Writing Mini-Lessons: Essays, How Do I Scratch the Itch?

One of the challenges of essay writing is choosing the right topic, one that truly interests you and that also has a wealth of information about which you may write. Below is a summary of a long process, which can be tackled one step at a time, for pursuing your essay topic and bringing your piece to fruition.

* Define the problem:

What would I like to know?

What do readers need to know?

* Collect information: for the reader and for me. Work from quantity.

Note my own ideas, experiences, prior knowledge, arguments, questions, judgments, interpretations.

Design and administer a survey; summarize and interpret the results.

Collect relevant quotes.

Collect relevant statistics: numbers that reveal the situation.

Collect relevant examples or anecdotes.

Interview appropriate subjects.

Brainstorm reasons, benefits, disadvantages, solutions, roadblocks.

Take notes from articles, books, the Internet.

* Focus the data:

What is my argument or message?

* Play with leads and plans:

Find the best way in: the lead that will give the best shape and voice to my message, my information, and my conclusion.

Create my plan, which both displays the information and gives it some order.

* Draft/develop the information:

Use the plan as a foundation to draft my data as a well-supported message or argument.

* Clarify and tighten the information. Close the holes. Cut the rambling. Make it sing. Ask:

Does the rest of the essay deliver on the promise of the title and lead?

Is the language rich and interesting?

Is the itch well and truly scratched, in a convincing, complete, logical, coherent, orderly way?

* Polish, edit, and publish.