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How Do You Write an A+ English Paper or Essay: Outline and Procedure

I love writing and I have a BA in sociology and English and comparative literary studies from Occidental College.

Writing an essay can take forever if you're stuck.  Follow these steps to create that "A" paper you've been waiting for.

Writing an essay can take forever if you're stuck. Follow these steps to create that "A" paper you've been waiting for.

How to Write an English Paper That'll Get an A

There are many ways to write a paper that will get you an A, but if you are experiencing writer's block or need to get this paper done quickly, you will need to stick to the basic structure of an essay.

To write a solid essay, you must have a clear thesis statement with supporting arguments, an outline, and a general understanding of the topic you are writing about. This article will help you to outline, write and proofread your essay so you can get the "A" you deserve.

Read the following instructions to begin writing your essay, or skip to the part that interests you. Here are the ABC steps to writing an "A" paper:

A. Research

B. Outline

C. Write and Edit

A. Research

If you are going to write an interesting, unique essay, you will need to do research. A literature essay requires the writer to do the following things before writing a word:

1. Read all Required Materials or Subject Text

You have to read all of the required materials so that you can invent a clear thesis. While you are reading, take notes. If you are using your own copy of the book or you have printed it from your computer, take notes directly on the page and underline important quotes. If I am crunched for time, I will type the important quotes into a word document as I read. Doing this will help you collect evidence to use in the body of your essay.

2. Invent a Thesis Statement

Since you have finished reading the subject text of your essay and have collected quotes that you will use in your analysis, you have a general idea of the major themes in the work. Pick one and try to invent an argument around it. For example, the barrio is a theme in Sandra Cisneros' House on Mango Street.

I used this theme to argue that the environment of the main character directly influences her desire to change and escape in this article. If you have trouble coming up with a thesis, move on to step 3 and return to this step afterward.

3. Research and Read Supporting Material

If you know of any other books, articles, or essays that support your thesis or argue against it. You should do the same with these materials that you did with the main text: underline, annotate and collect quotes from these texts.

4. Organize Your Research

Now that you have collected quotes from the materials and have invented a thesis statement, you should now organize your quotes in a manner that will support your thesis and also flow nicely. You will need to delete quotes that are irrelevant. Do not get attached to your quotes. Having too much evidence that doesn't directly support your thesis can cause your essay to seem muddy and all over the place, making your thesis statement seem far-fetched.

B. Outline

You may think outlines are overrated, but if you followed the steps in the Research section, you are already halfway there. You have organized your quotes, invented a thesis, and now you have to fill in the blanks. The following is an example of a well-structured essay outline that will help you to shape your paper.

1. Introduction (Optional)

If you are writing an article on a text that has a significant amount of historical background that directly relates to your essay, you may want to add an introductory paragraph. This paragraph is also helpful when constructing an essay that you want to start off with a clever anecdote; you may add this paragraph. Make sure you do not make this sound like a thesis statement or create a prominent speculation that could be mistaken for an argument.

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2. Thesis Paragraph

This paragraph will communicate the major reason for composing this essay. You want to follow this general format for the thesis paragraph:

  • Topic: Specify the book/text you are going to analyze and what it does. (Example: Sandra Cisneros' novel The House on Mango Street follows the life of Esperanza, a young girl living in the barrio.)
  • Thesis: Here, you will put your thesis statement. (Example: Esperanza's desire to escape the barrio is a direct result of seeing the outcomes of other women's lives.) You can use phrases like, "This essay will examine," "The following pages will illustrate why/how" to introduce your paper.
  • Supporting/Opposing Points for Thesis: Here, you will elaborate and give the reader a reason for why your thesis is arguable. (Example: Other women in the barrio, including Aunt Lupe, Elba, and Becky, have not been able to escape the barrio and therefore have remained the same for years.)

3. Body Paragraphs (Write Three or More before Conclusion)

  • Topic Sentence: Every paragraph needs a topic sentence that introduces the idea you will cover in this paragraph. It should be clear and to the point. A good format to start constructing a good topic sentence is by first stating your thesis and describing one instance in which this proves to be true.
  • Evidence: You will put one of the quotes you collected in the middle of the paragraph. Make sure to cite them correctly using quotation marks and the appropriate footnote/parenthetical notes.
  • Mini-conclusion: This means that you will want to state a reworded topic sentence to close the paragraph and lead into the next. You can do this by explaining why your quote was significant and also by introducing the next topic.

4. Conclusion

The conclusion is where you wrap up your ideas. Restate your thesis and your supporting topic sentences. (This doesn't mean copy them word-for-word; you want to reword in a clear and concise manner if you want that A.) Make sure that you add a concluding sentence that either prompts further questions/analyses or proves your thesis.

C. Write and Edit

Now that you have made a clear outline and have constructed what appears to be an essay, you will need to re-read it and edit your text. First, read the paper to make sure it makes sense. You may proofread while doing this, but if there is a big change you need to make, annotate it and continue reading the rest of your essay.

Next, you will want to add sentences in between paragraphs and sentences that do not transition well. These will make your paper seem like it is naturally written, not choppy or fragmented.


You have now written a complete, structured essay, and as long as your thesis and supporting evidence are solid, you should get an A! Good luck, and if you have any questions, you may contact me by clicking on my profile.


favour on December 12, 2019:

Thanks for teaching me what don't know

GREGORY on April 12, 2018:

Please in the writting of the introduction,should one first write the word '' thesis'' before stating the actual thesis

amal khan on October 03, 2016:

This is very useful.I got a lot of guidelines for my research .

Brian Scott from United States on November 13, 2012:

I think the outline is the most important. It's overrated because writers think they can remember everything in their head. I never write any lengthy manuscript without an outline. Even writing a Hub, I outline first.

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on January 03, 2012:

Thank you so much, gree. Your hubs are great! I haven't been to them in a while and need to stop by. Thanks for reading and commenting.

gree0786 from United States on January 03, 2012:

the tools you gave in the proofreading/editing section were very useful, thanks for the great information! hopefully my next hub will be better written, haha.

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 16, 2011:

Thank YOU, John! I really hope this helps out with your papers next week. Good luck!

jkchandra on November 16, 2011:

Wow! I have essays to do for next week and I tend to do well most times. But I have to say that I've bookmarked this as well as feeling a huge motivation level in me to get an A+ for next ones and I will be coming back here from time to time to check on them and use this as on outline/rubric. Thanks a million!:)

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 14, 2011:

Thank you, Derdriu! I do think this format can be used for other subjects. I think it may differ for long, research papers, however (ones that require a literary analysis), but I appreciate your comments and am happy to have published a successful hub. Mahalo

Derdriu on November 13, 2011:

Brittany: What an accessible, logical, useful presentation on writing a high quality English paper! You explain your points through concise descriptions, helpful examples and useful links. What you offer actually is applicable to any writing project, be it analytical, creative or scientific.

Thank you for sharing, voted up, etc.,


Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 12, 2011:

I was an English minor (I had enough credit for the major, but I did my senior project in sociology) and I'm not an English teacher...yet. Thank you so much. I hope your daughter finds this useful. :)

Warren Baldwin from Kansas on November 12, 2011:

I have a daughter that is a freshman English major in college right now. I'm going to forward this article on to her. Good job. I assume you were an English major? Maybe an English teacher now? Good article.

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 12, 2011:

Thank you so much! Yes, I thought it would be useful to those still in school. Some people don't learn this until they are in college and English courses can be much harder for them. Thanks again.

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on November 12, 2011:

This is a really useful hub, especially for high school and college students. My daughter is currently taking a freshman English class at our local community college and this seems to be the basic form her class follows. ~voting up and useful~

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