How to Write a Thematic Essay

Posted by Pat Delorean

how to write a thematic essay

Thematic essays are very difficult to write for most students. They are created to test students’ comprehension of historical facts, and the cause and effect relationships between them, not just the ability to regurgitate facts. Thankfully, however, they have a set structure that is supposed to be the same for every thematic essay that you write.

Your essay will be evaluated based on how closely you adhered to the set format, and deviating largely from it will be reflected in your grade. If you’re preparing to write a timed assignment, you’ll do well by committing this structure to memory and writing a few test versions of the paper you’re preparing to write.

Pre-Writing Your Essay

The process of pre-writing involves putting together everything you need to write, including research, an outline and, if you wish, the introductory paragraph to your paper.

The structure of this essay type is as follows: introduction, the body paragraphs and the conclusion. Depending on the volume requirement for your paper, you might need 3-4 body paragraphs. If you’re planning to write more than four body paragraphs, you might need to stretch that intro or conclusion to two paragraphs. The rule of thumb is to spend no more than 30% of your paper on the introduction and the conclusion, but feel free to experiment in this are and adjust to your taste.

Outlining Your Essay

When outlining your essay, plan out the body paragraphs first. Think of the thesis of the essay – the main point you’re making – and plan each body paragraph around that point. Think of the body paragraphs as pillars supporting your argument: the more sound, well-researched and well-argued they’re going to be, the better your thesis is supported.

Each body paragraph is supposed to have a thesis of its own, sometimes called a topic sentence. A topic sentence is a thesis – a point – of its own, and the rest of the paragraph exists to support it. For longer essays, you might want to spend extra time arguing a point, and stretch each one into two paragraphs. If you’re worried about spreading it too thin, metaphorically speaking, then just come up with more arguments and fill out the length requirement that way.

Conducting Research

When researching, stick to relevant examples that will illustrate the points you make. If you’re well-informed about the topic, just choose what you already know and form the arguments around the examples you want to use.

The Actual Writing Process

The best essays come out of hours-long uninterrupted writing sessions, so make sure you’ve done all the research and gotten all the quotes you want to use in the essay before sitting down to write.

Some people find it easier to have the intro paragraph(s) already written when they sit down to actually write the essay. This might be the way to go if you normally sit and stare at the blinking cursor for a while before starting to write the paper. Write the introduction beforehand, and provide yourself with a jumping off point.

Writing the Intro, Body and Concluding Paragraphs

The intro to your thematic essay should include the reasons for writing the essay, i.e., why this is an important topic, and a short sentence on why you care about this issue, including your stance on it. End the intro with your thesis statement – the point you’re going to be making throughout the essay, and the rest of the essay is going to be supporting.

A body paragraph is supposed to revolve around one aspect of your point. Choose one quote or example that illustrates the argument best, and write the paragraph around it. If you’ve found great, illustrative examples and quotes to use, writing should be very easy and come to you naturally. If you find that you’re struggling to fit what you say around a certain quote or example, finding another one might be easier than forcing it to do what you want.

End your essay with a paragraph that sums up everything you’ve said, but do not restate the previous paragraphs using different words. Conclude by rephrasing your thesis statement as factual, and then say why taking your side on the issue is the right choice. This is your chance to deliver the final blow, so here’s hoping that you’ve saved your strongest words for last. End the concluding paragraph with a strong-worded statement that’s intended to stay with the reader after they’ve finished reading – that’s your chance to stand out in the swath of similar essays to the person grading them.