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150 great articles & essays: interesting articles to read online, life & death, attitude by margaret atwood, this is water by david foster wallace, why go out by sheila heti, after life by joan didion, when things go missing by kathryn schulz, 50 more great articles about life, 25 more great articles about death.

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The book by patrick symmes, shipping out by david foster wallace, death of an innocent by jon krakauer, the place to disappear by susan orlean, trapped by aron ralston, 75 more great travel articles, words and writing, on keeping a notebook by joan didion, autobiographical notes by james baldwin, how to talk about books you haven't read by pierre bayard, where do you get your ideas by neil gaiman, everything you need to know about writing by stephen king, 20 more great essays about writing, short memoirs, goodbye to all that by joan didion, seeing by annie dillard, explicit violence by lidia yuknavitch, these precious days by ann patchett, 100 more short memoirs, tennis, trigonometry, tornadoes by david foster wallace, losing religion and finding ecstasy in houston by jia tolentino, a brief history of forever by tavi gevinson, 50 more great articles about growing up, the female body by margaret atwood, the tyranny of the ideal woman by jia tolentino, grand unified theory of female pain by leslie jamison, 50 more great articles about women, revelations about sex by alain de botton, safe-sex lies by meghan daum, my life as a sex object by jessica valenti, sex is a coping mechanism by jill neimark, 50 more great articles about sex.

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The Women's Movement by Joan Didion

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The machine always wins by richard seymour, my instagram by dayna tortorici, why the past 10 years of american life have been uniquely stupid by jonathan haidt, 15 more articles about social media, m by john sack, blackhawk down by mark bowden, hiroshima by john hersey, the ai-powered, totally autonomous future of war is here by will knight, 35 more great articles about war, the hinge of history by joan didion, how america lost its mind by kurt andersen, the problem with facts by tim harford, constant anxiety won't save the world by julie beck, 75 more great articles about politics, crime & punishment, the caging of america by adam gopnik, the crooked ladder by malcolm gladwell, cruel and unusual punishment by matt taibbi, 20 more great articles about crime, the body in room 348 by mark bowden, the art of the steal by joshua bearman, true crime by david grann, the crypto trap by andy greenberg, 35 more great true crime stories, does it help to know history by adam gopnik, 1491 by charles c. mann, a history of violence by steven pinker, the worst mistake in history by j. diamond, 25 more great articles about history, notes of a native son by james baldwin, how to slowly kill yourself and others in america by kiese laymon, magic actions by tobi haslett, 30 more great essays about race, cities and ambition by paul graham, here is new york by e. b. white, 25 more great articles about cities, we are all confident idiots by david dunning, fantastic beasts and how to rank them by kathryn schulz, the problem with p-values by david colquhoun, what is the monkeysphere by david wong, 100 more great psychology articles, love & relationships, love by lauren slater, masters of love by emily esfahani smith, this is emo by chuck klosterman, 50 more great articles about relationships, what makes us happy by joshua shenk, social connection makes a better brain by emily esfahani smith, the real roots of midlife crisis by jonathan rauch, 20 more great articles about happiness, success & failure, you can do it, baby by leslie garrett, what drives success by amy chua and jed rubenfeld, the fringe benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination by j.k. rowling, 10 more great articles about success, health & medicine, somewhere worse by jia tolentino, race to the vaccine by david heath and gus garcia-roberts, an epidemic of fear by amy wallace the score by atul gawande, 50 more great articles about health, mental health, darkness visible by william styron, the epidemic of mental illness by marcia angell, surviving anxiety by scott stossel, 50 more great articles about mental health, the moral instinct by steven pinker, not nothing by stephen cave, the greatest good by derek thompson, 15 more great articles about ethics, getting in by malcolm gladwell, learning by degrees by rebecca mead, the end of the english major by nathan heller, 20 more great articles about education, the string theory by david foster wallace, the istanbul derby by spencer hall, the kentucky derby is decadent and depraved by hunter s. thompson, 50 more great sports articles, why does music make us feel good by philip ball, one more time by elizabeth margulis, how to be a rock critic by lester bangs, 50 more great music articles, the arts & culture, inhaling the spore by lawrence weschler, death by harry potter by chuck klosterman, a one-man art market by bryan aappleyard, welcome to airspace by kyle chayka, 35 more great articles about the arts, fx porn by david foster wallace, flick chicks by mindy kaling, the movie set that ate itself by michael idov, 15 more great articles about movies, the last meal by michael paterniti, if you knew sushi by nick tosches, consider the lobster by david foster wallace, 50 more great articles about food.

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College Essays

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 Sure, you might know the theory behind what a college essay is supposed to sound and look like . But just like reading a description of the Golden Gate Bridge pales in comparison to seeing it in person, there’s no replacement for seeing actual college essays written by students just like you. Well, almost like you – they’ve since gotten into college.

But where do you find good sources for reading sample college essays? How can you make sure that these resources will actually strengthen and improve your writing? And what is the best way to use the college essay examples that you do find? In this article, I’ll go over the best books and websites for finding essays, I’ll point out a few to avoid, and I’ll explain how to make the most out of other people’s essays while avoiding common pitfalls.

Why Look At College Essay Examples?

There are some very good reasons for wanting to check out how other people have handled the college admissions essay.

First, because you'll be able to get a better sense of what colleges are looking for, you will necessarily broaden your own topic brainstorming past your first, easiest, and most c lichéd i deas . It's one thing to hear that a completely mundane topic is way better than one focusing on your greatest sports moment. But once you see other students writing about a family meal, or an obsession with a particular board game, or a love of cultivating cacti, you'll be convinced to find your essay in the small moments of your life.

Second, you'll see how your life and writing compares to that of your peers . The great diversity of voices, topics, tones, points of view will show you just how many things you could possibly write about, and how to keep the essay connected to your personality and your voice.

Finally, if you really do have a good story to tell about something that gets written about a lot, like divorce, pet death, a community service trip, or winning the big game, you can get ideas for how to approach a potentially lackluster essay topic in a novel and striking way .

What Makes A Good Sample College Essay Resource?

First, the basics. A source is only as good as its content, so make sure you're reading  college essays that worked, from people who actually got into the schools they applied to . Also, it's best to focus on new essays (not older than 10-15 years), so you are reading what has worked in the most recent past, rather than seeing outdated ideas and historical perspectives.

Next, what you really want is diversity in voice and perspective . Make sure the essays featured come from many different kinds of students: either from applicants to both top and lower-tier schools; or from students with different ethnic, economic, and racial backgrounds; or from writers using both formal and more experimental essay techniques.

Finally, the best sources of admission essays will feature explanatory material . This will give each essay some kind of context: commentary on what makes the essay good, explanations of the drafting process, or, at least, biographical information about students. Without commentary or context, it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to learn from the essays you read.

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Where to Find Great College Essay Examples

Here are my recommendations for excellent resources, as well as some warnings about resources that I think you should avoid. 

  

College Essays Collected in Books

I've taken a look at many of the books that collect college essays, so here are my recommendations. I've divided them into three categories:

  • Excellent  – meaning  having really diverse essays or very helpful commentary on each essay, or both
  • Worthwhile  – meaning either a helpful collection of essays without a lot of context or commentary, or some great advice but a narrow selection of essays geared toward one particular type of school
  • Don't Bother   – not useful either as a source of college essays or as a source of essay-writing advice and explanations

Also, please note that although I’ve listed the Amazon prices for all the books, you should definitely check your school and public library for copies before buying them. And even if your library doesn't have a copy, ask them to request one either from another library in the same system or even from the Library of Congress through interlibrary loan .

Excellent Books

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Heavenly Essays: 50 Narrative College Application Essays That Worked  

Written by Janine W. Robinson, who blogs about college essays at EssayHell , this book features great sample essays. But it's Robinson's precise and clear explanations of how to use a narrative style in your essay to tell a story about your life that make the book really outstanding. Through long and detailed commentary on each essay, Robinson shows why narrative is exactly the kind of structure that works best for personal essays. You can check out sample sections from the book on her blog. The book retails for $10 new on Amazon.

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On Writing the College Application Essay, 25th Anniversary Edition: The Key to Acceptance at the College of Your Choice

Harry Bauld used to be an admissions officer at Brown, so he certainly knows what he is talking about when he writes about  how and why to avoid clichés and explains how to find and keep your specific voice . Bauld demonstrates his points with sample essays, showing how they go from first to final draft. The book is easy to read, uses humor to make points, and his advice will carry over into your college writing as well. It is $12.50 new on Amazon, but there are much cheaper used copies available there as well.

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The Berkeley Book of College Essays: Personal Statements for California Universities and Other Select Schools

This compilation features college admissions essays written by seniors from Berkeley High School (which is not affiliated with UC Berkeley). Because the city of Berkeley is economically, racially, and ethnically very diverse, these essays are about many different interests, perspectives, and experiences, and are written in many different styles and tones . Although there is no commentary for the essays, this collection is a great way to get a sense of the broad array of essay possibilities.

Also, because many of the students from Berkeley High apply to UC schools, this collection separates out UC application essay packages. (If you are interested in UC, also check out our own guide to writing excellent UC essays !) This book is currently $15 on Amazon. 

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50 Successful Harvard Application Essays: What Worked for Them Can Help You Get into the College of Your Choice

Edited by the staff of the Harvard Crimson, this is a great collection of essays from a not particularly diverse group of students. It is very useful to see how the very top students approach the college essay, as long as their best effort neither intimidates nor stymies you. The contextual material is excellent, with helpful explanations of what makes each essay work well. This book retails for $12 new on Amazon, with much cheaper used copies also available.

Worthwhile Books

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College Essays That Made a Difference, 6th Edition

This Princeton Review guide is mostly distinguished by its introductory material, which has detailed interviews with many different colleges at many different tiers about what role essays play in college applications, what kind of mistakes are okay, and what to write and not to write about. The sample essays themselves come without commentary, but each features a very short bio of the student, including test scores, GPA, a list of colleges where the person applied, and a list of colleges where the person got in. Right now, it's $11.50 new on Amazon, but there are cheaper used copies as well.

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50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays

This collection of of college essays that worked, edited by Gen and Kelly Tanabe, has somewhat spare, but insightful, commentary explaining what each essay does well and what it could have done better . It also includes an interview with an admissions officer explaining how essays are used in admissions decisions and some comments from students about the writing process. The link above is to a downloadable PDF file.

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50 Successful Stanford Application Essays: Get into Stanford and Other Top Colleges  

If you like the Tanabes' approach (they are the authors of the previous book), then you will find this one useful as well. The narrow diversity of essay content and the style of commentary (thoughtful, but not particularly detailed or expansive) is very similar. It's priced at $13.25 new on Amazon with some used options as well.

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Fiske Real College Essays That Work  

The "Fiske" of the title is Edward Fiske, who used to be the Education editor of the NY Times, and who therefore has some experience with what colleges want from their applicants. The book itself features an introduction with some helpful essay-writing tips, a diverse selection of essays built around narrative, but unfortunately has very little commentary to go with each essay . It retails for $12.50 new on Amazon, with cheaper used options available.

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2015 Elite College Application Essays

Although there's almost no commentary or discussion of what makes these essays work, this book is a reasonably good collection of essays from students who are now enrolled at Ivy and other top-tier schools. What's particularly appealing about this college essay compilation is how very new these essays are: all are from students who became freshmen in 2015 . The book is $14 new on Amazon.

Don't Bother

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100 Successful College Application Essays

I'd recommend not spending your time on any of the editions of this collection. The essays are decades old in some cases, the topics are clichéd and boring, and there is little to no commentary to make any of them useful. 

College Essays Published Online

I'll split my recommendations here into "worthwhile" and "don't bother" categories. There aren't any truly great collections of sample college essays online.

Individual College Websites . There are many essays published online by the various colleges where these students now go. This means these essays are guaranteed to be real, authentic, and to have worked on someone's application . Some of the essays even come with brief commentary by admissions officers about what makes them great. (The link will take you to our list of over 130 essays from more than 15 different colleges.)

Teen Ink Magazine . Teen Ink publishes all sorts of writing by teens, including college admission essays, which are split off into their own section on the site. The essays necessary feature a wide range of experiences and perspectives, so this is a great place to get a broad sense of what other students are writing about. The essays don't have any context except comment sections that run the gamut from generic “this is good” comments to some insight. Readers also get a chance to vote on which essays are featured as #1, #2, etc., which may be misleading because readers of Teen Ink aren't admissions officers.

Don't Bother 

Watch out for paid websites like AdmitSee, CollegeMapper, and Acceptional, which claim to give you access to college essays for a monthly or fixed fee. Because of the paywall, there's no way to verify the quality of the essays these sites have. Also, there are enough books that you could borrow from your library that you don’t need to pay monthly fees to these places. Finally, I would particularly stay away from AdmidSee, which uses Amazon reviews for other essay resources as a marketing platform.

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The Best Ways To Use College Admission Essay Samples

So now that you've rounded up a bunch of sample college essays, what should you do with them? Here are some tips for your next steps.

When Should You Read Essay Examples?

I'd advise waiting until after you've done some brainstorming of your own before you start immersing yourself in other people's work and ideas. (If you're not sure how to brainstorm, check out our guide to coming up with great college essay topics .)

This way, you can use other people’s essays to think about different possibilities for writing about your own topic. For example, looking at how other people tackled their life experience can show you:

  • how to focus on a different detail in your own story
  • how to change the insight you want to draw from your story
  • how to think about different ways to start and end your narrative

What Can Good College Essays Teach You?

There are both broad and specific learning opportunities to be found in reading other people's work.

Broadly speaking, seeing how other people are approaching the problem of writing a college essay can jog your own creative process. Likewise, reading a diversity of thoughts and voices will show you that even the most normal and boring seeming experiences be made into riveting essays.

More specifically, if you find essays from applicants to your target school, you can get some sense of the level of sophistication they expect to see from your writing. 

Finally, good context and commentary on the essays can show you how they are put together and what makes them work. You can then put this advice to use when rewriting your essay later.

Pitfalls To Avoid

Of course, being surrounded by other people's work, especially when some of that work is much better than what you think you can manage, has its share of temptations. So what do you need to guard against when looking at sample essays?

Plagiarism. This one is basic and obvious. Do not copy these sample essays! Admissions officers have seen them all, read them all, memorized them all – you will not get away with it.

Copying and mimicry. Think of this as a softer kind of plagiarism. Even if you really like someone else’s style, don’t borrow it. Even if someone’s life sounds more exciting than yours, don’t steal a piece of it for your own essay. Why? Because if you don’t sound like yourself, it will be visible to an experienced reader (and guess what, admissions officers are very experienced readers). Also, if you’re writing about experiences that aren't yours, your unfamiliarity will show through the lack of believable details.

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Resources for Essay Writing Advice

In researching this article, I came across books and websites that don't necessarily feature a lot of sample essays, but that give really excellent advice on writing your own college essay. I strongly recommend you spend some time checking them out.

Essay Hell blog . This great resource is written by Janine Anderson Robinson, an English teacher and a journalist, whose book Heavenly Essays I recommended above. The blog posts feature lots and lots of well-explained, detailed, easy to understand advice about how to write your essay, and are broken down into easy to understand, bite-sized nuggets of usefulness.

Slate 's Getting In podcast . The entire series is an interesting look at the college application process, with useful tips and explanations about all aspects what seniors are going through. Check out Episode 2: The Essay , in which a student gets feedback in real time on their essay from a former Princeton director of admissions and a panel of experts talk about essay dos and don’ts. The episode is 26 minutes long.

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The College Essay Trap: Rescue Your College Application Essay From the "Maybe" Pile

This is incredibly concise and excellent explanation of what not to do and what to avoid when writing your personal statement. It's short, sweet, to the point, and is praised to the skies by legendary Princeton admissions dean Fred Hargadon. Currently $12 new on Amazon.

The Bottom Line

  • Look at college essay examples to broaden your own topic brainstorming and get ideas for fixing lackluster topics.
  • Look for resources with diverse and recent essays, from many different kinds of students and with explanatory material that explains what makes each essay good.
  • Look at essay samples after you’ve generated some of your own ideas to think about different possibilities for writing about your own topic.
  • Seeing how other people are approaching the problem of writing a college essay can jog your creative process.
  • Avoid both actual plagiarism and “borrowing”: don’t use someone else’s style, voice, or life experiences as your own.

What’s Next?

If you’re starting to work on college essays, check out our article laying out every single kind of essay prompt out there and a step by step guide to writing a great college essay .

Are you working on the Common App essay? Read our  breakdown of the Common App prompts  and our guide to  picking the best prompt for you.

Or maybe you're interested in the University of California? Check out  our complete guide to the UC personal statements .

Working on other pieces of your college applications? We’ve got guides to  choosing the right college for you ,  writing about extracurriculars , and  requesting teacher recommendations .

Thinking about taking the SAT one last time, or prepping for your first run at it? Read  our ultimate guide to studying for the SAT  and make sure you're as prepared as possible.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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40 Best Essays of All Time (Including Links & Writing Tips)

Author: Rafal Reyzer

I wanted to improve my writing skills. I thought that reading the forty best essays of all time would bring me closer to my goal.

I had little money (buying forty collections of essays was out of the question) so I’ve found them online instead. I’ve hacked through piles of them, and finally, I’ve found the great ones. Now I want to share the whole list with you (with the addition of my notes about writing). Each item on the list has a direct link to the essay, so please click away and indulge yourself. Also, next to each essay, there’s an image of the book that contains the original work.

About this essay list:

Reading essays is like indulging in candy; once you start, it’s hard to stop. I sought out essays that were not only well-crafted but also impactful. These pieces genuinely shifted my perspective. Whether you’re diving in for enjoyment or to hone your writing, these essays promise to leave an imprint. It’s fascinating how an essay can resonate with you, and even if details fade, its essence remains. I haven’t ranked them in any way; they’re all stellar. Skim through, explore the summaries, and pick up some writing tips along the way. For more essay gems, consider “Best American Essays” by Joyce Carol Oates or “101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think” curated by Brianna Wiest.

George Orwell Typing

40 Best Essays of All Time (With Links And Writing Tips)

1. david sedaris – laugh, kookaburra.

david sedaris - the best of me essay collection

A great family drama takes place against the backdrop of the Australian wilderness. And the Kookaburra laughs… This is one of the top essays of the lot. It’s a great mixture of family reminiscences, travel writing, and advice on what’s most important in life. You’ll also learn an awful lot about the curious culture of the Aussies.

Writing tips from the essay:

  • Use analogies (you can make it funny or dramatic to achieve a better effect): “Don’t be afraid,” the waiter said, and he talked to the kookaburra in a soothing, respectful voice, the way you might to a child with a switchblade in his hand”.
  • You can touch a few cognate stories in one piece of writing . Reveal the layers gradually. Intertwine them and arrange for a grand finale where everything is finally clear.
  • Be on the side of the reader. Become their friend and tell the story naturally, like around the dinner table.
  • Use short, punchy sentences. Tell only as much as is required to make your point vivid.
  • Conjure sentences that create actual feelings: “I had on a sweater and a jacket, but they weren’t quite enough, and I shivered as we walked toward the body, and saw that it was a . . . what, exactly?”
  • You may ask a few tough questions in a row to provoke interest and let the reader think.

2. Charles D’Ambrosio – Documents

Charles D'Ambrosio - Loitering - New and Collected Essays

Do you think your life punches you in the face all too often? After reading this essay, you will change your mind. Reading about loss and hardships often makes us sad at first, but then enables us to feel grateful for our lives . D’Ambrosio shares his documents (poems, letters) that had a major impact on his life, and brilliantly shows how not to let go of the past.

  • The most powerful stories are about your family and the childhood moments that shaped your life.
  • You don’t need to build up tension and pussyfoot around the crux of the matter. Instead, surprise the reader by telling it like it is: “The poem was an allegory about his desire to leave our family.” Or: “My father had three sons. I’m the eldest; Danny, the youngest, killed himself sixteen years ago”.
  • You can use real documents and quotes from your family and friends. It makes it so much more personal and relatable.
  • Don’t cringe before the long sentence if you know it’s a strong one.
  • At the end of the essay, you may come back to the first theme to close the circuit.
  • Using slightly poetic language is acceptable, as long as it improves the story.

3. E. B. White – Once more to the lake

E.B. White - Essays

What does it mean to be a father? Can you see your younger self, reflected in your child? This beautiful essay tells the story of the author, his son, and their traditional stay at a placid lake hidden within the forests of Maine. This place of nature is filled with sunshine and childhood memories. It also provides for one of the greatest meditations on nature and the passing of time.

  • Use sophisticated language, but not at the expense of readability.
  • Use vivid language to trigger the mirror neurons in the reader’s brain: “I took along my son, who had never had any fresh water up his nose and who had seen lily pads only from train windows”.
  • It’s important to mention universal feelings that are rarely talked about (it helps to create a bond between two minds): “You remember one thing, and that suddenly reminds you of another thing. I guess I remembered clearest of all the early mornings when the lake was cool and motionless”.
  • Animate the inanimate: “this constant and trustworthy body of water”.
  • Mentioning tales of yore is a good way to add some mystery and timelessness to your piece.
  • Using double, or even triple “and” in one sentence is fine. It can make the sentence sing.

4. Zadie Smith – Fail Better

Zadie Smith - Changing My Mind

Aspiring writers feel tremendous pressure to perform. The daily quota of words often turns out to be nothing more than gibberish. What then? Also, should the writer please the reader or should she be fully independent? What does it mean to be a writer, anyway? This essay is an attempt to answer these questions, but its contents are not only meant for scribblers. Within it, you’ll find some great notes about literary criticism, how we treat art , and the responsibility of the reader.

  • A perfect novel ? There’s no such thing.
  • The novel always reflects the inner world of the writer. That’s why we’re fascinated with writers.
  • Writing is not simply about craftsmanship, but about taking your reader to the unknown lands. In the words of Christopher Hitchens: “Your ideal authors ought to pull you from the foundering of your previous existence, not smilingly guide you into a friendly and peaceable harbor.”
  • Style comes from your unique personality and the perception of the world. It takes time to develop it.
  • Never try to tell it all. “All” can never be put into language. Take a part of it and tell it the best you can.
  • Avoid being cliché. Try to infuse new life into your writing .
  • Writing is about your way of being. It’s your game. Paradoxically, if you try to please everyone, your writing will become less appealing. You’ll lose the interest of the readers. This rule doesn’t apply in the business world where you have to write for a specific person (a target audience).
  • As a reader, you have responsibilities too. According to the critics, every thirty years, there’s just a handful of great novels. Maybe it’s true. But there’s also an element of personal connection between the reader and the writer. That’s why for one person a novel is a marvel, while for the other, nothing special at all. That’s why you have to search and find the author who will touch you.

5. Virginia Woolf – Death of the Moth

Virginia Woolf - Essays

Amid an ordinary day, sitting in a room of her own, Virginia Woolf tells about the epic struggle for survival and the evanescence of life. This short essay is truly powerful. In the beginning, the atmosphere is happy. Life is in full force. And then, suddenly, it fades away. This sense of melancholy would mark the last years of Woolf’s life.

  • The melody of language… A good sentence is like music: “Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow- underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us”.
  • You can show the grandest in the mundane (for example, the moth at your window and the drama of life and death).
  • Using simple comparisons makes the style more lucid: “Being intent on other matters I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously waiting for him to resume his flight, as one waits for a machine, that has stopped momentarily, to start again without considering the reason of its failure”.

6. Meghan Daum – My Misspent Youth

Meghan Daum - My Misspent Youth - Essays

Many of us, at some point or another, dream about living in New York. Meghan Daum’s take on the subject differs slightly from what you might expect. There’s no glamour, no Broadway shows, and no fancy restaurants. Instead, there’s the sullen reality of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. You’ll get all the juicy details about credit cards, overdue payments, and scrambling for survival. It’s a word of warning. But it’s also a great story about shattered fantasies of living in a big city. Word on the street is: “You ain’t promised mañana in the rotten manzana.”

  • You can paint a picture of your former self. What did that person believe in? What kind of world did he or she live in?
  • “The day that turned your life around” is a good theme you may use in a story. Memories of a special day are filled with emotions. Strong emotions often breed strong writing.
  • Use cultural references and relevant slang to create a context for your story.
  • You can tell all the details of the story, even if in some people’s eyes you’ll look like the dumbest motherfucker that ever lived. It adds to the originality.
  • Say it in a new way: “In this mindset, the dollars spent, like the mechanics of a machine no one bothers to understand, become an abstraction, an intangible avenue toward self-expression, a mere vehicle of style”.
  • You can mix your personal story with the zeitgeist or the ethos of the time.

7. Roger Ebert – Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Roger Ebert - The Great Movies

Probably the greatest film critic of all time, Roger Ebert, tells us not to rage against the dying of the light. This essay is full of courage, erudition, and humanism. From it, we learn about what it means to be dying (Hitchens’ “Mortality” is another great work on that theme). But there’s so much more. It’s a great celebration of life too. It’s about not giving up, and sticking to your principles until the very end. It brings to mind the famous scene from Dead Poets Society where John Keating (Robin Williams) tells his students: “Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary”.

  • Start with a powerful sentence: “I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear.”
  • Use quotes to prove your point -”‘Ask someone how they feel about death’, he said, ‘and they’ll tell you everyone’s gonna die’. Ask them, ‘In the next 30 seconds?’ No, no, no, that’s not gonna happen”.
  • Admit the basic truths about reality in a childlike way (especially after pondering quantum physics) – “I believe my wristwatch exists, and even when I am unconscious, it is ticking all the same. You have to start somewhere”.
  • Let other thinkers prove your point. Use quotes and ideas from your favorite authors and friends.

8. George Orwell – Shooting an Elephant

George Orwell - A collection of Essays

Even after one reading, you’ll remember this one for years. The story, set in British Burma, is about shooting an elephant (it’s not for the squeamish). It’s also the most powerful denunciation of colonialism ever put into writing. Orwell, apparently a free representative of British rule, feels to be nothing more than a puppet succumbing to the whim of the mob.

  • The first sentence is the most important one: “In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me”.
  • You can use just the first paragraph to set the stage for the whole piece of prose.
  • Use beautiful language that stirs the imagination: “I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains.” Or: “I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have.”
  • If you’ve ever been to war, you will have a story to tell: “(Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.)”
  • Use simple words, and admit the sad truth only you can perceive: “They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching”.
  • Share words of wisdom to add texture to the writing: “I perceived at this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his freedom that he destroys.”
  • I highly recommend reading everything written by Orwell, especially if you’re looking for the best essay collections on Amazon or Goodreads.

9. George Orwell – A Hanging

George Orwell - Essays

It’s just another day in Burma – time to hang a man. Without much ado, Orwell recounts the grim reality of taking another person’s life. A man is taken from his cage and in a few minutes, he’s going to be hanged. The most horrible thing is the normality of it. It’s a powerful story about human nature. Also, there’s an extraordinary incident with the dog, but I won’t get ahead of myself.

  • Create brilliant, yet short descriptions of characters: “He was a Hindu, a puny wisp of a man, with a shaven head and vague liquid eyes. He had a thick, sprouting mustache, absurdly too big for his body, rather like the mustache of a comic man on the films”.
  • Understand and share the felt presence of a unique experience: “It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man”.
  • Make your readers hear the sound that will stay with them forever: “And then when the noose was fixed, the prisoner began crying out on his god. It was a high, reiterated cry of “Ram! Ram! Ram! Ram!”
  • Make the ending original by refusing the tendency to seek closure or summing it up.

10. Christopher Hitchens – Assassins of The Mind

Christopher Hitchens - Arguably - Essays

In one of the greatest essays written in defense of free speech, Christopher Hitchens shares many examples of how modern media kneel to the explicit threats of violence posed by Islamic extremists. He recounts the story of his friend, Salman Rushdie, author of Satanic Verses who, for many years, had to watch over his shoulder because of the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini. With his usual wit, Hitchens shares various examples of people who died because of their opinions and of editors who refuse to publish anything related to Islam because of fear (and it was written long before the Charlie Hebdo massacre). After reading the essay, you realize that freedom of expression is one of the most precious things we have and that we have to fight for it. I highly recommend all essay collections penned by Hitchens, especially the ones written for Vanity Fair.

  • Assume that the readers will know the cultural references. When they do, their self-esteem goes up – they are a part of an insider group.
  • When proving your point, give a variety of real-life examples from eclectic sources. Leave no room for ambiguity or vagueness. Research and overall knowledge are essential here.
  • Use italics to emphasize a specific word or phrase (here I use the underlining): “We live now in a climate where every publisher and editor and politician has to weigh in advance the possibility of violent Muslim reprisal. In consequence, several things have not happened.”
  • Think about how to make it sound more original: “So there is now a hidden partner in our cultural and academic and publishing and the broadcasting world: a shadowy figure that has, uninvited, drawn up a chair to the table.”

11. Christopher Hitchens – The New Commandments

Christopher Hitchens - Essays

It’s high time to shatter the tablets and amend the biblical rules of conduct. Watch, as Christopher Hitchens slays one commandment after the other on moral, as well as historical grounds. For example, did you know that there are many versions of the divine law dictated by God to Moses which you can find in the Bible? Aren’t we thus empowered to write our version of a proper moral code? If you approach it with an open mind, this essay may change the way you think about the Bible and religion.

  • Take the iconoclastic approach. Have a party on the hallowed soil.
  • Use humor to undermine orthodox ideas (it seems to be the best way to deal with an established authority).
  • Use sarcasm and irony when appropriate (or not): “Nobody is opposed to a day of rest. The international Communist movement got its start by proclaiming a strike for an eight-hour day on May 1, 1886, against Christian employers who used child labor seven days a week”.
  • Defeat God on legal grounds: “Wise lawmakers know that it is a mistake to promulgate legislation that is impossible to obey”.
  • Be ruthless in the logic of your argument. Provide evidence.

12. Phillip Lopate – Against Joie de Vivre

Philip Lopate - The Art Of Personal Essay

While reading this fantastic essay, this quote from Slavoj Žižek kept coming back to me: “I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves”. I can bear the onus of happiness or joie de vivre for some time. But this force enables me to get free and wallow in the sweet feelings of melancholy and nostalgia. By reading this work of Lopate, you’ll enter into the world of an intelligent man who finds most social rituals a drag. It’s worth exploring.

  • Go against the grain. Be flamboyant and controversial (if you can handle it).
  • Treat the paragraph like a group of thoughts on one theme. Next paragraph, next theme.
  • Use references to other artists to set the context and enrich the prose: “These sunny little canvases with their talented innocence, the third-generation spirit of Montmartre, bore testimony to a love of life so unbending as to leave an impression of rigid narrow-mindedness as extreme as any Savonarola. Their rejection of sorrow was total”.
  • Capture the emotions in life that are universal, yet remain unspoken.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your intimate experiences.

13. Philip Larkin – The Pleasure Principle

Philip Larkin - Jazz Writings, and other essays

This piece comes from the Required Writing collection of personal essays. Larkin argues that reading in verse should be a source of intimate pleasure – not a medley of unintelligible thoughts that only the author can (or can’t?) decipher. It’s a sobering take on modern poetry and a great call to action for all those involved in it. Well worth a read.

  • Write about complicated ideas (such as poetry) simply. You can change how people look at things if you express yourself enough.
  • Go boldly. The reader wants a bold writer: “We seem to be producing a new kind of bad poetry, not the old kind that tries to move the reader and fails, but one that does not even try”.
  • Play with words and sentence length. Create music: “It is time some of you playboys realized, says the judge, that reading a poem is hard work. Fourteen days in stir. Next case”.
  • Persuade the reader to take action. Here, direct language is the most effective.

14. Sigmund Freud – Thoughts for the Times on War and Death

Sigmund Freud - On Murder, Mourning and Melancholia

This essay reveals Freud’s disillusionment with the whole project of Western civilization. How the peaceful European countries could engage in a war that would eventually cost over 17 million lives? What stirs people to kill each other? Is it their nature, or are they puppets of imperial forces with agendas of their own? From the perspective of time, this work by Freud doesn’t seem to be fully accurate. Even so, it’s well worth your time.

  • Commence with long words derived from Latin. Get grandiloquent, make your argument incontrovertible, and leave your audience discombobulated.
  • Use unending sentences, so that the reader feels confused, yet impressed.
  • Say it well: “In this way, he enjoyed the blue sea and the grey; the beauty of snow-covered mountains and green meadowlands; the magic of northern forests and the splendor of southern vegetation; the mood evoked by landscapes that recall great historical events, and the silence of untouched nature”.
  • Human nature is a subject that never gets dry.

15. Zadie Smith – Some Notes on Attunement

“You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing” – Francis Dolarhyde. This one is about the elusiveness of change occurring within you. For Zadie, it was hard to attune to the vibes of Joni Mitchell – especially her Blue album. But eventually, she grew up to appreciate her genius, and all the other things changed as well. This top essay is all about the relationship between humans, and art. We shouldn’t like art because we’re supposed to. We should like it because it has an instantaneous, emotional effect on us. Although, according to Stansfield (Gary Oldman) in Léon, liking Beethoven is rather mandatory.

  • Build an expectation of what’s coming: “The first time I heard her I didn’t hear her at all”.
  • Don’t be afraid of repetition if it feels good.
  • Psychedelic drugs let you appreciate things you never appreciated.
  • Intertwine a personal journey with philosophical musings.
  • Show rather than tell: “My friends pitied their eyes. The same look the faithful give you as you hand them back their “literature” and close the door in their faces”.
  • Let the poets speak for you: “That time is past, / And all its aching joys are now no
  • more, / And all its dizzy raptures”.
  • By voicing your anxieties, you can heal the anxieties of the reader. In that way, you say: “I’m just like you. I’m your friend in this struggle”.
  • Admit your flaws to make your persona more relatable.

16. Annie Dillard – Total Eclipse

Annie Dillard - Teaching A stone to talk

My imagination was always stirred by the scene of the solar eclipse in Pharaoh, by Boleslaw Prus. I wondered about the shock of the disoriented crowd when they saw how their ruler could switch off the light. Getting immersed in this essay by Annie Dillard has a similar effect. It produces amazement and some kind of primeval fear. It’s not only the environment that changes; it’s your mind and the perception of the world. After the eclipse, nothing is going to be the same again.

  • Yet again, the power of the first sentence draws you in: “It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass”.
  • Don’t miss the extraordinary scene. Then describe it: “Up in the sky, like a crater from some distant cataclysm, was a hollow ring”.
  • Use colloquial language. Write as you talk. Short sentences often win.
  • Contrast the numinous with the mundane to enthrall the reader.

17. Édouard Levé – When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue

Édouard Levé - Suicide

This suicidally beautiful essay will teach you a lot about the appreciation of life and the struggle with mental illness. It’s a collection of personal, apparently unrelated thoughts that show us the rich interior of the author. You look at the real-time thoughts of another person, and then recognize the same patterns within yourself… It sounds like a confession of a person who’s about to take their life, and it’s striking in its originality.

  • Use the stream-of-consciousness technique and put random thoughts on paper. Then, polish them: “I have attempted suicide once, I’ve been tempted four times to attempt it”.
  • Place the treasure deep within the story: “When I look at a strawberry, I think of a tongue, when I lick one, of a kiss”.
  • Don’t worry about what people might think. The more you expose, the more powerful the writing. Readers also take part in the great drama. They experience universal emotions that mostly stay inside.  You can translate them into writing.

18. Gloria E. Anzaldúa – How to Tame a Wild Tongue

Gloria Anzaldúa - Reader

Anzaldúa, who was born in south Texas, had to struggle to find her true identity. She was American, but her culture was grounded in Mexico. In this way, she and her people were not fully respected in either of the countries. This essay is an account of her journey of becoming the ambassador of the Chicano (Mexican-American) culture. It’s full of anecdotes, interesting references, and different shades of Spanish. It’s a window into a new cultural dimension that you’ve never experienced before.

  • If your mother tongue is not English, but you write in English, use some of your unique homeland vocabulary.
  • You come from a rich cultural heritage. You can share it with people who never heard about it, and are not even looking for it, but it is of immense value to them when they discover it.
  • Never forget about your identity. It is precious. It is a part of who you are. Even if you migrate, try to preserve it. Use it to your best advantage and become the voice of other people in the same situation.
  • Tell them what’s really on your mind: “So if you want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language”.

19. Kurt Vonnegut – Dispatch From A Man Without a Country

Kurt Vonnegut - A man without a country

In terms of style, this essay is flawless. It’s simple, conversational, humorous, and yet, full of wisdom. And when Vonnegut becomes a teacher and draws an axis of “beginning – end”, and, “good fortune – bad fortune” to explain literature, it becomes outright hilarious. It’s hard to find an author with such a down-to-earth approach. He doesn’t need to get intellectual to prove a point. And the point could be summed up by the quote from Great Expectations – “On the Rampage, Pip, and off the Rampage, Pip – such is Life!”

  • Start with a curious question: “Do you know what a twerp is?”
  • Surprise your readers with uncanny analogies: “I am from a family of artists. Here I am, making a living in the arts. It has not been a rebellion. It’s as though I had taken over the family Esso station.”
  • Use your natural language without too many special effects. In time, the style will crystalize.
  • An amusing lesson in writing from Mr. Vonnegut: “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college”.
  • You can put actual images or vignettes between the paragraphs to illustrate something.

20. Mary Ruefle – On Fear

Mary Ruefle - Madness, rack and honey

Most psychologists and gurus agree that fear is the greatest enemy of success or any creative activity. It’s programmed into our minds to keep us away from imaginary harm. Mary Ruefle takes on this basic human emotion with flair. She explores fear from so many angles (especially in the world of poetry-writing) that at the end of this personal essay, you will look at it, dissect it, untangle it, and hopefully be able to say “f**k you” the next time your brain is trying to stop you.

  • Research your subject thoroughly. Ask people, have interviews, get expert opinions, and gather as much information as possible. Then scavenge through the fields of data, and pull out the golden bits that will let your prose shine.
  • Use powerful quotes to add color to your story: “The poet who embarks on the creation of the poem (as I know by experience), begins with the aimless sensation of a hunter about to embark on a night hunt through the remotest of forests. Unaccountable dread stirs in his heart”. – Lorca.
  • Writing advice from the essay: “One of the fears a young writer has is not being able to write as well as he or she wants to, the fear of not being able to sound like X or Y, a favorite author. But out of fear, hopefully, is born a young writer’s voice”.

21. Susan Sontag – Against Interpretation

Susan Sontag - Against Interpretation

In this highly intellectual essay, Sontag fights for art and its interpretation. It’s a great lesson, especially for critics and interpreters who endlessly chew on works that simply defy interpretation. Why don’t we just leave the art alone? I always hated it when at school they asked me: “What did the author have in mind when he did X or Y?” Iēsous Pantocrator! Hell if I know! I will judge it through my subjective experience!

  • Leave the art alone: “Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities”.
  • When you have something really important to say, style matters less.
  • There’s no use in creating a second meaning or inviting interpretation of our art. Just leave it be and let it speak for itself.

22. Nora Ephron – A Few Words About Breasts

Nora Ephron - The most of Nora Ephron

This is a heartwarming, coming-of-age story about a young girl who waits in vain for her breasts to grow. It’s simply a humorous and pleasurable read. The size of breasts is a big deal for women. If you’re a man, you may peek into the mind of a woman and learn many interesting things. If you’re a woman, maybe you’ll be able to relate and at last, be at peace with your bosom.

  • Touch an interesting subject and establish a strong connection with the readers (in that case, women with small breasts). Let your personality shine through the written piece. If you are lighthearted, show it.
  • Use hyphens to create an impression of real talk: “My house was full of apples and peaches and milk and homemade chocolate chip cookies – which were nice, and good for you, but-not-right-before-dinner-or-you’ll-spoil-your-appetite.”
  • Use present tense when you tell a story to add more life to it.
  • Share the pronounced, memorable traits of characters: “A previous girlfriend named Solange, who was famous throughout Beverly Hills High School for having no pigment in her right eyebrow, had knitted them for him (angora dice)”.

23. Carl Sagan – Does Truth Matter – Science, Pseudoscience, and Civilization

Carl Sagan - The Demon Haunted World

Carl Sagan was one of the greatest proponents of skepticism, and an author of numerous books, including one of my all-time favorites – The Demon-Haunted World . He was also a renowned physicist and the host of the fantastic Cosmos: A Personal Voyage series, which inspired a whole generation to uncover the mysteries of the cosmos. He was also a dedicated weed smoker – clearly ahead of his time. The essay that you’re about to read is a crystallization of his views about true science, and why you should check the evidence before believing in UFOs or similar sorts of crap.

  • Tell people the brutal truth they need to hear. Be the one who spells it out for them.
  • Give a multitude of examples to prove your point. Giving hard facts helps to establish trust with the readers and show the veracity of your arguments.
  • Recommend a good book that will change your reader’s minds – How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life

24. Paul Graham – How To Do What You Love

Paul Graham - Hackers and Painters

How To Do What You Love should be read by every college student and young adult. The Internet is flooded with a large number of articles and videos that are supposed to tell you what to do with your life. Most of them are worthless, but this one is different. It’s sincere, and there’s no hidden agenda behind it. There’s so much we take for granted – what we study, where we work, what we do in our free time… Surely we have another two hundred years to figure it out, right? Life’s too short to be so naïve. Please, read the essay and let it help you gain fulfillment from your work.

  • Ask simple, yet thought-provoking questions (especially at the beginning of the paragraph) to engage the reader: “How much are you supposed to like what you do?”
  • Let the readers question their basic assumptions: “Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like”.
  • If you’re writing for a younger audience, you can act as a mentor. It’s beneficial for younger people to read a few words of advice from a person with experience.

25. John Jeremiah Sullivan – Mister Lytle

John Jeremiah Sullivan - Pulphead

A young, aspiring writer is about to become a nurse of a fading writer – Mister Lytle (Andrew Nelson Lytle), and there will be trouble. This essay by Sullivan is probably my favorite one from the whole list. The amount of beautiful sentences it contains is just overwhelming. But that’s just a part of its charm. It also takes you to the Old South which has an incredible atmosphere. It’s grim and tawny but you want to stay there for a while.

  • Short, distinct sentences are often the most powerful ones: “He had a deathbed, in other words. He didn’t go suddenly”.
  • Stay consistent with the mood of the story. When reading Mister Lytle you are immersed in that southern, forsaken, gloomy world, and it’s a pleasure.
  • The spectacular language that captures it all: “His French was superb, but his accent in English was best—that extinct mid-Southern, land-grant pioneer speech, with its tinges of the abandoned Celtic urban Northeast (“boned” for burned) and its raw gentility”.
  • This essay is just too good. You have to read it.

26. Joan Didion – On Self Respect

Joan Didion - The white album

Normally, with that title, you would expect some straightforward advice about how to improve your character and get on with your goddamn life – but not from Joan Didion. From the very beginning, you can feel the depth of her thinking, and the unmistakable style of a true woman who’s been hurt. You can learn more from this essay than from whole books about self-improvement . It reminds me of the scene from True Detective, where Frank Semyon tells Ray Velcoro to “own it” after he realizes he killed the wrong man all these years ago. I guess we all have to “own it”, recognize our mistakes, and move forward sometimes.

  • Share your moral advice: “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs”.
  • It’s worth exploring the subject further from a different angle. It doesn’t matter how many people have already written on self-respect or self-reliance – you can still write passionately about it.
  • Whatever happens, you must take responsibility for it. Brave the storms of discontent.

27. Susan Sontag – Notes on Camp

Susan Sontag - Essays of the 1960 and 1970

I’ve never read anything so thorough and lucid about an artistic current. After reading this essay, you will know what camp is. But not only that – you will learn about so many artists you’ve never heard of. You will follow their traces and go to places where you’ve never been before. You will vastly increase your appreciation of art. It’s interesting how something written as a list could be so amazing. All the listicles we usually see on the web simply cannot compare with it.

  • Talking about artistic sensibilities is a tough job. When you read the essay, you will see how much research, thought and raw intellect came into it. But that’s one of the reasons why people still read it today, even though it was written in 1964.
  • You can choose an unorthodox way of expression in the medium for which you produce. For example, Notes on Camp is a listicle – one of the most popular content formats on the web. But in the olden days, it was uncommon to see it in print form.
  • Just think about what is camp: “And third among the great creative sensibilities is Camp: the sensibility of failed seriousness, of the theatricalization of experience. Camp refuses both the harmonies of traditional seriousness and the risks of fully identifying with extreme states of feeling”.

28. Ralph Waldo Emerson – Self-Reliance

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Self Reliance and other essays

That’s the oldest one from the lot. Written in 1841, it still inspires generations of people. It will let you understand what it means to be self-made. It contains some of the most memorable quotes of all time. I don’t know why, but this one especially touched me: “Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design, and posterity seems to follow his steps as a train of clients”. Now isn’t it purely individualistic, American thought? Emerson told me (and he will tell you) to do something amazing with my life. The language it contains is a bit archaic, but that just adds to the weight of the argument. You can consider it to be a meeting with a great philosopher who shaped the ethos of the modern United States.

  • You can start with a powerful poem that will set the stage for your work.
  • Be free in your creative flow. Do not wait for the approval of others: “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness”.
  • Use rhetorical questions to strengthen your argument: “I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly say a new and spontaneous word?”

29. David Foster Wallace – Consider The Lobster

David Foster Wallece - Consider the lobster and other essays

When you want simple field notes about a food festival, you needn’t send there the formidable David Foster Wallace. He sees right through the hypocrisy and cruelty behind killing hundreds of thousands of innocent lobsters – by boiling them alive. This essay uncovers some of the worst traits of modern American people. There are no apologies or hedging one’s bets. There’s just plain truth that stabs you in the eye like a lobster claw. After reading this essay, you may reconsider the whole animal-eating business.

  • When it’s important, say it plainly and stagger the reader: “[Lobsters] survive right up until they’re boiled. Most of us have been in supermarkets or restaurants that feature tanks of live lobster, from which you can pick out your supper while it watches you point”.
  • In your writing, put exact quotes of the people you’ve been interviewing (including slang and grammatical errors). It makes it more vivid, and interesting.
  • You can use humor in serious situations to make your story grotesque.
  • Use captions to expound on interesting points of your essay.

30. David Foster Wallace – The Nature of the Fun

David Foster Wallece - a supposedly fun thing I'll never do again

The famous novelist and author of the most powerful commencement speech ever done is going to tell you about the joys and sorrows of writing a work of fiction. It’s like taking care of a mutant child that constantly oozes smelly liquids. But you love that child and you want others to love it too. It’s a very humorous account of what it means to be an author. If you ever plan to write a novel, you should read that one. And the story about the Chinese farmer is just priceless.

  • Base your point on a chimerical analogy. Here, the writer’s unfinished work is a “hideously damaged infant”.
  • Even in expository writing, you may share an interesting story to keep things lively.
  • Share your true emotions (even when you think they won’t interest anyone). Often, that’s exactly what will interest the reader.
  • Read the whole essay for marvelous advice on writing fiction.

31. Margaret Atwood – Attitude

Margaret Atwood - Writing with Intent - Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005

This is not an essay per se, but I included it on the list for the sake of variety. It was delivered as a commencement speech at The University of Toronto, and it’s about keeping the right attitude. Soon after leaving university, most graduates have to forget about safety, parties, and travel and start a new life – one filled with a painful routine that will last until they drop. Atwood says that you don’t have to accept that. You can choose how you react to everything that happens to you (and you don’t have to stay in that dead-end job for the rest of your days).

  • At times, we are all too eager to persuade, but the strongest persuasion is not forceful. It’s subtle. It speaks to the heart. It affects you gradually.
  • You may be tempted to talk about a subject by first stating what it is not, rather than what it is. Try to avoid that.
  • Simple advice for writers (and life in general): “When faced with the inevitable, you always have a choice. You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it”.

32. Jo Ann Beard – The Fourth State of Matter

Jo Ann Beard - The boys of my youth

Read that one as soon as possible. It’s one of the most masterful and impactful essays you’ll ever read. It’s like a good horror – a slow build-up, and then your jaw drops to the ground. To summarize the story would be to spoil it, so I recommend that you just dig in and devour this essay in one sitting. It’s a perfect example of “show, don’t tell” writing, where the actions of characters are enough to create the right effect. No need for flowery adjectives here.

  • The best story you will tell is going to come from your personal experience.
  • Use mysteries that will nag the reader. For example, at the beginning of the essay, we learn about the “vanished husband” but there’s no explanation. We have to keep reading to get the answer.
  • Explain it in simple terms: “You’ve got your solid, your liquid, your gas, and then your plasma”. Why complicate?

33. Terence McKenna – Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness

Terrence McKenna - Food of gods

To me, Terence McKenna was one of the most interesting thinkers of the twentieth century. His many lectures (now available on YouTube) attracted millions of people who suspect that consciousness holds secrets yet to be unveiled. McKenna consumed psychedelic drugs for most of his life and it shows (in a positive way). Many people consider him a looney, and a hippie, but he was so much more than that. He dared to go into the abyss of his psyche and come back to tell the tale. He also wrote many books (the most famous being Food Of The Gods ), built a huge botanical garden in Hawaii , lived with shamans, and was a connoisseur of all things enigmatic and obscure. Take a look at this essay, and learn more about the explorations of the subconscious mind.

  • Become the original thinker, but remember that it may require extraordinary measures: “I call myself an explorer rather than a scientist because the area that I’m looking at contains insufficient data to support even the dream of being a science”.
  • Learn new words every day to make your thoughts lucid.
  • Come up with the most outlandish ideas to push the envelope of what’s possible. Don’t take things for granted or become intellectually lazy. Question everything.

34. Eudora Welty – The Little Store

Eudora Welty - The eye of the story

By reading this little-known essay, you will be transported into the world of the old American South. It’s a remembrance of trips to the little store in a little town. It’s warm and straightforward, and when you read it, you feel like a child once more. All these beautiful memories live inside of us. They lay somewhere deep in our minds, hidden from sight. The work by Eudora Welty is an attempt to uncover some of them and let you get reacquainted with some smells and tastes of the past.

  • When you’re from the South, flaunt it. It’s still good old English but sometimes it sounds so foreign. I can hear the Southern accent too: “There were almost tangible smells – licorice recently sucked in a child’s cheek, dill-pickle brine that had leaked through a paper sack in a fresh trail across the wooden floor, ammonia-loaded ice that had been hoisted from wet Croker sacks and slammed into the icebox with its sweet butter at the door, and perhaps the smell of still-untrapped mice”.
  • Yet again, never forget your roots.
  • Childhood stories can be the most powerful ones. You can write about how they shaped you.

35. John McPhee – The Search for Marvin Gardens

John Mc Phee - The John Mc Phee reader

The Search for Marvin Gardens contains many layers of meaning. It’s a story about a Monopoly championship, but also, it’s the author’s search for the lost streets visible on the board of the famous board game. It also presents a historical perspective on the rise and fall of civilizations, and on Atlantic City, which once was a lively place, and then, slowly declined, the streets filled with dirt and broken windows.

  • There’s nothing like irony: “A sign- ‘Slow, Children at Play’- has been bent backward by an automobile”.
  • Telling the story in apparently unrelated fragments is sometimes better than telling the whole thing in a logical order.
  • Creativity is everything. The best writing may come just from connecting two ideas and mixing them to achieve a great effect. Shush! The muse is whispering.

36. Maxine Hong Kingston – No Name Woman

Maxine Hong Kingston - Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston

A dead body at the bottom of the well makes for a beautiful literary device. The first line of Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red delivers it perfectly: “I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well”. There’s something creepy about the idea of the well. Just think about the “It puts the lotion in the basket” scene from The Silence of the Lambs. In the first paragraph of Kingston’s essay, we learn about a suicide committed by uncommon means of jumping into the well. But this time it’s a real story. Who was this woman? Why did she do it? Read the essay.

  • Mysterious death always gets attention. The macabre details are like daiquiris on a hot day – you savor them – you don’t let them spill.
  • One sentence can speak volumes: “But the rare urge west had fixed upon our family, and so my aunt crossed boundaries not delineated in space”.
  • It’s interesting to write about cultural differences – especially if you have the relevant experience. Something normal for us is unthinkable for others. Show this different world.
  • The subject of sex is never boring.

37. Joan Didion – On Keeping A Notebook

Joan Didion - We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is one of the most famous collections of essays of all time. In it, you will find a curious piece called On Keeping A Notebook. It’s not only a meditation about keeping a journal. It’s also Didion’s reconciliation with her past self. After reading it, you will seriously reconsider your life’s choices and look at your life from a wider perspective.

  • When you write things down in your journal, be more specific – unless you want to write a deep essay about it years later.
  • Use the beauty of the language to relate to the past: “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing ‘How High the Moon’ on the car radio”.
  • Drop some brand names if you want to feel posh.

38. Joan Didion – Goodbye To All That

Joan Didion - Slouching Towards Bethlehem

This one touched me because I also lived in New York City for a while. I don’t know why, but stories about life in NYC are so often full of charm and this eerie-melancholy-jazz feeling. They are powerful. They go like this: “There was a hard blizzard in NYC. As the sound of sirens faded, Tony descended into the dark world of hustlers and pimps.” That’s pulp literature but in the context of NYC, it always sounds cool. Anyway, this essay is amazing in too many ways. You just have to read it.

  • Talk about New York City. They will read it.
  • Talk about the human experience: “It did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young?”
  • Look back at your life and reexamine it. Draw lessons from it.

39. George Orwell – Reflections on Gandhi

George Orwell could see things as they were. No exaggeration, no romanticism – just facts. He recognized totalitarianism and communism for what they were and shared his worries through books like 1984 and Animal Farm . He took the same sober approach when dealing with saints and sages. Today, we regard Gandhi as one of the greatest political leaders of the twentieth century – and rightfully so. But did you know that when asked about the Jews during World War II, Gandhi said that they should commit collective suicide and that it: “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” He also recommended utter pacifism in 1942, during the Japanese invasion, even though he knew it would cost millions of lives. But overall he was a good guy. Read the essay and broaden your perspective on the Bapu of the Indian Nation.

  • Share a philosophical thought that stops the reader for a moment: “No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid”.
  • Be straightforward in your writing – no mannerisms, no attempts to create ‘style’, and no invocations of the numinous – unless you feel the mystical vibe.

40. George Orwell – Politics and the English Language

Let Mr. Orwell give you some writing tips. Written in 1946, this essay is still one of the most helpful documents on writing in English. Orwell was probably the first person who exposed the deliberate vagueness of political language. He was very serious about it and I admire his efforts to slay all unclear sentences (including ones written by distinguished professors). But it’s good to make it humorous too from time to time. My favorite examples of that would be the immortal Soft Language sketch by George Carlin or the “Romans Go Home” scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Overall, it’s a great essay filled with examples from many written materials. It’s a must-read for any writer.

  • Listen to the master: “This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose.” Do something about it.
  • This essay is all about writing better, so go to the source if you want the goodies.

The thinker

Other Essays You May Find Interesting

The list that I’ve prepared is by no means complete. The literary world is full of exciting essays and you’ll never know which one is going to change your life. I’ve found reading essays very rewarding because sometimes, a single one means more than reading a whole book. It’s almost like wandering around and peeking into the minds of the greatest writers and thinkers that ever lived. To make this list more comprehensive, below I included more essays you may find interesting.

Oliver Sacks – On Libraries

One of the greatest contributors to the knowledge about the human mind, Oliver Sacks meditates on the value of libraries and his love of books.

Noam Chomsky – The Responsibility of Intellectuals

Chomsky did probably more than anyone else to define the role of the intelligentsia in the modern world . There is a war of ideas over there – good and bad – intellectuals are going to be those who ought to be fighting for the former.

Sam Harris – The Riddle of The Gun

Sam Harris, now a famous philosopher and neuroscientist, takes on the problem of gun control in the United States. His thoughts are clear of prejudice. After reading this, you’ll appreciate the value of logical discourse overheated, irrational debate that more often than not has real implications on policy.

Tim Ferriss – Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide

This piece was written as a blog post , but it’s worth your time. The author of the NYT bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek shares an emotional story about how he almost killed himself, and what can you do to save yourself or your friends from suicide.

Edward Said – Reflections on Exile

The life of Edward Said was a truly fascinating one. Born in Jerusalem, he lived between Palestine and Egypt and finally settled down in the United States, where he completed his most famous work – Orientalism. In this essay, he shares his thoughts about what it means to be in exile.

Richard Feynman – It’s as Simple as One, Two, Three…

Richard Feynman is one of the most interesting minds of the twentieth century. He was a brilliant physicist, but also an undeniably great communicator of science, an artist, and a traveler. By reading this essay, you can observe his thought process when he tries to figure out what affects our perception of time. It’s a truly fascinating read.

Rabindranath Tagore – The Religion of The Forest

I like to think about Tagore as my spiritual Friend. His poems are just marvelous. They are like some of the Persian verses that praise love, nature, and the unity of all things. By reading this short essay, you will learn a lot about Indian philosophy and its relation to its Western counterpart.

Richard Dawkins – Letter To His 10-Year-Old Daughter

Every father should be able to articulate his philosophy of life to his children. With this letter that’s similar to what you find in the Paris Review essays , the famed atheist and defender of reason, Richard Dawkins, does exactly that. It’s beautifully written and stresses the importance of looking at evidence when we’re trying to make sense of the world.

Albert Camus – The Minotaur (or, The Stop In Oran)

Each person requires a period of solitude – a period when one’s able to gather thoughts and make sense of life. There are many places where you may attempt to find quietude. Albert Camus tells about his favorite one.

Koty Neelis – 21 Incredible Life Lessons From Anthony Bourdain

I included it as the last one because it’s not really an essay, but I just had to put it somewhere. In this listicle, you’ll find the 21 most original thoughts of the high-profile cook, writer, and TV host, Anthony Bourdain. Some of them are shocking, others are funny, but they’re all worth checking out.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca – On the Shortness of Life

It’s similar to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam because it praises life. Seneca shares some of his stoic philosophy and tells you not to waste your time on stupidities. Drink! – for once dead you shall never return.

Bertrand Russell – In Praise of Idleness

This old essay is a must-read for modern humans. We are so preoccupied with our work, our phones, and all the media input we drown in our business. Bertrand Russell tells you to chill out a bit – maybe it will do you some good.

James Baldwin – Stranger in the Village

It’s an essay on the author’s experiences as an African-American in a Swiss village, exploring race, identity, and alienation while highlighting the complexities of racial dynamics and the quest for belonging.

Bonus – More writing tips from two great books

The mission to improve my writing skills took me further than just going through the essays. I’ve come across some great books on writing too. I highly recommend you read them in their entirety. They’re written beautifully and contain lots of useful knowledge. Below you’ll find random (but useful) notes that I took from The Sense of Style and On Writing.

The Sense of Style – By Steven Pinker

  • Style manuals are full of inconsistencies. Following their advice might not be the best idea. They might make your prose boring.
  • Grammarians from all eras condemn students for not knowing grammar. But it just evolves. It cannot be rigid.
  • “Nothing worth learning can be taught” – Oscar Wilde. It’s hard to learn to write from a manual – you have to read, write, and analyze.
  • Good writing makes you imagine things and feel them for yourself – use word pictures.
  • Don’t fear using voluptuous words.
  • Phonesthetics – or how the words sound.
  • Use parallel language (consistency of tense).
  • Good writing finishes strong.
  • Write to someone. Never write for no one in mind. Try to show people your view of the world.
  • Don’t tell everything you are going to say in summary (signposting) – be logical, but be conversational.
  • Don’t be pompous.
  • Don’t use quotation marks where they don’t “belong”. Be confident about your style.
  • Don’t hedge your claims (research first, and then tell it like it is).
  • Avoid clichés and meta-concepts (concepts about concepts). Be more straightforward!
  • Not prevention – but prevents or prevented – don’t use dead nouns.
  • Be more vivid while using your mother tongue – don’t use passive where it’s not needed. Direct the reader’s gaze to something in the world.
  • The curse of knowledge – the reader doesn’t know what you know – beware of that.
  • Explain technical terms.
  • Use examples when you explain a difficult term.
  • If you ever say “I think I understand this” it probably means you don’t.
  • It’s better to underestimate the lingo of your readers than to overestimate it.
  • Functional fixedness – if we know some object (or idea) well, we tend to see it in terms of usage, not just as an object.
  • Use concrete language instead of an abstraction.
  • Show your work to people before you publish (get feedback!).
  • Wait for a few days and then revise, revise, revise. Think about clarity and the sound of sentences. Then show it to someone. Then revise one more time. Then publish (if it’s to be serious work).
  • Look at it from the perspective of other people.
  • Omit needless words.
  • Put the heaviest words at the end of the sentence.
  • It’s good to use the passive, but only when appropriate.
  • Check all text for cohesion. Make sure that the sentences flow gently.
  • In expository work, go from general to more specific. But in journalism start from the big news and then give more details.
  • Use the paragraph break to give the reader a moment to take a breath.
  • Use the verb instead of a noun (make it more active) – not “cancellation”, but “canceled”. But after you introduce the action, you can refer to it with a noun.
  • Avoid too many negations.
  • If you write about why something is so, don’t spend too much time writing about why it is not.

On Writing Well – By William Zinsser

  • Writing is a craft. You need to sit down every day and practice your craft.
  • You should re-write and polish your prose a lot.
  • Throw out all the clutter. Don’t keep it because you like it. Aim for readability.
  • Look at the best examples of English literature . There’s hardly any needless garbage there.
  • Use shorter expressions. Don’t add extra words that don’t bring any value to your work.
  • Don’t use pompous language. Use simple language and say plainly what’s going on (“because” equals “because”).
  • The media and politics are full of cluttered prose (because it helps them to cover up for their mistakes).
  • You can’t add style to your work (and especially, don’t add fancy words to create an illusion of style). That will look fake. You need to develop a style.
  • Write in the “I” mode. Write to a friend or just for yourself. Show your personality. There is a person behind the writing.
  • Choose your words carefully. Use the dictionary to learn different shades of meaning.
  • Remember about phonology. Make music with words .
  • The lead is essential. Pull the reader in. Otherwise, your article is dead.
  • You don’t have to make the final judgment on any topic. Just pick the right angle.
  • Do your research. Not just obvious research, but a deep one.
  • When it’s time to stop, stop. And finish strong. Think about the last sentence. Surprise them.
  • Use quotations. Ask people. Get them talking.
  • If you write about travel, it must be significant to the reader. Don’t bother with the obvious. Choose your words with special care. Avoid travel clichés at all costs. Don’t tell that the sand was white and there were rocks on the beach. Look for the right detail.
  • If you want to learn how to write about art, travel, science, etc. – read the best examples available. Learn from the masters.
  • Concentrate on one big idea (“Let’s not go peeing down both legs”).
  • “The reader has to feel that the writer is feeling good.”
  • One very helpful question: “What is the piece really about?” (Not just “What the piece is about?”)

Now immerse yourself in the world of essays

By reading the essays from the list above, you’ll become a better writer , a better reader, but also a better person. An essay is a special form of writing. It is the only literary form that I know of that is an absolute requirement for career or educational advancement. Nowadays, you can use an AI essay writer or an AI essay generator that will get the writing done for you, but if you have personal integrity and strong moral principles, avoid doing this at all costs. For me as a writer, the effect of these authors’ masterpieces is often deeply personal. You won’t be able to find the beautiful thoughts they contain in any other literary form. I hope you enjoy the read and that it will inspire you to do your writing. This list is only an attempt to share some of the best essays available online. Next up, you may want to check the list of magazines and websites that accept personal essays .

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ZDNet

Can AI read and rate college essays more fairly than humans do?

Posted: January 3, 2024 | Last updated: January 3, 2024

Every year, prospective college students are challenged with writing an admissions essay that not only tells their story but also makes them stand out in a way that compels the admissions officer to accept them. A new AI tool could transform that process. 

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed AI tools that can read and evaluate college admission essays, according to a report from  Daily Camera .

Also: Generative AI can be the academic assistant an underserved student needs

Partnering with the Common App , the researchers assembled a data set of 300,000 students who applied to college in 2008 and 2009, gathering a random sample of essays that were read by humans and rated on personal qualities such as leadership, mindset, and teamwork. 

The AI tool was modeled to do the same, and the research team found that the AI-generated ratings matched closely with the human ratings. According to the report, the AI's ratings could also predict fairly accurately whether or not a student would graduate. 

The tool is meant to help students who might otherwise get overlooked by highlighting qualities within the essay that may make them great candidates for admission, even if the essay itself wasn't perfectly written.

These tools have another advantage: They can circumvent the personal bias that an admissions office could hold regarding an applicant's race, gender, or socioeconomic background.

"There's so much more to a person than what they write in an essay," said Sidney D'Mello, CU Boulder professor and the study co-author, to Daily Camera. "I really think these tools can help surface aspirational, deserving, amazing students who otherwise get overlooked."

Also:  How ChatGPT (and other AI chatbots) can help you write an essay

Even though the AI tool can give unbiased feedback, it is not meant to replace human admissions officers. 

Instead, D'Mello shared that the tool is meant to supplement the admissions officers' inferences, highlighting the applicants' character traits from their essays that the officer may have overlooked in search of an excellently written essay. 

As with any AI model, there are present risks, and the researchers reassured the public that before the tools are used, additional work is needed to ensure accuracy and efficiency. 

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Can AI read and rate college essays more fairly than humans do?

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A Student’s Guide to Finding Quality Sources for Essays

A Student’s Guide to Finding Quality Sources for Essays

  • 9-minute read
  • 1st August 2023

So, you’ve been assigned your first college essay. You need to write at least a thousand words but have one issue: you must include quality sources, which will go in the reference list. Your professor has only told you, “Utilize academic databases and scholarly journals.”

Okay, so how exactly do you find credible sources for your essay ? Well, we’ll guide you through that in today’s post. We’ll explore finding quality sources and why you need them. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be ready to find sources for your essay.

Why Do I Need Sources?

You likely learned the importance of sources in high school. You need them to show that you are well-read on your chosen topic. You can’t ignore the importance of conducting academic research , as it will be part of your daily college grind.

Submitting an essay without sources would be like serving a hamburger with just the bun and beef patty. Think of sources as toppings on a burger. An essay lacking sources will undermine your credibility, leaving your professor wondering, “How do you know that?”

You also need to include citations to support your claims, which come from the sources you choose.

Finding Sources

Finding sources will depend on whether you want primary or secondary sources . Primary sources provide first-hand facts about your topic. For example, if your topic is related to literature, you would seek novels or poems as your primary sources. Secondary sources contain information from primary sources, such as journal articles.

Whether they’re primary or secondary sources, here are our suggestions for finding them.

1.   Consult the Textbook

Your course textbook is a great starting point, as it will likely contain valuable and relevant information about your topic. Many students believe the textbook won’t be accepted as a source for an essay, but this is false. Your professor will welcome citations from the textbook.

2.   Head to Your School’s Library

No, we’re not suggesting heading to the library’s on-site Starbucks, hoping for source-searching inspiration as you sip that frothy latte! Your school’s library contains numerous print sources, such as books, magazines, and newspapers. College libraries also subscribe to databases containing journal articles.

Journal articles are highly valued in academic research; every professor will expect at least a few of them in a reference list. Journal articles, or academic journals, are the most current sources in academia written by renowned scholars in the chosen field of study. Additionally, journal articles contribute to the field, summarize the current situation of it, and add new insight to the theory. They are also credible, as field experts review them before publication.

You don’t have to leave your dorm and head to the library. You can access various sources from your school’s library database online. Here’s an example of a student accessing the University of South Florida’s library database from their favorite coffee shop.

how to find essays to read

Navigating your library’s database can seem daunting; however, the library staff will be more than happy to help you, so don’t be afraid to seek help.

Finally, your institution’s library uses an inter-library loan system, allowing students to request out-of-stock print or online sources. If the library doesn’t have a specific item you need, there’s a good chance they can get it from another library.

3.   Research Databases

You can use online research databases to find journal articles, other scholarly sources, and specific books. Research databases, which feature various search functions, can help you find the most current and relevant sources.

how to find essays to read

These research databases are available through your school library, giving you access to popular subject-specific databases such as JSTOR, Project Muse, and PubMed. You can download and save relevant articles from such databases; however, you must be logged into your student account to access and download full-version articles.

Knowing the essay’s scope and relevant keywords is essential for an optimal experience with databases. Once you become familiar with databases, they’ll be your best friends when conducting academic research.

4. Google Scholar

If Google is your preferred poison, we suggest using Google Scholar . It’s Google’s academic search engine, which works like an ordinary Google search except that it finds relevant academic print and online sources. Take this example of a student using Google Scholar to search for sources related to cyberbullying in schools.

how to find essays to read

Google Scholar presents various journal articles for the student. You can refine your search to find articles that have been published within the last year. One distinguishing Google Scholar feature is its Cited by function that shows the number of times a source has been cited. This function can inform you about a source’s credibility and importance to your topic.

how to find essays to read

5.   Boolean Operators

We suggest using Boolean operators if your essay topic contains multiple search terms. Boolean operators expand or narrow your search parameters when using research databases. They use AND , OR , and NOT to include or exclude keywords from your search, allowing students to connect various keywords to optimize their search results. Boolean operators can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with using AND, OR, and NOT in search parameters.

Let’s say you’re searching for an article on cyberbullying written by an author named Bales in 2003. You can use AND to find the title of the article using keywords.

This will tell the database that all three terms must be present in the search result.

You can use OR to connect two or more similar concepts and broaden your search. This means any search terms you input can appear in the search results.

You can use NOT to exclude words or terms from your search by typing the excluded word after OR.

The search result will include soccer and omit football . This can be very useful in this example, as football is the UK word for soccer. It also means American football in US English. Because the student only wants to find soccer results, excluding football will avoid pulling up results related to American football.

Boolean operators are helpful if you clearly understand the scope of the assignment and know relevant keywords.

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6.   Additional Online Sources

Searching for general online sources is another way to go. You can find potential sources from websites and blogs. We suggest consulting popular news websites such as BBC News and the New York Times, as they often have current and relevant articles related to the topic.

We encourage you to err on the side of caution when using non-academic online sources. You need to ensure that online sources are credible . We recommend looking for sites with trusted domain extensions, such as . edu, .org , and .gov . URLs with .edu endings are educational resources, while .org endings are resources from organizations. Endings with .gov are government-related resources.

It’s also a good idea to look for sources that contain a Digital Object Finder ( DOI ). A DOI is a permanent string attached to online journal articles and books, making it simple to retrieve them. Articles with DOIs indicate that they have been published in peer-reviewed articles.

How Many Sources Should I Have?

The essay rubric will probably specify the number of sources required. However, this is not always the case, so you need to use some judgment. The basic rule is to gather sources until you have enough information to support your claims. If you’re writing an essay of 2,000 words, you should have at least six sources. Remember that your professor expects variety. Try this approach:

–    One book (if possible)

–    Two to three journal articles

–    One additional online source (preferably with a trusted domain extension)

Depending on the field of study, you may find that most of your sources come from journal articles.

 Here’s a recap of finding quality sources for your essay:

●  Professors want you to find a variety of sources (print and online)

●  Your school’s library has access to thousands of highly-valued journal articles from its database

●  Have a solid understanding of the topic and relevant keywords when using Boolean operators to narrow your search results

●  Evaluate the credibility of additional online sources

●  Look for websites with trusted domain extensions

●  As a rule, use at least six sources for an essay of 2,000 words

By following our suggestions, you can get your search off to a flying start. We also recommend keeping track of your sources as you conduct your research. This will make it easier to correctly format citations from your sources.

Finally, we urge you to search for sources right after your professor assigns the essay. Waiting until a few days before the essay is due to start searching is a bad idea.

1. What Types of Sources Are Recommended?

We recommend credible websites, books, journal articles, and newspapers.

2. How Do I Know if a Source Is Credible?

 A source is credible if:

●  The author is an expert in the field or is a well-respected publisher (New York Times)

●  It contains citations for sources used

●  The website has a trusted domain extension

●  It has current information on your topic

3. How Can I Get the Most Out of Research Databases?

Brainstorm specific keywords related to your topic. This will help you efficiently use Boolean operators. You should also have a clear understanding of the scope of your essay. Finally, use databases that are related to your topic. For instance, if your topic is literature then JSTOR is a good option.

4. Is Writing the Reference List Difficult?

This will depend on the required referencing style, such as APA, MLA, and Chicago. Remember to list the sources alphabetically in the reference list.

Once you’ve written the list, we recommend proofreading it. Your professor will be checking that your reference list meets the referencing style guidelines. A second pair of eyes always helps, so we recommend asking our proofreading experts to review your list . They can check that your sources are listed alphabetically. Additionally, our proofreaders will check that your list meets referencing style guidelines. Our proofreaders are pros with popular referencing styles such as MLA and APA. Consider submitting a 500-word document for free!

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  • 13 Ways to Make Your Writing More Interesting to Read

Image shows hands being raised to ask questions.

There are numerous characteristics of a good essay: original thinking, a tight structure, balanced arguments, and many more .

You should also read…

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But one aspect often overlooked is that a good essay should be interesting . It should spark the curiosity of the reader, keep them absorbed, make them want to keep reading and learn more. A boring essay risks losing the reader’s attention; even if the points you make are excellent, a dull writing style or poor handling of a dry subject matter can undermine the positive aspects of the essay. The problem is that many students think that essays should be like this: they think that a dull, dry style is suited to the purposes of academic writing, and don’t consider that the teacher reading their essay wants to find the essay interesting. Academic writing doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – boring. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to make your writing more interesting, even though you can only do so much while remaining within the formal confines of academic writing. Let’s look at what they are.

1. Be interested in what you’re writing about

Image shows a woman looking very enthusiastic on a carousel.

If there’s one thing guaranteed to inject interest into your writing, it’s actually being interested in what you’re writing about. Passion for a subject comes across naturally in your writing, typically making it more lively and engaging, and infusing an infectious enthusiasm into your words – in the same way that it’s easy to chat knowledgeably to someone about something you find interesting. This makes it relatively easy to write interestingly about a subject you have a real passion for. However, problems arise when you’re forced to write an essay about subjects for which you lack enthusiasm. It’s difficult to conjure up passion for your least favourite subjects, and that will come across in your writing. There are steps you can take, though: here are some tips on writing about a subject you don’t enjoy.

  • Adjust your mindset : convince yourself that there are no boring subjects. If the subject or essay comes across as boring, blame yourself; if you find yourself feeling negatively about it, try to find the interest in it. Think about how it relates to the real world and how important the subject is. Find interesting snippets of information about it and look at it from a new angle.
  • Think about your reader : consider the fact that not everyone will find the subject as boring as you do. As you write, keep the reader in mind and imagine them to be the world’s biggest fan of this subject.
  • Find the fans : if you find it impossible to get into the mindset of your audience, try Googling the subject to find forums, videos or blog posts in which the subject is discussed by people who do find it interesting. This will help you picture whom you’re writing for, and give you a different perspective on a subject you may not have found inspiring up to now.

2. Include fascinating details

Image shows a rose blooming.

Another factor that can make an essay boring is a dry subject matter. Some subjects or topic areas are naturally dry, and it falls to you to make the essay more interesting through your written style (more on this later) and by trying to find fascinating snippets of information to include that will liven it up a bit and make the information easier to relate to. One way of doing this with a dry subject is to try to make what you’re talking about seem relevant to the real world, as this is easier for the reader to relate to. In a discussion of a seemingly boring piece of legislation, for instance, you could make a comment along the lines of “if it were not for this legislation, none of us would enjoy the freedom to do such and such today”, or “Legislation A ultimately paved the way for Legislation B, which transformed criminal law as we know it.” Make it seem exciting!

3. Emulate the style of writers you find interesting

When you read a lot, you subconsciously start emulating the style of the writers you read. It’s therefore beneficial to read widely, as this exposes you to a range of styles and you can start to take on the characteristics of those you find interesting to read. If you feel engaged with a piece of writing, the writer must be doing something right! As you read, think consciously about what the writer is doing to hold your interest, perhaps underlining or copying out certain phrases, techniques, sentence structures and so on. Then apply their techniques to your own writing.

4. Write in the active voice

Image shows scientists at work in the desert.

It’s the oldest trick in the book, but using the active rather than the passive voice will automatically make your writing more interesting to read. It results in more direct, energetic writing that makes the reader feel more ‘in the moment’. Unfortunately, many students employ the passive voice in the belief that it makes their writing sound more academic or intellectual; in fact, it makes their writing sound boring. Remember, the active voice is when the subject of the sentence “acts”, while the passive voice is when the subject is acted upon. Passive : It was concluded by the scientists that the methods used were… Active : The scientists concluded that the methods used were… The subject in this example is “the scientists” and the “act” they are carrying out is “concluding”. As you can see in this example, the active voice almost always results in neater and more elegant phrasing, which is more concise and enjoyable to read.

5. Borrow some creative writing techniques

There’s clearly a limit to the amount of actual ‘story-telling’ you can do when you’re writing an essay; after all, essays should be objective, factual and balanced, which doesn’t, at first glance, feel very much like story-telling. However, you can apply some of the principles of story-telling to make your writing more interesting. For example, just as the opening sentence or paragraph of a novel is incredibly important in capturing the attention of the reader early on, so the first paragraph of your essay is essential in making your reader want to continue reading it. Start with an attention-grabbing ‘hook’ to draw them in, such as a controversial statement, a tantalising snippet of information or a rhetorical question (more on these below). Here are some more techniques you can adopt from creative writing to improve your essays .

6. Think about your own opinion

Image shows a baby thinking.

Your essay is bound to be boring if all you do is paraphrase what everyone else says about something. A good essay – in humanities subjects, at least – incorporates the writer’s intelligent responses to what others say, and this critical consideration not only shows that you’re thinking at a high academic level, but it automatically adds more interest and originality to your writing. So, think independently and don’t be afraid to demonstrate that you’re doing as much.

7. Cut the waffle

Rambling on and on is boring, and almost guaranteed to lose the interest of your reader. You’re at risk of waffling if you’re not completely clear about what you want to say, or if you haven’t thought carefully about how you’re going to structure your argument. Doing your research properly and writing an essay plan before you start will help prevent this problem. Editing is an important part of the essay-writing process, so once you’ve done a first draft, edit out the waffle. Read through your essay objectively and take out the bits that aren’t relevant to the argument or that labour the point. As well as editing out chunks of text, it’s important to be economical with words – not using ten where five will suffice, and avoiding clunky phrases such as those outlined in this article . During the editing process, tighten up your phrasing by eliminating unnecessary words and reordering any sentences that read badly.

8. Using a thesaurus isn’t always a good thing

Image shows a thesaurus against a yellow background.

You may think that using a thesaurus to find more complicated words will make your writing more interesting, or sound more academic, but using overly high-brow language can have the wrong effect. It alienates the reader and makes you sound pompous, with the result that the essay is more laborious to read and the reader may quickly lose interest. Despite this, many undergraduates admit to deliberately over-complicating their language to make it sound more high-brow. If you want to keep your reader interested, keep your language clear and simple.

9. Avoid repetitive phrasing

Avoid using the same sentence structure again and again: it’s a recipe for dullness! Instead, use a range of syntax that demonstrates your writing capabilities as well as making your writing more interesting. Mix simple, compound and complex sentences to avoid your writing becoming predictable.

10. Use some figurative language

Image shows a hawk screeching.

As we’ve already seen, it’s easy to end up rambling when you’re explaining difficult concepts, – particularly when you don’t clearly understand it yourself. A way of forcing yourself to think clearly about a concept, as well as explaining it more simply and engagingly, is to make use of figurative language. This means explaining something by comparing it with something else, as in an analogy. For example, you might use the analogy of water escaping from a hole in a bucket to explain the exponential decay of a radioactive substance, as the rate of depletion of both depends on how much remains, making it exponential. This gives the reader something familiar to visualise, making it easier for them to understand a new concept (obviously this will not be a new concept for the teacher who set your essay, but they will want to see that you can explain concepts clearly and that you have a thorough grasp of it yourself).

11. Avoid clichés

Clichés are overused words or phrases that make your writing predictable, and therefore less interesting. An example would be “at the end of the day”, but there are many such favourites of student essay-writers. Don’t forget that your teacher will have a stack of essays to read in one sitting; if you use the same tired expressions everyone else uses, your essay will blend in with all the others. Make it stand out by shunning the clichés you know your classmates will be using.

12. Employ rhetorical questions

One of the ways in which ancient orators held the attention of their audiences and increased the dramatic effect of their speeches was by making use of the rhetorical question. What is a rhetorical question? It’s essentially one you ask without expecting your audience to answer – one that you will answer yourself, like the one we asked in the previous sentence. This can be an effective way of introducing a new line of enquiry, or of raising questions that you’re going to address in more detail. A good place to use a rhetorical question is at the end of a paragraph, to lead into the next one, or at the beginning of a new paragraph to introduce a new area for exploration. The rhetorical question, “But is there any evidence to support X’s claim?” could, for instance, begin a paragraph that discusses evidence for an opinion introduced in the previous paragraph. What’s more, as we’ve already seen, you could use a rhetorical question as your ‘hook’ to lure readers in right at the beginning of your essay.

13. Proofread

Finally, you could write the most interesting essay a teacher has ever read, but you’ll undermine your good work if it’s littered with errors, which distract the reader from the actual content and will probably annoy them. Before you submit your essay, proofread it thoroughly to ensure that the grammar is elegant, the punctuation is perfect and the spelling is flawless. Don’t just use a spelling and grammar checker, as these don’t always pick up on all the errors.

Do you want to take your writing to the next level? Our Creative Writing summer school will teach you how to experiment with a number of different writing techniques, plan, edit and proofread your own work and introduce you to new concepts and ideas. 

Image credits: banner ; carousel ; rose ; scientists ; baby ; thesaurus ; hawk ; questions . 

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How to Find Sources | Scholarly Articles, Books, Etc.

Published on June 13, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

It’s important to know how to find relevant sources when writing a  research paper , literature review , or systematic review .

The types of sources you need will depend on the stage you are at in the research process , but all sources that you use should be credible , up to date, and relevant to your research topic.

There are three main places to look for sources to use in your research:

Research databases

  • Your institution’s library
  • Other online resources

Table of contents

Library resources, other online sources, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about finding sources.

You can search for scholarly sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar . These provide a range of search functions that can help you to find the most relevant sources.

If you are searching for a specific article or book, include the title or the author’s name. Alternatively, if you’re just looking for sources related to your research problem , you can search using keywords. In this case, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the scope of your project and of the most relevant keywords.

Databases can be general (interdisciplinary) or subject-specific.

  • You can use subject-specific databases to ensure that the results are relevant to your field.
  • When using a general database or search engine, you can still filter results by selecting specific subjects or disciplines.

Example: JSTOR discipline search filter

Filtering by discipline

Check the table below to find a database that’s relevant to your research.

Google Scholar

To get started, you might also try Google Scholar , an academic search engine that can help you find relevant books and articles. Its “Cited by” function lets you see the number of times a source has been cited. This can tell you something about a source’s credibility and importance to the field.

Example: Google Scholar “Cited by” function

Google Scholar cited by function

Boolean operators

Boolean operators can also help to narrow or expand your search.

Boolean operators are words and symbols like AND , OR , and NOT that you can use to include or exclude keywords to refine your results. For example, a search for “Nietzsche NOT nihilism” will provide results that include the word “Nietzsche” but exclude results that contain the word “nihilism.”

Many databases and search engines have an advanced search function that allows you to refine results in a similar way without typing the Boolean operators manually.

Example: Project Muse advanced search

Project Muse advanced search

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how to find essays to read

You can find helpful print sources in your institution’s library. These include:

  • Journal articles
  • Encyclopedias
  • Newspapers and magazines

Make sure that the sources you consult are appropriate to your research.

You can find these sources using your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords. You can refine your results using Boolean operators .

Once you have found a relevant print source in the library:

  • Consider what books are beside it. This can be a great way to find related sources, especially when you’ve found a secondary or tertiary source instead of a primary source .
  • Consult the index and bibliography to find the bibliographic information of other relevant sources.

You can consult popular online sources to learn more about your topic. These include:

  • Crowdsourced encyclopedias like Wikipedia

You can find these sources using search engines. To refine your search, use Boolean operators in combination with relevant keywords.

However, exercise caution when using online sources. Consider what kinds of sources are appropriate for your research and make sure the sites are credible .

Look for sites with trusted domain extensions:

  • URLs that end with .edu are educational resources.
  • URLs that end with .gov are government-related resources.
  • DOIs often indicate that an article is published in a peer-reviewed , scientific article.

Other sites can still be used, but you should evaluate them carefully and consider alternatives.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing

 Plagiarism

  • Types of plagiarism
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  • Common knowledge

You can find sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar . Use Boolean operators or advanced search functions to narrow or expand your search.

For print sources, you can use your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords.

It is important to find credible sources and use those that you can be sure are sufficiently scholarly .

  • Consult your institute’s library to find out what books, journals, research databases, and other types of sources they provide access to.
  • Look for books published by respected academic publishing houses and university presses, as these are typically considered trustworthy sources.
  • Look for journals that use a peer review process. This means that experts in the field assess the quality and credibility of an article before it is published.

When searching for sources in databases, think of specific keywords that are relevant to your topic , and consider variations on them or synonyms that might be relevant.

Once you have a clear idea of your research parameters and key terms, choose a database that is relevant to your research (e.g., Medline, JSTOR, Project MUSE).

Find out if the database has a “subject search” option. This can help to refine your search. Use Boolean operators to combine your keywords, exclude specific search terms, and search exact phrases to find the most relevant sources.

There are many types of sources commonly used in research. These include:

You’ll likely use a variety of these sources throughout the research process , and the kinds of sources you use will depend on your research topic and goals.

Scholarly sources are written by experts in their field and are typically subjected to peer review . They are intended for a scholarly audience, include a full bibliography, and use scholarly or technical language. For these reasons, they are typically considered credible sources .

Popular sources like magazines and news articles are typically written by journalists. These types of sources usually don’t include a bibliography and are written for a popular, rather than academic, audience. They are not always reliable and may be written from a biased or uninformed perspective, but they can still be cited in some contexts.

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Writing a good college essay can be tough and time-consuming. It will cost you several trips to the library, hours of pouring over your notes, and sleepless nights scouring online databases. ⏳

And while the internet is a huge pool of information, it is crucial to identify and use credible sources . So, the big question is: How can you find the right academic references for your college essay? 

Here’s a guide to finding essay sources that will impress your professor and get you that well-deserved A! 🔍

Start With Wikipedia 

Yes, we all know academic researchers frown upon Wikipedia since it’s user-generated (so anyone can write anything). But it’s actually a great springboard to get an overview of your essay topic . 💻

At the bottom of each Wikipedia page, you’ll find a treasure trove of legitimate sources and citations that you can use in your essay. 

android phone screenshot of the Wikipedia homepage

Check Out Primary Sources

Primary sources are the building blocks of any research project. They must serve as the foundation of your research, whereas secondary sources should inform and supplement the primary sources.

Primary sources are first-hand accounts on a subject, often unedited, that offer a close, personal overview of a topic. They encourage students to read between the lines and approach them with a critical mindset. 🤔

how to find essays to read

When analyzing primary sources, ask yourself key questions like, “Who is the intended audience?” or “What does the source tell me about the period?”

By considering these questions, you can effectively understand the historical context and cultural perspectives and avoid potential bias or inaccuracy . This will also help you develop well-supported arguments and strengthen your essay. 💪

Get the Most Out of the Library

Students may gravitate toward online research but the good old library is still a trusted source of information . In fact, 58 percent of Americans aged 16 and older have a library card — and for good reason! 

Library databases allow you to efficiently search for published information, such as magazines, journals, and newspaper articles . 

These sources contain scholarly articles by notable authors, journalists, and researchers. If you hit a paywall for a journal or newspaper, verify if your library has a subscription — problem solved! ✅

male college student finding essay sources inside the library

But the most underutilized tool in libraries is the staff. Librarians know all about research methods, using information systems, statistics, and management. 

They’re experts when it comes to finding the information you need. All you have to do is ask your university librarian for help finding top-tier resources on your essay topic. 📚

Use Academic Search Engines 

Let’s get this straight: It’s hard to write a research paper without consulting the internet . 

Most of us start our search with Google, but unfortunately, search engines don’t always churn out credible results . That’s why it’s crucial to explore other portals with an academic focus when searching for essay sources . ⚠️

Check out these options:

  • BASE : The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) contains 4,000 sources and provides search results from more than 100 million documents. They also offer an advanced search option that allows users to narrow down their research. The BASE advanced search lets users use filters such as author names, publication dates, and document types to find more relevant results, saving time and improving academic research efficiency.
  • Refseek : A web search tool for students and researchers. You can access over a billion documents, books, newspapers, and journals without getting distracted by ads or sponsored links. 
  • Google Scholar : This connects you with hundreds of relevant scholarly journals. What’s more, it provides formatted citations in MLA, AP, or APA that you can export to RefWorks or BibTex. 
  • JSTOR : The platform provides a large collection of academic journals, books, and original sources from a variety of subjects.
  • PubMed : This includes articles from scholarly journals and research institutes with a focus on biomedical and life sciences research.
  • LexisNexis Academic : It focuses on researching legal and news-related subjects, including reports, legal publications, and court cases.   

how to find essays to read

Opt for Digital Libraries and Databases 

Digital libraries have specialized collections in all fields of study. They are easy to access and contain millions of books, audiobooks, journals, and videos that can help you further your essay research. 

The best part? No more waiting for popular books to become available! Digital libraries let you read and download content instantly, anytime, anywhere, using your computer or phone . 📱 

Of course, there may be some occasions where you’ll find your university doesn’t have access to a particular online database.  

If you’ve found the perfect journal article but can’t get access, try emailing the professor who wrote it and ask for a PDF — most academics will be quite happy to provide you access to their work. 📧

a female college student at home wearing headphones finding essay sources on digital libraries and databases using her laptop

Don’t Forget the Bibliography of Your Sources

After you have a list of credible sources, take a closer look at their citations. Seek out the primary sources these citations used for research. This will open up a new set of materials to work with for your essay. 🗒️ 

Plus, they often contain references to publications that make alternate viewpoints or offer diverse interpretations of the topic at hand. 

TIP: Once you start your research, you may find the same sources pop up over and over again. Consult Google Scholar to see the articles in a publication that are cited the most (along with who cited them). Make a list of these and incorporate them in your essay. 

Look Beyond Journals and Books

The world of research is your oyster, and with a diverse array of sources, your academic essay can shine if you dare to explore the unconventional.

Peruse through thrilling audio and video recordings that transport you to historic moments or cultural events, or explore interviews with experts who can add personal insights and real-life perspectives to your essay . 🎧

a female college student finding essay sources beyond journal and books such as newspaper records

Incorporate variety in the resources you add to make your essay an interesting read. This will also show your professor that you’ve gone above and beyond to create a well-researched essay. 👌

Note: Critically assess the reliability and validity of sources outside of the conventional academic channels because their level of accuracy may vary. Always check the author’s qualifications, and the reputation of the source, and cross-reference information from various sources.

Learn to Quickly Evaluate a Source

Essays and research papers come with deadlines. In an ideal world, you would meticulously examine each potential essay source, but there’s a smarter way to do it to save time! 🗓️

Here’s a helpful approach to evaluating a source: First, read the abstract or introduction of the source to decide if it’s useful for your work . 

Then, take a look at the citations and references at the end of the source . You can also check the publication date to ensure the information is current.

If it’s an online source, check out the domain name. Sites with .edu domains are associated with educational facilities, while .gov domains belong to government agencies. These sources are generally reliable due to their affiliation with reputable institutions. 

Additionally, examine the author’s credentials and expertise in the field . Look for authors who have relevant academic backgrounds or professional experience related to the topic. ✍️

Lastly, consider the reputation of the publisher . Reputable publishers are known for maintaining high standards of quality and accuracy in their publications. 

Don’t know where to start? Check the publisher’s website, browse through its publication list, and look for details about its editorial board and reviewers. 🧐

Putting together a top-notch essay is a Herculean task — but if you can collect the right resources you’re already halfway there! 💯

The Easy Guide to Finding Essay Sources: Frequently Asked Questions

Academic sources are dependable and trustworthy documents created by subject-matter specialists and distributed by respectable publishers or academic publications . 

They go through an exhaustive screening procedure and frequently contain citations or references to other academic publications.

Start with reputable sources such as scholarly journals and books from respected publishers. Consider the expertise of the author and the publisher’s reputation, and look for sources that have undergone the peer review process. 

Check the publication date to ensure the information is current. Be aware of potential biases in the sources and evaluate the evidence provided. 

The best sources for essays are those that offer accurate and up-to-date information. 

Scholarly journals, expert books, government websites, academic databases, credible websites with specific domains (.gov,.edu, and .org), must-read books related to the topic, secondary readings for additional insights, scholarly sites, scientific papers, and reliable news and interviews are examples of these. 

Introduce the source with an initial phrase. Then, summarize, paraphrase, or quote the material as needed and provide proper citations . 

When directly quoting the source, use quotation marks and cite the author, year, and page number. 

For summarizing, briefly present the main points and cite the author and year. When paraphrasing, restate the information in your own words and cite the author, year, and page number. 

Include relevant details about the author, title, and genre when citing the source for the first time. Each college may have varying guidelines for sourcing, so it’s important to check with your institution what is required.

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When you sit down to write an essay, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. The first is that your essay needs to have a point - it should be arguable and something that you can support with evidence.

It should also be well-organized with a clear introduction, body paragraphs, a conclusion and be free of grammar and spelling errors. A sample essay can help you with all of these things.

By looking at a well-written essay, you can see what a successful essay looks like and how it is put together. In this guide, we will discuss the different types of sample essays and how you can use them to improve your own writing.

Argumentative Essay Sample

An argumentative essay aims to persuade your reader to accept your side of the argument. To do this, you will need to present evidence to support your position. In an argumentative essay, it is important to be able to back up your claims with data.

You will need to find sources that support your position and use them in your essay. Argumentative essays can be challenging, but if you have a good argumentative sample essay outline, you will be able to write one that is well-organized and convincing.

Compare and Contrast Essay Sample

In writing a compare and contrast essay, you will need to point out the similarities and the differences between the two items. This can be done by looking at both the good and the bad aspects of each item.

For example, if you were asked to compare two books, you might discuss how they are both novels, but one is a mystery while the other is a romance. You would then discuss how they are both stories, but the mystery is more suspenseful while the romance is more passionate.

By looking at both the similarities and the differences, you will be able to see each item in a new light. This can help understand both things better.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Sample

A rhetorical analysis essay is a type of essay that requires you to "write about the writing" or "read about the reading." To write a rhetorical analysis, you need to be able to determine how the creator of the work has chosen to develop and present their argument.

How effective is the rhetorician in making their point? You will want to consider imagery, allegory, diction, syntax, structure, theme, and tone.

To write a good rhetorical analysis that really stands out, you may need to find a well-written rhetorical analysis college essay sample. The sample here can help you see how to break down the communication into its different parts and effectively analyze each one.

Cause and Effect Essay Sample

A cause and effect essay asks you to examine a particular cause or set of causes and explain the effects that result from them. To do this effectively, you will need to be able to discuss how the causes lead to the impact.

For example, if you were asked to write about the cause of global warming, you would first need to discuss what global warming is and how it is caused. Once you have done this, you would need to discuss the effects of global warming on our environment and health.

By looking at both the causes and the effects, you will be able to see how they are connected and how one cannot exist without the other. Again, writing Cause and Effect Essays can be tricky, but with a good Cause and Effect essay sample, you will be able to write one that is well-organized and convincing.

Sample Narrative Essay

In writing a narrative essay the author tries to recreate an experience through time. Unlike other essays, a sample narrative essay does not require research or outside information.

Instead, it relies on your memories and experiences to tell a story. The key components of a successful narrative essay include characters, setting, conflict, and resolution. By including these elements in your writing, you can create a compelling story that will engage your reader from beginning to end.

Sample Informative Essay

An informative essay is a type of essay that provides you with data on a certain topic. Unlike an argumentative essay, an informative essay does not try to persuade the reader to take a certain position or side on an issue.

Instead, its purpose is to provide information on a particular subject. This can be done through research, personal experiences, or observations. To write a good informative essay, you may also need to find well-written informative essay samples.

How do you find a Good Sample Essay?

Now that you know the different ways good sample essays can help, you might be wondering how you can find one. After all, there are a lot of essays out there - where do you even begin? Here are two places to start:

  • Your professor: If you're not sure where to find good sample essays, your professor might be a good resource. Ask if they have any sample essays they would recommend or know of any good sources of sample essays.
  • Writing websites: You can also find good samples from writing websites. Several websites specialize in writing, and many have sample essays that you can use. When you choose to source from a college paper writing service , be sure to pick one that is reputable.

Final Thoughts

Remember, the goal is not to copy the sample verbatim. Instead, you want to use it as a tool to help you with your writing. It doesn't really matter whether you're using a self-evaluation sample essay or any other essay samples. By keeping this in mind, you can ensure that you get the most out of the sample essays you choose.

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8 Ways to find Scholarly Articles for Free

Scholarly Articles For Free

If you want to become a top student you will need to know how to find scholarly articles for your essays. If you don’t use scholarly articles you will never get top grades.

Fortunately, it is not hard to find academic sources online for free if you know where to look. The problem is, no one taught you where to look!

In this post, I will outline nine tips on how to find scholarly articles for free online. Tip Number 5 will change your life!

Before we get started, here’s a summary of the 9 points I’ll discuss in this article:

  • Browse your Course Website for Assigned Readings
  • Check Your teacher’s Lecture Slides
  • Your University’s Online Library
  • Your University’s Physical Library
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Books
  • Assigned Readings from Previous Subjects
  • ResearchGate.net and Academia.edu

What is a Scholarly Article?

1. A peer-reviewed journal article is usually a 4000-8000 word article published in an academic journal. Journal articles are considered the best sources for essays because they:

  • Have been blind peer reviewed. This means that two experts who don’t know the author read the article and critiqued it;
  • Have been written by an expert;
  • Are generally written by the person who conducted the original research. This means it’s information straight from the original source.

2. A textbook (ebooks included) is also a respected scholarly text that you can cite in your essays. Teachers love to see that you’re reading and citing textbooks. I recommend reading textbooks because they:

  • Are written by experts;
  • Have been professionally edited;
  • Are widely respected in their field;

Are written for students, meaning they’re easier to read than journal articles!

Why are Scholarly Articles so Important in your Essay?

The top students reference only scholarly articles 95% of the time. That’s because they know how to play the essay writing game.

Before we look at the secret strategies for finding the best sources to reference in your essay, let’s pause for a minute to look at some of the rules of this essay-writing game.

One important rule to remember is that markers don’t read the sources that you reference. They very rarely actually look up where you found the scholarly articles or check to see if they’re real. They don’t have the time. Frankly, they also don’t really care.

So here’s something important to remember:

Graders want to know that you have accessed the best sources, according to the rules of essay writing .

How do they do this?

The person grading your paper will scan through your essay and your reference list to make sure all your sources are from textbooks or peer reviewed journal articles. They’ll be looking for red flags like:

  • URLs to blogs or dot-com websites;
  • Sources older than about 15 years;
  • Sources not written in your college’s referencing format;
  • Not enough sources.

I strongly recommend quickly reading our posts on seven terrible sources and seven impressive sources you should be referencing in your essays before reading on. I’ll proceed with the assumption that you have read those posts and already know what a quality reference is.

Let’s look at some places you can go to access those top sources to push your marks up and ensure you ace your next essay.

9 Ways to Find Scholarly Articles

1. browse your course website for assigned readings.

You should always reference all relevant set readings in your essay as a starting point. The set readings, often called ‘recommended’ or ‘assigned’ readings are usually provided on your course homepage.

Jump onto your course homepage (usually on Blackboard, Canvas or Moodle – whichever Learning Management system your university uses). Then, have a scan around for your set or recommended readings.

All these readings that your teacher provides for you are essential to reference. Your teacher has most likely put a lot of effort into finding sources that they think are the best quality ones around.

They are also sources that you know your teacher has read. This means that they are likely to have informed your teacher’s thinking on the topic. The teacher is therefore likely looking for this information in your work.

Referencing set readings also indicates to your teacher that you have been paying attention. You’ve taken the course seriously and read the content that they advised. It’s a signal to your teacher that you are a ‘good’ student. You want them to think you’re a top student before they’ve even read your assignment in order to get the best marks.

At every university I’ve ever worked at, the Library has made certain that all my recommended readings are easily and freely available to all students – so you shouldn’t have a problem accessing the assigned readings online, instantly.

I’ll leave one quick caveat here:

Don’t only reference your set or recommended readings. You should start with the recommended readings but then go beyond them to show that you’re a top student. The next tips give some suggestions for what to cite next.

2. Check Your teacher’s Lecture Slides

The teacher will likely have provided quotes on their lecture slides. Don’t use the quotes but farm those sources. If your teacher has quoted someone, it means that this author has influenced their thinking. If you can find a way to reference that person they’ve quoted, you’ll get some extra marks. There is also often a list of references on the last page of your teacher’s lecture slides. Here’s an example of a really common ‘final slide’ of a teacher’s lecture:

example of a lecture slide

Check out those sources and see if you can reference a few of them. Again, if they’re good enough for your teacher to reference, they’re good enough for you to reference.

Something to keep in mind is that your teacher will often try to withhold the lecture slides from you. They do this to try to force you to attend the lecture. I always advise students to follow these steps when trying to access lecture slides:

  • If the lecture slides are posted online, download them immediately and store them on the computer. You don’t want your teacher to remove your access to them at a whim partway through your course;
  • Take plenty of lecture notes . We’ve provided some advice on how top students take lecture notes that you might want to check out.
  • If you can’t find the lecture slides, you can try emailing your teacher to request the lecture slides. Your email needs to be strategic to get what you want. Feel free to download and use our free email template to get your teacher to send you lecture slides.

Once you have found the sources your teacher used, search for them using your university’s online library (Step 3) or Google Scholar (Step 5)

3. Your University’s Online Library

University online libraries are a must for finding academic sources.

University libraries have rapidly improved in the last decade as universities try to digitise their content. Universities that offer distance and online courses are especially good at providing eBooks and online journal articles.

You’re best off trying the online library catalogue before going into the library yourself. There’s no point in making a trip all the way to campus when you can do the research from the comfort of your own home. Check for eBooks and journal articles only – I’ll keep repeating it. Textbooks (eBooks included) and journal articles are the only two sources you want to look out for.

Your university’s online library is the ideal place to look for articles and books because everything in the catalogue has been checked by the library.

The journals that the university subscribes to were selected by your teachers. There won’t be blogs or wikis there – just good, pre-approved academic sources.

If you don’t know where your university’s online library catalogue is located, just google it! Just for the exercise, I tried to find a random university’s online library catalogue. It took me literally ten seconds. I typed into Google: “Northern Iowa University Library Search”:

screenshot of a google search

As suspected the first link took me straight to the university’s online library catalogue search:

screenshot of a university library online search page

You should make sure you’re logged on using your University Student ID to get free access to all the sources that pop up when searching for keywords on your topic. Most university libraries will let you know if you will have access to the scholarly article you’re looking for by providing a comment reading either ‘full text available or ‘online access’:

screenshot of library online catalogue search results demonstrating that some books are accessible online

4. Your University’s Physical Library

Look, I know this isn’t an online source. But I would be negligent not to recommend your university’s most underused resource: its library.

Once you’ve checked the university’s online library, it’s worth taking a moment between classes to go into the on-campus library to find hard-copy books.

The one biggest benefit of textbooks is that they were written with students in mind. You will find that journal articles are harder to read than textbooks. Textbooks give clear, accessible overviews of key topics. They also usually do a great job of summarising tough ideas.

If you’ve been set a difficult topic to write on and the journal articles are doing your head in, go get a textbook on your topic. Make sure you go to your library early on. Textbooks linked to your topic will go fast. If you manage to get your hands on a copy, photocopy the relevant pages that you think you will need to use for your essay before returning it.

5. Google Scholar

Thank god for Google Scholar.

Not to be confused with regular old google, google scholar (scholar.google.com) provides access to the best journal articles online.

Google Scholar makes it easier than ever to bypass journals’ paywalls. The rules changed for archiving journal articles in the past five years, enabling authors to store their publications on their open-access university research databases. Google scholar’s search engine looks through all of these databases and provides direct links to millions of these scholarly articles for free . Up until 5 years ago, it would have cost you money for most of these articles.

This means that even if you’ve searched your university database you should always search Google Scholar as well. You’ll find a much wider range of relevant articles. When searching through google scholar, use topic keywords to find scholarly articles relevant to your topic. Let’s say you’ve been asked to write an essay on theories of nursing. You Can simply type nursing theory into Google Scholar:

screenshot of google scholar search bar with the text nursing theory written in the search bar

Once you’ve clicked search, I recommend refining your search to articles within the past ten years. This will ensure the scholarly articles you gather will pass the test when your teacher looks to see whether you selected up-to-date, relevant articles:

screenshot of a custom search range entered into the google scholar customize toolbar

Once you’ve refined the search, you can start looking through for articles that are relevant to you. You will find that about half of the sources will still be hidden behind paywalls. Try to stick to the sources that have a [pdf], [doc] or [html] link provided in the top-right corner. These are the scholarly articles you’re most likely to have instant, free, online access to:

screenshot of full-text availability on a google scholar search

Another thing that makes Google Scholar superior to most university catalogues is that Google Scholar searches for keywords in both the title and abstract of the paper .

Most university databases do not search for keywords in the abstract, only the title.

This means your google scholar search will usually render both more specific results for you, as well as simply more results for you.

In the above image, for example, neither of the scholarly sources that Google Scholar found has the phrase “nursing theory” in the title. However, you can see that both mention “nursing theory” or “nursing” and “theory” separately in the blurb below.

Chances are these are two relevant sources that you’d never have found on your university library database. (Note, for example, that in the University of Northern Iowa database search in Tip 1, only sources that had the exact phrase “nursing theory” in the title popped up).

What if the links don’t work?

Sometimes even Google Scholar can’t find free access to scholarly articles for you. There’s still some hope, though!

If an article looks really useful but you don’t have access to Google Scholar, copy the article’s title and search for it on your university’s online database.

Your university might have institutional access. However, as noted above, your original search in your university database may just not have been specific enough for their clunky old system because the exact keywords weren’t in the title. So, try copying the exact title into your university database – it may have access to that source you were after.

There are tons more tricks you can do with Google Scholar. It can help you accurately cite sources, follow ‘As Cited In’ paths to access relevant sources you’d never have found otherwise, and help you narrow down your search terms.

To become an expert at using Google Scholar, I recommend reading my blog post: How to Use Google Scholar like a Pro .

6. Google Books

Once again, thank god for Google!

Google books (books.google.com) gives ‘previews’ of tens of millions of books. More than once, I’ve not had access to a book through my university library but google books have saved the day. Search for books in google books using keywords, just like Google Scholar:

screenshot of the google books search bar

Once again, you’ll see that books pop up that your university database wouldn’t have found. The first two sources for ‘Nursing Theory’ read ‘Nursing Theories’. Many university databases are too old and clunky to realise the words ‘theory’ and ‘theories’ are interchangeable for a book search.

But, here’s the really neat thing: you can begin to read most of the books online for free! Google has a ‘book preview’ option that allows you to read a certain percentage of books without the need to download them.

To know which books you’ll have instant access to, look out for the peeled-over bottom right-hand corner of book covers in the thumbnails. I’ve circled them in red below. You can see that two of the first three sources are available to preview instantly!

screenshot of a google books results page showing some book preview options

Click on the book’s image to receive a book preview. You could start browsing through the book instantly to see whether it’s got any pearls of wisdom you can put in your assignment.

However, Google Books still has another amazing trick up its sleeve.

When in the book preview, you can use the search bar on the right-hand side to search for keywords. If you know that you want to write a paragraph on one nursing theory – say, ‘ social cognitive theory ’ – you can type this key phrase in the search bar and Google Books will take you right to the place you need to go:

screenshot of a google books preview

Google Books has just saved you a ton of time searching through the textbook. Plus, it looks like you can actually access all of Pages 18 and 19 where the relevant content you need information in is found. If the link to the page number is in blue, click it and go straight to the relevant page in the book:

screenshot of a google books preview with the term social cognitive theory highlighted on the page

If you still didn’t find the information you were after on Pages 18 or 19, keep toggling through the ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ buttons highlighted in red above to see every time Social Cognitive Theory is mentioned in the whole book.

Google books can save you a trip to the library and is great for finding scholarly sources when you’re cramming to finish an essay overnight.

Is this too good to be true?

The biggest downside of Google books is that you can only sample some pages from most books. That means that you might find that your information is cut-off part-way through reading or blocked entirely.

Nonetheless, Google books can be a lifesaver for finding good-quality information for your essays. Most importantly, Google books provide access to books , which is one of the two most high-quality sources teachers look for when marking your work.

7. Assigned Readings from Previous Subjects

Readings from previous subjects are a great source for providing academic references.

When I was teaching an undergraduate Bachelor of Education, all first-year students took a compulsory Introduction to Teach subject. In this subject, three very useful introductory books were provided that could be referenced in just about every subsequent subject throughout the degree.

The top students recognised the value of these books and referenced them regularly.

Similarly, you should make a habit of always downloading and saving set readings from every subject you take into folders on your computer. I have a folder that contains all set readings for every course I’ve ever taken and taught. It has over 350 journal articles that act as my own personal database of sources. I can use my computer’s search function to type in keywords and find articles that are readily available for me to cite.

If you make a habit of saving useful articles in a folder on your computer, you’re five steps ahead of all your classmates when it comes time to finding good quality journal articles that you can reference for your essays.

ResesarchGate.net and Academia.edu

Research Gate and Academia.edu are two places where academics store their articles. These websites are like Linkedin for academics. Most actively publishing academics will store their articles on these websites.

You can go onto these two websites, set up an account for free , and start downloading journal articles, book chapters and even entire books from those websites.

My personal preference is for the research gate. Research gate seems to be less pushy about coercing you into buying a premium subscription, and I’ve never felt I needed to.

Research Gate also has the option to privately send a message to authors to ask them to send you a copy . If you can’t find a source that you really want to cite anywhere else, try using Research Gate to drop the author an email. To conduct a search for papers, simply create your free account then conduct a search through the search bar at the top of the screen:

screenshot of the research gate search bar

Once you’ve pressed ‘enter’, you’ll need to switch to the ‘Publications’ tab to see search results:

screenshot of a request full text option on the research gate website

Here, you can see that you can browse different articles and read their abstracts just like any other article search. But, with the click of a button, you can also request the full-text article from the author.

The author will then get an email and approve or decline the request.

This is a secret way a lot of professors find academic articles, but it’s really useful (and free!) for students as well.

I use Research Gate and have all 20+ of my academic peer-reviewed articles and book chapters privately stored there. Academics and students around the world regularly send me a request for my articles. I can send the article’s final manuscript draft to them at the click of a button. I always send the article – why wouldn’t I!?

Research Gate is great for authors because they become aware that real people are reading their work, and it’s good for you because you get access to otherwise unobtainable sources.

The one downside of this method is that the articles don’t come to you instantly. It might take 24 – 48 hours for the author to check their emails and send off the full-text copy for you. So, I don’t recommend using the ‘Request full-text option if you’re on a really tight deadline. Nevertheless, there is often the option to instantly access the full-text article, which makes this website worth using no matter what.

Summing Up: How to Find Scholarly Articles

Using scholarly sources is essential for getting top marks. You should always aim to use peer-reviewed journal articles and textbooks as your core sources for all essays. To learn how to read these texts effectively, I’d recommend reading up on how to use text features to navigate texts effectively.

This post is a part of a series on finding sources for your essays. The other posts that might be of use are below:

  • How to use Google Scholar (Like a Pro!)
  • Bad Sources to Avoid in Essays
  • Great Sources to use in Essays

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Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 41 Important Classroom Expectations (for This School Year)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 75 Personality Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 101 Thesis Statement Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 10 Critical Theory Examples

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The best video essays of 2023

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how to find essays to read

Looking at the year’s notable video essays, many grapple with issues at the heart of contemporary media itself. There are dissections of video-playing tools, exposés of how corporations restrict access, contrasts between tropes and reality, and thorough investigations of trends in plagiarism and/or fabrication. As the essay landscape refines, it seems to peer inward as much as out.

On the making of this list: I’ve been trying to stay up to date on video essays for a while, and have been contributing to lists and/or voting in polls about the best videos made each year since 2018. Over this time, doing these kinds of roundups has gotten exponentially more difficult. As YouTube has grown to become a mega-business hosting powerful creators (part of the general trend of social media video sites becoming the new primary forum for cultural influence), I’ve seen essayists I once thought of as niche accrue follower counts in the millions. It’s been surreal. For this year’s list, I tried to shake things up by keeping the essayists who have appeared in previous editions to a minimum, along with the usual considerations about incorporating a diversity of creator backgrounds and video style. Once again, the videos are presented simply in order of publishing date.

[Also, I’m going to preface this with a mega mea culpa: It was absolute malpractice of me to not include Platformer Toolkit by Game Maker’s Toolkit in the best video essays of 2022 list . I don’t have a good excuse, either; I just straight up missed the essay at the time it came out, and then overlooked it during my catch-up phase at the end of the year. But an essay about game design that instructs you on its ideas by letting you actively engage with them through interactivity feels like a breakthrough in the form.]

Practices of Viewing by Johannes Binotto

Johannes Binotto is a Swiss researcher and lecturer who has been adding to his “Practices of Viewing” series for several years now, and every installment preceding 2023’s videos, “Ending” and “Description,” is well worth checking out. With each essay, Binotto examines a specific element of the media viewing interface, and how they affect an audience’s engagement with it. Some subjects, like fast-forwarding, pausing, or muting, may seem like obvious touchstones, while others, like sleep, are more out-there approaches to the conversation.

A History of the World According to Getty Images by Richard Misek

This technically debuted last year, making the rounds at film festivals, but it was made available online this past spring, so I’m including it here. A History of the World According to Getty Images is a great example of a work embedding its own ethos into its construction. Misek, another academic, is scrutinizing how for-profit companies (specifically Getty Images) mediate information that’s supposed to be available for all. In practice, a great deal of visual material that’s technically in the public domain can only be accessed in decent quality by paying an archive like Getty. Misek circumvents this by paying the fee to use select footage in this essay and then making this essay itself available for anyone to cite and clip from, putting that footage out into the world for real.

The Faces of Black Conservatism by F.D Signifier

I feel that video essays that consist mainly of the creator talking directly into a camera stretch the definition of the term – to me, the best cinematic and argumentative potential of the form lies in the power of editing. F.D Signifier’s contrast between fictional depictions of Black conservatives and the reality of how they appear across media exemplifies is what sets him apart in this genre: not just the depth of his thought (though it is considerable), but also the playful ways in which he presents the objects of his discussion. The running gag here in which he films himself holding hairstyling tools over the heads of various people on his screen had me laughing harder with each appearance.

Games That Don’t Fake the Space by Jacob Geller/Why We Can’t Stop Mapping Elden Ring by Ren or Raven

I don’t actually think this is the best essay Jacob Geller released this year (that would be either “Games that Aren’t Games” or “How Can We Bear to Throw Anything Away?” ), but it pairs so incredibly well with Renata Price’s essay (an impressive video debut building on her experience as a games critic) that it felt more appropriate to present them as a double feature. Both videos are sharp examinations of the ways that video games conjure physical space. Geller illuminates the shortcuts and tricks games often employ through examples of ones that, as the title suggests, don’t use such devices, while Price analyzes the impulses beneath what one could call the “cartographic instinct” in open-world games.

Why Do Brands Keep Doing These Crazy Influencer Trips?? by Mina Le

It’s been encouraging in recent years to see Le grow more confident in her mixing of media in her videos on fashion and film/television. You might remember the controversy around Shein granting influencers a limited hangout in a clothing factory this past summer. Le contextualizes this story by delving into the wider, supremely odd world of sponsored tours. If you watch this on your phone, the transitions between Le speaking to the camera and the clips of TikToks and other videos and photos flow together in a manner not unlike how one would scroll a social media feed, creating queasy resonance between message and medium.

Feeling Cynical About Barbie by Broey Deschanel / The Plastic Feminism of Barbie by Verilybitchie

I present these two videos not as a contrarian attack on Barbie (a film I enjoyed), but to highlight the important role of considered critical voices that dissent against prevailing opinions. Both Maia Wyman and Verity Ritchie unpack the issues with a heavily corporate product attempting to capitalize on feminist sentiment. Ritchie emphasizes the history of Barbie the brand and how the movie fits into it, while Wyman reads more into the specifics of the film’s plot. Together these videos do a good job of elaborating on legendary critic Amy Taubin’s Barbie reaction : “It’s about a fucking doll !’”

TikTok Gave Me Autism: The Politics of Self Diagnosis by Alexander Avila

There’s a lot of social media discourse over who can and can’t — and should or shouldn’t — claim the label of “autistic.” As someone who’s struggled with both the logistics and appropriateness of sussing out whether I’m on the spectrum, this video hit me hard. There are parts that feel like they veer so far into philosophical query that they threaten to obfuscate rather than elucidate the subject, but the essay as a whole is undeniably compelling. Avila’s own confessed stake in the question of self-diagnosis is itself affecting. This is the most searingly personal video on this list, uniting self-inquiry with rigorous research.

Chaste/Unchaste by Maryam Tafakory

This years shortest entry is a deceptively simple interrogation of the concept of “chastity” as defined by Iranian censorship standards. Takafory is a veteran of the academic essay scene, and I’m delighted by the opportunity to present her work to a wider audience. The video’s text is minimal, and its visuals are simply a montage of clips from Iranian films, but the implicit question of propriety grips the viewer with each cut.

Journey to Epcot Center: A Symphonic History by Defunctland

This is the most boundary-pushing essay on this year’s list. Completely lacking commentary, it instead emphasizes visuals and reenactment in telling the story of how Disney’s Epcot park went from concept to realization over the decades. Kevin Perjurer also provides a detailed set of notes that are meant to be read along with watching the video, further demanding one’s full attention. This is a direct acknowledgement of how we use the internet, the windowed experience of browsing and watching videos. I don’t think everything works; many of the reenactments, while impressively professional, feel somewhat redundant. But I’d prefer a creator take big swings that result in a few flaws rather than play it safe, and I hope both Perjurer and others continue in such an experimental vein.

Plagiarism and You(Tube) by Hbomberguy

Harry Brewis is popular enough that he doesn’t need any boost, but even in the very brief period since this video’s release as of the time of writing, Plagiarism and You(Tube) has made seismic impact on the YouTuber scene . Does it need to be almost four hours long? Maybe not. Yet the sheer volume of evidence it pulls together to support various accusations of plagiarism does seem vital. The main focus of the piece, James Somerton, went into lockdown over the fairly comprehensive evidence presented against him (and has since attempted to apologize ). I’m seeing conversations flourish around the endemic problem of plagiarism on the internet and what is to be done about it, and a surge of creators recognizing and calling out others who have taken their work without credit. There’s a deeper issue at play here, which is that the growth of YouTube entertainment has come with a truly daunting mountain of crap content that nonetheless attracts views (and thus dollars).

On the subject of low quality standards on YouTube, beyond plagiarism, Todd in the Shadows’ recent exhaustive effort to fact-check various false claims Somerton has made in his work is a useful supplement to this video.

Polygon’s Best of the Year 2023

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Essays About Reading: 5 Examples And Topic Ideas

As a writer, you love to read and talk to others about reading books. Check out some examples of essays about reading and topic ideas for your essay.

Many people fall in love with good books at an early age, as experiencing the joy of reading can help transport a child’s imagination to new places. Reading isn’t just for fun, of course—the importance of reading has been shown time and again in educational research studies.

If you love to sit down with a good book, you likely want to share your love of reading with others. Reading can offer a new perspective and transport readers to different worlds, whether you’re into autobiographies, books about positive thinking, or stories that share life lessons.

When explaining your love of reading to others, it’s important to let your passion shine through in your writing. Try not to take a negative view of people who don’t enjoy reading, as reading and writing skills are tougher for some people than others.

Talk about the positive effects of reading and how it’s positively benefitted your life. Offer helpful tips on how people can learn to enjoy reading, even if it’s something that they’ve struggled with for a long time. Remember, your goal when writing essays about reading is to make others interested in exploring the world of books as a source of knowledge and entertainment.

Now, let’s explore some popular essays on reading to help get you inspired and some topics that you can use as a starting point for your essay about how books have positively impacted your life.

For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers

Examples Of Essays About Reading

  • 1. The Book That Changed My Life By The New York Times
  • 2. I Read 150+ Books in 2 Years. Here’s How It Changed My Life By Anangsha Alammyan
  • 3. How My Diagnosis Improved My College Experience By Blair Kenney

4. How ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ Saved Me By Isaac Fitzgerald

5. catcher in the rye: that time a banned book changed my life by pat kelly, topic ideas for essays about reading, 1. how can a high school student improve their reading skills, 2. what’s the best piece of literature ever written, 3. how reading books from authors of varied backgrounds can provide a different perspective, 4. challenging your point of view: how reading essays you disagree with can provide a new perspective, 1.  the book that changed my life  by  the new york times.

“My error the first time around was to read “Middlemarch” as one would a typical novel. But “Middlemarch” isn’t really about plot and dialogue. It’s all about character, as mediated through the wise and compassionate (but sharply astute) voice of the omniscient narrator. The book shows us that we cannot live without other people and that we cannot live with other people unless we recognize their flaws and foibles in ourselves.”  The New York Times

In this collection of reader essays, people share the books that have shaped how they see the world and live their lives. Talking about a life-changing piece of literature can offer a new perspective to people who tend to shy away from reading and can encourage others to pick up your favorite book.

2.  I Read 150+ Books in 2 Years. Here’s How It Changed My Life  By Anangsha Alammyan

“Consistent reading helps you develop your  analytical thinking skills  over time. It stimulates your brain and allows you to think in new ways. When you are  actively engaged  in what you’re reading, you would be able to ask better questions, look at things from a different perspective, identify patterns and make connections.” Anangsha Alammyan

Alammyan shares how she got away from habits that weren’t serving her life (such as scrolling on social media) and instead turned her attention to focus on reading. She shares how she changed her schedule and time management processes to allow herself to devote more time to reading, and she also shares the many ways that she benefited from spending more time on her Kindle and less time on her phone.

3.  How My Diagnosis Improved My College Experience  By Blair Kenney

“When my learning specialist convinced me that I was an intelligent person with a reading disorder, I gradually stopped hiding from what I was most afraid of—the belief that I was a person of mediocre intelligence with overambitious goals for herself. As I slowly let go of this fear, I became much more aware of my learning issues. For the first time, I felt that I could dig below the surface of my unhappiness in school without being ashamed of what I might find.” Blair Kenney

Reading does not come easily to everyone, and dyslexia can make it especially difficult for a person to process words. In this essay, Kenney shares her experience of being diagnosed with dyslexia during her sophomore year of college at Yale. She gave herself more patience, grew in her confidence, and developed techniques that worked to improve her reading and processing skills.

“I took that book home to finish reading it. I’d sit somewhat uncomfortably in a tree or against a stone wall or, more often than not, in my sparsely decorated bedroom with the door closed as my mother had hushed arguments with my father on the phone. There were many things in the book that went over my head during my first time reading it. But a land left with neither Rhyme nor Reason, as I listened to my parents fight, that I understood.” Isaac Fitzgerald

Books can transport a reader to another world. In this essay, Fitzgerald explains how Norton Juster’s novel allowed him to escape a difficult time in his childhood through the magic of his imagination. Writing about a book that had a significant impact on your childhood can help you form an instant connection with your reader, as many people hold a childhood literature favorite near and dear to their hearts.

“From the first paragraph my mind was blown wide open. It not only changed my whole perspective on what literature could be, it changed the way I looked at myself in relation to the world. This was heavy stuff. Of the countless books I had read up to this point, even the ones written in first person, none of them felt like they were speaking directly to me. Not really anyway.” Pat Kelly

Many readers have had the experience of feeling like a book was written specifically for them, and in this essay, Kelly shares that experience with J.D. Salinger’s classic American novel. Writing about a book that felt like it was written specifically for you can give you the chance to share what was happening in your life when you read the book and the lasting impact that the book had on you as a person.

There are several topic options to choose from when you’re writing about reading. You may want to write about how literature you love has changed your life or how others can develop their reading skills to derive similar pleasure from reading.

Topic ideas for essays about reading

Middle and high school students who struggle with reading can feel discouraged when, despite their best efforts, their skills do not improve. Research the latest educational techniques for boosting reading skills in high school students (the research often changes) and offer concrete tips (such as using active reading skills) to help students grow.

It’s an excellent persuasive essay topic; it’s fun to write about the piece of literature you believe to be the greatest of all time. Of course, much of this topic is a matter of opinion, and it’s impossible to prove that one piece of literature is “better” than another. Write your essay about how the piece of literature you consider the best positive affected your life and discuss how it’s impacted the world of literature in general.

The world is full of many perspectives and points of view, and it can be hard to imagine the world through someone else’s eyes. Reading books by authors of different gender, race, or socioeconomic status can help open your eyes to the challenges and issues others face. Explain how reading books by authors with different backgrounds has changed your worldview in your essay.

It’s fun to read the information that reinforces viewpoints that you already have, but doing so doesn’t contribute to expanding your mind and helping you see the world from a different perspective. Explain how pushing oneself to see a different point of view can help you better understand your perspective and help open your eyes to ideas you may not have considered.

Tip: If writing an essay sounds like a lot of work, simplify it. Write a simple 5 paragraph essay instead.

If you’re stuck picking your next essay topic, check out our round-up of essay topics about education .

how to find essays to read

Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.

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How to Read an Essay Collection

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Rebecca Hussey

Rebecca holds a PhD in English and is a professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. She teaches courses in composition, literature, and the arts. When she’s not reading or grading papers, she’s hanging out with her husband and son and/or riding her bike and/or buying books. She can't get enough of reading and writing about books, so she writes the bookish newsletter "Reading Indie," focusing on small press books and translations. Newsletter: Reading Indie Twitter: @ofbooksandbikes

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How to read an essay collection? You may think no instructions are necessary. All you do is open the book, look over the table of contents, get going on the first essay, and proceed from there as usual. You can certainly read collections that way, and I sometimes do. But you might get more out of the experience if you keep a few things in mind before jumping in. And perhaps these suggestions will encourage you to pick up an essay collection if that’s not the kind of thing you usually read. Here are some points to consider:

how to read an essay collection

Now that you know how to read an essay collection, you might want some recommendations. My top three picks are:

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Want more? Check out 100 Must-Read Essay Collections to start and then suggestions for the 2018 Read Harder essay anthology task , great collections published in 2017 and more published in 2016 .

Then tell me what your favorite essay collection is!

how to find essays to read

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What to Know About the Science of Reading

An effort to overhaul how children learn to read, known as the science of reading movement, is sweeping the country. Here’s where it stands.

A third-grader sits on a bean bag chair with a book at Good Springs Elementary School in Nevada.

By Dana Goldstein

During an era of intense politicization of education, there has been rare bipartisan consensus on one issue: the need to overhaul how children learn to read.

Over the past five years, more than 40 states have passed laws that aim to revamp literacy instruction. And on Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York announced a proposal to require schools to use “scientifically proven” reading curriculums by 2025, and to invest $10 million in retraining teachers.

The effort sweeping the country is known as the science of reading movement. Here’s what to know about it, and where it stands.

What is the science of reading?

There is no single definition of the science of reading. But the key idea is that teaching strategies should align with a wide body of cognitive research on how young children learn to read. That research , amassed over decades, shows that in addition to a broad vocabulary, children need to understand phonics, or the relationship between letters and the sounds of spoken language.

While some children seem to pick up reading naturally, research shows that many need explicit, carefully sequenced instruction in the letter combinations and spelling patterns that form the English language. Without explicit teaching, some students — including children who are read to every day in homes filled with books — will not become proficient and confident readers.

Proponents of the science of reading, including leading brain researchers and parents of children with dyslexia, have pushed hard to change instruction over the past decade.

How does it differ from other teaching strategies?

The science of reading represents a significant shift for the nation’s school system. For the past two decades, a school of thought known as balanced literacy dominated how colleges prepared future teachers for the classroom and how those teachers taught.

The scholarly roots of balanced literacy are in the education and English departments of universities. Brain researchers, examining reading with M.R.I. machines, worked in other departments. As is common in academia, the two groups rarely shared ideas or collaborated.

Balanced literacy emphasizes the importance of surrounding children with books and allowing them to spend quiet time reading literature that interests them. It includes some phonics, but the instruction is less structured. Letter-sound relationships may be introduced as they come up in stories or through classroom games, instead of in a sequence designed to build foundational skills.

Balanced literacy curriculums have often relied on teaching strategies that have been discredited , such as coaching children to guess difficult words by using pictures and the first letter, instead of sounding out the entire word from beginning to end. Educators and researchers have said that technique leaves children ill-prepared to tackle more difficult texts, without illustrations, as they get older.

Critics have also argued that balanced literacy shortchanges vocabulary and knowledge building, by allowing teachers and students too much freedom to select reading material, instead of guiding them to challenging texts that build knowledge in various subjects such as social studies, science and the arts.

Three major American leaders of the balanced literacy movement — Lucy Calkins, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell — have rolled out changes to their reading curriculums under political and financial pressure from the science of reading movement.

But they have also warned about what they see as risks of too much phonics instruction and have pointed out that past phonics-centric reform efforts, such as the Reading First program under President George W. Bush, yielded limited results.

Is the science of reading movement working?

In some big ways, yes. States are passing laws requiring instructional change, and curriculums are being revised to include more foundational phonics and richer reading material. Many schools are also retraining teachers.

Universities are shifting, too, by distancing themselves from balanced literacy theorists and promising to change the way they prepare future educators.

New York has been a focal point. Under Mayor Eric Adams of New York City, who is dyslexic, the nation’s largest school district has required schools to abandon balanced literacy and select from one of several reading curriculums better aligned to cognitive research.

But there are many challenges to the overhaul, some of which could affect whether the efforts achieve a key goal: raising students’ reading test scores.

Teachers need to not only be retrained — an investment of time and money — but also be brought along with the efforts so they feel invested in the work. Another big cost is that classroom libraries need to be replaced in many elementary schools, as there are few books within them designed to build children’s phonics skills. Outdated curriculums need to replaced.

Across the country, initial research on these efforts has been hopeful, but limited in scope.

Dana Goldstein covers education and families for The Times.  More about Dana Goldstein

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Life Kit

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50 ways to change your life in 2024

Connie Hanzhang Jin

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Malaka Gharib

Clare Schneider, photographed for NPR, 17 January 2019, in Washington DC.

Clare Marie Schneider

Handwritten text saying Life Kit's New Year's Resolution Planner: 50 ideas to help you move forward in 2024.

Got an ambition that's been on the shelf for a while? This is the year to turn it into a reality.

Maybe you've been trying to pay off your credit cards but have been struggling to save money because of inflation. Maybe you're thinking about taking the next step in your relationship but want to make sure it's the right call. Or maybe you just want to scratch some of those smaller projects off your to-do list: declutter , start flossing and make more friends at work .

Whatever your goal is, Life Kit is here to support you. This year's New Year's Resolution Planner has a fresh new mix of ideas to help you move forward in 2024.

Each episode comes with clear, practical advice on how to achieve the objective, which is important when it comes to sticking to a resolution . "Goal pursuit requires focused attention," says Elliot Berkman , a psychologist at the University of Oregon. "Our minds need to be focused on one thing," he says.

Ready to take action? Got your target set? Let's go!

This year, I want to ...

  • Ask for a raise
  • Start a side hustle
  • Quit my job
  • Shake my impostor syndrome
  • Get stronger
  • Start exercising
  • Become a runner
  • Be more flexible
  • Get healthier (without going to the gym)

Get organized

  • Keep my New Year's resolutions
  • Write to-do lists that work
  • Start a new healthy habit
  • Change my life
  • Improve my focus
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Be a morning person
  • Drink enough water
  • Try to live to 100
  • Sleep better
  • Eat more mindfully
  • Take care of my teeth
  • Mend my own clothes
  • Get into birding
  • Learn a heritage language
  • Start a creative habit
  • Find good books to read
  • Clean out my clutter
  • Prep for emergencies
  • Save time on laundry
  • Make my home more climate friendly

Mental health

  • Embrace my perfectionism
  • Explore my gender identity
  • Have more fun
  • Get better at saying 'no'
  • Deal with burnout
  • Get into meditation
  • Decide whether I want kids
  • Freeze my eggs
  • Spend more quality time with my kids
  • Be a better auntie or uncle
  • Start new traditions
  • Make a budget
  • Get out of debt
  • Find a better bank
  • Stop stress spending
  • Have fun on a budget

Relationships

  • Create a 'relationship contract'
  • Be OK with being single
  • Get married
  • Create friends at work

The episodes were created by Life Kit. Design, development and illustrations by Connie Hanzhang Jin. Production, editing and art direction by Malaka Gharib, Clare Marie Schneider, Beck Harlan and Kaz Fantone. Special thanks to Life Kit supervising editor Meghan Keane, growth editor Arielle Retting, podcast project manager Lyndsey McKenna and engagement editor Amanda Orr.

We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823 , or email us at [email protected] .

Listen to Life Kit on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or sign up for our newsletter .

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  10. A Student's Guide to Finding Quality Sources for Essays

    1. Consult the Textbook. Your course textbook is a great starting point, as it will likely contain valuable and relevant information about your topic. Many students believe the textbook won't be accepted as a source for an essay, but this is false. Your professor will welcome citations from the textbook.

  11. 13 Ways to Make Your Writing More Interesting to Read

    Some subjects or topic areas are naturally dry, and it falls to you to make the essay more interesting through your written style (more on this later) and by trying to find fascinating snippets of information to include that will liven it up a bit and make the information easier to relate to.

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  24. Essays About Reading: 5 Examples And Topic Ideas

    Essay writing Essays About Reading: 5 Examples And Topic Ideas Essays About Reading: 5 Examples And Topic Ideas March 30, 2023 / 7 minutes of reading As a writer, you love to read and talk to others about reading books. Check out some examples of essays about reading and topic ideas for your essay.

  25. How To Read an Essay Collection

    All you do is open the book, look over the table of contents, get going on the first essay, and proceed from there as usual. You can certainly read collections that way, and I sometimes do. But you might get more out of the experience if you keep a few things in mind before jumping in. And perhaps these suggestions will encourage you to pick up ...

  26. What to Know About the Science of Reading

    The science of reading represents a significant shift for the nation's school system. For the past two decades, a school of thought known as balanced literacy dominated how colleges prepared ...

  27. New Year's Resolution Planner: 50 ways to change your life in 2024 : NPR

    Drink enough water. Spend more quality time with my kids. Create friends at work. Be OK with being single. Start running. Get better at saying 'no'. Keep my New Year's resolutions. Sleep better ...