How to write an Essay

Learn how to write essays for your college or university class. This guide provides essay writing help for students and includes instructions and examples.

Well-written essays and papers should be in an “hourglass” style. This means that the writing should begin with general information that relates to the topic. Then it becomes more specific as you focus on the hypothesis or thesis (main topic). Finally, at the end of the paper, it becomes general again as you situate the topic within the bigger picture.

There are some differences depending on the discipline in which you are writing. Science papers will obviously be more focused on a specific problem or question that is then either solved or discussed. Literature papers, for example, may have an idea or opinion that is proven by evidence. However, there are some basic “parts” that should be included in a paper, and that will give your assignment its structure.

You should always include the following


This should actually be the last thing that you write, as it is really a summary of your topic. A well-written introduction poses the question that will be answered or the point that will be made in the paper. It should be one paragraph in length.


Give more detail in this section of the paper. Discuss the specific parameters and write about your topic with clarity.


This section will be more detailed. This is the place where you will make your arguments. Give arguments for and against your topic, which back up your conclusion.


Summarize how and why you came to your thesis here.

Reference List, Works Cited or Bibliography

This is a list of references that are either cited in your paper or were used to develop the idea or thesis. Readers can use this list to read further materials relating to your topic.

Symbolism in
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s
classic novel, “The Scarlet Letter”



Begin by defining what a symbol is, and how it relates to literature. How are symbols important to understanding the message of a novel? You might discuss how authors use symbols to point to specific themes or motifs, or how Nathaniel Hawthorne is well-known for symbolism in all of his works of literature; one must study the symbolism in order to understand his novels and their messages. You could also relate symbolism, briefly, to how the Puritans viewed the world during the time in which “The Scarlet Letter” was written and in which the book took place.


In general, this section should be used to make 3 basic arguments or points that back up your thesis. Be specific in detailing the reasons for your opinion. This is the place to make your case and discuss it in detail.


You might discuss how the letter “A,” in which Hester Prynne was forced to wear as a sign of her adultery, came to represent her strength and that she is “Able,” rather than the sin of “Adultery.” This is evidenced by the fact that as she grows and develops as a character, she grows in her knowledge as a seamstress, and this impacts her belief in her own abilities. You might discuss how what was supposed to symbolize something of shame instead became a symbol of her strength and perseverance. Other potential symbols that can be found in Hawthorne’s novel are the colours red and black. If you choose to write about these in this section, discuss how they are important symbols, and what they represent.


For your second point, you would pick another symbol that is evident in “The Scarlett Letter,” such as the meteor that is seen in the sky. You might discuss how this is symbolic and what it represents to each of the characters. Or you might choose to discuss the forest, and how it is symbolic in Hawthorne’s classic novel. How is it symbolic? What does it represent, and why? Be specific in giving evidence for your opinion.


In the third argument, or point, you might discuss the character of Pearl and what she represents or symbolizes to the other characters in the novel. Another option could be the symbolism behind the very name “Pearl” and what it represents to Hester vs. the townspeople and Dimmesdale. Be specific in citing what you think and why; do this by referencing scenes or situations in the novel. Do this for each argument that you make. Each argument should be one paragraph. Depending upon the length requirements for your assignment, you could add additional paragraphs for each argument or point.


This is where you will summarize your thesis. In your research and pondering of “The Scarlet Letter” you may conclude that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of allegory and symbolism can allow the reader to gain a deeper sense of the characters and their specific situation. Use this section to make a general summary of your thesis and its arguments.


This list should contain all of the sources that you either cited in your paper or that guide you in forming your ideas and opinions. Please refer to the “How-To” Guide on citing references according to the Harvard Style. This guide will aid you in determining how to refer to your particular source, depending on what type of source it is. It is a good idea to keep track of your sources as you conduct research and read about your topic. One suggestion is to keep a notecard for each source that you read. Notate if you found a quote or an idea. Write all of the pertinent information about the source on this card. For example, you would include what type of source, author, title, publication date, etc. Be sure to include the page numbers where you found the information, if applicable.

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