This is dangerously wrong!
The primary reason to write an essay
If you want to have a life characterized by competence, productivity, security, originality and engagement rather than one that is nasty, brutish and short,
There is no difference between doing so and thinking, for starters. 知行合一
The person who can formulate and communicate the best argument almost always wins. 能够阐述和传达最佳论点的人几乎总是获胜的。
If you want a job, If you want a raise,If you are trying to convince someone of the validity of your idea,
You can sharpen your capacity to think and to communicate by writing
The pen is mightier than the sword. 笔锋利于剑!
Ideas change the world, particularly when they are written. 思想改变了世界，尤其是当它们被写下来的时候。
If you learn to write and to edit, you will also be able to tell the difference between good ideas, intelligently presented, and bad ideas put forth by murky and unskilled thinkers. 写作和修改可以帮助我们识别好的想法！
Those who can think and communicate are simply more powerful than those who cannot
If you can think and communicate, you can also defend yourself, and your friends and family, when that becomes necessary, and it will become necessary at various points in your life.
Finally, it is useful to note that your mind is organized verbally, at the highest and most abstract levels. 在最高和最抽象的层面上，你的思维是以口头方式组织起来的。
So, unless you want to stay an ignorant, unhealthy lightweight, learn to write (and to think and communicate). Otherwise those who can will ride roughshod over you and push you out of the way. 除非你想做一个无知的、不健康的轻量级人物，否则就要学会写作以及思考和交流。否则，那些有能力的人会欺负你，把你推开。
Don’t ever underestimate the power of words. 永远不要低估语言的力量。
So when you are writing an essay, you are harnessing the full might of culture to your life. 因此，当你写一篇文章时，你是在利用文化的全部力量来生活。
Forget that, and you are doing something stupid, trivial and dull. Remember it, and you are conquering the unknown. 逃避写作，你将限于做一些愚蠢、琐碎和无聊的事情；写作就是在征服未知。
People’s brains function better in the morning. Get up. 早起写作！
However, even 15 minutes can be useful, particularly if you do it every day. 然而，即使15分钟也很有用，特别是如果你每天都这样做的话。
Do not wait for a big chunk of free time to start. 不要等到一大块空闲时间才开始。
Realize that when you first sit down to write, your mind will rebel. It is full of other ideas, all of which will fight to dominate and attempt to distract you. 要意识到，当你第一次坐下来写作时，你的思想会叛逆。它充满了其他的想法，所有这些想法都将努力控制并试图分散你的注意力。
Such pesky demons can be squelched, however, with patience.
If you refuse to be tempted for fifteen minutes (25 on a really bad day) you will find that the clamor in your mind will settle down and you will be able to concentrate on writing. 如果你拒绝诱惑15分钟（在一个非常糟糕的日子里是25分钟），你会发现你心中的喧嚣会平息下来，你将能够集中精力写作。
If you do this day after day, you will find that the power of such temptations do not reduce, but the duration of their attempts to distract you will decrease.
You will also find that even on a day where concentration is very difficult, you will still be able to do some productive writing if you stick it out.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking you will write for six hours, either.
Three productive hours are way better than ten hours of self-deceptive nonproductivity, even in the library. 三个小时的高效写作比十个小时的低效率写作要好得多!
Words, sentences, paragraphs and more
As a rule of thumb, a paragraph should be made up of at least 10 sentences or 100 words. 一段十句，一句十词。
This might be regarded as a stupid rule, because it is arbitrary. However, you should let it guide you, until you know better. You have very little right to break the rules, until you have mastered them.
Here’s a little story taken in part from a document called the Codex Bezae 贝萨法典中的故事
Christ is walking down the road on the Sabbath 安息日, when good Jews of that time were not supposed to work. In the ditch, he sees a shepherd 牧羊人, trying to rescue a sheep from a hole that it has fallen into.
It is very hot and, clearly, the sheep will not be in very good shape if it spends a whole day in the desert sun. On the other hand, it is the Sabbath.
Christ looks at the shepherdand says,
“Man, if indeed thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed: but if thou knowest not, thou art cursed, and a transgressor of the law.”
Then he walks on down the road.
The point is this: There is a rest day for a reason. However, it is also not good to let a sheep die in the hot sun, when a few minutes of labor might save it.
If you are just a careless, ignorant, antisocial narcissist instead, however, then look out. You break a rule at your peril, whether you know it or not.
Rules are there for a reason. You are only allowed to break them if you are a master. 对高手来说：法无定法
So rules are conventions. Like all conventions, they are sometimes sub-optimal. But not very often.
So, to begin with, use the conventions. For example, aim to make your paragraphs about 10 sentences or 100 words long.
A paragraph should present a single idea, using multiple sentences. 一个段落表达一个意思
The fourth level of resolution: The Sequence of Paragraphs 段落的顺序
All of the paragraphs have to be arranged in a logical progression, from the beginning of the essay to the end.
Perhaps the most important step in writing an essay is getting the paragraphs in proper order. Each of them is a stepping stone to your essay’s final destination.
The fifth level of resolution: the essay, as a whole. 文章整体
There is no answer to their question, “exactly where did I make a mistake?” Such an essay is just not good.
Sometimes a creative person, who is not technically proficient as a writer, can make the opposite mistake:
because there are valuable thoughts trapped within it, wishing desperately to find expression.
An essay necessarily exists within a context of interpretation
Part of the purpose of the essay is to set your mind straight, but the other part, equally important, is to communicate with an audience.
You should also strive for
not be bored, or boring.
If you are bored by your essay,
Perhaps you are resentful about having to write the essay, or afraid of its reception, or lazy, or ignorant, or unduly and arrogantly skeptical, or something of the kind.
You have to place yourself in the correct state of mind to write properly. 进入写作的境界！
You must choose a topic that is important to you. 又绕回到选题！
It’s a moral, spiritual endeavour.
If you properly identify something of interest to you, then you have put yourself in alignment with the deeper levels of your psyche, your spirit. If these deeper levels do not want or need an answer to the question you have posed, you will not possibly be interested in it.
So the fact of your interest is evidence of the importance of the topic. You, or some part of you, needs the answer – and such needs can be deep enough so that life itself can depend upon them.
Qustion: “why live?”
It is not necessary to ensure that every question you try or essay to answer of that level of importance, but you should not waste your time with ideas that do not grip you. So, the proper attitude is interested and aesthetically sensitive.
Finished beats perfect. 不要奢求完美！
Most people fail because they don’t write at all, and get zeroes.
Zeroes are very bad. They are the black holes of numbers. Zeroes make you fail. Zeroes ruin your life.
Hand something in, regardless of how pathetic you think it is (and no matter how accurate you are in that opinion).
The central question that you are trying to answer with the essay is the topic question.
Here are some potentially interesting topic questions:
These are very general, abstract topics. That makes them philosophical.
Good topics do not have to be so general. 切口可以小一些！
Here are some good, more specific topics: What were the key events of Julius Caesar’s rule? What are the critical elements of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution? Is “The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway, an important book? How might Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud’s theory of the psyche be contrasted? How did Newton and Einstein differ in their conceptualization of time? Was the recent Iraq war just or unjust?
You can begin your essay writing process two different ways.
Put these in question form, as in the examples above.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
If you can’t do this, then you have to do some more reading 找不到研究问题？你需要阅读！
If you can’t write, it is because you have nothing to say. You have no ideas. In such a situation, don’t pride yourself on your writer’s block 写作障碍.
Read something. If that doesn’t work, read something else – maybe something better. Repeat until the problem is solved.
Indicate here what you have to or want to read. These should be books or articles, generally speaking.
If you don’t know what articles or books might be appropriate or useful, then you could start with Wikipedia articles or other encyclopedic sources, and look at their reference lists for ideas about further reading. These sources are fine as a beginning.
If you find someone whose writing is particularly interesting and appropriate, it is often very useful to see if you can find out what authors they admired and read. 按图索骥！
You can do this by noting who they refer to, in the text of their writings or in the reference list. You can meander productively through wide bodies of learning in this manner.
Assume you need 5-10 books or articles per thousand words of essay, unless you have been instructed otherwise.
A double-spaced page of typing usually contains about 250 words.
List your sources now, even if you have to do it badly. You can always make it better later.
Reading 1. Notes: (see next section for Notes on Notes): Reading 2. Notes: Reading 3. Notes: Reading 4. Notes: Reading 5. Notes:
Reading 6. Notes: Reading 7. Notes: Reading 8. Notes: Reading 9. Notes: Reading 10 (repeat if necessary). Notes (repeat if necessary):
A Psychological Note and some Notes on Notes.
While you are reading, see if you can notice anything that catches your attention.
You have to pay careful attention to your emotional reactions to do this.
You also want to take some notes. You can place your notes below the readings you listed above.
When you are taking notes, don’t bother doing stupid things like highlighting or underlining sentences in the textbook.
What you need to do is to read for understanding.
The most important part of learning and remembering is the recreation of what you have written in your own language.
If someone asks you about your day,
That is exactly what you are supposed to be doing when you take some notes during or after reading. After is often better. with the book closed,
If you find note-taking in this manner difficult, try this.
Take about two to three times as many notes, by word, as you will need for your essay. 根据你的论文需要，逐字记下大约两到三倍的笔记。
You might think that is inefficient, but it’s not.
Out of those notes you should be able to derive 8-10 topic questions. Do so. Remember, they can be edited later. Just get them down.
At this point you have prepared a list of topics, and a reading list. Now it’s time to choose a topic.
ENTER TOPIC HERE
Here’s another rule. When you write your first draft, it should be longer than the final version.
You want to have something to throw away after the first draft so that you only have to keep what is good.
It is NOT faster to try to write exactly as many words as you need when you first sit down to write.
Trying to do so merely makes you too aware of what you are writing. This concern will slow you down.
Aim at producing a first draft that is 25% longer than the final draft is supposed to be.
If your final work is to be 1000 words, then write that (or four pages) below. The word document will automatically add 25% to the length you specify.
Now specify the length of your essay.
WORDS: PAGES: ADD 25% TO THE ABOVE LENGTHS
Now you have to write an outline.
This is the most difficult part of writing an essay, and it’s not optional.
This is because it is difficult to keep an argument of more than that length in mind at one time so that you can assess the quality of its structure.
Here is an example of a good simple outline:
Here is an example of a good longer outline (for a three thousand word essay):
Beware of the tendency to write trite, repetitive and clichéd introductions and conclusions.
It is often useful to write a stock intro (what is the purpose of this essay? How is it going to proceed?) and a stock conclusion (How did this essay proceed? What was its purpose?). But they should usually then be thrown away.
Write your outline here. Try for one outline heading per 100 words of essay length. You can add subdivisions, as in the example regarding capitalism, above.
Write outline here:
So, now you have your outline. Copy it here:
OUTLINE COPIED HERE
Now, write ten to fifteen sentences per outline heading to complete your paragraph.
You may find it helpful to add additional subdivisions to your outline, and to work back and forth between the outline and the sentences, editing both. Use your notes, as well.
Don’t worry too much about:
That is all best left for the second major step, which is editing.
The second major step is editing.
Production (the first major step) and editing (the second) are different functions, and should be treated that way.
This is because each interferes with the other.
If you try to do both at the same time then the editing stymies the production. It’s not faster to combine them, nor is it better, and it is bound to be frustrating.
Here is an example of writing associated with an outline question:
THE 1st Outline sentence: How has capitalism been defined? Something as complex as capitalism cannot be easily defined. Different authors have each offered their opinion. Liberal or conservative thinkers stress the importance of private property and the ownership rights that accompany such property as key to capitalism (REFERENCE, 19XX). Such private property (including valuable goods and the means by which they are produced) can be traded, freely, with other property owners, in a market where the price is set by public demand, rather than by any central agency. Liberal and conservative thinkers stress efficiency of production, as well as quality, and consider profit the motive for efficiency. They believe that lower cost is a desirable feature of production, and that fair competition helps ensure desirably lower prices. To Continue
The World Socialist Movement (REFERENCE, 19XX), an international consortium of far left political parties, defines capitalism, by contrast, as ownership of the means of production by a small minority of people, the capitalist class, who profitably exploit the working class, the genuine producers, who must sell their ability to work for a salary or wage. Such socialists believe that it is profit that solely motivates capitalism, and that the profit motive is essentially corrupt. Modern environmentalists tend to add the natural world itself to the list of capitalist targets of exploitation (REFERENCE, 19XX). Thinkers on the right tend to regard problems emerging from the capitalist system as real, but trivial in comparison to those produced by other economic and political systems, real and hypothetical. Thinkers on the far left regard capitalism as the central cause of problems as serious as poverty, inequality and environmental degradation, and believe that there are other political and economic systems whose implementation would constitute an improvement.
It took two paragraphs to begin to address the first outline sentence.
Notice that the essay begins without referring to itself. It is better to tell the reader what the essay will be about and how the topic will be addressed than to meander around stupidly at the beginning of an essay, but it is still better to grab the reader’s attention immediately without beating around the bush.
Once you have completed ten to fifteen sentences for each outline heading, you have finished your first draft. Now it is time to move to editing.
Copy the first paragraph of your first draft here:
Now, place each sentence on its own line, so it looks like this (this example is taken from the first paragraph on capitalism, above):
Something as complex as capitalism cannot be easily defined. Different authors have each offered their opinion. Liberal or conservative thinkers stress the importance of private property and the ownership rights that accompany such property as key to capitalism (REFERENCE, 19XX). Such private property (including valuable goods and the means by which they are produced) can be traded, freely, with other property owners, in a market where the price is set by public demand, rather than by any central agency. Liberal and conservative thinkers stress efficiency of production, as well as quality, and consider profit the motive for efficiency. They believe that lower cost is a desirable feature of production, and that fair competition helps ensure desirably lower prices.
Now, write another version of each sentence, under each sentence, like this:
Liberal and conservative thinkers stress efficiency of production, as well as quality, and consider profit the motive for efficiency.
Liberal and conservative thinkers alike stress the importance of quality and efficiency, and see them as properly rewarded by profit.
In this example, the meaning of the sentence has been changed slightly, during the rewrite.
It may be that the second sentence flows better than the first, and is also more precise and meaningful.
See if you can make each sentence you have written better, in a similar manner:
An expert writer will spot such flaws immediately, and see them for what they are: forms of camouflage and deception.
Write clearly at a vocabulary level you have mastered (with maybe a bit of stretching, to produce improvement).
Read each sentence aloud, and listen to how it sounds. 大声地读出来，仔细听一下是否流畅
Once you have done this with all the sentences, read the old versions and the new versions, and replace the old with the new if the new is better.
Then copy the new paragraph here:
New paragraph 1: Repeat for each paragraph: New paragraph 2: New paragraph 3: New paragraph 4: New paragraph 5 (etc.):
Now you are going to try to improve each of those paragraphs.
Copy them again here, unchanged (you are doing this so that you can easily compare the improved paragraphs to the originals, so that you can be sure they are truly improved, before you keep them):
New paragraph 1 (copy): New paragraph 2 (copy): New paragraph 3 (copy): New paragraph 4 (copy): New paragraph 5 (copy) (etc.):
Start with paragraph 1.
When you are satisfied with the first paragraph (which means that the sentences are necessary, short and punchy, and in the correct order) then go ahead to the next paragraph and do the same thing.
Now, copy all of the new, improved paragraphs that you have edited here:
New improved paragraph 1: New improved paragraph 2: New improved paragraph 3: New improved paragraph 4: New improved paragraph 5 (etc.):
Now you are going to try to improve the order of those new, improved paragraphs. Copy them here, again, unchanged.
New improved paragraph 1 (copy): New improved paragraph 2 (copy): New improved paragraph 3 (copy): New improved paragraph 4 (copy): New improved paragraph 5 (copy) (etc.):
Now look at the order of the paragraphs themselves (as you just did with the sentences within each paragraph).
So, move around the new improved paragraph (copies) above, until they are ordered more appropriately than they were.
So now you should have produced a pretty decent second draft.
You have identified the appropriate sources, written the proper notes, outlined your argument, roughed in a first draft (paragraph by paragraph), rewritten your sentences to make them more elegant, and re-ordered those sentences, as well as the paragraphs themselves. This is much farther than most writers ever get.
You may even think you’re finished – but you’re not.
The next step will take you from a “B” essay to an “A” essay. It may even help you write something that is better than you have ever produced (better meaning richer in information, precise, coherent, elegant and beautiful).
Copy what you have written so far here:
FULL RE-ORDERED ESSAY HERE
Read it. Then go to the next page.
This part of the process will probably strike you as unnecessary, or annoying, or both, but what do you know? This is the step that separates the men from the boys, or the women from the boys, or the men from the girls, or whatever version of this saying is acceptably non-sexist and politically correct.
You have just finished reading your essay. Try now to write a new outline of ten to fifteen sentences.
Don’t look back at your essay while you are doing this. If you have to, go back and re-read the whole thing, and then return to this page, but don’t look at your essay while you are rewriting the outline. If you force yourself to reconstruct your argument from memory, you will likely improve it.
Generally, when you remember something, you simplify it, while retaining most of what is important.
Thus, your memory can serve as a filter, removing what is useless and preserving and organizing what is vital. What you are doing now is distilling what you have written to its essence.
Write new outline here:
1. New outline sentence 1: 2. New outline sentence 2: 3. New outline sentence 3: 4. New outline sentence 4: 5. New outline sentence 5: 6. New outline sentence 6: 7. New outline sentence 7: 8. New outline sentence 8: 9. New outline sentence 9: 10. New outline sentence 10 (repeat if necessary):
Now that you have a new outline, you can cut and paste material from your previous essay.
You may find that you don’t need everything you wrote before. Don’t be afraid to throw unnecessary material away. You are trying to get rid of what is substandard, and leave only what is necessary.
Once you have finished cutting and pasting your old material into the new outline, then copy the new essay, and paste it into a new word document. That will be your final essay. Don’t forget to put a title page on it.
PASTE NEWLY OUTLINED ESSAY HERE:
Now you have a third draft, and it’s probably pretty good.
If you really want to take it to the next level, then you can repeat the process of sentence rewriting and re-ordering, as well as paragraph re-ordering and re-outlining.
Often it is a good idea to wait a few days to do this, so that you can look at what you have produced with fresh eyes.
Then you will be able to see what you have written, instead of seeing what you think you wrote (which is the case when you try to edit immediately after producing).
You are not genuinely finished until you cannot edit so that your essay improves. Generally, you can tell if this has happened when you try to rewrite a sentence (or a paragraph) and you are not sure that the new version is an improvement over the original.
When you write a sentence that contains what is supposed to be a fact or at least an informed opinion, and you have picked it up from something you read, then you have to refer to that source.
There are a large number of conventions that you can follow to properly structure your references and your bibliography (which is a list of books and articles that you have read to obtain relevant background information, but from which you may not have drawn any ideas specific enough to require a reference).
The conventions of the American Psychological Association (APA) are commonly used by essay writers.
This convention generally requires the use of the last names of the authors of the source in parentheses after the sentence requiring a reference.
It is necessary to add a reference after a sentence containing an opinion which is not your own, or a fact that you have acquired from some source material (Peterson, 2014).
This sentence could also be constructed like this:
Peterson (2014) claims that it is necessary to add a reference after a sentence containing an opinion which is not your own, or a fact that you have acquired from some source material.
There are also many conventions covering the use of a direct quote, which have to be followed when you directly quote someone, rather than paraphrasing them. Here is an example, adding the specific (fictional) number of the page containing the quoted material in the original manuscript:
Peterson (2014, p. 19) claims that “the conventions of the American Psychological Association (APA) are commonly used by essay writers.”
In the Reference List, at the end of the essay, Peterson’s paper might be listed, as follows (this is a fictional reference):
Peterson, J.B. (2014). Essay writing for writers. Journal of Essay Writing, 01, 15-24.
Different conventions hold for different types of source material such as webpages, books, and articles. All the details regarding APA style can be found at http://www.apastyle.org/
Your instructor may have recommended, or demanded, use of a different set of conventions. Information about other techniques and rules can be found at http://www.easybib.com/reference/guide/mla/general.
It is necessary to master at least one convention. The rules are finicky and annoying. However, they are necessary, so that readers know what writers are up to. Furthermore, you only have to learn them once, so bite the bullet and do it.
Copy your essay here again.
Add references where they are necessary. Then, add your reference list to the end of your essay. Make sure you construct both according to APA convention, or some other set of rules.
YOUR COMPLETED ESSAY
Now your essay is completed. Now you need to copy it into a new Word document, and format it properly.
That generally means double-spaced, with a title page, with a five space tab indent at the beginning of each paragraph.
If you want to add subtitles, or section headers, their use is discussed in detail at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ .
If you got this far, good work. If you write a number of essays using this process, you will find that your thinking will become richer and clearer, and so will your conversation. There is nothing more vital to becoming educated, and there is nothing more vital than education to your future, and the future of those around you.
Good luck with your newly organized and refreshed mind.