Many students ask how to start off an essay. The common question is “Is it better to start with writing the introduction, or it should be written later when the rest of the work is ready?” My common answer to such questions is that it does not matter because writing does not start with writing at all. It starts with reading the instructions!
Nowadays, professors present detailed written requirements and considering them is a must even if you believe you have heard all of the professor’s recommendations during the class. Do not try your luck and, most importantly, do not waste your time writing something the professor has not asked for.
Only when you have got a clear vision of what has to be done, you can come down to making research.
Depending on the instructions, ‘research’ may take the form of reading a chapter, recollecting your personal experience, or finding reliable or even peer-reviewed sources to support a claim. Having clear instructions in mind guides your research and saves your time. You may view the example of how the instructions affect the research efforts here.
Tip: Having many sources in the references list is not proof of good research. Do not look for too many sources hoping to choose the best of them later – writing the paper, you will have to read all the texts scrupulously, so do not complicate the task and do not confuse yourself.
When you have read the instructions and made research, the next step is thinking of a paper structure. Some instructions have clear demands concerning the structure, some – don’t. Nevertheless, it does not mean that the paper may have no structure. Unless your task is to answer the questions, the paper needs an Introduction finishing with a Thesis, Body paragraphs, and a Conclusion. You may find out more about the demands to essay structure in this post.
You may not necessarily have a detailed outline, but you need to know what information you will use in which section. On this stage you may see the need to make a precise search for the information you lack, e.g. some effective quotation to include in the Introduction or an opposing opinion to refute in the body paragraph.
Have the paper in your head now? Come down to writing!
Have a plan, a position, and necessary sources, but still confused about how to present them? Come down to writing! The golden rule, “begun is half done”, works perfectly well in relation to writing. Of course, if you do not start with writing itself…