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How to Write an Essay

Last Updated: February 1, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Megaera Lorenz, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 18 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 7,898,311 times.

An essay is a common type of academic writing that you'll likely be asked to do in multiple classes. Before you start writing your essay, make sure you understand the details of the assignment so that you know how to approach the essay and what your focus should be. Once you've chosen a topic, do some research and narrow down the main argument(s) you'd like to make. From there, you'll need to write an outline and flesh out your essay, which should consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. After your essay is drafted, spend some time revising it to ensure your writing is as strong as possible.

Understanding Your Assignment

Step 1 Read your assignment carefully.

  • The compare/contrast essay , which focuses on analyzing the similarities and differences between 2 things, such as ideas, people, events, places, or works of art.
  • The narrative essay , which tells a story.
  • The argumentative essay , in which the writer uses evidence and examples to convince the reader of their point of view.
  • The critical or analytical essay, which examines something (such as a text or work of art) in detail. This type of essay may attempt to answer specific questions about the subject or focus more generally on its meaning.
  • The informative essay , that educates the reader about a topic.

Step 2 Check for formatting and style requirements.

  • How long your essay should be
  • Which citation style to use
  • Formatting requirements, such as margin size , line spacing, and font size and type

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Christopher Taylor, Professor of English, tells us: "Most essays will contain an introduction, a body or discussion portion, and a conclusion. When assigned a college essay, make sure to check the specific structural conventions related to your essay genre , your field of study, and your professor's expectations."

Step 3 Narrow down your topic so your essay has a clear focus.

  • If you're doing a research-based essay , you might find some inspiration from reading through some of the major sources on the subject.
  • For a critical essay, you might choose to focus on a particular theme in the work you're discussing, or analyze the meaning of a specific passage.

Step 4 Ask for clarification if you don't understand the assignment.

  • If you're having trouble narrowing down your topic, your instructor might be able to provide guidance or inspiration.

Planning and Organizing Your Essay

Step 1 Find some reputable sources on your topic.

  • Academic books and journals tend to be good sources of information. In addition to print sources, you may be able to find reliable information in scholarly databases such as JSTOR and Google Scholar.
  • You can also look for primary source documents, such as letters, eyewitness accounts, and photographs.
  • Always evaluate your sources critically. Even research papers by reputable academics can contain hidden biases, outdated information, and simple errors or faulty logic.

Tip: In general, Wikipedia articles are not considered appropriate sources for academic writing. However, you may be able to find useful sources in the “References” section at the end of the article.

Step 2 Make notes...

  • You might find it helpful to write your notes down on individual note cards or enter them into a text document on your computer so you can easily copy, paste , and rearrange them however you like.
  • Try organizing your notes into different categories so you can identify specific ideas you'd like to focus on. For example, if you're analyzing a short story , you might put all your notes on a particular theme or character together.

Step 3 Choose a question to answer or an issue to address.

  • For example, if your essay is about the factors that led to the end of the Bronze Age in the ancient Middle East, you might focus on the question, “What role did natural disasters play in the collapse of Late Bronze Age society?”

Step 4 Create a thesis...

  • One easy way to come up with a thesis statement is to briefly answer the main question you would like to address.
  • For example, if the question is “What role did natural disasters play in the collapse of Late Bronze Age society?” then your thesis might be, “Natural disasters during the Late Bronze Age destabilized local economies across the region. This set in motion a series of mass migrations of different peoples, creating widespread conflict that contributed to the collapse of several major Bronze Age political centers.”

Step 5 Write an outline...

  • When you write the outline, think about how you would like to organize your essay. For example, you might start with your strongest arguments and then move to the weakest ones. Or, you could begin with a general overview of the source you're analyzing and then move on to addressing the major themes, tone, and style of the work.
  • Introduction
  • Point 1, with supporting examples
  • Point 2, with supporting examples
  • Point 3, with supporting examples
  • Major counter-argument(s) to your thesis
  • Your rebuttals to the counter-argument(s)

Drafting the Essay

Step 1 Write an introduction...

  • For example, if you're writing a critical essay about a work of art, your introduction might start with some basic information about the work, such as who created it, when and where it was created, and a brief description of the work itself. From there, introduce the question(s) about the work you'd like to address and present your thesis.
  • A strong introduction should also contain a brief transitional sentence that creates a link to the first point or argument you would like to make. For example, if you're discussing the use of color in a work of art, lead-in by saying you'd like to start with an overview of symbolic color use in contemporary works by other artists.

Tip: Some writers find it helpful to write the introduction after they've written the rest of the essay. Once you've written out your main points, it's easier to summarize the gist of your essay in a few introductory sentences.

Step 2 Present your argument(s) in detail.

  • For example, your topic sentence might be something like, “Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories are among the many literary influences apparent in P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves novels.” You could then back this up by quoting a passage that contains a reference to Sherlock Holmes.
  • Try to show how the arguments in each paragraph link back to the main thesis of your essay.

Step 3 Use transition sentences between paragraphs.

  • When creating transitions, transitional phrases can be helpful. For example, use words and phrases such as “In addition,” “Therefore,” “Similarly,” “Subsequently,” or “As a result.”
  • For example, if you've just discussed the use of color to create contrast in a work of art, you might start the next paragraph with, “In addition to color, the artist also uses different line weights to distinguish between the more static and dynamic figures in the scene.”

Step 4 Address possible counterarguments.

  • For example, if you're arguing that a particular kind of shrimp decorates its shell with red algae to attract a mate, you'll need to address the counterargument that the shell decoration is a warning to predators. You might do this by presenting evidence that the red shrimp are, in fact, more likely to get eaten than shrimp with undecorated shells.

Step 5 Cite your sources...

  • The way you cite your sources will vary depending on the citation style you're using. Typically, you'll need to include the name of the author, the title and publication date of the source, and location information such as the page number on which the information appears.
  • In general, you don't need to cite common knowledge. For example, if you say, “A zebra is a type of mammal,” you probably won't need to cite a source.
  • If you've cited any sources in the essay, you'll need to include a list of works cited (or a bibliography ) at the end.

Step 6 Wrap up with...

  • Keep your conclusion brief. While the appropriate length will vary based on the length of the essay, it should typically be no longer than 1-2 paragraphs.
  • For example, if you're writing a 1,000-word essay, your conclusion should be about 4-5 sentences long. [16] X Research source

Revising the Essay

Step 1 Take a break...

  • If you don't have time to spend a couple of days away from your essay, at least take a few hours to relax or work on something else.

Step 2 Read over your draft to check for obvious problems.

  • Excessive wordiness
  • Points that aren't explained enough
  • Tangents or unnecessary information
  • Unclear transitions or illogical organization
  • Spelling , grammar , style, and formatting problems
  • Inappropriate language or tone (e.g., slang or informal language in an academic essay)

Step 3 Correct any major problems you find.

  • You might have to cut material from your essay in some places and add new material to others.
  • You might also end up reordering some of the content of the essay if you think that helps it flow better.

Step 4 Proofread your revised essay.

  • Read over each line slowly and carefully. It may be helpful to read each sentence out loud to yourself.

Tip: If possible, have someone else check your work. When you've been looking at your writing for too long, your brain begins to fill in what it expects to see rather than what's there, making it harder for you to spot mistakes.

how to write an essay in a paper

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

You Might Also Like

Plan an Essay Using a Mind Map

  • ↑ https://www.yourdictionary.com/articles/essay-types
  • ↑ https://students.unimelb.edu.au/academic-skills/resources/essay-writing/six-top-tips-for-writing-a-great-essay
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/research_papers/choosing_a_topic.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/tips-reading-assignment-prompt
  • ↑ https://library.unr.edu/help/quick-how-tos/writing/integrating-sources-into-your-paper
  • ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/researching/notes-from-research/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/developing-thesis
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/outlining
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-write-an-intro--conclusion----body-paragraph.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/argumentative_essays.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/transitions/
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-incorporate-a-counter-argument.html
  • ↑ https://www.plagiarism.org/article/how-do-i-cite-sources
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/twc/sites/utsc.utoronto.ca.twc/files/resource-files/Intros-Conclusions.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/steps_for_revising.html
  • ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/writingforsuccess/chapter/8-4-revising-and-editing/
  • ↑ https://writing.ku.edu/writing-process

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

If you need to write an essay, start by gathering information from reputable sources, like books from the library or scholarly journals online. Take detailed notes and keep track of which facts come from which sources. As you're taking notes, look for a central theme that you're interested in writing about to create your thesis statement. Then, organize your notes into an outline that supports and explains your thesis statement. Working from your outline, write an introduction and subsequent paragraphs to address each major point. Start every paragraph with a topic sentence that briefly explains the main point of that paragraph. Finally, finish your paper with a strong conclusion that sums up the most important points. For tips from our English Professor co-author on helpful revision techniques, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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How to Write an Essay in APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

how to write an essay in a paper

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

how to write an essay in a paper

What Is APA Format?

Apa essay format basics.

  • Steps to Follow

Frequently Asked Questions

If your instructor has asked you to write an APA format essay, it might at first seem like a daunting task, especially if you are accustomed to using another style such as MLA or Chicago. But you can master the rules of APA essay format, too.

An essay is one type of paper that can be written in APA format; others include lab reports, experimental reports, and case studies. Before you begin, familiarize yourself with some of the basic guidelines for writing a paper in APA format. Of course, it will also be important to follow any other formatting instructions that are part of your assignment.

How do you write an essay in APA format? The basic elements you need to include are:

  • A title page
  • An abstract
  • An introduction, main body, and conclusion
  • A reference section
  • Proper APA formatting with regard to margins, layout, spacing, titles, and indentations

This article discusses how to write an essay in APA format, including the basic steps you should follow and tips for how to get started.

Whether you’re taking an introductory or graduate-level psychology class, chances are strong that you will have to write at least one paper during the course of the semester. In almost every case, you will need to write your paper in APA format, the official publication style of the American Psychological Association . It is also used for academic journals.

Such rules are generally the same whether you are writing a high school essay, college essay, or professional essay for publication.

APA format is used in a range of disciplines including psychology , education, and other social sciences. The format dictates presentation elements of your paper including spacing, margins, and how the content is structured.

Most instructors and publication editors have strict guidelines when it comes to how your format your writing. Not only does adhering to APA format allow readers to know what to expect from your paper, but it also means that your work will not lose critical points over minor formatting errors. 

While the formatting requirements for your paper might vary depending on your instructor's directions, writing APA essay format means you will most likely need to include a title page, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, and reference sections.

Your APA format essay should have a title page . This title page should include the title of your paper, your name, and your school affiliation. In some instances, your teacher might require additional information such as the course title, instructor name, and the date.

  • The title of your paper should be concise and clearly describe what your paper is about.
  • Your title can extend to two lines, but it should be no longer than 12 words.

An abstract is a brief summary of your paper that immediately follows the title page. It is not required for student papers, according to APA style. However, your instructor may request one.

If you include an abstract , it should be no more than 100 to 200 words, although this may vary depending upon the instructor requirements.

Your essay should also include a reference list with all of the sources that were cited in your essay,

  • The reference section is located at the end of your paper.
  • References should be listed alphabetically by the last name of the author.
  • References should be double-spaced.
  • Any source that is cited in your paper should be included in your reference section.

When writing in APA essay format, the text will include the actual essay itself: The introduction, body, and conclusion.

  • There should be uniform margins of at least one inch at the top, bottom, left, and right sides of your essay.
  • The text should be in Times New Roman size 12 font or another serif typeface that is easily readable.
  • Your paper should be double-spaced.
  • Every page should include a page number in the top right corner.
  • The first word of each paragraph in your paper should be indented one-half inch.

For professional papers (usually not student papers), every page of the essay also includes a running head at the top left. The running head is a shortened form of the title, often the first few words, and should be no more than 50 characters (including spaces).

Steps to a Successful APA Format Essay

In addition to ensuring that you cite your sources properly and present information according to the rules of APA style, there are a number of things you can do to make the writing process a little bit easier.

Choose a Topic

Start by choosing a good topic to write about. Ideally, you want to select a subject that is specific enough to let you fully research and explore the topic, but not so specific that you have a hard time finding sources of information.

If you choose something too specific, you may find yourself with not enough to write about. If you choose something too general, you might find yourself overwhelmed with information.

Research Your Topic

Start doing research as early as possible. Begin by looking at some basic books and articles on your topic to help develop it further. What is the question you are going to answer with your essay? What approach will you take to the topic?

Once you are more familiar with the subject, create a preliminary source list of potential books, articles, essays, and studies that you may end up using in your essay.

Remember, any source used in your essay must be included in your reference section. Conversely, any source listed in your references must be cited somewhere in the body of your paper.

Write Your Rough Draft

With research in hand, you are ready to begin. Some people like to create an outline to organize their argument prior to drafting. You may want to start with a very rough outline, and then add details.

Once you have a detailed outline, the next step is to translate it from notes to complete sentences and paragraphs. Remember, this is a first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect.

As you write your paper in APA essay format, be sure to keep careful track of the sources that you cite.

How do you start an APA paper? Your paper should begin with an introduction that includes a thesis statement that presents your main ideas, points, or arguments. Your introduction should start on the third page of your paper (after the title page and abstract). The title of your paper should be centered, bolded, and typed in title case at the top of the page.

Review and Revise

After you have prepared a rough draft of your essay, it's time to revise, review, and prepare your final draft. In addition to making sure that your writing is cohesive and supported by your sources, you should also check carefully for typos, grammar errors, and possible formatting mistakes.

When citing information or quotations taken from an interview, APA format requires that you cite the source, how the information was collected, and the date of the interview. They should not be included in the reference section, however, because they are not something that can be located by a reader in any published source or searchable database.

Instead, the information should be cited parenthetically in the main body of the text. For example: “There was an increase in the number of college students who screened positive for depression/anxiety” (R. Heathfield, personal communication, May 9, 2021).

If the essay is in a chapter of a book, edited collection, or anthology, APA format states that you should cite the last name, first name, title of essay, title of collection, publisher, year, and page range. For example: Smith, John, "The Light House," A Book of Poems , editing by Peter Roberts, Allworth Press, 2005, pp. 20-25.

According to APA format, a two-part essay is formatted the same as an essay, however, you'll need to create two title pages.

If you're including a short direct quote in your APA-format essay, you will need to cite the author, year of publication, and page number (p.) or page number span (pp.). Quotations longer than 40 words should omit the quotation marks and be put in the text using block quotation formatting, on its own line and indented 1/2 inch from the left margin.

The cover page or "title page" in APA essay format should always include the title of your paper, your name, and school affiliation as well as the course title, instructor name, and date, if requested by your teacher.

Nagda S.  How to write a scientific abstract.   J Indian Prosthodont Soc.  2013;13(3):382-383. doi:10.1007/s13191-013-0299-x

American Psychological Association.  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association  (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2019.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Grad Coach (R)

What’s Included: Research Paper Template

If you’re preparing to write an academic research paper, our free research paper template is the perfect starting point. In the template, we cover every section step by step, with clear, straightforward explanations and examples .

The template’s structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research papers. The template structure reflects the overall research process, ensuring your paper will have a smooth, logical flow from chapter to chapter.

The research paper template covers the following core sections:

  • The title page/cover page
  • Abstract (sometimes also called the executive summary)
  • Section 1: Introduction 
  • Section 2: Literature review 
  • Section 3: Methodology
  • Section 4: Findings /results
  • Section 5: Discussion
  • Section 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language , followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover within each section. We’ve also included links to free resources to help you understand how to write each section.

The cleanly formatted Google Doc can be downloaded as a fully editable MS Word Document (DOCX format), so you can use it as-is or convert it to LaTeX.

FAQs: Research Paper Template

What format is the template (doc, pdf, ppt, etc.).

The research paper template is provided as a Google Doc. You can download it in MS Word format or make a copy to your Google Drive. You’re also welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What types of research papers can this template be used for?

The template follows the standard best-practice structure for formal academic research papers, so it is suitable for the vast majority of degrees, particularly those within the sciences.

Some universities may have some additional requirements, but these are typically minor, with the core structure remaining the same. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalise your structure.

Is this template for an undergrad, Masters or PhD-level research paper?

This template can be used for a research paper at any level of study. It may be slight overkill for an undergraduate-level study, but it certainly won’t be missing anything.

How long should my research paper be?

This depends entirely on your university’s specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them. We include generic word count ranges for each section within the template, but these are purely indicative. 

What about the research proposal?

If you’re still working on your research proposal, we’ve got a template for that here .

We’ve also got loads of proposal-related guides and videos over on the Grad Coach blog .

How do I write a literature review?

We have a wealth of free resources on the Grad Coach Blog that unpack how to write a literature review from scratch. You can check out the literature review section of the blog here.

How do I create a research methodology?

We have a wealth of free resources on the Grad Coach Blog that unpack research methodology, both qualitative and quantitative. You can check out the methodology section of the blog here.

Can I share this research paper template with my friends/colleagues?

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template. If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, all we ask is that you reference this page as your source.

Can Grad Coach help me with my research paper?

Within the template, you’ll find plain-language explanations of each section, which should give you a fair amount of guidance. However, you’re also welcome to consider our private coaching services .

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The Lasting Value of the Personal Essay

This writing form has a value that goes beyond the college application as it nurtures self-reflection and inspires creativity.

Teenager working on a laptop while looking out a window

I still remember my own personal essay that I wrote decades ago during my college admissions process. My essay focused on movies and how movies were a conduit of curiosity. It was also about the death of my father and how movies, in part, had provided a common ground for us—a connection. Although my essay, of course, was not the sole determining factor in my admission, it’s a predominant memory from that time of my life. To this day, I feel it had a persuasive effect on my admittance.

In fact, now looking back, I can’t recall my grade point average or my class rank or the final grade that my English teacher gave me on my literary analysis of Heart of Darkness. Even my exact SAT score, back then a real measure of academic aptitude, remains fuzzy to me all these years later, “shaded in wistful half-lights,” as described by Norman Maclean. I can, however, remember nearly every sentence, if not quite every word, of the personal essay I submitted to my first-choice college, which has undoubtedly, for me, over the years remained one of the most important pieces of writing I have ever produced.

The personal essay is an enduring literary genre and an art form that provides often-challenging material in English classes. In my Advanced Placement Language and Composition course, we frequently read works from an array of authors from various eras, including Michel de Montaigne, Virginia Woolf, E. B. White, Joan Didion, André Aciman, Brian Doyle, Dr. Oliver Sacks. These writers function as exemplars for my students to both analyze and model not only for their rhetorical value but also for their stylistic technique and philosophical ruminations.

Power of Personalization

One of the most predominant rhetorical strategies we recognize in these texts is personalization. And so Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth” has impacted my students throughout the years with its frank depiction of psychological tension, addressing philosophical themes on an existential level that never fail to capture their attention—so much so, that a group of students painted a mural on the wall outside my classroom, a visual interpretation of Woolf’s essay that they titled Memento Mori .

The candor and intimacy of Dr. Oliver Sacks’s depiction of his final days before his death from cancer have engendered numerous touching and insightful comments from my students during our Socratic seminars analyzing his almost unendurably moving personal essay, “My Periodic Table.” 

Students respond viscerally, it seems, to the personal. Sadly, many students have been touched by some of the same tragic subject matter that we analyze through these texts. During our seminars and journal assignments, my students have revealed their own personal connections to some of the personal essays we read in class, connecting, I think, to the shared experiences that we have all had throughout human history. 

Our students often find themselves facing a vortex of standardized tests, AP exams, and benchmarks throughout the school year, which often emphasize the formulaic. The active process of personal choice on topic and subject seems lost. So often my students ask me questions when writing an essay, seeking a particular answer, as if literary analysis were calculus. Missing is the creativity, the exploration of writing free from academic constraints like rubrics and scoring guides. Writer-editor Steve Moyer asserts in  Edsitement , “Nuanced thought... requires a greater gestation period than the nearly instant gratification made possible on Twitter.” I have witnessed this impatience from my own students.

There can be a restlessness in the writing process, a hesitancy for revision or drafting. Personal essays require self-reflection and a free-flowing freedom from rigid form that my students embrace in a way that they don’t with an argument or research-based essay. On more than one occasion during parent-teacher conferences, I have had parents tell me that their child used to love creative writing, but somewhere along the way, the rigor of school seemed to have killed it.

Personal essays, then, restore that creativity, since they encourage a freedom from form. Students can experiment with style and figurative language and syntax in ways that the traditional academic five-paragraph essay often thwarts.

Personal essays also allow teachers to really get to know our students, too. The inherent intimacy of a personal essay, the connection between the writer and the reader—in this case, a student and a teacher—provides insight into the concerns, the dreams, the emotions of our students in addition to allowing us to assess how they exercise their compositional skills, including imagery, syntax, diction, and figurative language. Here, then, a teacher has the best of both worlds. We’re able to both connect to our students on an emotional level and evaluate their learning on an academic level. Personal essays also serve as an emotional outlet. 

There seems to be a common assumption that personal essays for high school students serve only the college application process, so the process begins during their senior year. Personal writing, however, should occur throughout a student’s academic experience. The narrative essays that most elementary school students encounter evolve into the more ruminative, philosophical, and reflective personal writing they will encounter during their senior year from many of Common App essay prompts.

Many teachers implement journal writing in their classrooms that provides a firm foundation for the type of personal writing that the college admissions essay requires. In my own class of juniors, the last assignment we complete for the year is a personal essay. My intent is to help prepare them for the college essay they will write, hopefully, during the summer so that they will have a solid draft before the application process begins. 

Teaching our students this strategy in their own writing benefits them in their futures, not only for the imminent college application process but also for job interviews. For example, I was mentoring a student, a senior who had no desire to go to college, about the job interview process he would soon face after graduation. We rehearsed and practiced the types of questions he might encounter from a future employer. I encouraged him to remember the personal details of his experience, personalizing everything in a way that would allow him to ideally stand out as a job candidate.

Through personal essay writing, my overarching, grand ambition is to instill in my students ultimately a love of reflection, looking back on their experience, reminiscing on significant memories that linger, carefully considering the seemingly little moments that, only upon reflection, have an enormous impact on us.

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Creating Photo Essays About Community: A Guide to Our Where We Are Contest

Step-by-step directions for depicting what’s memorable and meaningful about groups and the places where they gather.

A group of young people lying on a weathered wooden stage, with their heads resting on one another's stomachs and their arms embracing one another. Some of the people are texting or holding their phones up to take selfies.

By Katherine Schulten

It’s hard not to be inspired by the immersive 2023 photo-essay series Where We Are .

As you scroll through and are introduced to young female wrestlers in India , rappers in Spain , band kids in Ohio and Black debutantes in Detroit , you can’t help but think about the communities you have been a part of — or have noticed in your own neighborhood or school.

That’s why we hope you’ll participate in our new contest , which invites teenagers to use these photo essays as mentor texts to document the local, offline communities that most interest them.

How do you go about that? The steps are outlined below.

Have fun, and if you are submitting to our contest, make sure you do so by March 20.

How to Create Your Photo Essay

Step 1: read the where we are series closely., step 2: decide what local community will be the subject of your photo essay., step 3: take photos that show both the big picture and the small details., step 4: interview members of the community about why it is special., step 5: give your photo essay context via a short written introduction., step 6: write captions for your photos that give new information or add depth or color., step 7: edit all the pieces together and submit..

Immerse yourself in several of these photo essays, using our related activity sheet to help you start to notice and name some of the things that make this series special.

When you’re done, we’ll help you use those same strategies to document the community you have chosen.

Here are free links to the entire series:

1. The Magic of Your First Car 2. At This Mexican Restaurant, Everyone is Family 3. Where the Band Kids Are 4. In This Nigerian Market, Young Women Find a Place of Their Own 5. At Camp Naru, Nobody Is ‘an Outlier’ 6. For Black Debutantes in Detroit, Cotillion Is More Than a Ball 7. At This Wrestling Academy, Indian Girls Are ‘Set Free’ 8. In Seville, Spain, These Young Rappers Come Together to Turn ‘Tears Into Rhymes’ 9. For a Queer Community in Los Angeles, This Public Park Is a Lifeline 10. In Guatemala, a Collective of Young Artists Finds Family Through Film 11. On a Caribbean Island, Young People Find Freedom in ‘Bike Life’ 12. At This Texas Campus Ministry, ‘Inclusive Love’ Is the Mission 13. For Young Arab Americans in Michigan, the Hookah Lounge Feels like Home

A local band and its fans? The kids who hang out at a nearby basketball court? The people who tend a community garden? Your grandpa’s weekly breakfast with old friends at a local diner?

Our related Student Opinion forum will help you brainstorm ideas and then encourage you to detail what’s special about the people and place you choose. Remember that our rules allow you to work with up to three other people on this project, so consider sharing ideas with others to find a project that excites all of you.

Though we will allow you to choose a community you are a part of, we encourage you not to. Approaching a group as an outsider can help you notice and document aspects of that community with relative objectivity, capturing details that insiders may be too close to see.

Once you’ve chosen a group to photograph, begin by introducing yourself to ensure the participants are open to your project. Make sure they understand that, if you are a finalist, the pictures you take may be published on the New York Times website. You should also be sure to get contact information from each member of the group for any follow-up questions.

Next, spend a day or so just observing, noticing how and where the members of this community spend time, what they do together and how they relate to one another. Start to plan your piece, keeping in mind that, via six to eight photos, photo captions and a short introduction, you’ll need to impart the following:

What is this community?

Who is in it?

Where and when does it meet?

How did the community come to be? How does it operate?

Why does it matter to its participants? What is it about the connections people make in this space that makes it special? Why should it matter to viewers?

If there’s one thing to notice about the Where We Are series, it is that the photos and the writing both “zoom out” to provide a big picture and “zoom in” to focus on the meaningful details. If you have followed our related activity sheet , you’ve already noted how individual pieces do that.

You might have also observed that in each photo essay there are images that show the physical space; images that spotlight the people who gather there; and close-up images that focus on meaningful objects or details, like food, clothing, tattoos, jewelry, hair or hands.

Here are some steps you can take to do this too.

1. Ground your piece in a specific physical space.

Keep in mind that our contest allows you to submit only eight photos, so the more specific you can be about the place you choose, the easier it will be to tell a story. For example, rather than trying to document everything about the boys’ soccer team at your school, you might focus on their Wednesday practices at a local field.

Take photos that establish that space, perhaps at different times of day, from a variety of angles, with and without people. Here, for instance, is Sarapes, a Mexican restaurant in a quiet Connecticut suburb that is a “headquarters” for a group of 20-somethings.

As you look at this image and the ones below, ask yourself:

What can you tell about this space from the photograph?

What can you guess about the people who gather here, and what might this place might mean to them? What do you see that makes you say that?

Here is a meeting area at the Texas Wesley Foundation , a Methodist campus ministry group at University of Texas at Austin.

And here is the caption that comes with it:

“We call ourselves a Methodist group, but we are enthusiastic to accept people of other faiths, people who might not have any faith, or who are questioning their faith,” said Brandon. “We really like to meet people where they’re at.”

How do the caption and image echo and build on each other?

Next is one of many shots of Camp Naru , a summer camp for Korean American youth, where fostering a “strong, secure sense of identity and community is one of the main goals.” How can you see that in this image?

Finally, here is a big-picture look at the Southern California landscape that is the setting for “ The Magic of Your First Car .” What adjectives come to mind? Before you read the full piece, what can you already imagine about the teenagers who “get away from the prying eyes of parents” by driving? What additional images might you expect to see in the full essay?

2. Focus on the people who gather there.

Community is all about people, so consider the ways you can document both the ways they come together and the ways they might experience the group individually.

For instance, here is an arresting close-up image from “ For a Queer Community in Los Angeles, This Public Park Is a Lifeline .” What is interesting about it to you? How does the photo speak to the title of the piece?

Here is an image from “ Where the Band Kids Are .” What adjectives would you use to describe this community based on what you see here?

Here is another group shot. What adjectives would you use to describe this community? What would you expect individual portraits of its members to show? Now, look at the related photo essay to see how close your answers were.

Here are some of the people that call Sarapes , the Mexican restaurant, their refuge. Action shots like this one often tell a viewer more than posed photos. What does this one say to you?

Finally, here is an image from “ On a Caribbean Island, Young People Find Freedom in ‘Bike Life.’ ” Though we don’t see any faces, the composition of the photo tells us a great deal. What do you think is going on here? What do you see that makes you say that? After you make your guesses, click into the photo essay and see how accurate your ideas were.

3. Zoom in on telling details about the people and the place.

You looked at a “zoomed out” image above from “ The Magic of Your First Car .” Here is a close-up. What does it tell you? What compositional elements give you that information? Why do you think the photographer chose this focus?

If you’ve already looked at several of the photo essays, you may have noticed that many, like this one, contain close-ups of hands. Why do you think that is?

Next, can you guess which photo essay the image below is from?

Before we reveal the answer, here is another close-up from the same photo essay, this one taken at night. Are you getting warmer?

Answer: “ At Camp Naru, Nobody Is ‘an Outlier.’ ” If you got it right, what clues in the photos helped? How do the images echo the idea expressed in the title?

Below is a photo that focuses on one member of a queer community in Los Angeles . What do you notice? What do you admire about the composition, the lighting, the angle or anything else? Why?

Now let’s look at a big-picture image and a close-up to see how they work together. Here is a shot from “ For Black Debutantes in Detroit, Cotillion Is More Than a Ball .”

Finally, here is a close-up. What do the two tell you together? What would be missing if you only took one type of shot?

4. Don’t forget to experiment and have fun.

If you’ve mastered the ideas above, now it’s time to play. As you worked through the images, you asked yourself, “How does composition convey meaning?” even if you didn’t realize that was what you were doing.

Our detailed photo guide , developed for an earlier contest, encourages you to think about how to experiment with basic composition techniques like rule of thirds, angle, depth of field, leading lines, framing and distance. It also helps you think about lighting, color and cropping, as well as making the best use of the tools available on most smartphones.

Read through it before and after you have documented your community and then look through the images you have taken. Do you have enough variety? Can you identify techniques like rule of thirds and leading lines in the images from the Where We Are series? If you haven’t used them in your own work, could you experiment?

Below are a few more images from Where We Are essays for inspiration. What do you notice? What compositional choices did the photographer make? How would different choices change the meaning?

Last question: Two of the four images above are from the same photo essay. Which are they, which piece do they come from, and how did you know? What unites the two images?

According to the rules of our contest, you only need one quote from a member of the community you have chosen, but, of course, you are allowed to use many more. We encourage you to weave them into both your captions and your introduction, just as the authors of the Where We Are series did.

Never conducted an interview before? We have advice. Scroll down to Steps 3 and 4 in this guide we created for our Profile Contest to find many practical tips from Times journalists for preparing for and conducting an interview.

But to start, you just need a few good questions. For example, you might ask:

What’s special about this community for you?

What do you like to do here?

What are some of your favorite memories or stories about this group?

What would an outsider to this community not understand or notice?

Is there history about this place or these people that I should understand?

If you were photographing this community, what important places, objects or moments would you try to capture? Why?

Finally, many journalists end interviews with this question: “Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wish I did?” Sometimes the most interesting information is elicited that way!

Then look over what you wrote down and choose the best quotes. Maybe they give information that your photo essay needs, maybe they are colorful and show personality or maybe they do all of those things.

To see how this works, we’ll look at one of the essays, “ At This Texas Campus Ministry, ‘Inclusive Love’ Is the Mission .”

Here is how the first quote was used, in the introduction:

Sydney had grown up Methodist and thought she knew what to expect from a Christian student organization. But she was surprised by just how welcoming the Wesley was. The students and adult leaders seemed genuinely invested in drawing her out of her shell and getting to know her, with no agenda. “It’s really not about getting people into this religion,” she said. “It’s just about being a community who supports others and loves others. And that was huge to me.”

How does it both paraphrase Sydney’s words and directly quote her? What does that quote tell the reader up front about this community? Why is that information important, and why might a participant’s own words be a compelling way to express this?

Later we meet Ethan. What does his experience — again, both paraphrased and directly quoted — add to your understanding of the inclusivity of this community? What colorful description does he offer for what happens in this group? How does this description add information to what is depicted in the photos?

Ethan’s parents are Buddhist and were surprised when their son started spending so much time with a Methodist organization. For his part, Ethan describes himself as agnostic and says he hasn’t felt any pressure from the Wesley to change that, but he appreciates the camaraderie the group offers. “There was this one worship where, when there was a swell in the music, someone burst into tears, and then they hugged one of their friends. I am not sure what was going on there, but it was definitely a very profound experience,” he said.

Listen for the same things as you interview. How can one person’s description of an experience add necessary information, depth, history or background to what you have depicted in images? Did you get any quotes that are too good not to use? How could you highlight them? Do they belong in your introduction or as a photo caption?

The essays in the Where We Are series are longer than the introductions you will write if you are participating in this contest. Many of those essays are about 600 words, double what we have allowed student participants. (You have up to 300 words, but you can use fewer if you can still convey what you need to.)

But you can use the first few paragraphs of each essay — what appears before the first photos — as mentor texts for your own introductions, and we’ll show you how, below.

First though, let’s remember your broader goals. As we wrote at the top of this post, together, your introduction, photo essay and captions should answer these questions:

Why does it matter to its participants? Why should it matter to viewers?

Take a look at “ In This Nigerian Market, Young Women Find a Place of Their Own ” as an example. Here is the introduction, the first 200 or so words before the photo essay begins to scroll:

At the bustling Yaba Market in Lagos, Nigeria, there is something for everyone. Chatter rises from the traders, whose stalls sprawl over miles of cracked gray concrete and packed earth. They might be selling baskets of fresh fruit, wheelbarrows stuffed with phone cases, piles of sequined fabrics or racks of second-hand clothes. If you’re lucky, you might find a vintage jacket you’ve been searching for, or a pair of long-lasting Levi’s jeans. But you’re never going to be as lucky as Dencity : the coolest of the cool kids of Lagos. These skaters, often clad in a uniform of baggy pants and crop tops, head to the market to go thrifting each week. They’re armed with fashion knowledge only the young, fun and determined can possess and seek out the best streetwear they can find. Founded by 26-year-old Blessing Ewona in 2020 in response to the dearth of spaces for young queer people and female skaters in Nigeria, Dencity skate, dream and thrift together. From their trips to the market to regular skate meet-ups at the dilapidated National Stadium or Tarkwa Bay beach, they have traced their own map of the city.

How many of the questions we listed above do these paragraphs answer? How do they work with the top image, which we’ve embedded above this section? What descriptions stand out? What context and background does it provide?

Now let’s break your task down.

1. Make your writing as vivid and varied as your images.

Much of the writing in these essays is just as interesting as the photos, as the example above shows. Here is another, the opening of “ At This Wrestling Academy, Indian Girls Are ‘Set Free’ ”:

As the winter sun ascends over a mustard farm, pale orange bleeding into sharp yellow, a line of 36 girls all dressed alike — T-shirts, track pants, crew cuts — emerges into an open field, rubbing sleep from their eyes. Under a tin shed, they sit on their haunches, bent over stone mortars. For the next 20 minutes, they crush raw almonds into a fine paste, straining out a bottle of nut milk. They will need it to regain their strength.

And here is how “ On a Caribbean Island, Young People Find Freedom in ‘Bike Life’ ” begins:

On a warm evening in October 2021, Enzo Crispin mounted his cobalt motorcycle and set off into the night. Hundreds of others joined his caravan, the rumbles of their engines filling the air of Fort-de-France, the capital of the French Caribbean island territory of Martinique. The riders popped up on one wheel, stood up on their bikes, brushed their hands along the ground — all while zooming along at top speed. Completely exhilarating. Potentially illegal, at least on public streets. This is “cabrage,” which roughly translates from French as a rodeo on wheels.

How do these introductions both “zoom out” and “zoom in”? How do they play on your senses, helping you see, hear, taste, touch and smell this place and what happens in it? How could you do those things in your introduction?

2. Offer background to help viewers understand what they are seeing and what it means.

Here is the introduction to “ For Young Arab Americans in Michigan, the Hookah Lounge Feels Like Home ”:

Coming of age is marked by a series of firsts. Your first kiss. Your first job. Your first drink. Many who grew up in Dearborn, Mich., would add to the list: your first hookah. Located just outside downtown Detroit, Dearborn is home to one of the United States’ largest Arab American communities: Nearly 50 percent of residents identify as having Arab ancestry, according to the U.S. census . Middle Eastern shops, where you may find portable hookah cups , dot the streets. There is also the Arab American National Museum (which sells hookah-themed socks) and the Islamic Center of America , one of the nation’s oldest and largest mosques. And then there is the long list of hookah lounges, where locals spend hours leisurely smoking flavored tobacco through water pipes while catching up, watching soccer games or enjoying a live Arabic music performance. “A spot like a hookah lounge, it’s sacred,” particularly for immigrants and refugees far from home, said Marrim (pronounced Mariam) Akashi Sani, 25, who is Iraqi-Iranian. “And it’s something you have to create for yourself when you’re displaced, and you might not ever be able to go back home because you don’t really know what home is anymore.”

How do the opening two lines grab your attention? How does the demographic information in the third paragraph explain the focus on hookah lounges? How does the quote at the end offer important information that complements the demographic data and gives it meaning?

Next is the introduction to “ For Black Debutantes in Detroit, Cotillion Is More Than a Ball ”:

In a heady swirl of bright white silk and lace, the young ladies of the Cotillion Society of Detroit Educational Foundation are presented as debutantes. The Society’s annual ball is the culmination of eight months of etiquette lessons, leadership workshops, community service projects and cultural events. As the girls take to the dance floor, they become part of a legacy of Black debutantes in the city and beyond. Debutante balls, which traditionally helped girls from high society find suitable husbands, emerged from Europe in the 18th century. Black Americans have adopted a unique version of them since at least 1895 . Responding to the politics of the Jim Crow era, these balls, which emphasized women’s education, echoed the work of the racial upliftment movement and women’s clubs, said Taylor Bythewood-Porter, the curator of a recent exhibition on Black cotillions at the California African American Museum. Organizers saw the balls as a way to “dismiss the idea of Black people not being smart enough, or good enough, or worthy enough.” For today’s debutantes, many of whom grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods of Detroit, gaining an informal network of Black adult mentors was “life-changing,” said Sage Johnson, 17. “Signing up for debutantes, I thought it was just one big ball. But there were a lot more layers to it.”

How do the second and third paragraphs add key context and history to this photo essay? How does the quote at the end bring these cotillions into the 21st century, and help you anticipate what is to come?

Ask yourself, What background will my viewers need to understand what they are seeing, and appreciate its nuances? Do I need to add that information myself, or can some of the quotes from participants do that work for me?

In most traditional newspaper articles, you will find a caption under each photo explaining more detail about the image and its relationship to the story. As you scroll through Where We Are, however, you’ve probably noticed that, thanks to the elegant way these pieces are produced, the captions float up on or around the photos.

In these essays, the captions continue the story. Your captions will do that too. But in the Where We Are pieces, photo captions are interspersed with more of the written essay. Because you are doing a “mini” version of this project, however, after your initial introduction, the only writing we will read will come from your captions. Make sure they continue to tell your story in a way that makes sense to the reader and helps build meaning.

For instance, here is an image from “ In Guatemala, A Collective of Young Artists Finds Family Through Film .”

The caption?

The team has quickly become a family, meeting up for dinners and to celebrate each other’s birthdays. They are, said Sebastián, a community first and a production house second.

Notice how those words work with the image. Can you see “family” and “community” and “team” conveyed in the way this image is composed, the looks on the faces, the colors and light? How?

Here is another example, from “ In Seville, Spain, These Young Rappers Come Together to Turn ‘Tears Into Rhymes’ .” Before you read the caption, what do you imagine is happening in this picture?

Here is the caption, which both offers some background about the group and includes a wonderful quote:

Luis Rodríguez Collado, at right, the youngest of the group, grew up in Spain, the child of Mexican immigrants. “We aren’t just emoting with language, but with song and dance, with sounds and rhythm,” said Luis, a.k.a. Luis 3K. “At 19, I sincerely don’t know anything more liberating than this.”

As you construct your captions, ask yourself:

What information do I need to add to these images to make the meaning and nuances clear?

Can using quotes from participants work? What might they add?

How do these captions continue the story I started in my introduction? Do they build on one another and make sense both separately and together? Do they avoid repetition, with each other or with the introduction? Do they strengthen the key ideas of my piece? How?

At this point you may have dozens of images, and pages of notes. How do you put it all together?

Way back when you were first analyzing the Where We Are series, we called your attention to the fact that the images, essay and captions don’t repeat information exactly the same way . Each element adds something new.

We also talked about how, from the very first image, the one the authors chose for the top, a theme is hinted at, and then echoed in the introduction and continued in the captions. Whatever key ideas about this community you want to get across — maybe that it is a refuge or home, that it offers freedom or that it challenges participants creatively or athletically — look through your images and writing and find all the ways you think you have done that. Do you need more emphasis on this theme? A variety of ways of showing it?

Speaking of variety , that’s another lens to look through when considering your piece as a whole. In terms of both the photos and the writing, have you “zoomed out” enough to establish a place and a context? Have you “zoomed in” to show detail? Are your images taken from different angles and points of view? Do they show both the group and individuals? Are they dynamic and interesting and surprising?

Then, show your work to others, and, perhaps, ask them to analyze it using the last four questions on our related activity sheet . That will prompt them to tell you what is working, but make sure to also ask them if there is anything confusing about your piece, or if they think there is information missing.

Then, go back and fill in anything your piece needs, and play with the sequence of your images until they tell the story you want to tell.

Good luck. We can’t wait to see the results!

Katherine Schulten has been a Learning Network editor since 2006. Before that, she spent 19 years in New York City public schools as an English teacher, school-newspaper adviser and literacy coach. More about Katherine Schulten

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Log in every day to challenge yourself with a free activity from one of the 4 test sections, such as a Reading passage and related questions. This activity rotates daily.

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TOEFL Practice Online (TPO) tests simulate the real TOEFL iBT testing experience.

  • Review and answer authentic test questions.
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Section Tests

Practice a section in test mode and receive a score, performance feedback and additional insights.

  • Receive estimated section score and CEFR level
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Practice a complete section at your own pace and receive immediate scores, feedback and insights to help you improve.

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Focused Practice

Boost your skills and confidence by focusing on sets of specific question types with immediate scores, feedback and insights.

Guides & Books

Best-selling guides and books to help you prepare for the TOEFL iBT test.

The Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT ® Test

This guide is a comprehensive, all-in-one reference to help you prepare for the test and get your best score. It is available in eBook and paperback formats and includes:

  • Four full-length practice tests
  • Interactive versions of all four tests, in addition to the book versions
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Official TOEFL iBT ® Tests, Volumes 1 & 2

Get 10 authentic, full-length TOEFL iBT tests with previous test questions. Available in paperback or eBook formats, each volume offers five practice tests and includes:

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Learn about TOEFL iBT courses to help you prepare for your test.

Official TOEFL iBT ® Prep Course

Build the skills you need to communicate in English in an academic environment with this self-paced course. With the 6-month subscription, you’ll be able to:

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You can choose one of two options:

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TOEFL ® Test Preparation: The Insider's Guide

With this free self-paced course, you can learn and practice whenever it’s most convenient for you. It includes:

  • An introduction to the test and each section
  • Short quizzes
  • Collaborative discussion boards
  • Tips from expert instructors
  • Scaled-score range for Speaking and Writing practice questions
  • Information and sample questions for the new Writing for an Academic Discussion task

Value Packs

Save money when you purchase multiple prep offerings bundled together into an expertly curated package. Find discounts on test registrations, practice tests, guides, books, additional score reports and more.

Performance Insights, Feedback and Guidance

As you engage with TOEFL TestReady prep offerings, robust AI algorithms serve up valuable information to help you maximize your score potential.

Feel confident on test day! The overwhelming majority of learners we surveyed reported that the new test prep offerings and features within TOEFL TestReady boosted their confidence, improved their skills and increased their readiness for the TOEFL iBT test 2 .

Curated Prep Recommendations

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Continuous Progress Tracking

Monitor your progress in real time with tracking of overall performance, section performance and question type performance. Your personal Insights page showcases your skill trends, as well as an estimated TOEFL iBT score and CEFR level to help you gauge your readiness.

1 Source: Statistics gathered from 765 users who also took the TOEFL iBT test (China, India, and the U.S.)

2 Source: Survey of 765 users across China, India and the U.S.

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At WritePaperForMe, you can primarily choose ESL writers who have an advanced command of English. Despite this, their professionalism shouldn’t be questioned. You will definitely receive your college research papers on time and at the lowest price. If you’re looking to purchase research papers from WritePaperForMe, the minimum rate per page starts at $6.99.

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Buying research papers online is a legitimate way to advance in your academic career without burning out. However, it’s crucial to use well-regarded services to ensure plagiarism-free, high-quality writing.

We understand that the process of buying research paper online raises many questions and concerns, so we’ll answer the most commonly asked ones here. This way, you’ll know precisely where to find the best of the best.

Is it safe to buy research paper online?

Students often worry about safety issues when using the services of custom writing companies—and with good reason! Most institutions view such practices as cheating, making it particularly risky if professors discover that your assignment was completed by someone else.

The negative consequences can damage your reputation in the academic world and disrupt your career prospects. However, your fears should not deter you from seeking help. In fact, established and reliable companies are absolutely safe for users. They protect your private data and do not share any information with third parties. Your identity will remain confidential, ensuring that no one, including your instructors, will ever know if your assignment was commissioned.

According to their privacy policies, names, orders, and banking details provided by customers cannot be disclosed to anyone. Violating this policy puts a company’s reputation at risk and leads to a loss of clients. Therefore, if you encounter multiple positive reviews and a large customer base, you can be confident that the chosen service is 100% safe.

How much does it cost to buy a research paper?

Price is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a custom writing company. If you are a student on a budget, you are probably limited in the amount of money to spend on your studies.  Hence, you must be wondering if buying a research paper online is expensive. It’s difficult to give an exact answer to this question because the prices vary dramatically from one service to another. What’s more, they depend on your academic level and some other criteria.

For instance, high school papers can be found at rates starting from $7 per page, while college students will typically pay more, with professional writing services charging at least $10 per page for college-level work. Ph.D. research papers command even higher prices. There are websites that offer cheap research papers, but more often than not, they are written by amateur writers or by AI.

When calculating the cost of your order, companies also consider the discipline you’re studying. The more complex the subject, the higher the price. Deadline urgency is another critical factor; tighter deadlines mean higher costs as you’re required to pay a premium for expedited service.

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In most cases, selecting the individual who will write your research paper is your responsibility. Websites typically provide a list of writers, featuring brief descriptions of their education, skills, and experience. You can review the degrees held by each specialist and the dates they were conferred. Generally, all writers possess advanced degrees, ensuring the high quality of their work.

For instance, if you need a paper completed in Economics, you can choose a reputable research paper writer with higher education in this specific field. This approach is applicable to any discipline you are studying.

Your choice can also extend between ESL (English as a Second Language) writers and native English speakers. However, it’s important not to be influenced by stereotypes. Some people assume that native speakers are invariably superior to ESL writers. But is this assumption accurate? In reality, certifications like the IELTS Academic demonstrate an individual’s proficient command of English and their capability to perform their job effectively. Therefore, verifying qualifications is crucial.

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Students often turn to essay writing services when they can’t manage their homework on time. Tight deadlines prompt young people to seek help, making the delivery speed of your research paper critically important.

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Since most institutions strictly prohibit using the services of assignment writing companies, it raises a lot of concerns among young people. Students are often worried about the legal consequences of their actions. They are afraid of being punished according to the existing laws. However, it doesn’t make any sense because there are no laws prohibiting paper writing services. If a company has a license and operates according to the required business regulations, it’s absolutely safe.

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Hundreds of agencies are capable of completing almost any academic task. Among the most renowned are PaperHelp, BBQPapers, WritePaperForMe, EssayPro, and SpeedyPaper. When selecting a service, it’s crucial to gather as much information about it as you can. Evaluate its pricing, review the qualifications of its writers, and scrutinize its terms and conditions meticulously.

Where can I get research papers for free?

You can find research papers in your area of study for free from a variety of online directories and libraries. But keep in mind that they are not for submitting as your own work. Instead, you can use them to bolster your own original research paper. Some sites offering free papers include:

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What are the dangers of hiring a research paper writer on Reddit?

Hiring a research paper writer from Reddit or any other place that isn’t a reputable writing company comes with a plethora of dangers, including:

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Checking for plagiarism should be of utmost importance, and hiring a Reddit-based writer doesn’t necessarily give you this peace of mind.

2. Late delivery

As you know, the punctual submission of term papers and research papers is paramount to success. If the writer fails to meet the deadline you set, the paper could be useless, wasting time and money.

While life does through curveballs to everybody, hiring a writer from Reddit provides no assurance that they’ll deliver your paper on time.

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We recommend hiring expert writers from reputable websites only, despite the potentially low cost of those advertising their services on Reddit.

How can a research paper writing website guarantee original, plagiarism-free papers?

Naturally, you need original, plagiarism-free work from your writing service. Otherwise, your grades are at stake.

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The services ensure original work by running all final papers through at least one plagiarism checker. Depending on the specific site, they may give you this report for free.

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Buying research papers online is a common practice nowadays. Many students turn to special services that complete their assignments for money. This is a very convenient way to get your homework done when you are overloaded with academic and professional responsibilities. A reliable writing service can save your time and energy, helping you avoid emotional burnout.

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Article paid for by: Ocasio Media The news and editorial staffs of the Bay Area News Group had no role in this post’s preparation.

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  • Research paper

How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

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Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

  • Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
  • Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
  • Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

  • A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
  • A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.

Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

  • Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
  • Are there any heated debates you can address?
  • Do you have a unique take on your topic?
  • Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

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A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

  • Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
  • Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
  • Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement;
  • topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
  • and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

  • Offer new arguments or essential information
  • Take up any more space than necessary
  • Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

  • Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
  • Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
  • Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
  • If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible. You can speed up the proofreading process by using the AI proofreader .

Global concerns

  • Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
  • Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
  • Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.

Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

  • each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
  • no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
  • all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

Scribbr’s professional editors can help with the revision process with our award-winning proofreading services.

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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