How To Write An Essay Based On A Prompt

Moving from Prompt to Thesis--

How to Turn a Prompt into a Thesis Statement

Your writing prompt will shape your writing project. You must be sure to fully answer the prompt within your essay or discussion and the best way to do this may be to use the prompt itself to create your thesis statement.

It is a good idea to make direct statements about what your prompt is asking you to do. You can do this by using some of the language from the prompt itself to create your thesis statement.

Here is an example of turning a prompt into a thesis.

Prompt for an Argumentative Essay: Technology has made it easier than ever for people to reach out to others at any time and in any location. Explain how different methods of technology have changed the way we now connect or disconnect with others. Research several of the pros and cons associated with our overwhelming use of technology. Make your own argument on whether technology has increased or decreased our level of connectedness to others and support your position by using research. Finally, explain why this is an important issue to discuss.

First, underline some of the main points of the prompt.

Prompt for an Argumentative Essay:Technology has made it easier than ever for people to reach out to others at any time and in any location. Explain how different uses of technology have changed the way we now connect or disconnect with others. Research several of the pros and cons associated with our overwhelming use of technology. Make your own argument on whether technology has increased or decreased our level of connectedness to others and support your position by using research. Finally, explain why this is an important issue to discuss.

And now, let's turn that prompt into a thesis.

Thesis: While technology has some advantages in our ability to connect to others, it also has some major drawbacks. Technology has actually decreased our level of connectedness to others because it allows us to disconnect from the people in our physical environment and it does not foster the social skills needed in order to help us to connect to those around us.

As you can see, I have used some of the vocabulary from the prompt itself and I have made direct statements that relate to the prompt. I have made my argument clear and have included the reasons I have for taking my position.

Here is another example.

Prompt of a Compare/Contrast Essay: Write a paper in which you compare and contrast two speeches with the same argument. Identify key strategies used by these speakers to persuade their audience. Compare and contrast the strategies used in these speeches and how they were used. Explain why these differences might exist.

Thesis: While there are several similarities between the strategies used in each of these speeches, there are significant differences as well. The differences between the strategies used by Williams and those use by Smith are based on each author having a different audience and purpose.

And here is one more:

Prompt of a Theory-based Essay: Choose a controversial issue from the list you were given. In your paper, you will choose at least three of the psychological theories we have studied during this course and apply each of these to this issue. Describe each of these theories and explain how they would approach this issue. What are the pros and cons of each theory's approach to this issue? Which approach would you apply if you were faced with this issue?

Thesis: By exploring the psychological theories of x, y, and z and how they can be applied to the issue of plastic surgery, we can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each and determine which will be the best approach to apply to this topic.

For more help with writing issues, please take a look at the Ashford Writing Center!

Thank you!

Ashford Writing Center



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How Writing Prompts Build Writing Skills

Writing prompts or essay prompts are learning assignments that direct students to write about a particular topic in a particular way. As our educational understanding has developed, writing prompts came on the scene as a way to corral students’ natural curiosity for the world around them. They are designed to integrate a students imagination and creativity into guided writing practice. Using them regularly as part of a multi-faceted writing curriculum can boost the chances that students will not only improve as writers but feel connected to the writing process.

Analyzing the Writing Prompt
While writing well depends on many skills that take time to develop, one skill can be taught fairly quickly: how to understand a writing prompt. Do you think that making sense of them is simply a matter of reading comprehension?  Actually, all too often, good students receive a poor writing grade because they misunderstood the essay writing prompt. In order to successfully respond, students must learn to analyze the prompt before responding to it.

Questions to Ask
Just as they do in the prewriting phase of any writing task, students should ask questions about the assignment that help them narrow down their overall goal. When working with writing prompts, the following are helpful questions to pin down the answers to:

  • What form of writing does it require?
  • What is the purpose of the prompt?
  • What information do I need to complete the task?
  • What kind of details or arguments does it suggest and would these points make good paragraphs?
  • Who is the audience for the essay?
  • How does the audience’s expectations affect my writing style?

By asking and answering these questions, students can jump-start their essay outline and formulate their thesis. A good way to begin is to write a one-sentence response to each question. When students study the writing prompt closely and use it as the basis for prewriting, they’ll be on their way to writing an essay that fully addresses the goals prompt. This is wonderful practice for any type of long-form writing, as well.

The Importance of Writing Form

One of the key stumbling blocks of writing prompt interpretation is figuring out what form of writing is required. For example, is it an expository, narrative, or persuasive prompt? Sometimes prompts explicitly specify the form of writing to be used, or give strong hints with words like “persuade” for the persuasive writing form. Other times, the task of deciphering which form of writing to use is part of the challenge. The trick is to recognize the clues given in the prompt. Here are some key words to look for:

  • Expository Essay –how, what, explain, define, analyze, compare/contrast
  • Narrative Essay –tell, story, relate, imagine, describe
  • Persuasive Essay –convince, persuade, why, opinion, argue

Writing Prompts as Standardized Test Practice

Teachers also use prompts to help students prepare for standardized tests. They are found on all standardized tests, from state writing assessments to national tests like ACT and SAT. Age-appropriate writing prompts on standardized tests often focus on contemporary social issues. Keeping up with current events is good preparation, as is participating in discussion groups and reading both fiction and nonfiction books.

Time4Writing Builds Fundamental Skills 

At Time4Writing, we focus on teaching the fundamental skills required for good writing. Each student is paired with a certified teacher for one-on-one instruction. Our teachers draw from their classroom experience to help their students with all the nuts and bolts of building good essays, beginning with understanding the writing prompt. There is a free flow of conversation between students and the teacher, helping students thrive with individualized attention to their writing. Writing becomes something they enjoy, instead of a chore. Learn more about how Time4Writing’s certified teacher-led program works for homeschool, afterschool practice, or summer skill-building.

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