How to Write Essays Like a PhD
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How To Write a Perfect Essay Like a PhD

In 2017, 39% of high school students taking the ACT lacked the English skills necessary to successfully complete a college course. After college, 44% of hiring managers say recent grads still lack writing proficiency

Essay writing may be a pain, but it’s an important step toward getting your dream job

Before You Begin:

Review the requirements
Follow all assignment guidelines, including rubrics and examples
Determine the essay type
Narrative: Tells a real-life story

College application usually ask for narrative essays

Write as vividly as possible and build toward a conclusion
This is the only type of essay you’ll write in the first person (using “I”)
Expository: Explains or defines a topic

Includes compare & contrast, cause & effect, and “how-to” questions

Present a balanced analysis of the topic
Use facts, statistics, and examples ㄧ avoid emotional appeals
Persuasive: Convinces the reader to believe or do something

Answers a question by taking a side or defending a position

Build a case using facts, logic, examples, and expert opinions
Present all sides, but clearly explain why one position is correct
Develop a topic

Narrower is better─Go deeper into a single point and how it affects the whole

Explore background information
Read any required texts closely
Form a working thesis (topic sentence) to guide your research

The perfect essay doesn’t come from how you write, but what you read

Research & Analysis:

Pick the Right Sources
Determine the author’s credibility
Is the author respected in their field?
Do they cite their sources?
Are they presenting a neutral, objective view of a topic?

A little author bias is okay, but your sources shouldn’t all have the same slant

Decide whether the source is appropriate
Is it published in a peer-reviewed journal or a reputable institution?
Does it contain the information needed for a proper citation?
Was the article published within the last 5 years?

Some fields, like sciences, change rapidly and will require more recent sources

Read closely & take notes

Close reading allows you to either:
Report the author’s content accurately
Use key elements as background for an argument

As you read, make note of:
Terms to look up
Questions for further research

At the end of each chapter or article, write a brief summary of what you’ve read
Always write notes in your own words to avoid accidental plagiarism
Analyze the evidence

Let your notes sit for a few days to get a fresh perspective for analysis

Review notes and any new connections or thoughts
Analyze the biases of each source and author
Evaluate which evidence best supports your thesis
Consider opposing viewpoints

Professional writers, more than anyone, spend time revising and editing their work

Writing & Revising

Create an outline


Get your readers’ attention
Give context with relevant background information

Thesis statement should:
Present a thesis of 1 or 2 sentences
Present the topic of your paper
Comment on your position or argument

To make your thesis statement more specific, use conjunctions that indicate the relationship between ideas, such as “although” or “because”


Determine the best order for your ideas

Depending on the topic, order ideas based on:
Cause and effect
Restate your thesis
Summarize your main points
End with an interesting final statement

Write Your Essay

Use your outline as a guide to develop paragraphs
Include evidence from your research to back up your arguments
Cite your sources

Each discipline specifies a style for citations, but what to cite remains the same

What needs to be cited?

Quotations: Copied text identical to the original
Paraphrases: Longer sections put into your own words
Summaries: Restatement of the main idea(s) from a source

Edit, Review, Revise

Common grammatical errors:

Spelling errors & Incorrect homophones
Solution: Always proofread; spell-check won’t catch everything

Run-on sentences
Solution: Add a comma followed by a conjunction

Misusing commas
Solution: Add commas to separate interrupting phrases

Solution: Replace phrases with words that are more specific

Passive vs. active voice
Passive voice sounds more formal, but can be difficult to decipher
E.g. The ball was kicked by him
Active voice is more direct and easier to understand
E.g. He kicked the ball
Solution: Use a mix of passive and active sentence for the best result, but aim for less than 20% passive voice

[Incorrect] “When writing essays good grammar ought to be considered very important you should defiantly ask, someone, to proofread you’re work.”

[Correct] “When writing essays, good grammar is essential, so you should definitely ask someone to proofread your work.”

Common structural mistakes:

Burying the thesis statement
Solution: Place your thesis statement at the end of the introduction

Introduction is a summary of the essay
Solution: Draw in readers’ attention with a just hint of what’s to come

Conclusion introduces new information
Solution: Revisit your thesis and summarize your arguments

From your first college application to doctoral dissertation, knowing how to write a good essay is essential for success

perfect essay