Essay Completion Checklist

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If you're returning to class after some time, essay assignments could seem overwhelming. It may have been years since you considered the best way to brainstorm, structure, and write an academic paper, and in the course of your studies you'll have to write plenty!

Don't worry. We've teamed up with the ODU Writing Center to give you an essay checklist.

When starting any assignment for class, be sure to review your class syllabus and assignment requirements as outlined by your professor first. There's a good chance your instructor has already addressed any questions you may have.

This checklist, the Writing Center, and online resources are a great place to start, but don't forget your instructor is available as well. If your answer isn't in the syllabus or you still have questions, contact your professor for a phone call or virtual meeting. They are here to help.

When you start writing, the ODU Writing Center is here for you as well, no matter where you are! You can make appointments online, set up tutoring sessions, or send your work for review from their website. You can also access help documents about grammar, research, citation, style, and more anytime. Click here for more details.


  • Is there a clear introduction, body, and conclusion?
  • Does the introduction provide sufficient background for the reader? Are the "who," "where," "why," "what," and "how" questions addressed?
  • Is there a thesis sentence? Is the purpose clear?
  • Does the essay move from general to specific?
  • Are there smooth transitions between related ideas?
  • Is the essay clearly organized? 
  • Does every paragraph relate back to and reinforce the thesis?

Content and Style 

  • Does the essay meet the assignment requirements as outlined in the syllabus?
  • Does the essay address the audience clearly?
  • Is the length sufficient to cover necessary points and assignment requirements?
  • Are there sufficient examples and detail to make the points clearly?
  • Is the tone appropriate to the assignment?
  • Is any aspect of the paper insulting or prejudicial?

Research and Sources 

  • Are all sources credible according to the instructor's specifications?
  • Is the research accurate, unbiased, and complete?
  • Is each source used within the essay properly cited?
  • Is the analysis based on the research?
  • Does the analysis contain sound logic?
  • Is the documentation in the Works Cited page and body of the essay correct according to assignment style requirements?
  • Have all quotations been checked, introduced, and attributed?
  • If material was paraphrased, are the sources still clearly referenced?
  • Are all facts accurate, or have potential refutations been addressed?


  • Has the essay been through a grammar and punctuation check?
  • Is the essay spell checked?
  • Are the page numbers correct?
  • Is the title capitalized correctly?
  • Has the writer used the correct margin and font according to assignment guidelines?
  • Has the essay been submitted to any necessary plagiarism software required by the instructor?
  • Will the essay be submitted on time?

Great writing is part of being a successful student in most college classes, but don't be intimidated! The writing center and your instructors are here to help. 

For help throughout your online student journey, please visit our student support page to find out all the resources ready to assist you as you earn your degree online. 

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