Essay Writing Help

Your essay should have
  • An introduction
  • 3-5 body paragraphs
  • A conclusion

Before you write, you should

1. Decide what your contention will be
2. Brainstorm
3. Plan

Both brainstorming and planning are incredibly important and will help you write faster and easier and with more depth, more detail and more structure. Remember: more depth, more detail and more structure = more marks!

Decide what your contention will be

  • Before you start to write, you need to decide what your contention will be. Your contention is what you believe / what you are arguing.


  • On a blank piece of paper or on your computer, write down all the things you might include in the essay.
  • Consider:
    • Can your main contention be broken down into sections?
      • If you can already see how your main contention can be broken into sections, write down these sections and brainstorm under each section.
      • If the question can’t be easily broken down at the beginning, brainstorm under the whole question.
    • Are there any key terms you need to define?
    • Are any statements or facts made in the question that you might need to explain, prove, or disagree with?
    • Which characters could you talk about?
    • Which events could you talk about?
    • If the question includes a quote, but does not say who said it, or to who, or when, should you explain?
    • What quotes might you use?
  • You may wish to spend 30 minutes or more simply on brainstorming.
  • Don’t start to question these ideas yet.
  • Don’t think about what order you might write them in or if an idea or concept is enough to fill up a paragraph.
  • Just write down everything you can think of that is related to that question.


  • Read over your brainstorm
  • Identify and select three to five key ideas. Each idea will be a separate body paragraph within your essay.
  • This might be:
    • A separate paragraph for each section of the question
    • A separate paragraph for each of characters you want to write about in relation to that question
  • Decide which order you will write about the key ideas in. You may wish to write about major characters first and minor characters second.
  • Consider: if you need to define any key terms, will you be able to define these in the introduction or should you define them in your first body paragraph?
  • Consider: if you need to explain who said a quote, to whom, what they meant, and when they said it in the novel, will you be able to do this in the introduction or should you explain this in your first body paragraph?


  • You should try to use the BIP structure in your introduction:
  • B – Book – one sentence introducing the Book or the central theme of the Book that you are focusing on
    I – Idea – One sentence explaining the central idea or contention of your essay (your major point)
    P- Paragraphs – One sentence for each paragraph explaining what you will argue in that paragraph
  • In your introduction you may also choose to include:
    • A definition of any key terms in the question
    • If the question contained a quote, you may need to explain who said it, to whom, when they said it and what they meant
  • Do not use “I”, “I think”, “I believe” or “in my opinion”. The reader will know that what you are writing is your opinion, what you think and what you believe.
  • If you find it hard to begin writing your essay without the words “I believe…” or “I think…” then think these words, but start writing after them.
  • Similarly, do not use "my contention is" The reader will know a statement is your contention.
  • Do not use "this essay will" or "in this essay". Simply state your contention, followed by the key points you will make, possibly separated by firstly, secondly, thirdly.

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should deal with a different idea

  • Each body paragraph should deal with a different idea. For example, you may wish to have a different paragraph for:
    • The different characters you wish to write about
    • Different sections of the novel
    • Different points you wish to make

When writing your body paragraphs, remember TEEL
  • Topic Sentence
  • Evidence
  • Explanation / Elaboration
  • Linking Sentence

If you find this hard to remember, you could also use PEEL
  • Point - What is the main point of your essay?
  • Evidence
  • Explanation / Elaboration
  • Linking Sentence

Topic Sentence
  • Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence.
  • Topic sentences must:
    • State what you are going to argue in that paragraph – in other words, make a claim, which you will then back up or explain in the paragraph
    • Link back to the essay question / contention
  • Your topic sentence can also tell the reader in what order you will discuss key points.
  • Everything that follows the topic sentence should relate to/explain/give evidence supporting that sentence. If you think of another point, that doesn’t fit that topic sentence:
    • Put it in another paragraph OR
    • Redraft your topic sentence so it includes the new point.

  • After your topic sentence, provide evidence to support your argument or idea. Evidence can include quotes or examples from the text.

Using Quotes
  • Use quotes from the novel to support your ideas
  • There are two forms of quote:
    • Direct quotes: Quotes from the novel that appear in your essay exactly as they appear in the novel are direct quotes. and should be surrounded with quotation marks.
    • Paraphrased quotes: If you summarise the quote, rephrase it, or can't remember exactly how it was written in the novel, this is a paraphrased quote. You should still explain who said the quote and to whom, but do not surround the quote with quotation marks.
  • Make sure you include who said the quote, to whom, and what it means
    • Different ways of introducing quotes:
      • In the final scenes of the novel, A yells to B, “quote”
      • A tells the reader, “…”
      • Unaware that A is able to hear, B tells C “…”
      • A says to B, “…”
    • Try to include the page number wherever possible

Explanation / Elaboration
  • After you have written your topic sentence and provided evidence to support it, make sure you have explained what your evidence shows the reader and how it supports the paragraph’s argument or idea

Linking Sentence
  • In the best essays, the final sentence in each paragraph shows how the paragraph supports the essay’s main contention and / or links the paragraph to the next paragraph.


  • Finally, your conclusion should summarise what you have argued and reassert or restate your contention.


  • A text response essay should be written in a formal, academic style
  • Avoid colloquialisms and informal language and, if possible, abbreviations such as “don’t” and “can’t.” Use “do not” and “cannot”.