An informative essay educates the reader on a topic. You will have to know a lot about the subject and convey the information in a clear and organized way. If it seems overwhelming at first, remember to take it step by step. Working methodically can help you write a successful essay, and you might even enjoy the process!
Part 1 of 3: Selecting and Researching Your Topic
Step 1. Understand the task
If you are writing the essay for school, confirm the required length and any parameters regarding the topic. This helps determine how much information you will need to gather and present. First review your syllabus and any assignments or homework sheets; if you still need clarification, ask your teacher.
- Make sure you know how your teacher wants you to cite sources so that you can monitor what you research. Some schools provide reference software such as EndNote or RefWorks, which can make it easier to collect and monitor research sources.
- Be aware of any formatting requirements. The essay prompt will often tell you things like whether the essay should be handwritten or typed, and what type and size of font to use. If it doesn't, the safe option is a standard 12-point human-readable font, such as Times New Roman or Arial. Avoid using "cute" or unconventional fonts in an academic essay unless you have been given specific permission to do so.
- Be aware of the delivery date! Start early so that you have plenty of time to finish the essay.
Step 2. Choose a topic
If the topic has not yet been assigned to you, you will need to select your own topic. It's easy to get bogged down in this step if you have a wide range of options, so take your time and follow a few rules of thumb:
- The topic should not be too broad or too narrow. Read How to write an essay for more information. There should be enough information about the topic you are writing about, but not so much that you cannot present clear and concise information. For example, writing about the history of animal shelters is likely to be too broad, while the history of the Happy Days animal shelter in District X is probably too narrow. A fair half could be the history of breed-specific animal shelters in the country.
- The topic should be appropriate and interesting for your audience. Think about who might read your essay beforehand. Obviously, if it's for school, your teacher is your main audience, but you should always have a target audience in mind. What will they want to know? What is it that they probably don't know yet that your essay will provide them?
- Ideally, the topic should be one that interests you. This will make the writing process much easier and you can convey your enthusiasm to the reader.
Step 3. Do a good research
This is especially important for an informational essay, where you have to impart accurate information. Be very careful to use objective sources written by experts in the field. A librarian can best help you find reliable sources of information, such as relevant encyclopedias, books, magazines, and websites. Be careful when using the Internet, including websites like Wikipedia, as many pages are full of unreliable content.
For best results, try to find online sources from reputable organizations, government agencies, and universities. Google Scholar can be a good place to start
Step 4. Take notes as you investigate
Use a blank sheet of paper or a notebook to write down interesting facts that you read. Alternatively, you can type notes on a computer. Regardless of what you choose, find a way to keep all your rehearsal notes in the same place.
For your informational essay, you will need an introduction, at least three main points, and a conclusion. You may want to create these sections and write your notes under each section where they should go
Step 5. Monitor your sources
Know in advance what information you will need when citing sources. Generally, you will need to include the author (s), title, publisher, copyright information, and website address (if applicable).
Step 6. Brainstorm
When you feel like you've gathered enough material in your research, brainstorming will help you put the information into relevant groups and see the connections between them.
- Make an idea map. Circle the topic in the center of a sheet of paper, and then write down the most important pieces of information or ideas related to it in circles surrounding the topic. Draw lines that connect each idea to the topic. Then add details around each idea, circling them and drawing lines to show connections. There may also be lines connecting ideas to each other or between secondary details.
- Make a list. If you prefer the linear format of a list, write the topic at the top and then, below it, write down any ideas you have. Below the ideas, add additional details to support them. Don't worry about placing them in a specific order; that comes later.
- Practice free writing. Free writing can help you generate ideas, even if it doesn't usually provide refined prose that you will use in your final draft. Set a short time limit, like 15 minutes, and then write down whatever comes to mind on the subject. Don't stop to edit or change the spelling and keep typing, even if you're not sure you have something to say. The important thing is to write for that full 15 minutes.
Part 2 of 3: Summarize
Step 1. Plan an introduction with a hook
You should have an idea that you want to present in your thesis statement, which is typically two to three sentences long and articulates your general argument.
- Don't worry that the thesis is perfectly fine at this point; that comes later. If you don't feel ready to write your thesis, make a few notes in the introductory part of the abstract. At the very least you need to have some idea of what you want to say in the essay.
- While it may seem strange to summarize your essay before you have started, writing your thesis at the beginning of the abstract will help you organize your ideas and select the most important details you want to present.
Step 2. Use a main supporting detail for each paragraph in the body of the essay
The body of the essay is the part between the introductory paragraph and the concluding paragraph. Select main details of your research that demonstrate your general thesis (from the previous step).
- The amount of detail you use will depend on the length of the essay: if you're writing a five-paragraph essay, you have three body paragraphs, so you'll need three main ideas.
- Make sure you choose the most important details and that they are all different from each other.
- The details that are used to support your thesis are also called the "evidence."
Step 3. Add supporting details for each paragraph in the body
Now that you have identified the main point for each paragraph, write down smaller supporting details that help the reader understand the main idea of the paragraph. These may include examples, facts, quotes, or more in-depth explanations.
Make sure you have enough supporting details for each paragraph. If you don't have enough to say about the main topic of the paragraph, consider changing the topic or combining it with another paragraph. Alternatively, you can do a little more research to find additional supporting details for the paragraph
Step 4. Restate the thesis at the conclusion
The conclusion summarizes what you have already said and brings a new level of nuance or sophistication to your original thesis. Think of it as your final chance to make sure the reader understands what you've written.
Part 3 of 3: Writing the Essay
Step 1. Write a first draft
Using the summary as a guide, flesh out your notes into full paragraphs.
- Don't worry about mistakes or misspellings. Remember that this is only a first draft, not your final copy. Just focus on scoring and then you can correct the mistakes.
- Write the first draft by hand or on the computer; whatever is easiest for you.
Step 2. Give each paragraph a topic sentence
The topic sentence, often the first sentence in each paragraph, tells the reader the main idea of the paragraph. It can also serve as a transition between the main idea in the previous paragraph and the main idea in the next paragraph.
- For example, a topic or transition sentence might look like this: "While some factories allow unionized work, others, such as those in X, argue that unionization hurts the workplace." This sentence provides clear direction for the paragraph (some factories argue against unionization) and connects it to the previous paragraph (which probably dealt with pro-union factories).
- Remember: each paragraph needs unity (a single central idea), a clear relationship to the thesis, coherence (logical relationship of ideas within the paragraph) and development (ideas that are clearly explained and supported).
Step 3. Structure the essay in parts
Your essay will need, at a minimum, an introductory paragraph, a body, and a conclusion. Each body paragraph must follow the statement + evidence + explanation formula. Use supporting details and your own ideas to expand on the topic or idea in the paragraph.
Make sure you are clear about the idea of each paragraph. To stay on track, refer to your summary as you write
Step 4. Edit the first draft
Read your first draft a few times and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you told the reader everything you had to say on the subject?
- Do you have a clear thesis statement expressed in two to three sentences?
- Are all your paragraphs related to the thesis?
- Does each paragraph have a main idea supported by precise and objective details?
- Does your conclusion summarize your ideas on the topic without adding new information or opinions?
- How does the essay flow? Are there clear and logical transitions between paragraphs?
- Have you used clear and concise prose and avoided flowery language?
- Did the reader learn anything new from the essay? Is it presented in an interesting way?
- Have you cited the sources as indicated by your teacher?
Step 5. Write the final draft
After you've made notes on your first draft, transform it into a final draft. If you've worked hard on your first draft, turning it into the final draft shouldn't be that difficult.
When writing the final draft, monitor in particular for consistency. Early drafts often have all the ideas scrambled without a clear and logical progression. A key difference between a first draft and a final draft is that the final draft should present the information in a fluent, clear, and easy-to-read way that builds on the above points as you go. It will help you to be vigilant to make sure you have followed the statement + evidence + explanation formula
Step 6. Finish your language
Once you've arranged all of your paragraphs in a logical progression, you can turn your attention to your language decisions. Read the essay out loud, listening for any parts that sound strange or inelegant. Correct them.
You should also be on the lookout for "word echoes," or words that appear many times in the space of a few sentences or paragraphs. If you use the word "argue" multiple times in the same paragraph, it will make your writing appear clumsy and unrefined
Step 7. Review your final draft
Mistakes can happen, so be sure to give your final draft one last read, checking for spelling and grammar errors.