Writing essays, articles, research papers: An easy methodology I wish I had known years ago.

To diverge a moment from the world of performance composition, I want to touch on written composition. I had a gift for writing throughout childhood into adulthood, whether or not my essays and research papers reflected it (I could compose material easily, but assembling an essay into a solid cohesive argument was more challenging). In adulthood, I kept a regular blog/journal and wrote hundreds (not exaggerating: hundreds) of articles and pieces on various subjects involving sports, politics, culture and life for many years. During one stretch I wrote at least 1000 words a day for (again, no exaggeration) 2.5 years. Only in the last 3-4 years (as I’ve re-focused on theatre) have I de-emphasized writing in my life.

But I have learned a considerable lot through those years, and hundreds of thousands of words, about composing solid arguments and pieces. After all these years, I have finally devised an easy approach to composing essays and research papers. It can be expanded or compressed as necessary to suit the required length of a paper. Note this is not a research method: Ultimately, you still have to do the work to read, research and develop the knowledge from which you will write. But once you have that material, it’s very easy to write the paper, essay or piece.

The methodology isn’t complex: After reading, taking notes on concepts, brainstorming notes and ultimately deciding what you want to focus on… get a sheet of paper or an open doc. Sum up your main idea in a sentence.

Underneath, explain the 3-4 main arguments defending your main idea in a sentence or two apiece. If handwriting these down, space them out on the page. If typing, double-enter so there’s a line between each.

Then, under each of those arguments, state 2-3 points, pieces of evidence, etc. defending or backing up those respective arguments. Again, do each of these in 1-2 sentences.

Notice what you just did. You basically assembled a pyramid of information. The main idea tops it, supported by 2-3 main arguments, each of those supported by subordinate arguments. This is pretty much the method in a nutshell: Build a pyramid of information. Make an argument, then form arguments supporting that argument. Form arguments supporting each of those arguments. Repeat this process until you have a paper of suitable length. Points of one argument can and should eventually tie in with points of another argument.

If you find yourself getting stuck at any point, you can stop, take a separate page/doc and brainstorm, research, or otherwise do what you wish to assemble raw material supporting each respective individual point. Once you feel you’ve got a comfortable base again you can go back to building the structure of your paper.

Once you believe you have a complete, satisfactory assembly of material, you can rearrange parts however you wish to construct your essay. You can even leave it in the same order. Your call.

Once you have all the material needed to make your point… start composing the actual paper. If you’ve done the previous steps, this should actually be the easy part!

As with any methodology, use or play with it as you wish. If you find it total hogwash, feel free to discard it and go about your business. Hopefully, this helps you should you need to compose a written essay, argument, article, funding application statement or piece of any other kind.

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