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How to Plan & Write IELTS Double Question Essays

IELTS double question essays are also known as ‘direct question’ or ‘two questions’ essays. They are distinguished by two characteristics:

  • They have one statement with two different questions after it.
  • The questions may or may not be linked.

Here are 3 examples:

1) Fossil fuels are essential for producing electricity, powering industry and fueling transportation. However, one day we will reach a point when all the world’s fossil fuels have been depleted.

How can we conserve these resources?

What are some alternatives to fossil fuels?

2) Some parents buy their children whatever they ask for, and allow their children to do whatever they want.

Is this a good way to raise children?

What consequences could this style of parenting have for children as they get older?

3) The arts, including art, music and theatre are considered to be important in society.

Do you think the arts still have a place amongst our modern lifestyles?

Should the arts be included in the school curriculum?

In this lesson, I’m going to demonstrate step-by-step how to plan and write IELTS double question essays.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • 3 Common mistakes
  • Essay structure
  • How to plan
  • How to write an introduction
  • How to write main body paragraphs
  • How to write a conclusion

Want to watch and listen to this lesson?

Click on this video.

Click the links to see lessons on each of these Task 2 essay writing topics. 

Once you understand the process, practice on past questions. Take your time at first and gradually speed up until you can plan and write an essay of at least 250 words in the 40 minutes allowed in the exam.

3 Common Mistakes

These three errors are common in IELTS double question essays.

  • Not answering both questions fully.
  • Not outlining both answers in the introduction.
  • Mistaking it for one of the other essay types.

Many students make the mistake of only answering one of the questions, or focusing more on one question than the other which leads to an unbalanced essay. Both these errors will seriously affect your score for task achievement.

You must outline everything you are going to write about in the introduction. This is your blueprint for the whole essay. I’ll show you how to do this and get your essay off to a great start.

It’s easy to mistake IELTS double question essays for one of the other four types of Task 2 essays, especially opinion or discussion essays. Each should be answered in a slightly different way.

Analysing the question properly is essential to avoiding this error. I’ll also show you how to do this and give you a simple 4 part structure for planning your essay.

Essay Structure

Let’s look at this essay structure straight away. You can use it to write any IELTS double question essay. It’s easy to learn and will enable you to quickly plan and write a high-level essay.

1)  Introduction  

  •   Paraphrase the question 
  •   Outline sentence – state your answer to both questions

2)  Main body paragraph 1 – Answer question 1

  • Topic sentence – state your answer
  • Explanation – develop the idea
  • Example – give an example

3)  Main body paragraph 2 – Answer question 2

4)  Conclusion Summarise both questions and answers

This structure will give us a well-balanced essay with 4 paragraphs.

We now need some ideas to add to the structure and we’ll have everything we need for our essay.

How To Plan IELTS Double Question Essays

Here’s the question we’re going to be answering in our model essay followed by the 3 steps of the planning process.

Fossil fuels are essential for producing electricity, powering industry and fueling transportation. However, one day we will reach a point when all the world’s fossil fuels have been depleted.

  • Analyse the question
  • Generate ideas
  • Identify vocabulary

# 1  Analyse the question

This is an essential step in the planning process and will ensure that you answer the question fully. It’s quick and easy to do. You just need to identify 3 different types of words:

  • Topic words
  • Other keywords
  • Instruction words

Topics words  are the ones that identify the general subject of the question and will be found in the statement part of the question.

Fossil fuels  are essential for producing electricity, powering industry and fueling transportation. However, one day we will reach a point when all the world’s  fossil fuels  have been depleted.

So, this question is about ‘ fossil fuels ’.

Many people will do this first step of the process and then write about the topic in general. This is a serious mistake and leads to low marks for task achievement.

Now that we know what the general topic is, we need to understand exactly what aspect of fossil fuels we're being asked to write about.

The  other keywords  in the question tell you the specific things you must write about. For IELTS double question essays, these will often be in the instructions, that is, the actual questions.

How can we  conserve  these resources?

What are some  alternatives  to fossil fuels?

By highlighting these words, it’s easy to identify the topics. Your essay must only include ideas relevant to these ideas.

The  instruction words  are the questions themselves. These tell you exactly what type of information is required and each will become the topic for one of the two main body paragraphs.

The first body paragraph will answer the first question (How?) and the second body paragraph will answer the second question (What?).

# 2  Generate ideas

The next task is to generate some ideas to write about.

There are several different ways to think up ideas. I cover them fully on the  IELTS Essay Planning  page.

We’re going to use the ‘friends technique’. This is the method I prefer as it allows you to take a step back from the stress of the exam situation and think more calmly.

Here’s how it works. Imagine that you are in a casual conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee and they ask you this question. What are the first thoughts to come into your head? Plan your essay around these ideas.

Doing this will help you to come up with simple answers in everyday language rather than straining your brain to think of amazing ideas using high-level language, which isn’t necessary.

You might want to try this yourself before reading on for my ideas.

Here are my ideas as I thought of them:

How can we conserve these resources? 

  • Become more energy conscious & more energy efficient
  • Use more renewable energy sources – solar panels
  • All new homes should be built with solar panels on
  • Use car less – walk, cycle, public transport, only travel when really necessary
  • Energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Solar power
  • Wave energy
  • Tidal energy
  • Biomass energy
  • Geothermal energy

Don’t spend long on this as you only need one or two ideas.

There is so much to write about this topic that we have to be very careful we don’t try to include too many different ideas and just end up with a list for each question rather than a well-developed essay.

Choose one main idea for each part of the question. My advice on making your selection is to choose ideas that you can quickly think of examples for.

Here are my choices:

  • Use car less – walk, cycle, public transport
  • Natural forces – solar & wind power, wave & tidal energy

We’re almost ready to start writing our IELTS double question essay but first, we have one other small task to do.

# 3  Vocabulary

During the planning stage, quickly jot down some vocabulary that comes to mind as you decide which ideas you are going to write about, especially synonyms of key words. This will save you having to stop and think of the right language while you’re writing.

For the ideas I’ve chosen, useful words will include:

  • sustainable  
  • renewable energy
  • energy-efficient

With that done, we can focus on the first paragraph of the essay – the introduction.

How To Write an Introduction

The best introductions to IELTS double question essays have a simple 2 part structure:

1)   Paraphrase the question

2)   Outline sentence – state your answer to both questions

  • Have 2-3 sentences
  • Be 40-60 words long
  • Take 5 minutes to write

1)  Paraphrase the question

Start your introduction by paraphrasing the statement part of the question.

Question statement:

Paraphrased question:  

The world is currently reliant on oil, coal and natural gas for the majority of its energy requirements but there will come a time when these run out.

We are simply saying the same thing in a different way and using different vocabulary.

2)  Outline statement

Now we need to add an  outline statement  where we outline the two main points that we’ll cover in the rest of the essay, that is, the answers to the two questions.

We need to be very specific about what we are going to write about.

Here's a reminder of the ideas I’ve chosen to answer the two questions:

  • Natural forces –solar & wind power, wave & tidal energy

Outl ine statement:  

This essay will discuss how we can help to prevent our non-renewable resources from becoming depleted by using our cars less frequently and it will name some natural forces that can be harnessed to generate power.

Note my use of synonyms to replace key words in the question. You don’t have to replace every key word but do so where possible whilst ensuring that your language sounds natural.

So, let’s bring the two elements of our introduction together.


list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

This introduction achieves three important functions:

  • It shows the examiner that you understand the question.
  • It acts as a guide to the examiner as to what your essay is about.
  • It also helps to keep you focused and on track as you write.

The two ideas in your introduction will become your two main body paragraphs.

Main body paragraph 1  –  Use car less – walk, cycle, public transport

Main body paragraph 2  –  Renewable energy / natural forces – solar & wind power, wave & tidal energy

How To Write Main Body Paragraphs

Main body paragraphs in IELTS double question essays should contain 3 things:

  • Explanation –  develop the idea

Main Body Paragraph 1  – Answer question 1

The  topic sentence  summarises the main idea of the paragraph. That’s all it needs to do so it doesn’t have to be complicated.

It plays an important role in ensuring that your ideas flow logically from one to another. It does this by acting as a signpost for what is to come next, that is, what the paragraph will be about.

If you maintain a clear development of ideas throughout your essay, you will get high marks for task achievement and cohesion and coherence.

We’ll now take the idea for our first main body paragraph and create our topic sentence.

Main body paragraph 1  –  Use car less – walk, cycle, public transport, only travel when really necessary

Topic sentence:  

Conserving energy is a responsibility of every individual and an important way in which we can all do our bit is to use more energy-efficient means of transport. 

Next, we must write an  explanation sentence  that develops the idea.

Explanation sentence: 

The easiest way to do this is to leave the car at home and walk or cycle to our destination if it isn’t too far away, or take public transport for longer journeys. Another way to reduce our fuel consumption is to car share.

Finally, we add an  example  to support our main point. If you can’t think of a real example, it’s fine to make one up, as long as it’s believable. The examiner isn’t going to check your facts. Alternative, you could add another piece of information to support your idea but an example is better.

Example sentence:

Whenever my friends and I get together for coffee, we agree to meet up at a café that we can each get to without having to drive our cars there. We usually go on foot or ride our bikes. If everyone made small decisions like this, it would make a real difference.

That’s the 3 parts of our first main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

We now follow the same process for our second main body paragraph.

Main Body Paragraph 2  – Answer question 2

Again, we’ll now take the idea I’ve chosen for this paragraph and create our topic sentence.

Main body paragraph 2  –  Renewable energy / natural forces –   solar & wind power, wave & tidal energy

Topic sentence:

The most sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels are the generation of power from natural forces such as the sun, wind and oceans.

Now for the  explanation  where we expand on this idea.

Explanation sentence:

S olar and wind power are already widely used across the world but it is wave power and tidal energy that have the greatest untapped potential to provide for our energy needs in the future.

Finally, an  example  to support our main point.

A report recently commissioned in the United Kingdom estimates that tidal energy could meet as much as  20% of the UK’s current electricity demands once the technology being developed is operational. Wave energy converters are expected to prove equally successful in the long-term.

That’s the 3 parts of our second main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

Now we need a conclusion and our IELTS double question essay is done.

How To Write a Conclusion

The conclusion is a summary of the main points in your essay and can often be done in a single sentence. It should never introduce new ideas.

If you're below the minimum 250 words after you’ve written your conclusion, you can add a prediction or recommendation statement.

Our essay is already over the minimum word limit so we don’t need this extra sentence but you can learn more about how to write a prediction or recommendation statement for IELTS double question essays on the  Task 2 Conclusions  page.

The conclusion is the easiest sentence in the essay to write but one of the most important.

A good conclusion to an IELTS double question essay will:

  • Neatly end the essay
  • Link all your ideas together
  • Sum up your argument or opinion
  • Answer the question

If you achieve this, you’ll improve your score for both task achievement and cohesion and coherence which together make up 50% of the overall marks. Without a conclusion, you’ll score below band 6 for task achievement.

You can start almost any final paragraph of an IELTS double question essay with the words:

  • In conclusion


  • To conclude

Now all you need to do is briefly summarise the main ideas into one or two sentences.

Here’s a top tip . Go back and read the introduction to the essay because this is also a summary of the essay. It outlines what you are going to write about.

To create a great conclusion, you simply have to paraphrase the introduction.


Here is the same information formed into a conclusion:

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

That’s it. We’ve completed our essay. Here it is with the 4 paragraphs put together.

Finished IELTS double question essay.

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

     (351 words)

Go through this lesson as many times as you need to in order to fully understand it and put in lots of practice writing IELTS double question essays from past exam questions. Practice is the only way to improve your skills.

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More help with ielts double question essays & other task 2 essays.

IELTS Writing Task 2  – T he format, the 5 question types, the 5 step essay writing strategy & sample questions. All the key information you need to know.

The 5 Types of Task 2 Essay   – How to recognise the 5 different types of Task 2 essays. 15 sample questions to study and a simple planning structure for each essay type.

Understanding Task 2 Questions  – How to quickly and easily analyse and understand IELTS Writing Task 2 questions.

How To Plan a Task 2 Essay  – Discover why essay planning is essential & learn a simple 4 step strategy, the 4 part essay structure & 4 methods of generating ideas.

How To Write a Task 2 Introduction  – Find out why a good introduction is essential. Learn how to write one using a simple 3 part strategy & discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

How To Write Task 2 Main Body Paragraphs  – Learn the simple 3 part structure for writing great main body paragraphs and also, 3 common mistakes to avoid. 

How To Write Task 2 Conclusions  – Learn the easy way to write the perfect conclusion for a Task 2 essay. Also discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

Task 2 Marking Criteria  – Find out how to meet the marking criteria in Task 2. See examples of good and poor answers & learn some common mistakes to avoid.

The 5 Task 2 Essay Types:

Step-by-step instructions on how to plan & write high-level essays. Model answers & common mistakes to avoid.

   Opinion Essays

   Discussion Essays

  Problem Solution Essays

  Advantages & Disadvantages Essays

  Double Question Essays

Other Related Pages

IELTS Writing Test  – Understand the format & marking criteria, know what skills are assessed & learn the difference between the Academic & General writing tests.

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  • 40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.

Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.

If you’re interested in developing your language and persuasive skills, Oxford Royale offers summer courses at its Oxford Summer School , Cambridge Summer School , London Summer School , San Francisco Summer School and Yale Summer School . You can study courses to learn english , prepare for careers in law , medicine , business , engineering and leadership.

General explaining

Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.

1. In order to

Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”

2. In other words

Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”

3. To put it another way

Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”

4. That is to say

Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”

5. To that end

Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”

Adding additional information to support a point

Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.

6. Moreover

Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”

7. Furthermore

Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”

8. What’s more

Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”

9. Likewise

Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”

10. Similarly

Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”

11. Another key thing to remember

Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”

12. As well as

Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”

13. Not only… but also

Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”

14. Coupled with

Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”

15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…

Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.

16. Not to mention/to say nothing of

Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”

Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast

When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.

17. However

Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”

18. On the other hand

Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”

19. Having said that

Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”

20. By contrast/in comparison

Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”

21. Then again

Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”

22. That said

Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”

Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”

Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations

Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.

24. Despite this

Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”

25. With this in mind

Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”

26. Provided that

Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”

27. In view of/in light of

Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”

28. Nonetheless

Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”

29. Nevertheless

Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”

30. Notwithstanding

Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”

Giving examples

Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.

31. For instance

Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”

32. To give an illustration

Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”

Signifying importance

When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.

33. Significantly

Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”

34. Notably

Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”

35. Importantly

Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”


You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.

36. In conclusion

Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”

37. Above all

Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”

38. Persuasive

Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”

39. Compelling

Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”

40. All things considered

Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”

How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.

At Oxford Royale Academy, we offer a number of  summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , business , medicine  and engineering .

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The writer of the academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence. The beginning of the essay is a crucial first step in this process. In order to engage readers and establish your authority, the beginning of your essay has to accomplish certain business. Your beginning should introduce the essay, focus it, and orient readers.

Introduce the Essay.  The beginning lets your readers know what the essay is about, the  topic . The essay's topic does not exist in a vacuum, however; part of letting readers know what your essay is about means establishing the essay's  context , the frame within which you will approach your topic. For instance, in an essay about the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, the context may be a particular legal theory about the speech right; it may be historical information concerning the writing of the amendment; it may be a contemporary dispute over flag burning; or it may be a question raised by the text itself. The point here is that, in establishing the essay's context, you are also limiting your topic. That is, you are framing an approach to your topic that necessarily eliminates other approaches. Thus, when you determine your context, you simultaneously narrow your topic and take a big step toward focusing your essay. Here's an example.

The paragraph goes on. But as you can see, Chopin's novel (the topic) is introduced in the context of the critical and moral controversy its publication engendered.

Focus the Essay.  Beyond introducing your topic, your beginning must also let readers know what the central issue is. What question or problem will you be thinking about? You can pose a question that will lead to your idea (in which case, your idea will be the answer to your question), or you can make a thesis statement. Or you can do both: you can ask a question and immediately suggest the answer that your essay will argue. Here's an example from an essay about Memorial Hall.

The fullness of your idea will not emerge until your conclusion, but your beginning must clearly indicate the direction your idea will take, must set your essay on that road. And whether you focus your essay by posing a question, stating a thesis, or combining these approaches, by the end of your beginning, readers should know what you're writing about, and  why —and why they might want to read on.

Orient Readers.  Orienting readers, locating them in your discussion, means providing information and explanations wherever necessary for your readers' understanding. Orienting is important throughout your essay, but it is crucial in the beginning. Readers who don't have the information they need to follow your discussion will get lost and quit reading. (Your teachers, of course, will trudge on.) Supplying the necessary information to orient your readers may be as simple as answering the journalist's questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. It may mean providing a brief overview of events or a summary of the text you'll be analyzing. If the source text is brief, such as the First Amendment, you might just quote it. If the text is well known, your summary, for most audiences, won't need to be more than an identifying phrase or two:

Often, however, you will want to summarize your source more fully so that readers can follow your analysis of it.

Questions of Length and Order.  How long should the beginning be? The length should be proportionate to the length and complexity of the whole essay. For instance, if you're writing a five-page essay analyzing a single text, your beginning should be brief, no more than one or two paragraphs. On the other hand, it may take a couple of pages to set up a ten-page essay.

Does the business of the beginning have to be addressed in a particular order? No, but the order should be logical. Usually, for instance, the question or statement that focuses the essay comes at the end of the beginning, where it serves as the jumping-off point for the middle, or main body, of the essay. Topic and context are often intertwined, but the context may be established before the particular topic is introduced. In other words, the order in which you accomplish the business of the beginning is flexible and should be determined by your purpose.

Opening Strategies.  There is still the further question of how to start. What makes a good opening? You can start with specific facts and information, a keynote quotation, a question, an anecdote, or an image. But whatever sort of opening you choose, it should be directly related to your focus. A snappy quotation that doesn't help establish the context for your essay or that later plays no part in your thinking will only mislead readers and blur your focus. Be as direct and specific as you can be. This means you should avoid two types of openings:

  • The history-of-the-world (or long-distance) opening, which aims to establish a context for the essay by getting a long running start: "Ever since the dawn of civilized life, societies have struggled to reconcile the need for change with the need for order." What are we talking about here, political revolution or a new brand of soft drink? Get to it.
  • The funnel opening (a variation on the same theme), which starts with something broad and general and "funnels" its way down to a specific topic. If your essay is an argument about state-mandated prayer in public schools, don't start by generalizing about religion; start with the specific topic at hand.

Remember.  After working your way through the whole draft, testing your thinking against the evidence, perhaps changing direction or modifying the idea you started with, go back to your beginning and make sure it still provides a clear focus for the essay. Then clarify and sharpen your focus as needed. Clear, direct beginnings rarely present themselves ready-made; they must be written, and rewritten, into the sort of sharp-eyed clarity that engages readers and establishes your authority.

Copyright 1999, Patricia Kain, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

IELTS Preparation with Liz: Free IELTS Tips and Lessons, 2024

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IELTS Model Essay -Two Questions Essay Type

The IELTS Writing Task 2 Two Questions Essay: Causes & Positive/Negative Trends .

There are a number of different types of IELTS essay questions. There are Opinion Essays, Discussion Essays, Advantage/Disadvantage Essays, Solution (including Cause/ Solution) Essays and there are Direct Question Essays (such as the Two Question Essay). However, please note that different teachers use different names for essay types.

The model essay below looks at the Direct Question Essay which contains Two Questions. 

IELTS Essay Question  – Computer Games

More and more adults are playing computer games. Why is this happening? Is it a positive or negative trend?

The main topic in the essay question is Technology and the specific topic is Computer Games. It is a current essay question because it is about a current trend in the world today. I’ve provided a list of tips to help you tackle this type of essay question.

Points to Consider

  • There is only one issue to tackle : computer games. This is lucky. It is an easy essay question. Some essay questions are more complex and have two separate issues to tackle.
  • There are two questions to answer . I call this type of question a “Direct Question Essay”. The first question is about causes of the trend. The second question is about evaluating whether it is good or bad. Whenever you are asked to choose, it means you must give your opinion.
  • Pay attention to the wording of the essay topic . This is about adults, not children. It is about computer games which some people consider are for children. Always pay attention to all keywords in the essay question when you brainstorm or you will go off topic. Ask yourself questions to stimulate ideas. Why are adults playing games on a computer? We know that children like to do this, but why are adults doing this? And is this good? Is it good that adults are playing computer games? If it is bad, why? 
  • Next think about the concept of “computer games”. Spend time analysing the issue given . We often consider computer games to be silly entertainment fore children. But is that correct? Are all computer games actually silly? If we think about this carefully, we will realise that actually some computer games are complex and strategic. Some games require skill and intelligence to play. This means that the issue of computer games is not a simple one. Computer games are varied. Does this essay question apply to childish computer games or complex games? The answer is – it applies to both. So, now we know we can tackle this issue at a level of more depth. Getting to the depth of the issue is essential for a high score.  So, while we can see there is only one issue (computer games) that single issue is complex and can be divided into different aspects.
  • After you brainstorm, choose the ideas that are the most relevant and the easiest to explain well. You don’t get a high score because you have lots of ideas. You get a higher score for presenting specific ideas which are well developed and highly relevant.
  • If you have two questions to cover. It is logical to have two body paragraphs . Being logical in your choice of paragraphing is important. 
  • Provide a clear position in your introduction as to whether you think this is a positive or negative point. Being clear in the introduction helps the examiner follow your body paragraphs more easily and this will increase your score. If you think it is positive – make it clear. If you think it is negative – say so. If you think “it depends” – make sure you word it clearly and explain it clearly in the body paragraphs. The easiest approach is a positive or negative one (a one-sided approach). The “it depends” approach is harder and requires stronger language skills. 

Model Essay: Computer Games (2024)

It seems that the current trend is for an increasing number of adults to enjoy playing computer games in their free time. With the development of game technology, it is hardly surprising that adults are playing games, but whether it is positive or negative depends on the games played and the time spent on them.

In terms of why so many adults are choosing to spend time playing computer games, it is mainly because the technology behind the games is becoming more sophisticated. Initially, when games first came out, they were very simplistic and appealed mainly to children. However, things have moved on since then and games have become visually appealing, very absorbing, require great dexterity and some also have a strategic challenge to them which adults particularly like. Such games can attract professional adults looking to hone tactics and skills to other adults wishing just to relax and switch off.

However, whether this trend in adults towards computer games is beneficial or not can be challenged. Some adults use complex, challenging games as a form of escapism which keeps their mind sharp and helps them relax at the same time. As long as the time spent on such games is balanced with other healthier pursuits, it can be constructive. Unfortunately, adults who ignore their physical health and spend too much time on mindless, repetitive games develop a sedentary lifestyle which can be detrimental to their wellbeing. 

In conclusion, computer games have become more fascinating and tempting to adults. While games that help develop tactics and knowledge might be advantageous, no game, particularly senseless games, should be played to excess and certainly should not replace healthier leisure activities.

Word count = 276 

IELTS Writing Task 2  Model Essays & Tips

Click here to see all model essays, tips etc for writing task 2: IELTS Writing Task 2 Main Page


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This is awesome, there are so much new vocabulary that I can learn from. Thank you Liz! And I wanna ask if all model essays are in the “model essay” category? I’m a new comer and I’m looking for as many well-written writings as possible, like yours!

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There are a lot of model essays online. I do not know their quality or how safe they are to use a models. Not all websites are written by professional, experienced teachers who have completed the IELTS examiner training. The models on my essay are safe to use as a guide.

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I received my IELTS result today and I scored 7.5 overall band score. I can’t thank you enough for your valuable help and guidance.

More than IELTS, I’m more confident than ever and look forward to continuing this learning further.

Thanks again and take care.

Best Regards, Kamlesh

I’m so pleased for you, Kamlesh! Very well done to you!! I do hope you continue learning. One day I plan to start an English Liz Youtube channel so that people can keep learning beyond their IELTS test 🙂

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That would be perfect <3

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Thank you so much, Liz. I really appreciate your fantastic work.

You’re welcome 🙂

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Good evening Liz. I’m grateful for your guidance and tutelage as I scored 7.5 in my writing, 7.5 in speaking, 7.0 in listening and 6.0 in reading after just a short time with you. I’m optimistic in my next attempt I should get the desired scores. You’re a great teacher ma’am.

I wish you lots of luck in your next test 🙂

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Rituparna Saha says April 5, 2024 Thank you Liz for all your support and guidance on Writing Task 2. I greatly appreciate your efforts.

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I took my IELTS test a few days ago. The results are out and I got a band 7 in writing with an overall band 7.5 in just a week. For writing I only watched your videos and took notes of all the points you taught. I did not even practice writing much, just referred to your videos and read all the materials on the website. Your content is pure gold and you are an amazing teacher. Ilysm

Very well done with your results!! Many people struggle to hit band 7 in writing. Congrats!

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this is Soo nice Liz I have been following you and your materials are helpful kindly would like to know where I can download the Cambridge book or if you can share any regards Hellen

The IELTS Cambridge Test Books are copyrighted so I can’t share them. However, you can find new as well as second hand copies on Amazon or possibly in a local educational store.

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I don’t feel the introduction is clear, and there is no clear opinion.

“it depends” indicates the opinion. It shows that the writer intends to be specific about when it is positive and when it is negative because their opinion covers both. This can often be the case with IELTS essays that require an opinion. You do not have to choose positive or negative and be 100% on one side. It is 100% acceptable in IELTS but it is a more difficult opinion to create if one’s English language isn’t strong.

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Hello Liz, is it okay to write a contrast (one point) before the conclusion paragraph in agree or disagree essay? Thank you.

This is not an agree/disagree essay. The Opinion Essay is an agree disagree essay which requires you to agree, disagree or have a partial agreement with an opinion given by IELTS. That essay is not an Opinion Essay because you aren’t being asked to respond to an opinion given by IELTS. This essay is a Direct Questions Essay which may or may not require an opinion depending on the questions you are given. In an Opinion Essay, you introduce your opinion in the introduction and the whole essay explains your opinion. You can’t suddenly put a different opinion further down the essay. Your opinion must be consistent throughout the whole essay. I recommend you get my advanced lessons because they explain in detail how to tackle an Opinion Essay. You can find them in my online store: https://elizabethferguson.podia.com/

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Thanks a lot liz.

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Hi dear Liz. Hope you are fast recuperating. I have written the following intro. ” There is a growing propensity among the youth to play computer games. This is due to indulgence of parents and can have possible detrimental effects.” I know you don’t comment on write ups, but this is with a hope, in case…

I’ll just make one comment. I made a list of points to consider. Point 3 was important. This isn’t about youths. It’s about adults, which means people in their early 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s etc. And because it is about adults, it cannot be related to “indulgence from parents”. If you make this mistake, most of your essay will be off topic. That is the reason I wrote point 3. Take a look again because it’s an important lesson to learn.

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This writing test sample answer makes a whole lots of sense to me. Well appreciated 👍👍👍.

I’m glad it made sense. IELTS isn’t difficult once you understand more about the test and the aims you should have.

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Hi, Due to the financial crisis, I lacked many things like IELTS practice/preparation classes and missed many classes from a good teacher like you.

therefore, if you have any better offer like a full free studentship & give me the opportunity. Thank you in advance for your kind coope

This website has hundreds of page of free practice lessons, tips, topics, videos, advice, information, model answers etc. Use them well. Learn from each page and take your time. Then use the IELTS Cambridge test books for full test practice at home.

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Thank you so much Liz for your valuable tips and techniques 🙏❤️

I’m glad it was helpful 🙂

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Thank you for this it’s very helpful Liz. I greatly appreciate your efforts

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12 Essential Steps for Writing an Argumentative Essay (with 10 example essays)

Bonus Material: 10 complete example essays

Writing an essay can often feel like a Herculean task. How do you go from a prompt… to pages of beautifully-written and clearly-supported writing?

This 12-step method is for students who want to write a great essay that makes a clear argument.

In fact, using the strategies from this post, in just 88 minutes, one of our students revised her C+ draft to an A.

If you’re interested in learning how to write awesome argumentative essays and improve your writing grades, this post will teach you exactly how to do it.

First, grab our download so you can follow along with the complete examples.

Then keep reading to see all 12 essential steps to writing a great essay.

Download 10 example essays

Download 10 great example essays

Why you need to have a plan

One of the most common mistakes that students make when writing is to just dive in haphazardly without a plan.

Writing is a bit like cooking. If you’re making a meal, would you start throwing ingredients at random into a pot? Probably not!

Instead, you’d probably start by thinking about what you want to cook. Then you’d gather the ingredients, and go to the store if you don’t already have them in your kitchen. Then you’d follow a recipe, step by step, to make your meal.

Preparing to cook a dish in an organized way, just like we prepare to write an essay

Here’s our 12-step recipe for writing a great argumentative essay:

  • Pick a topic
  • Choose your research sources
  • Read your sources and take notes
  • Create a thesis statement
  • Choose three main arguments to support your thesis statement —now you have a skeleton outline
  • Populate your outline with the research that supports each argument
  • Do more research if necessary
  • Add your own analysis
  • Add transitions and concluding sentences to each paragraph
  • Write an introduction and conclusion for your essay
  • Add citations and bibliography

Grab our download to see the complete example at every stage, along with 9 great student essays. Then let’s go through the steps together and write an A+ essay!

1. Pick a topic

Sometimes you might be assigned a topic by your instructor, but often you’ll have to come up with your own idea! 

If you don’t pick the right topic, you can be setting yourself up for failure.

Be careful that your topic is something that’s actually arguable —it has more than one side. Check out our carefully-vetted list of 99 topic ideas .

Let’s pick the topic of laboratory animals . Our question is should animals be used for testing and research ?

Hamster, which could potentially be used for animal research

Download our set of 10 great example essays to jump to the finished version of this essay.

2. Choose your research sources

One of the big differences between the way an academic argumentative essay and the version of the assignment that you may have done in elementary school is that for an academic argumentative essay, we need to support our arguments with evidence .

Where do we get that evidence?

Let’s be honest, we all are likely to start with Google and Wikipedia.

Now, Wikipedia can be a useful starting place if you don’t know very much about a topic, but don’t use Wikipedia as your main source of evidence for your essay. 

Instead, look for reputable sources that you can show to your readers as proof of your arguments. It can be helpful to read some sources from either side of your issue.

Look for recently-published sources (within the last 20 years), unless there’s a specific reason to do otherwise.

Support all your points with evidence

Good places to look for sources are:

  • Books published by academic presses
  • Academic journals
  • Academic databases like JSTOR and EBSCO
  • Nationally-published newspapers and magazines like The New York Times or The Atlantic
  • Websites and publications of national institutions like the NIH
  • Websites and publications of universities

Some of these sources are typically behind a paywall. This can be frustrating when you’re a middle-school or high-school student.

However, there are often ways to get access to these sources. Librarians (at your school library or local public library) can be fantastic resources, and they can often help you find a copy of the article or book you want to read. In particular, librarians can help you use Interlibrary Loan to order books or journals to your local library!

More and more scientists and other researchers are trying to publish their articles for free online, in order to encourage the free exchange of knowledge. Check out respected open-access platforms like arxiv.org and PLOS ONE .

How do you find these sources?

If you have access to an academic database like JSTOR or EBSCO , that’s a great place to start.

Example of a search on JSTOR

Everyone can use Google Scholar to search for articles. This is a powerful tool and highly recommended!

Google scholar search

Of course, if there’s a term you come across that you don’t recognize, you can always just Google it!

How many sources do you need? That depends on the length of your essay and on the assignment. If your instructor doesn’t give you any other guidance, assume that you should have at least three good sources.

For our topic of animal research, here’s a few sources that we could assemble:

Geoff Watts. “Animal Testing: Is It Worth It?” BMJ: British Medical Journal , Jan. 27, 2007, Vol. 334, No. 7586 (Jan. 27, 2007), pp. 182-184.

Kim Bartel Sheehan and Joonghwa Lee. “What’s Cruel About Cruelty Free: An Exploration of Consumers, Moral Heuristics, and Public Policy.” Journal of Animal Ethics , Vol. 4, No. 2 (Fall 2014), pp. 1-15.

Justin Goodman, Alka Chandna and Katherine Roe. “Trends in animal use at US research facilities.” Journal of Medical Ethics , July 2015, Vol. 41, No. 7 (July 2015), pp. 567-569.

Katy Taylor. “Recent Developments in Alternatives to Animal Testing.” In Animal Experimentation: Working Towards a Paradigm Change . Brill 2019.

Thomas Hartung. “Research and Testing Without Animals: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Heading?” In Animal Experimentation: Working Towards a Paradigm Change . Brill 2019.

Bonus: download 10 example essays now .

3. Read your sources and take notes

Once you have a nice pile of sources, it’s time to read them!

As we read, we want to take notes that will be useful to us later as we write our essay.

We want to be careful to keep the source’s ideas separate from our own ideas . Come up with a system to clearly mark the difference as you’re taking notes: use different colors, or use little arrows to represent the ideas that are yours and not the source’s ideas.

We can use this structure to keep notes in an organized way:

Download a template for these research notes here .

Petri dish in laboratory research

For our topic of animal research, our notes might look something like this:

Grab our download to read the rest of the notes and see more examples of how to do thoughtful research!

Student taking notes on research project

4. Create a thesis

What major themes did you find in your reading? What did you find most interesting or convincing?

Now is the point when you need to pick a side on your topic, if you haven’t already done so. Now that you’ve read more about the issue, what do you think? Write down your position on the issue:

Animal testing is necessary but should be reduced.

Next, it’s time to add more detail to your thesis. What reasons do you have to support that position? Add those to your sentence.

Animal testing is necessary but should be reduced by eliminating testing for cosmetics, ensuring that any testing is scientifically sound, and replacing animal models with other methods as much as possible.

Add qualifiers to refine your position. Are there situations in which your position would not apply? Or are there other conditions that need to be met? 

Cancer research

For our topic of animal research, our final thesis statement (with lead-in) might look something like this:

The argument: Animal testing and research should not be abolished, as doing so would upend important medical research and substance testing. However, scientific advances mean that in many situations animal testing can be replaced by other methods that not only avoid the ethical problems of animal testing, but also are less costly and more accurate. Governments and other regulatory bodies should further regulate animal testing to outlaw testing for cosmetics and other recreational products, ensure that the tests conducted are both necessary and scientifically rigorous, and encourage the replacement of animal use with other methods whenever possible.

The highlighted bit at the end is the thesis statement, but the lead-in is useful to help us set up the argument—and having it there already will make writing our introduction easier!

The thesis statement is the single most important sentence of your essay. Without a strong thesis, there’s no chance of writing a great essay. Read more about it here .

See how nine real students wrote great thesis statements in 9 example essays now.

5. Create three supporting arguments

Think of three good arguments why your position is true. We’re going to make each one into a body paragraph of your essay.

For now, write them out as 1–2 sentences. These will be topic sentences for each body paragraph.

Laboratory setup

For our essay about animal testing, it might look like this:

Supporting argument #1: For ethical reasons, animal testing should not be allowed for cosmetics and recreational products.

Supporting argument #2: The tests that are conducted with animals should be both necessary (for the greater good) and scientifically rigorous—which isn’t always the case currently. This should be regulated by governments and institutions.

Supporting argument #3: Governments and institutions should do more to encourage the replacement of animal testing with other methods.

Optional: Find a counterargument and respond to it

Think of a potential counterargument to your position. Consider writing a fourth paragraph anticipating this counterargument, or find a way to include it in your other body paragraphs. 

Laboratory mouse

For our essay, that might be:

Possible counterargument: Animal testing is unethical and should not be used in any circumstances.

Response to the counterargument: Animal testing is deeply entrenched in many research projects and medical procedures. Abruptly ceasing animal testing would upend the scientific and medical communities. But there are many ways that animal testing could be reduced.

With these three arguments, a counterargument, and a thesis, we now have a skeleton outline! See each step of this essay in full in our handy download .

6. Start populating your outline with the evidence you found in your research

Look through your research. What did you find that would support each of your three arguments?

Copy and paste those quotes or paraphrases into the outline. Make sure that each one is annotated so that you know which source it came from!

Ideally you already started thinking about these sources when you were doing your research—that’s the ideas in the rightmost column of our research template. Use this stuff too! 

A good rule of thumb would be to use at least three pieces of evidence per body paragraph.

Think about in what order it would make most sense to present your points. Rearrange your quotes accordingly! As you reorder them, feel free to start adding short sentences indicating the flow of ideas .

Research at the National Cancer Institute

For our essay about animal testing, part of our populated outline might look something like:

Argument #1: For ethical reasons, animal testing should not be allowed for cosmetics and recreational products.

Lots of animals are used for testing and research.

In the US, about 22 million animals were used annually in the early 1990s, mostly rodents (BMJ 1993, 1020).

But there are ethical problems with using animals in laboratory settings. Opinions about the divide between humans and animals might be shifting.

McIsaac refers to “the essential moral dilemma: how to balance the welfare of humans with the welfare of other species” (Hubel, McIsaac 29).

The fundamental legal texts used to justify animal use in biomedical research were created after WWII, and drew a clear line between experiments on animals and on humans. The Nuremburg Code states that “the experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment” (Ferrari, 197). The 1964  Declaration of the World Medical Association on the Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects (known as the Helsinki Declaration) states that “Medical research involving human subjects must conform to generally accepted scientific principles, be based on a thorough knowledge of the scientific literature, other relevant sources of information, and adequate laboratory and, as appropriate, animal experimentation. The welfare of animals used for research must be respected” (Ferrari, 197).

→ Context? The Nuremberg Code is a set of ethical research principles, developed in 1947 in the wake of Nazi atrocities during WWII, specifically the inhumane and often fatal experimentation on human subjects without consent.

“Since the 1970s, the animal-rights movement has challenged the use of animals in modern Western society by rejecting the idea of dominion of human beings over nature and animals and stressing the intrinsic value and rights of individual animals” (van Roten, 539, referencing works by Singer, Clark, Regan, and Jasper and Nelkin).

“The old (animal) model simply does not fully meet the needs of scientific and economic progress; it fails in cost, speed, level of detail of understanding, and human relevance. On top of this, animal experimentation lacks acceptance by an ethically evolving society” (Hartung, 682).

Knight’s article summarizes negative impacts on laboratory animals—invasive procedures, stress, pain, and death (Knight, 333). These aren’t very widely or clearly reported (Knight, 333). → Reading about these definitely produces an emotional reaction—they sound bad.

Given this context, it makes sense to ban animal testing in situations where it’s just for recreational products like cosmetics.

Fortunately, animal testing for cosmetics is less common than we might think.

A Gallup poll published in 1990 found that 14% of people thought that the most frequent reason for using animals to test cosmetics for safety—but figures from the UK Home Office in 1991 found that less than 1% of animals were used for tests for cosmetics and toiletries (BMJ 1993, 1019). → So in the early 1990s there was a big difference between what people thought was happening and what actually was happening!

But it still happens, and there are very few regulations of it (apart from in the EU).

Because there are many definitions of the phrase “cruelty-free,” many companies “can (and do) use the term when the product or its ingredients were indeed tested on animals” (Sheehan and Lee, 1).

The authors compare “cruelty-free” to the term “fair trade.” There is an independent inspection and certification group (Flo-Cert) that reviews products labeled as “fair trade,” but there’s no analogous process for “cruelty-free” (Sheehan and Lee, 2). → So anyone can just put that label on a product? Apparently, apart from in the European Union. That seems really easy to abuse for marketing purposes.

Companies can also hire outside firms to test products and ingredients on animals (Sheehan and Lee, 3).

Animal testing for recreational, non-medical purposes should be banned, like it is in the EU.

Download the full example outline here .

Research at the National Cancer Institute

7. Do more research if necessary

Occasionally you might realize that there’s a hole in your research, and you don’t have enough evidence to support one of your points.

In this situation, either change your argument to fit the evidence that you do have, or do a bit more research to fill the hole!

For example, looking at our outline for argument #1 for our essay on animal testing, it’s clear that this paragraph is missing a small but crucial bit of evidence—a reference to this specific ban on animal testing for cosmetics in Europe. Time for a bit more research!

A visit to the official website of the European Commission yields a copy of the law, which we can add to our populated outline:

“The cosmetics directive provides the regulatory framework for the phasing out of animal testing for cosmetics purposes. Specifically, it establishes (1) a testing ban – prohibition to test finished cosmetic products and cosmetic ingredients on animals, and (2) a marketing ban – prohibition to market finished cosmetic products and ingredients in the EU which were tested on animals. The same provisions are contained in the cosmetics regulation , which replaced the cosmetics directive as of 11 July 2013. The testing ban on finished cosmetic products applies since 11 September 2004. The testing ban on ingredients or combination of ingredients applies since 11 March 2009. The marketing ban applies since 11 March 2009 for all human health effects with the exception of repeated-dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity, and toxicokinetics. For these specific health effects, the marketing ban applies since 11 March 2013, irrespective of the availability of alternative non-animal tests.” (website of the European Commission, “Ban on animal testing”)

Alright, now this supporting argument has the necessary ingredients!

You don’t need to use all of the evidence that you found in your research. In fact, you probably won’t use all of it!

This part of the writing process requires you to think critically about your arguments and what evidence is relevant to your points .

Cancer research

8. Add your own analysis and synthesis of these points

Once you’ve organized your evidence and decided what you want to use for your essay, now you get to start adding your own analysis!

You may have already started synthesizing and evaluating your sources when you were doing your research (the stuff on the right-hand side of our template). This gives you a great starting place!

For each piece of evidence, follow this formula:

  • Context and transitions: introduce your piece of evidence and any relevant background info and signal the logical flow of ideas
  • Reproduce the paraphrase or direct quote (with citation )
  • Explanation : explain what the quote/paraphrase means in your own words
  • Analysis : analyze how this piece of evidence proves your thesis
  • Relate it back to the thesis: don’t forget to relate this point back to your overarching thesis! 

If you follow this fool-proof formula as you write, you will create clear, well-evidenced arguments.

As you get more experienced, you might stray a bit from the formula—but a good essay will always intermix evidence with explanation and analysis, and will always contain signposts back to the thesis throughout.

For our essay about animal testing, our first body paragraph might look like:

Every year, millions of animals—mostly rodents—are used for testing and research (BMJ 1993, 1020) . This testing poses an ethical dilemma: “how to balance the welfare of humans with the welfare of other species” (Hubel, McIsaac 29) . Many of the fundamental legal tests that are used to justify animal use in biomedical research were created in wake of the horrors of World War II, when the Nazi regime engaged in terrible experimentation on their human prisoners. In response to these atrocities, philosophers and lawmakers drew a clear line between experimenting on humans without consent and experimenting on (non-human) animals. For example, the 1947 Nuremberg Code stated that “the experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment” (Ferrari, 197) . Created two years after the war, the code established a set of ethical research principles to demarcate ethical differences between animals and humans, clarifying differences between Nazi atrocities and more everyday research practices. However, in the following decades, the animal-rights movement has challenged the philosophical boundaries between humans and animals and questioned humanity’s right to exert dominion over animals (van Roten, 539, referencing works by Singer, Clark, Regan, and Jasper and Nelkin) . These concerns are not without justification, as animals used in laboratories are subject to invasive procedures, stress, pain, and death (Knight, 333) . Indeed, reading detailed descriptions of this research can be difficult to stomach . In light of this, while some animal testing that contributes to vital medical research and ultimately saves millions of lives may be ethically justified, animal testing that is purely for recreational purposes like cosmetics cannot be ethically justified . Fortunately, animal testing for cosmetics is less common than we might think . In 1990, a poll found that 14% of people in the UK thought that the most frequent reason for using animals to test cosmetics for safety—but actual figures were less than 1% (BMJ 1993, 1019) . Unfortunately, animal testing for cosmetics is not subject to very much regulation . In particular, companies can use the phrase “cruelty-free” to mean just about anything, and many companies “can (and do) use the term when the product or its ingredients were indeed tested on animals” (Sheehan and Lee, 1) . Unlike the term “fair trade,” which has an independent inspection and certification group (Flo-Cert) that reviews products using the label, there’s no analogous process for “cruelty-free” (Sheehan and Lee, 2) . Without regulation, the term is regularly abused by marketers . Companies can also hire outside firms to test products and ingredients on animals and thereby pass the blame (Sheehan and Lee, 3) . Consumers trying to avoid products tested on animals are frequently tricked . Greater regulation of terms would help, but the only way to end this kind of deceit will be to ban animal testing for recreational, non-medical purposes . The European Union is the only governmental body yet to accomplish this . In a series of regulations, the EU first banned testing finished cosmetic products (2004), then testing ingredients or marketing products which were tested on animals (2009); exceptions for specific health effects ended in 2013 (website of the European Commission, “Ban on animal testing”) . The result is that the EU bans testing cosmetic ingredients or finished cosmetic products on animals, as well as marketing any cosmetic ingredients and products which were tested on animals elsewhere (Regulation 1223/2009/EU, known as the “Cosmetics Regulation”) . The rest of the world should follow this example and ban animal testing on cosmetic ingredients and products, which do not contribute significantly to the greater good and therefore cannot outweigh the cost to animal lives .

Edit down the quotes/paraphrases as you go. In many cases, you might copy out a great long quote from a source…but only end up using a few words of it as a direct quote, or you might only paraphrase it!

There were several good quotes in our previous step that just didn’t end up fitting here. That’s fine!

Take a look at the words and phrases highlighted in red. Notice how sometimes a single word can help to provide necessary context and create a logical transition for a new idea. Don’t forget the transitions! These words and phrases are essential to good writing.

The end of the paragraph should very clearly tie back to the thesis statement.

As you write, consider your audience

If it’s not specified in your assignment prompt, it’s always appropriate to ask your instructor who the intended audience of your essay or paper might be. (Your instructor will usually be impressed by this question!) 

If you don’t get any specific guidance, imagine that your audience is the typical readership of a newspaper like the New York Times —people who are generally educated, but who don’t have any specialized  knowledge of the specific subject, especially if it’s more technical.

That means that you should explain any words or phrases that aren’t everyday terminology!

Equally important, you don’t want to leave logical leaps for your readers to make. Connect all of the dots for them!

See the other body paragraphs of this essay, along with 9 student essays, here .

9. Add paragraph transitions and concluding sentences to each body paragraph

By now you should have at least three strong body paragraphs, each one with 3–5 pieces of evidence plus your own analysis and synthesis of the evidence. 

Each paragraph has a main topic sentence, which we wrote back when we made the outline. This is a good time to check that the topic sentences still match what the rest of the paragraph says!

Think about how these arguments relate to each other. What is the most logical order for them? Re-order your paragraphs if necessary.

Then add a few sentences at the end of each paragraph and/or the beginning of the next paragraph to connect these ideas. This step is often the difference between an okay essay and a really great one!

You want your essay to have a great flow. We didn’t worry about this at the beginning of our writing, but now is the time to start improving the flow of ideas!

10. The final additions: write an introduction and a conclusion

Follow this formula to write a great introduction:

  • It begins with some kind of “hook”: this can be an anecdote, quote, statistic, provocative statement, question, etc. 

(Pro tip: don’t use phrases like “throughout history,” “since the dawn of humankind,” etc. It’s good to think broadly, but you don’t have to make generalizations for all of history.)

  • It gives some background information that is relevant to understand the ethical dilemma or debate
  • It has a lead-up to the thesis
  • At the end of the introduction, the thesis is clearly stated

This makes a smooth funnel that starts more broadly and smoothly zeroes in on the specific argument.

Essay intro funnel

Your conclusion is kind of like your introduction, but in reverse. It starts with your thesis and ends a little more broadly.

For the conclusion, try and summarize your entire argument without being redundant. Start by restating your thesis but with slightly different wording . Then summarize each of your main points.

If you can, it’s nice to point to the larger significance of the issue. What are the potential consequences of this issue? What are some future directions for it to go in? What remains to be explored?

See how nine students wrote introductions in different styles here .

11. Add citations and bibliography

Check what bibliographic style your instructor wants you to use. If this isn’t clearly stated, it’s a good question to ask them!

Typically the instructions will say something like “Chicago style,” “APA,” etc., or they’ll give you their own rules. 

These rules will dictate how exactly you’ll write your citations in the body of your essay (either in parentheses after the quote/paraphrase or else with a footnote or endnote) and how you’ll write your “works cited” with the full bibliographic information at the end.

Follow these rules! The most important thing is to be consistent and clear.

Pro tip: if you’re struggling with this step, your librarians can often help! They’re literally pros at this. 🙂

Now you have a complete draft!

Read it from beginning to end. Does it make sense? Are there any orphan quotes or paraphrases that aren’t clearly explained? Are there any abrupt changes of topic? Fix it!

Are there any problems with grammar or spelling ? Fix them!

Edit for clarity.

Sharpening a pencil, just like you should sharpen your argument.

Ideally, you’ll finish your draft at least a few days before it’s due to be submitted. Give it a break for a day or two, and then come back to it. Things to be revised are more likely to jump out after a little break!

Try reading your essay out loud. Are there any sentences that don’t sound quite right? Rewrite them!

Double-check your thesis statement. This is the make-or-break moment of your essay, and without a clear thesis it’s pretty impossible for an essay to be a great one. Is it:

  • Arguable: it’s not just the facts—someone could disagree with this position
  • Narrow & specific: don’t pick a position that’s so broad you could never back it up
  • Complex: show that you are thinking deeply—one way to do this is to consider objections/qualifiers in your thesis

Try giving your essay to a friend or family member to read. Sometimes (if you’re lucky) your instructors will offer to read a draft if you turn it in early. What feedback do they have? Edit accordingly!

See the result of this process with 10 example essays now .

You’re done!

You did it! Feel proud of yourself 🙂

We regularly help students work through all of these steps to write great academic essays in our Academic Writing Workshop or our one-on-one writing tutoring . We’re happy to chat more about what’s challenging for you and provide you customized guidance to help you write better papers and improve your grades on writing assignments!

Want to see what this looks like when it’s all pulled together? We compiled nine examples of great student essays, plus all of the steps used to create this model essay, in this handy resource. Download it here !

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

Emily graduated  summa cum laude  from Princeton University and holds an MA from the University of Notre Dame. She was a National Merit Scholar and has won numerous academic prizes and fellowships. A veteran of the publishing industry, she has helped professors at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton revise their books and articles. Over the last decade, Emily has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay. 

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English Recap

12 Alternatives to “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly” in an Essay

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

Essays are hard enough to get right without constantly worrying about introducing new points of discussion.

You might have tried using “firstly, secondly, thirdly” in an essay, but are there better alternatives out there?

This article will explore some synonyms to give you other ways to say “firstly, secondly, thirdly” in academic writing.

Can I Say “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly”?

You can not say “firstly, secondly, thirdly” in academic writing. It sounds jarring to most readers, so you’re better off using “first, second, third” (removing the -ly suffix).

Technically, it is correct to say “firstly, secondly, thirdly.” You could even go on to say “fourthly” and “fifthly” when making further points. However, none of these words have a place in formal writing and essays.

Still, these examples will show you how to use all three of them:

Firstly , I would like to touch on why this is problematic behavior. Secondly , we need to discuss the solutions to make it better. Thirdly , I will finalize the discussion and determine the best course of action.

  • It allows you to enumerate your points.
  • It’s easy to follow for a reader.
  • It’s very informal.
  • There’s no reason to add the “-ly” suffix.

Clearly, “firstly, secondly, thirdly” are not appropriate in essays. Therefore, it’s best to have a few alternatives ready to go.

Keep reading to learn the best synonyms showing you what to use instead of “firstly, secondly, thirdly.” Then, we’ll provide examples for each as well.

What to Say Instead of “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly”

  • First of all
  • One reason is
  • Continuing on
  • In addition

1. First of All

“First of all” is a great way to replace “firstly” at the start of a list .

We recommend using it to show that you have more points to make. Usually, it implies you start with the most important point .

Here are some examples to show you how it works:

First of all , I would like to draw your attention to the issues in question. Then, it’s important that we discuss what comes next. Finally, you should know that we’re going to work out the best solution.

2. To Begin

Another great way to start an essay or sentence is “to begin.” It shows that you’re beginning on one point and willing to move on to other important ones.

It’s up to you to decide which phrases come after “to begin.” As long as there’s a clear way for the reader to follow along , you’re all good.

These examples will also help you with it:

To begin , we should decide which variables will be the most appropriate for it. After that, it’s worth exploring the alternatives to see which one works best. In conclusion, I will decide whether there are any more appropriate options available.

“First” is much better than “firstly” in every written situation. You can include it in academic writing because it is more concise and professional .

Also, it’s somewhat more effective than “first of all” (the first synonym). It’s much easier to use one word to start a list. Naturally, “second” and “third” can follow when listing items in this way.

Here are a few examples to help you understand it:

First , you should know that I have explored all the relevant options to help us. Second, there has to be a more efficient protocol. Third, I would like to decide on a better task-completion method.

4. One Reason Is

You may also use “one reason is” to start a discussion that includes multiple points . Generally, you would follow it up with “another reason is” and “the final reason is.”

It’s a more streamlined alternative to “firstly, secondly, thirdly.” So, we recommend using it when you want to clearly discuss all points involved in a situation.

This essay sample will help you understand more about it:

One reason is that it makes more sense to explore these options together. Another reason comes from being able to understand each other’s instincts. The final reason is related to knowing what you want and how to get it.

“Second” is a great follow-on from “first.” Again, it’s better than writing “secondly” because it sounds more formal and is acceptable in most essays.

We highly recommend using “second” after you’ve started a list with “first.” It allows you to cover the second point in a list without having to explain the flow to the reader.

Check out the following examples to help you:

First, you should consider the answer before we get there. Second , your answer will be questioned and discussed to determine both sides. Third, you will have a new, unbiased opinion based on the previous discussion.

6. Continuing On

You can use “continuing on” as a follow-up to most introductory points in a list.

It works well after something like “to begin,” as it shows that you’re continuing the list reasonably and clearly.

Perhaps these examples will shed some light on it:

To begin, there needs to be a clear example of how this should work. Continuing on , I will look into other options to keep the experiment fair. Finally, the result will reveal itself, making it clear whether my idea worked.

Generally, “next” is one of the most versatile options to continue a list . You can include it after almost any introductory phrase (like “first,” “to begin,” or “one reason is”).

It’s great to include in essays, but be careful with it. It can become too repetitive if you say “next” too many times. Try to limit how many times you include it in your lists to keep your essay interesting.

Check out the following examples if you’re still unsure:

To start, it’s wise to validate the method to ensure there were no initial errors. Next , I think exploring alternatives is important, as you never know which is most effective. Then, you can touch on new ideas that might help.

One of the most effective and versatile words to include in a list is “then.”

It works at any stage during the list (after the first stage, of course). So, it’s worth including it when you want to continue talking about something.

For instance:

First of all, the discussion about rights was necessary. Then , it was important to determine whether we agreed or not. After that, we had to convince the rest of the team to come to our way of thinking.

9. In Addition

Making additions to your essays allows the reader to easily follow your lists. We recommend using “in addition” as the second (or third) option in a list .

It’s a great one to include after any list opener. It shows that you’ve got something specific to add that’s worth mentioning.

These essay samples should help you understand it better:

First, it’s important that we iron out any of the problems we had before. In addition , it’s clear that we have to move on to more sustainable options. Then, we can figure out the costs behind each option.

Naturally, “third” is the next in line when following “first” and “second.” Again, it’s more effective than “thirdly,” making it a much more suitable option in essays.

We recommend using it to make your third (and often final) point. It’s a great way to close a list , allowing you to finalize your discussion. The reader will appreciate your clarity when using “third” to list three items.

Here are some examples to demonstrate how it works:

First, you need to understand the basics of the mechanism. Second, I will teach you how to change most fundamentals. Third , you will build your own mechanism with the knowledge you’ve gained.

11. Finally

“Finally” is an excellent way to close a list in an essay . It’s very final (hence the name) and shows that you have no more points to list .

Generally, “finally” allows you to explain the most important part of the list. “Finally” generally means you are touching on something that’s more important than everything that came before it.

For example:

First, thank you for reading my essay, as it will help me determine if I’m on to something. Next, I would like to start working on this immediately to see what I can learn. Finally , you will learn for yourself what it takes to complete a task like this.

12. To Wrap Up

Readers like closure. They will always look for ways to wrap up plot points and lists. So, “to wrap up” is a great phrase to include in your academic writing .

It shows that you are concluding a list , regardless of how many points came before it. Generally, “to wrap up” covers everything you’ve been through previously to ensure the reader follows everything you said.

To start with, I requested that we change venues to ensure optimal conditions. Following that, we moved on to the variables that might have the biggest impact. To wrap up , the experiment went as well as could be expected, with a few minor issues.

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list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

Starting a student essay with a question can be a good idea, but some questions are better than others

What kinds of questions should you NOT use to start an essay?

• Questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no” are usually bad questions. Do you have any reason to continue reading when you read these questions? –Have you ever played basketball? –Do you really want a dog? –Would you like to hear about my trip to the beach?

• Questions which ask about information that only a few people might be interested in are bad questions. –How often do hockey players need to sharpen their skates? –Have you ever wondered about all those African sculptures in the Atlanta airport? –Have you eaten on top of the Eifel Tower?

• Questions about a student’s family or people most readers don’t know are not interesting. –How can Samanyu always beat me at Monopoly? –Is your sister annoying, like mine is? –So Mom and Dad, did you remember that my birthday is coming up?

• Questions about things everybody knows about are boring questions. –Do you want to know about our teacher, Mrs. Storm? –Do you know why we have fire drills? –How do you get an A on a math test?

What kinds of questions should you use to start an essay?

• Funny questions make readers want to keep reading. –Do you really want a bad-breath, farting, slobbering, snoring pet like a dog? –What would you do if you were digging a sand castle at the beach, when a crab scooted right in the moat?

• Questions which promise adventure or mystery attract readers. –Wouldn’t it be fun to drive cars on two wheels, spin them around and smash them into buildings like my uncle does? –So there we were, lost in a maze, when my sister said, “Go left!” and my brother said, “Go right!” They were both right. Do you know why?

• Questions which make a person think can be good questions. –If you could have superpowers, would you want to be invisible or to fly? –What is the fastest running animal in the world? How about the fastest flying? And the fastest swimming?

• Questions which ask about a situation which many readers might have been in can make a reader want to continue. For example, –What would you do if your neighborhood swim team lost every meet and the kids wanted to switch teams? –Have you ever wanted to tattle on a bully on the school bus but you were afraid to?

In general, questions which make a reader think are good questions, while questions which can be answered with one word are bad questions.

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list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

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list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

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The Writing Guide

  • The First Thing
  • Step 1: Understanding the essay question

Identify task, content & limiting words in the essay question

Words, words, words..., academic writing webinar part 1.

  • Step 2: Critical note-taking
  • Step 3: Planning your assignment
  • Step 4a: Effective writing
  • Step 4b: Summarizing & paraphrasing
  • Step 4c: Academic language
  • Step 5: Editing and reviewing
  • Getting started with research
  • Working with keywords
  • Evaluating sources
  • Research file
  • Reading Smarter
  • Sample Essay
  • What, why, where, when, who?
  • Referencing styles
  • Writing Resources
  • Exams and Essay Questions

Essay topics contain key words that explain what information is required and how it is to be presented.  Using the essay question below indentify task content & limiting words.  Regardless of your topic or discipline, if you can identify these words in your essay topic, you can begin to consider what you will need to do to answer the question.

Task words : These are words that tell you what to do, for example “compare”, “discuss”, “critically evaluate”, “explain” etc.

Content words : These words in the essay topic will tell you which ideas and concepts should form the knowledge base of the assignment. Refer to subject specific dictionary or glossary.

Effective communication is considered a core skill in higher education and is usually conveyed through the medium of academic papers and essays. Discuss the process of writing academic essays and critically examine the importance of structure and content.

Before you scroll down to the next box, what can you unpack from this topic? What are you actually going to look for in a search tool like One Search? What are you supposed to do?

  • Content Words
  • Limiting Words
  • Context Words

Task words are usually verbs and they tell you what to do to complete your assignment.

You need to identify these words, because you will need to follow these instructions to pass the assignment.  As you research and write your assignment, check these words occasionally to make sure you are still doing what you have been asked to do.

Here are some definitions of different academic task words.  Make sure you know exactly what you need to do for your assignment.

Don't try to use them in your research - they aren't things to find, only things to do.

The task words from our sample question are:

Effective communication is considered a core skill in higher education and is usually conveyed through the medium of academic papers and essays. Discuss the process of writing academic essays and critically examine the importance of structure and content.

  • Discuss means to "consider and offer an interpretation or evaluation of something; or give a judgment on the value of arguments for and against something"
  • Examine means to inspect something in detail and investigate the implications

So, you would need to give a short description of what essay writing is all about, and then offer an evaluation of the essay structure and the way it presents content.

  • Task Words Here are some definitions of different academic task words. Make sure you know exactly what you need to do for your assignment.

The content words are the "meat" of the question - these are things you can research.

Effective communication is considered a core skill in higher education and is usually conveyed through the medium of academic papers and essays . Discuss the process of writing academic essays and critically examine the importance of structure and content .

You will often be asked to talk about "the role" something plays or "processes", "importance", "methods" or "implementations" - but you can't really research these things just by looking for those words.

You need to find the keywords - the most concrete concepts - and search for those.  The information you find about the concrete terms will tell you about the "roles" and "methods", the "process" or the "importance", but they probably won't use those words exactly.

One of the core skills of academic research is learning to extrapolate :  to find the connections in the information you can find that will help you answer the questions which don't have clear, cut-and-dry answers in the books and articles.

So, the core keywords/concepts to research are:

  • "academic writing"
  • "higher education"
  • structure and content

Limiting words keep you focused on a particular area, and stop you from trying to research everything in the history of mankind.

They could limit you by:

  • Time (you may be asked to focus on the last 5 years, or the late 20th Century, for example)
  • Place (you may be asked to focus on Australia, or Queensland, or South-East Asia)
  • People groups (such as "women over the age of 50" or "people from low socio-economic backgrounds" or "Australians of Asian descent")
  • Extent (you are only to look at a particular area, or the details you believe are most relevant or appropriate).

In this example, you have two limits:

  • "higher education" is the industry focus. This could be expanded to include the tertiary or university sector.
  • Essays - we are concentrating on essay writing as the aspect of communication.  Note that this is also a content word. There can be (and usually is) some crossover.

Sometimes it can help to add your own limits .  With health sciences, you almost always limit your research to the last five or six years. Social sciences  are not as strict with the date range but it's still a good idea to keep it recent.  You could specifically look at the Australian context.  You may decide to focus on the private sector within that industry.

With the question above you could limit yourself to only looking at first year university students.

Sometimes an assignment task will give you phrases or sentences that aren't part of the task at all:  they exist to give you some context .

These can be ignored when you do your research, but you should read over them occasionally as you are writing your assignment.  They help you know what the lecturer was thinking about (and wanted you to think about) when they set that task.

Effective communication is considered a core skill in higher education and is usually conveyed through the medium of academic papers and essays . Discuss the process of writing academic essays and critically examine the importance of structure and content.

You don't have to do anything with the first sentence of this question - but it does get you to think specifically about the "using essays to communicate knoweldge" - something that isn't mentioned in the task itself.

Obviously, whoever wrote the task wants you to think about the assignments as a form of writing and communication.

It is easy to get distracted and go off on tangents when doing your research .  Use the context words to  help you keep your focus where it should be.

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  • Next: Step 2: Critical note-taking >>
  • Last Updated: May 13, 2024 5:20 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.jcu.edu.au/writing

Acknowledgement of Country

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

5 Alternatives to Writing an Essay

  • November 2, 2022
  • AP Literature , English 11 , Writing

Have you ever had that moment when you think, “I just can’t grade another essay” ?  If you haven’t, you’re probably not an English teacher or maybe you’re still new (WELCOME!).  For me, there are a couple of times of year that this hits:  right before a big holiday break and late in the spring when we have been working so hard that it hurts. So here are 5 alternatives to writing an essay that you can assign the next time you feel like you just can’t grade another essay.

Essay Alternatives for the Win!

Alternatives to the traditional essay are great for both students and teachers:

  • Students can still demonstrate their critical thinking skills while working through these skills in a different and more creative mode.  
  • Any students who find writing challenging have the opportunity to thrive with these alternatives to writing an essay because they can show what they know without having to struggle through the composition. 
  • It gives teachers the ability to assess other modes like speaking and listening.
  • Many of the options we have for alternatives to writing an essay also bring in Twenty-first Century skills like technology.  In fact, all of the the options below have both analog and fully digital ways of completing them.
  • And it’s a win for teachers because they can often be assessed quickly with a rubric.

5 alternatives to writing an essay in high school English class.  These 5 project ideas will get your high school students from inclusive ed students to AP students critically thinking and producing amazing results. Not only that, but they will save you time (and your sanity).  You can easily use rubrics to target skills and save yourself time grading.

One:  Pecha Kucha Assignment

Pecha Kucha is presentation style that has been borrowed from the business world.  It is a six-minute forty-second presentation that consists of 20 slides (images only) with 20 seconds of speaking for each slide.  They are sometimes called 20×20 Presentations.

These are the best presentations your students will ever make.  They must plan and practice and they can’t simply read their slides because the only things on the slides are images.  Slides advance automatically after 20 seconds which insure that the presenter will have to carefully speak to match the speed of the of the slides and their movement.

I love to introduce a Pecha Kucha presentation with this YouTube video which is a Pecha Kucha about Pecha Kucha.  If you feel like 20×20 is too long, you can always scaffold with a 10×10 presentation or even a 10×20.

Two: Poetry Presentation Assignment

This Poetry Presentation Assignment is an adaptation of a haiku project that I learned about when I attended the National Writing Project at the University of Rochester in 2007.  This was originally designed as a PowerPoint Assignment, however, it can easily be done as a Google Slides Project.  

Students select a poem.  I usually have them choose a poem from poets.org or even from a curated list.  Then they create a presentation for the slide using images and transitions.  One line of poetry per slide.  

The process of creating the presentation allows them to show their understanding of the poem.  The final step is to write a reflection explaining the choices they made.  Those choices can and should include the images they selected, the transition they used and any sound and how it connects to the text of the poem.

Students have so much fun with this project and it’s a great poetry analysis assignment.

You can pair this with these other ideas for teaching poetry or with a poetry slam .

Three:  Hexagonal Thinking

I first learned about Hexagonal Thinking from Betsy Potash of The Spark Creativity Podcast .  The idea is that you have topics on hexagons.  These topics can be character names, themes, settings, quote, historical events and more.  Then students arrange them to match the sides taking advantage of the six-sides of the hexagon.  Students can then write shorter reflections on some of the choices they made.

Hexagonal thinking is perfect for both mid unit and culminating assessments. It is also great for brainstorming and thinking through relationships and bigger ideas.

For more on how to use Hexagonal Thinking, check out Betsy’s post explaining it in m ore depth.

Or grab a free Hexagonal Thinking Kit from Betsy at Now Spark Creativity.

5 alternatives to writing an essay in high school English class.  These 5 project ideas will get your high school students from inclusive ed students to AP students critically thinking and producing amazing results. Not only that, but they will save you time (and your sanity).  You can easily use rubrics to target skills and save yourself time grading.

Four:  The Top Nine

This is one that I learned from Amanda and Marie on the Brave New Teaching Podcast episode 78 ).  This plays on the Instagram end of the year posts that people often do:  posting a square picture with a 3 x 3 grid of images that represent their Top Nine of X.

You could use this for a personal reflection or a culminating project.  Students could do their top nine favorite quotes, their top nine favorite poems, or students could create a top nine for one the characters in the text.

You can grab a free template for the Top Nin e from the ladies at Brave New Teaching.

Five:  Visual Essays (or Digital Storytelling)

Both visual essays and digital storytelling have lots of presentation options from something fully analog like a poster to videos, podcasts and slide presentations.

The final product will depend on what you ask students to include.  In one visual essay project that I have used with The Shipping N ews by Annie Proulx , students are required to include a thesis to an AP® Literature style open question prompt, along with quotations as evidence.  However, the rest of the visual essay is left up to the students.  Students have turned in beautiful posters with photographs they took, a giant egg decorated and filled with items and slips of paper and video presentations.

Digital Storytelling is similar in that you can tailor the assignment to what you want in the final project.  The stories can be personal or they can be related to a text.  You can give students templates or you can leave it entirely tor their free expression.

Assessing Alternatives to Writing an Essay

As you are thinking about how to assess alternatives to writing an essay, it is important to be clear in what you want to know that the students know. This is a great opportunity to use standards based grading.  Align your assignment to very specific learning objectives and then your rubric ties to those objectives.

If you want to assess what the students know about characterization, then be sure to include that in the assignment and the assessment.

To ease scoring, be sure to limit the number of objectives you focus on.  Stick to five or fewer especially if you want to score the assignments while the students are presenting.

5 alternatives to writing an essay in high school English class.  These 5 project ideas will get your high school students from inclusive ed students to AP students critically thinking and producing amazing results. Not only that, but they will save you time (and your sanity).  You can easily use rubrics to target skills and save yourself time grading.

Try Alternatives to Writing an Essay

So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by all the writing tasks that you need to assess, the answer just might be an essay alternative.  They allow students to be creative, show what they know and give you a break.  So, give one of these alternatives to the essay a try. And if you do, be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Related Resources

4 Ways to Teach Poetry Analysis (ideas for teaching poetry analysis)

5 Topics for Poetry Slams (also how to set up a poetry and a free guide)

How to Make a Pecha Kucha (YouTube–a Pecha Kucha that explains Pecha Kucha)

Hexagonal Thinking in ELA (Spark Creativity Podcast episode 87)

Free Hexagonal Thinking Digital Tool Kit (from Betsy Potash at Now Spark Creativity)

Our Top Nine (Brave New Teaching Podcast Episode 78)

My Top Nine Visual Reflection Template (from Brave New Teaching)

Amazing Grading Strategies (or How To Not Drown Under Your Grading Load) (A Better Way to Teach)

And another alternative: the Book Bento (Lit and More)

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The Shipping News Visual Essay Assignment

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Jeanmarie McLaughlin at McLaughlin Teaches English

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10 Overused Words (And Brilliant Alternatives You Never Knew You Needed)

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  • 14th September 2015

Keep in mind when writing an essay that the person marking it will probably have to read dozens of similar assignments from your classmates.

One way to make sure your work stands out is to have it checked by a professional . Another is to vary your vocabulary. In this post, we offer alternatives for ten words commonly used in academic writing.

The word ‘also’ is great for connecting two related sentences but you might need a few alternatives in a longer essay.

At the start of a sentence, words like ‘furthermore’, ‘moreover’ and ‘in addition’ can serve the same purpose.

This word is both a verb and a noun. When used as a verb (e.g. ‘to answer my research question’) you could also use terms like ‘address’ and ‘resolve’.

When used as a noun (e.g. ‘the answer to this dilemma’), good alternatives include ‘solution’ and ‘explanation’.

3. Bad/Good

Synonyms for the basic term ‘bad’ include ‘poor’, ‘inferior’, ‘negative’ and ‘deficient’.

Alternatives to ‘good’ include ‘satisfying’, ‘valuable’, ‘excellent’, ‘positive’ and ‘high-quality’.

Possible replacements for the verb ‘change’ (i.e. the act of changing something) include ‘transform’, ‘modify’ and ‘adjust’.

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The nouns which accompany these words (i.e. the change made) are ‘transformation’, ‘modification’ and ‘adjustment’.

5. Describe

When referring to the work of others you might draw upon their written descriptions. Substitute words for ‘describe’ include ‘portray’, ‘characterise’ and ‘report’.

It’s common to say that you’re going to ‘explain’ something in your essay. Other options here include ‘clarify’, ‘elaborate’ and ‘account for’.

7. Important

If you want to identify some detail or idea as important, alternate possibilities you might use incorporate ‘significant’, ‘vital’, ‘critical’, ‘imperative’ and ‘essential’.

This one is particularly important when quoting other sources. Instead of repeatedly saying ‘so and so said that’ to introduce a quotation, try using words like ‘stated’, ‘explained’, ‘argued’ or ‘claimed’.

9. Therefore

The word ‘therefore’ is used to introduce a conclusion based upon a premise or argument (e.g., ‘Because X , therefore Y’ ). Alternative terms include ‘consequently’, ‘accordingly’ or ‘as a result’.

If describing an experiment you’ll need to identify the methods used. As well as ‘use’, terms which can be helpful here include ‘utilise’, ’employ’, ‘apply’ and ‘adopt’.

Of course, the best thing you can do if you’re struggling to find alternatives to common words is check a thesaurus . Just make sure you understand a word before using it, as many terms have more than one meaning!

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17.1: Should I give a multiple-choice test, an essay test, or something entirely different?

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  • Jennfer Kidd, Jamie Kaufman, Peter Baker, Patrick O'Shea, Dwight Allen, & Old Dominion U students
  • Old Dominion University

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By Vanessa Rutter

- Benjamin Franklin

Learning Objectives

  • The student will be able to understand the advantages and disadvantages of multiple-choice tests
  • The student will be able to understand the advantages and disadvantages of essay tests
  • The student will be able to provide an example of why multiple-choice or essay tests are used
  • The student will be better informed of the results produced by multiple-choice, essay, and other tests


Throughout school, teachers and other education officials use tests to assess how much information that the students have absorbed. This can be important in different ways depending on how the results will be used.

Figuring out what students have learned in the classroom is an important issue in the education field (Swartz, 2006). Teachers want to know that when they assess what their students have learned that the teachers are using an accurate assessment strategy that will mesh with their learning targets. In the following information, the focus will be on affects of using multiple-choice, essay, or other tests along with why they are used.

Advantages and disadvantages of multiple-choice tests

Multiple-choice testing became popular in the 1900's because of the efficiency that it provided (Swartz, 2006). According to Matzen and Hoyt, "Beginning in 1901, the SAT was a written exam, but as the influence of psychometricians grew in 1926, the SAT became a multiple-choice test" (2006). Until recently, multiple-choice have been favored especially for SAT and ACT testing. For many years now, the SAT test was used for mostly multiple-choice questions and has changed in the past few years so that it now includes an essay section.

Other advantages of multiple-choice tests include how quickly tests can be graded compared to others. There are machines that can quickly grade scantrons as well as bubble sheets that show right and wrong answers quickly for teachers when grading. It is much more cost efficient than having to read over written answers which take time and possibly training depending on who is employed to grade them (Holtzman, 2008).

Others may say that multiple-choice tests are hard. In college, students have said that multiple-choice question tests are long, filled with many words, and very complicated (Holtzman, 2008). Some argue that multiple-choice question tests are based on testing the level of knowledge only and do not show a student's level of comprehension and application of information (Holtzman, 2008). It is hard to judge on a multiple-choice test whether the student guesses the right answer or didn't get the answer right because they were confused and chose one of the other answers (Swartz, 2006).

Advantages and disadvantages of essay tests

Essay tests have started to become more dominant because of the results that come along with it. Essay format questions contain a level of information quality that exceeds that of multiple-choice (Swartz, 2006). According to Swartz (2006), "They provide the opportunity to assess more complex student attributes and higher levels of attribute achievement". Another advantage of an essay is that the teacher can clearly see what the student knows instead of being misconstrued with multiple-choice tests were students can guess the right answers. A student that doesn't do well with test taking may find writing an essay to much more efficient rather than testing knowledge through multiple-choice.

There are also problems associated with essay tests. Administering essay test can be harder and be less cost efficient. There is technology already available for grading multiple-choice tests that take up much less time then grading essay tests. Essays cannot be ran through a bubble sheet optical reader machine that quickly grades scantrons used for multiple choice questions tests. For a professor with over three hundred students, it is much more efficient to use multiple-choice tests than grade three hundred essays. Communication is an important factor as well. For a student that can not write well, they may feel at a disadvantage when being graded by writing an essay. This could be true for someone with a learning disability.

Other Factors to Consider

Bill Goodling, chair of House Education Committee

Multiple-choice and essay tests are not the only test out there. The recently modified SAT test states that if you put the wrong answer you will have points taken off in the multiple-choice section. This is an incentive to not fill in the circle unless the student knows the answer or is pretty sure of themselves. There are also short answer tests and fill in the blank, but the most popular are the ones mentioned before.

Other tests may show an excess of seven different multiple-choice answers to choose from. The first three would be regular answers (A, B, or C). The next three answers will be where a student can get half credit for the answer by choosing D ("A or B"), E ("B or C), or F ("A or C"). Then the student will not get full credit by choosing D, E, or F but half credit by being able to narrow the answer down to the two answers they are certain of. The last choice would be G (I don't know). There the student would get a one-third of the credit for being honest rather than no points for guessing a wrong answer (Swartz, 2006).

In conclusion there are many advantages and disadvantages to both multiple-choice and essay tests. The teacher should pick out what is more suitable according to the classroom. Factors that would favor multiple-choice may be large class size, large amount of knowledge, technology already available for scantrons, less time for grading, and students with low writing scores. Factors that would favor essay tests could include smaller class sizes, many student teacher aides to help grade, assessment of application and comprehension, and students with high writing scores. Other tests are also being developed to bring the most from assessing students comprehension of information.

Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

1. What is an advantage of using an essay test?

A) It costs less money

B) It contains a higher level of information quality

C) It takes a long time to grade

D) It can be graded with a bubble sheet optical reader

2. What is a disadvantage of using multiple-choice tests?

A) Students can guess the answers

B) Tests require scantrons

C) Tests are easier

D) Tests can be graded faster

3. If a teacher has a large group of students in their class, what kind of test would be less time consuming to grade?

A) Fill in the blank test

B) Essay test

C) Oral test

D) Multiple choice test

4. Multiple-choice tests assess mostly what type of cognitive information from students?

A) Evaluation

B) Application

C) Knowledge

D) Comprehension

Holtzman, M. (2008). Demystifying application-based multiple-choice questions. College Teaching , 56(2), 114-120. Retrieved on March 22, 2009 from EBSCOhost database: http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/ehost/pdf?vid=3&hid=105&sid=ff9aaa2c-b758-4f95-8d5c-8f5a3fcc36c5%40sessionmgr109

Matzen, R. N. Jr., & Hoyt, J. E. (2004). Basic writing placement with holistically scored essays: Research evidense. Journal of Developmental Education , 28(1), 2-4,6,8,20,23,34. Retrieved on March 21, 2009 from EBSCOhost database: http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/ehost/pdf?vid=4&hid=105&sid=ff9aaa2c-b758-4f95-8d5c-8f5a3fcc36c5%40sessionmgr109

Swartz, S. M. (2006). Acceptance and accuracy of multiple choice, confidence-level, and essay question formats for graduate students. Journal of Education for Business , 81(4), 215-220. Retrieved on March 21, 2009 from EBSCOhost database: http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/ehost/pdf?vid=3&hid=105&sid=ff9aaa2c-b758-4f95-8d5c-8f5a3fcc36c5%40sessionmgr109

Creative Alternatives to the Traditional Essay

creative alternatives to the traditional essay

Tired of assigning (and grading) the same old essay unit after unit? This post will introduce you to 13 creative alternatives to the traditional essay that are sure to challenge and engage your students in a new way. Additionally, learn why it might be beneficial to stray from the five-paragraph essay every now and then.

Are your students stuck in the essay rut? Are they getting caught in a monotonous routine of read, discuss, write, repeat? Are you tired of reading crappy essays? (Yup. I said it.) It might be time to consider creative alternatives to the traditional essay.

I know, I know. Essays are a cornerstone of the secondary ELA classroom. But they aren’t the only way to assess student learning at the end of a novel or unit. Better yet, students who struggle to write traditional essays might thrive with an alternative assessment. Either way, it’s worth switching it up and allowing students to express their knowledge in different ways.

By this point, students have the foundation of analytical writing thanks to the five-paragraph essay. Now, it’s time to switch it up and expose them to new challenges. I’m excited to share 13 creative alternatives to the traditional essay you can try in your classroom.

1. Writing a Children’s Book

I love incorporating children’s literature in the secondary classroom whenever I can. So, why not challenge students to transform a novel into a children’s book, emphasizing a prominent theme from the text? Alternatively, you can ask students to rewrite the story, revising the characters and plot to be more kid-friendly. Both approaches require students to closely analyze the text, determine the most essential information, and transform it into an original piece. Imagine rewriting Jay Gatsby as a kid caught up in his desire for a particular toy? Or recreating the themes of Animal Farm at a petting zoo? I mean, the ideas are endless.

2. Story Rewrite (Satire, Parody, or Modernization)

Before students can offer any criticism or rewrites, they must first clearly identify and understand the various elements of the original text. After all, those elements will become the foundation of their updated piece. For example, adapting Lord of the Flies to be post-zombie-apocalypse is a great idea… as long as it reflects the tension between order and chaos! Therefore, creating an adaptation requires more than a deep understanding of the storyline. It also requires a strong sense of style, structure, and underlying message. While it can lead to fantastic results, this alternative is quite challenging for many students. Therefore, I recommend leaving this for more advanced students.

3. Student Curated Anthology

If you’re looking to have your students analyze a character or theme, consider having them create an anthology of poems, songs, artwork, or articles, to help them unpack their analysis. Not only does this alternative require students to dig deep into the assigned text, but it also encourages connections with other pieces. Choose between having your students annotate their selections or providing a small paragraph for each piece. Either way, these notes should help argue each piece’s meaning, connection, and significance. Therefore, students must be intentional about the pieces they include in their anthology as they consider how it all comes together to reflect their overall message and analysis.

4. Thematic Newspaper

A thematic newspaper is a two-birds-one-stone alternative perfect for analyzing themes and symbols. Not only is it an opportunity for students to express their textual analysis in a new way, but you get to teach them about the unique characteristics of journalism too. News stories might recap events from the plot, interview characters, or reflect the historical period, all coming together to analyze the chosen topic. Therefore, students must carefully plan each piece and how they will all work together to paint a picture. If you’re looking to make this a quicker assignment, simply have each student write one article for a collaborative newspaper.

5. Graphic Essay

Are your students super tech savvy? A graphic essay might just be the perfect creative alternative assignment. A graphic essay is a visual essay that incorporates traditional writing and pictures, graphics, videos, and emphasized text. Just like a more traditional essay, a graphic essay can be used to analyze and explore everything from characters to themes. However, this alternative allows for students to get more creative with technology and design. If tech isn’tyour thing, no worries. Your students can easily use the internet to help bring this assignment to life.

Creative Alternatives to the Traditional Essay: Shorter Writing Assignments

6. Quote-Round Up

I love this unique approach to a written assessment. Provide your students with a list of quotes. They must write a detailed paragraph connecting each quote to the novel, theme, or character. Alternatively, have students round up their own list of quotes to explain. Either way, students must exercise critical thinking, make meaningful connections, and display writing skills.

7. Annotations

If you’re looking for a quick way to assess student analysis of a text, an essay isn’t your only option. You can opt for annotations instead. This is a great way to evaluate students’ understanding of literary devices, diction, character development, etc. Consider requiring a mix of organic annotations, identifying literary elements, and analyzing themes, symbols, characters, and quotes. Of course, there’s not as much writing involved, but this assessment will provide tangible insight into students’ thought processes and comprehension as they read. Just be sure students understand how to annotate and be very clear about your expectations.

8. Essay Preview

If time is of the essence, skip the entire essay and have your students focus on writing a top-notch body paragraph. You can provide students with an introduction paragraph and have them apply their knowledge and skills in a body paragraph. Looking to add more autonomy? Give students a few thesis statements to choose from or have them create their own. Again, the main idea here is to have students focus on one body paragraph instead of the whole thing. Grading these will be a breeze yet allow you to provide constructive feedback for future growth.

9. Blog Posts

When assigning your students to write a blog post analysis, you can make it as similar or different to a traditional essay as you please. However, when it comes to essay writing, how many of your students get caught up in the “academic voice” and the rules of essay writing? They’re too busy trying to remember if they can use personal pronouns or not rather than focusing on their ideas. Having your students write a blog post gives them the freedom to express their thoughts about a novel or topic in a way that feels a little more natural and conversational. By giving students more freedom around how they write, they might just be able to focus more on what they write. Additionally, you can have students read each other’s posts and continue to dialogue in the comments. Assign a blog post after reading the novel or require them to write one every few chapters as they read!

More Creative Alternatives to the Traditional Essay

10. Board Games

After reading a novel, for example, have students recreate a traditional board game to reflect the text’s themes, symbols, plot, and characters. If they want to create their very own game, that works too! Regardless, this assignment is a creative way to get students to apply their understanding in a new way. The game might reflect a character’s development or address essential quotes and significant themes. There’s a lot of room for creativity here.

11. One-Pagers

As the name implies, this alternative assignment is limited to one page. Therefore, students must think deeply about the text before carefully choosing what they will include on their page. Talk about critical thinking! A one-pager might focus on a theme, essential question, or character. Students might include meaningful quotes, symbolic art or images, analysis, connections, and more. I like to think of these one-page-wonders as a highlight reel of a student’s analysis.

Psst… I have a whole post dedicated to using one-pagers in the ELA classroom .

12. Student Teaching

Teaching is hard work! It requires a deep understanding of the content and the ability to relay that understanding to others. For this alternative, let students be the teacher as they design and present an engaging mini-lesson to their peers. For example, let students take the reins instead of you pointing out all of the symbols of a novel! Additionally, they can teach lessons about a particular theme, historical context, or a character’s development. Unlike writing an essay, this alternative is highly interactive.

13. Sparknote-Inspired Infographic

I’m sure your students are familiar with Sparknotes or similar resources. They can be a great teaching tool or supplemental material, as long as they aren’t used as a reading replacement. One of the reasons why these resources are so great is because they do a great job at summarizing and synthesizing essential information. Infographics are an excellent way for students to do the same. Infographics require students to carefully select information to include while allowing them more creativity in presenting that information. Challenge your students to create an infographic that analyzes character development or theme and important symbols, for example. There are so many formats for infographics, and tools like Canva and Piktochart are great resources.

The Benefits of Creative Alternatives

Before you worry about standards and competencies, know that plenty of creative alternatives to the traditional essay require the same skill sets. Essays aren’t the only way to push your students to engage in critical thought and deep analysis. There are plenty of meaningful alternatives to consider and benefits to doing so.

  • Avoid essay burnout: Trust me, I love a good traditional essay now and then. However, if it’s all we ask students to do, year after year, literary piece after literary piece, it will get stale. Students might start to resent the traditional essay. (Maybe some of yours already have?) These creative writing alternatives are a great way to switch things up and increase student engagement.
  • Real-world application: There are many forms of writing and relaying information in the modern world. On the other hand, essays are very academic, meaning students will rarely need to write essays outside of a school requirement. Therefore, sprinkling in some creative alternatives to the traditional essay leaves room for a wider range of real-world writing.
  • Targeting different learning styles: Not everyone writes good essays, and that’s okay – or, at least, it should be. Written essays aren’t the only way to measure a student’s comprehension or critical analysis. There are various reasons why students might struggle to write an essay. By providing different opportunities for students to express their learning and analysis of an idea or text, you allow all different types of students an opportunity to thrive.

Even More Benefits of Creative Alternatives

  • New insights into student learning: Some students are strong essay writers, but that doesn’t mean they have strong analytical skills. A quick Google search can provide all sorts of support to help them write a decent essay, but that doesn’t mean they’re fully exercising their critical thinking skills. The truth is, they might just be good at the formula of, say, the five-paragraph essay. However, many of the alternatives mentioned in this post require students to express their learning in new ways, challenging them to think outside the box.
  • A different challenge: I can hear it now, “what about rigor?” Worry not. Rigor isn’t lost in these creative essay alternatives. In fact, some might argue these alternatives require more work and deeper thought than more traditional writing. The last thing we want to do is churn out robotic-like students. Rather than training students to follow a “formula” for writing, challenge them to stretch their brains to express information in a new way.

Let’s face it, my teacher friends. The game has changed when it comes to writing in the ELA classroom. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for more traditional writing, like essays. However, I urge you to add in a little variety. Spice it up! Give your students a little more room to exercise their creativity and thinking without the contractions of the classic essay structure. You might be surprised by what your students create.

It’s worth noting that literary essays aren’t the only writing assignments that might need a revamp. If you felt inspired by this post, check out my post about alternatives for research papers too! Here’s to changing the game of secondary ELA.

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Teaching From The Ridge

18 alternatives to essays.

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

  • Express & demonstrate their content knowledge.
  • Demonstrate and build supporting skills around writing (vocabulary fluency, argumentation, research, etc). 
  • Boil down the complex content and skills that I wanted to assess into student-friendly learning objectives. Rubrics, introduction documents, and lots of models were really helpful for showing students what needed to happen and what was possible. 
  • Brainstorm   methods/projects with students that they could use to express their learning. In fact, I have students brainstorm ideas before I show them any models so that I don't affect their self-generation of ideas.
  • Assess projects using a student-friendly rubric that is directly based off of the learning objectives. One of my favorite ideas to show students how a specific project rubric works is to "live grade" older student-submitted models in front of them so they can hear my thinking/assessment of student work.

list two alternatives to beginning an essay with questions

Nice essay tips shared. Australian Essay

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Essays are so outdated. Once you learn the mechanics, it should only be used if the other aforementioned ways cannot work. But what a creative way to show that information was understood. Education and the way we teach has not been as effective as it used to be. We need to evolve. Great alternatives to the humdrum essay format.

The usual writing activity looks sometimes as a never-ending story: writing, rewriting, editing, editing again. This is the sweet monotony of all those for whom playing with words is the main job or passion. At the end of the process, it might happen to lose the pleasure to read again - or ever - your words. But, years after, it might be a very pleasant surprise.   Authors Unite

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I have never missed any new post of the” Teaching from the Ridge”. I like your blog, because, it is improving my writing and speaking skills through informative posts. I would like to suggest all the students that they should follow new tips to write their essay error-free. The entire alternative to the essay are good but I like to suggest to the students to write a Personal, Purposeful, professional development essay. Dissertation Writing Services

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effective learner

A Quick Guide to Answering Different Types of Essay Questions

Posted by: Sumantha McMahon at 10:00 am, March 25, 2019

There are many acronyms, such as PPE (Point, Evidence and Explanation), that can help you craft the perfect essay . And whilst it is not always suitable to take a strict formulaic approach, they are certainly useful to help ensure you meet all of your assessment objectives.

However, acronyms are useless if you do not understand the exam question in the first place!

Here is a quick guide to some of the common types of essay questions.

The first thing you should do is…

A strategy I suggest all of my students is to underline the key words in a question.

This not only helps you understand the question, but also ensures you stay focused on answering it. It is especially useful when you have two questions disguised as one.

Here is an example:

Starting with this speech, explain how far you think Shakespeare presents Lady Macbeth as a powerful woman.

What are the key words here?  I would identify them as:

  • Lady Macbeth
  • Powerful woman

This helps you break down the question.  You need to:

  • Explain – make detailed points that are backed up by evidence (quotations)
  • How far – are there any ways in which he doesn’t present her as a powerful woman?  Or is her character used to represent power?  Are there any other characters who are powerful?  How do they compare?
  • You think – avoid absolute statements like “This means that…”.  Instead, explore alternative interpretations and ideas using words like “I think”, “This suggests”, “Perhaps”, and so on.
  • Lady Macbeth – this character should be the focus of your essay but, you should use your understanding of the plot, themes and other characters to frame your analysis of her.
  • Powerful woman – this is the character trait you must focus on. Even if you digress, bring  your point back to this.

Different types of questions

Essays typically have a few key words that they stick to. Let’s look at them and what they mean.

Many find this the hardest. It requires you to discuss the similarities and differences between the two sources that the essay question refers to.

A good strategy is to formulate paragraphs that start talking about one source, followed by the other. Your concluding sentences can be used to tie them together. Or, you can start with words like ‘both’ to explain a similarity’, followed by ‘having said that’ to describe a difference.

When planning a ‘compare’ essay, it is helpful to create a similarity and difference table.

These questions can feel quite open ended. To ensure that you don’t digress away from the main focus of the question, use my strategy to underline keywords.

‘Discuss’ questions require you to explore and analyse with a focus.

Usually they want you to explore different theories, interpretations and opinions such as, “I think that…because…”; “…however, some may interpret this as…”.

This is usually followed by words like ‘how’ or ‘the ways in which’.  So, although they are quite open-ended like ‘discuss’ questions, you will find that the wording of the question will guide you.

‘Explain’ questions require an in-depth exploration of a topic or theme. Although you may demonstrate your understanding and analytical skills by including other topics or themes, the focus of your essay should be threaded throughout it.

These questions are not much different to the other types of questions. This is because the other types still require you to describe the ‘how’ – for instance, writer’s methods, language choices etc. They also require you to provide evidence from the text and apply your understanding to answer the question.

All in all, whatever the type of essay question, you will need to apply the same skills. They all involve an exploration of a topic or theme and need you to analyse different interpretations. The only difference between them is the wording and structure you choose for your essay.

Sumantha McMahon

See more by Sumantha McMahon

Sumantha is an education and training specialist with over ten years' experience in developing and delivering adult and secondary level education. Her professional journey includes a six-year stint as a secondary school teacher. She is currently a freelance content writer and learning and development consultant. Sumantha also has a portfolio of private students who she teaches up to GCSE level.

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SAT Essay tip: find alternatives to the word “say”

by Erica L. Meltzer | Mar 8, 2017 | Blog , SAT Essay , Students | 0 comments

If you look at the SAT Essay scoring rubric, you’ll find in order to earn a top score of 4 in “Writing,” an essay must demonstrate “a highly effective use and command of language,” and “a consistent use of precise word choice.”

Those are lovely-sounding directives, but they’re also extremely vague. It’s hard to dispute that these are characteristics of good analytical writing, but what do they actually mean, and how can you put them into practice?It’s easy enough to memorize grammatical rules, but style is something that can’t be taught…right? 

I think that very often, skill in writing is conceived of in very black-and-white terms: it’s either something people are born with a knack for, or it’s something that can’t be learned. Obviously, yes, writing comes more easily to some people than to others, but to assume that effective analytical writing — which almost no one is naturally good at — is something that just magically happens , is to overlook the fact that like any other complex activity, it is made up of specific, concrete skills that can be practiced individually. 

In terms of the SAT Essay, I’d like to look at one simple, specific way to make your writing more varied and thus more likely to obtain a high score.

Because the Essay assignment requires that you spend a fair amount of time describing an author’s argument, and that you quote repeatedly from the passage provided, it is very easy to fall into the trap of introducing each reference to the passage the same way: namely, by using the verb  say . 

Don’t get me wrong —  say is a great all-purpose word, but if you write something like, “In the introduction, the author  says xyz….” and then two sentences later, “The author also  says xyz…” and then a couple of sentences after that, “In addition, the author  says …” Well, that’s going to get old pretty darn fast. And in an assignment that’s less-than-thrilling by nature, you don’t want to bore your reader any more than necessary. 

One way to liven things up a bit is therefore to use a variety of different verbs to introduce what the author, well, says. To be clear, these do not need to be “fancy” words; they just need to present an idea or quote smoothly, and in a way that doesn’t involve repeating the same thing over and over again. 

For example: 

-The author states… -The author indicates… -The author asserts…  -The author recounts… -The author explains… -The author reveals… -The author implies… -The author suggests…

You get the picture.

Each time you cite from the passage or summarize a portion of it, pick a different option to introduce the quote or summary. If you can use 5-7 alternatives over the course of your essay, you will leave an overall impression of greater variety and sophistication than would otherwise be the case. And because your reader will spend no more than a couple of minutes scoring your essay, that sort of general impression can count for quite a lot. 

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