. Your instructor wants to see that you have gone a bit beyond what you’ve been specifically taught and are capable of developing your own ideas. 3. It should come to a valid and reasonable conclusion based on the facts you have laid out. Your final paragraph should be a reflection of your introductory paragraph, only in reverse. Your concluding paragraph should start with a restatement of your thesis statement. From there, the concluding paragraph should broaden outward logically. Your essay should end with a more general statement that is a reflection and restatement of your opening sentence.
These are only general guidelines, and if your instructor tells you differently, you should follow those instructions in order to get high marks on your essay. Keep in mind the overall goal of any essay, which is to explore a specific topic and make arguments in a concise manner. Your essay should state its position clearly, lay out your arguments concisely, and come to a logical conclusion based on those arguments. Stay on-topic, edit and proofread thoroughly, and you should be on your way to a good grade with your college essay.