What Makes a Successful Essay?

Hu Naiyu talked to HSE students to find out what they think about writing a successful essay.

What Makes a Successful Essay?

Have you ever worried about submitting an essay the day before the deadline but with no idea where to start? Have you ever tried every means to get a higher mark for your essay? There is no doubt that writing an essay has become a required skill for all students. I believe that many freshmen might come across various difficulties when they write their first essay.

Today we have invited HSE students from different majors to share their experience of writing a successful essay. Our interviewees for the discussion are Yulia, Anastasia and Wang.




Hello, guys! Welcome to our discussion today! We are going to talk about tips of writing an academic essay. First, please introduce yourself and tell us what you are majoring in currently.

Yulia: I used to major in BA in chemistry in HSE and now I am studying marine biology in my own country. It is fascinating to me because every day you learn something new about creatures you have never heard of. As for academic essay, well, I haven’t finished it yet. I need to do a lot of experiments, which can take much time. You have to wait until the experiment is done.

Anastasia: Good afternoon! I am glad to join this meeting. I am an HSE student majoring in history of artistic culture and the art market. I think essays mean a lot to graduates for it represents the achievement of their university period.

Wang: Hello, my name is Wang Yuqing. My major is psychology. As far as I remember, last year I spent much time on researches in the whole process of writing my essay. It is obviously not an easy task.

Interesting majors! I suppose the process of writing an essay would be very different among you guys. So can you tell us the basic steps you plan to take before starting to write an essay?

Yulia: First, we need to do laboratory experiments with our partners. An experiment can be complicated so usually we create a team of five members and each one of us has their own specific task. It would make the experiment progress more smoothly. Then we deal with the data from the experiment and write down the results, and sometimes we need to draw the charts as well. When we have finished this step, we hold a meeting to discuss the similarities and differences of the experiment results. Only when all members manage to share the main ideas can we start to write the report. Basically that is the main steps we take before writing an essay.

Anastasia: In most cases an essay requires a large amount of information. So it is necessary to attend various large-scale theatrical performances in order to collect up-to-date information in art territory. When enough information is collected, we start to determine the subject and theme of the essay. Then we write the essay according to the statistics and add our own analysis to it.

Wang: Before writing an essay there is a long process. First we need to design a proper trial to make sure the research is targeted to one specific field. Then we collect patients for the research and analyze their reactions to the trial. The last and the most important process is to determine what these results can prove in this field.

Which part of an essay takes you more time and energy?

Yulia: I think it takes me more time to analyze the similarities and differences of the results because you might not familiar with the experiment that has been done by your partner since it is group work. I need to search for more information about others’ experiments as well. Or I won’t be able to do the analysis part. So group work sometimes can be problematic for me.

Anastasia: Our work requires strong creativity. We need to make sure that the research we are doing is not repeated by others. That’s why it takes us so much time to participate in various newly released performances. The point of the essay is to analyze and find something new in modern art. So innovative ability is a significant skill for us.

Wang: It might be shocking to some people, but the first step of trial design takes me most time and energy. I’m not joking. If you design a successful trial, then the data can be used for you essay. But if the design is unfortunately a failure, it is possible that the all the efforts you make in the experiment would be in vain just because the results of such experiment don’t make sense. Just like what Plato said:” A good start is half the battle.”

A beginning is half the battle (Proverb).

How did you overcome the difficulties if you came across obstacles to progressing the essay?

Yulia: When there is something wrong with our experiment, I will gather all the members and find out the problem together. As I said, our experiments are related to each other so partial failure of one experiment can mean overall failure. So it is a must to make everyone be informed of the progress and solve problems in time.

Anastasia: I read a lot to keep my brain fresh. Sometimes people can rack their brains just to come up with a new idea. That is very common to me because my work is not just about analyzing but also about creating. So absorbing opinions of the masters helps a lot when I have no inspirations.

Wang: Collecting patients can be complicated. I usually communicate a lot with my colleagues. Sometimes their former patients are just suitable for my research. It would save me much time if I can borrow some samples from them.

Some students have problems with writing an introductory part of their essay. Sometimes they don’t know when to write an introduction or how to start the topic in an attractive way. So I was wondering how you deal with your introduction part.

Yuia: The introduction part convinces the target readers by presenting the research theories refracted by the research topic. So it is important to clarify the aim of your research and your ideas on the topic.

Anastasia: I suppose we should always keep in mind that the introduction part is different from the abstract. The writer needs to specify the subject, the purpose, the methods etc. in the introduction.

Wang: It is important to establish a territory and then introduce the gap so that the reader can understand what you are going to study in this research. And also filling the gap is a crucial part of introduction because it reflects your critical thinking in the essay.

What do you think is the key to a successful essay? Could you share some useful suggestions to our audience?

Yulia: I think in a successful essay there should be solid and convincing statistics. I can give some suggestions to those who also need group work. It is important to communicate with your partners from time to time. And when you move to the next step, please finish the analysis of the last experiment so that it would be easier to make comparisons between them. And one more tip—please don’t start writing the introduction at the very beginning. Start when you have finished other parts of your essay so that the introduction would be complete with all main ideas.

Anastasia: For me, a successful essay should consist of both analysis of masters’ work and developing ideas of the writer himself/herself. We write an essay not to repeat the ideas that already exist but introduce new findings. So my suggestion is to broaden horizons by experiencing different lifestyles. To understand art culture is a long process. Different feelings are inspired in different periods. So it is better to record them when they come to your mind.

Wang: I suppose a successful essay should be based on real facts and appropriate analysis. As for suggestions, I think it is better to plan everything in advance and develop a crystal clear idea before you start the research. Trust me, everything will be carried on tremendously smoothly when you finish the first step in a proper way.

Thank you so much for your participation, guys! I believe your suggestions will help numerous new students in HSE.

In this discussion students have shared their special experiences when writing an essay. It is obvious that students from different majors focus on different aspects in their essays. Writing a successful essay is never a simple task. It requires persistent effort and wise planning.

Text by

Naiyu Hu