For whatever reason you have to write your essay, you can be sure that the person grading it (your teacher, professor, an assessor from an admissions committee, etc.) has to grade dozens upon dozens of other essays alongside it. You can be sure that 80 percent of these essays will be very similar to one another. Their authors will try to guess what the assessor wants to see, they will make overused comments on overused topics, they will write what students have been writing about this subject for years. In other words, you can bet that your assessor is bored out of his/her mind grading generic essays using generic arguments about generic subjects. Do you want to write such an essay yourself and join the homogenous mass of other students who do not distinguish themselves in any way? If not, then you have to think of ways to make your writing a bit more original – and we will help you with that!
Choose an Obscure Topic
Some topics are popular and get used over and over again at all academic levels. Whatever area of knowledge you are studying, there are always topics that crop up immediately when you think about them. For example, if you study Second World War, Battle for Berlin or Normandy landings immediately come to mind. You can be sure that at least some of your peers will choose to write about them, and that dozens and probably hundreds of their predecessors already wrote something similar in the past. However, what if you write about the Brazilian Expeditionary Force? Most people do not even know that Brazil took any part in Second World War, let alone any details about it. It is a perfect example of an obscure topic – something related to your general theme but unlikely to be covered by anybody else. We will go ahead and say that these are the best essay topicsin any situation because you stand out from the crowd simply by choosing them.
Express Your Opinion
As a rule, you should not use first-person pronouns at all in academic texts. Many students perceive it as a prohibition to express their personal opinions in general. They are so busy doing research and quoting other people that they forget that they have something of their own to say about the subject. This means that you have a chance of making your essay more original simply by saying what you actually think about the topic. Although you are still discouraged to use first-person pronouns (especially “I”), there are ways around it. You can use structures like “Inevitably, a question arises” or “There is another way to look at it” to introduce your opinions. If it is sufficiently different from what people tend to say on the subject, your essay is bound to stand out.
Support an Unpopular Viewpoint
Every topic has a standard accepted viewpoint on it. Even if there is some division on the subject, one point of view is always more predominant than others. You can make your essay stand out if you choose to support a minority viewpoint, something that deviates from a standardly accepted one. If you want to be especially original, you can even create your own theory (however, make sure you have sufficient data to back it up). This approach is somewhat risky – marginal viewpoints are often widely discredited and have plenty of arguments disproving them. Therefore, while your essay proving that the Earth in actuality is flat may be different from the rest of your class, you will probably make a fool of yourself if you write something like that.
Use Less-Known Sources
Most of your peers will read more or less the same set of sources when preparing to write their essay. If you limit yourself to the same articles and books, you are more than likely to write something very similar to what they write. While forgoing the suggested sources altogether is not a good idea, you can spice things up by digging up a couple of additional, seldom-used sources to build up additional knowledge of the subject and demonstrate how assiduous you are. If you are interested in the topic on your own, do not be afraid to use books you read on the subject that is unknown to other students and probably your professors as well. Alternatively, you can look for extra sources in a variety of ways:
- Ask your tutor;
- Ask your librarian;
- Use a keyword search in an academic database like Google Scholar;
- Go through the footnotes of the sources you already found.
Include Visual Materials
While some professors and teachers directly prohibit the use of anything but text in your essay writing, usually there is no straightforward ban. This means that you can use pictures, photographs, illustrations, charts, graphs, and other visual materials if you so choose. You can be sure that the majority of your peers will not think of doing it, which will immediately set your essay apart. Just make sure that your visual materials supplement your writing instead of distracting from it and are relevant, and everything will be all right. You will earn bonus points with your tutor for making the extra effort and create a memorable piece of work.
There are no straightforward and surefire ways of making your essay more original than those of your peers. To be original, you have to, by definition, do something original, and you cannot do it by following instructions. Therefore, the tips we present here simply demonstrate some of the ways you can apply lateral thinking to essay writing – it is up to you to find other, even more interesting ways to do it.