Complete Essay Writing Guide For International Students

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Academic essay writing requires a lot of practice. It can be difficult to master, especially for international students with English as a second language.

A successful essay should be clear, concise, and to the point, address the question fully, and be logically organized and coherent. The following tips from can help you achieve these goals.

Thesis Statement

A key consideration in writing a proper essay is to develop a controlling idea, which can be articulated into a thesis statement. Using the topic you selected in Self-Practice Exercise 5.3, devise a working thesis statement on a separate sheet of paper. You may need to revise this several times until you get closer to the wording that expresses your stance precisely.

Your thesis statement should forecast the content of your essay by dissecting a specific question or subject. A strong thesis statement is precise, arguable, demonstrable and confident.

It also serves as a framework for organizing your research and points in your body paragraphs. If your essay contains a formal outline, use Roman numerals to identify the main ideas and their development in your body paragraphs. Each point in your body paragraphs should bring up evidence and support your claims. This is where the most work takes place in constructing an essay. For this reason, it is particularly important to focus on the quality of your words and not just how many you write.

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of an essay are where the'meat' is each should support the main argument stated in the introduction and link back to it. Use transition words and phrases like alternatively, in contrast, and consequently to give flow to your essay and provide a bridge between paragraphs.

International students need to remember that academic writing is not the same as their natural voice or even the way they normally talk. They may need to retrain themselves in order to write at the level required for university essays.

Its also worth reminding students that writing a university essay is a long process, and they should try to be patient. Allowing time for the essay to 'breathe' after they have written it can help them spot mistakes and make improvements. Getting an extra pair of eyes on an essay before it is submitted can be extremely helpful too, so students should try to find someone who can offer constructive feedback.


The conclusion is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to analyse and evaluate evidence. It should not introduce any new material, but rather summarise what you have discussed in the body paragraphs and how these support your argument.

Start early: essay writing takes time to read, take notes, organise ideas, draft and write. It is easy to get overwhelmed by an essay assignment so try breaking it down into smaller tasks, allowing yourself time to edit and rewrite if needed.

Use all the tools at your disposal: proofreading is key to a well written essay. Have a Shorelight academic advisor or native English speaking classmate proofread your work to identify areas that need clarifying or correction.

Practice: Reading and analysing essays by other students (and academics) will help you develop your own essay-writing style. The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of essay, but you may also wish to check departmental guidance and VLE sites for more tailored resources.


Essays require a great deal of time: reading, taking notes, processing and organising thoughts, writing, and editing. A good way to ensure you have enough time is to break the assignment down into smaller steps and start early.

While many international students have a larger vocabulary than most native English speakers, that alone is not enough to write an essay. Writing is a skill that requires practice and it is important for students to work with a tutor, classmate or Shorelight academic advisor who can help them improve their writing.

A great resource for guiding international students to improve their essays is this book. It is a practical guide for those who have to write an essay in English at university and includes examples, explanations and exercises. The book also provides guidance on responding to instructor feedback and is suitable for both undergraduates and those in ESL or bridge courses. The second edition of this textbook has been updated to include new chapters on using sources and developing a research plan.