Essays are written to propose and support a thesis. They do so by making claims and supporting them with evidence, and by using techniques that include logic and rhetoric. The need to support a thesis impacts every step in the writing process.
Outlining is one of the most important steps in the writing process. At a minimum, a good outline includes the following elements:
When it includes these elements, an outline functions as "scaffolding" for a writing project. It provides a "big picture" overview of how the essay will develop.
Each paragraph in an essay should present one main idea or claim. It should contain a topic sentence, which serves the same purpose as the thesis of the essay — at the paragraph level. It should also include expansion of the main idea, and evidence or other information that supports the topic sentence. The topic sentence, and the supporting sentences that form the rest of the paragraph, must support the essay's thesis. If they do not, they should be removed from the essay.
Each paragraph in an essay should clearly indicate how and why it supports the thesis. When in doubt, writers should make those connections explicit.
Revising and editing are two of the most critical activities in the writing process. During the revising and editing stages, writers revisit their writing projects at the "big picture" level. They review drafts and determine, paragraph by paragraph, whether everything in the essay supports the thesis. They evaluate whether there are other ideas or claims that may also support the thesis, and consider how to address them in the next draft.
At this point in the process, writers should make sure that ideas, claims, and evidence are well-organized and presented in a sequence that maximizes their support of the thesis.
Source: Adapted from Sophia Instructor Gavin McCall