An essay is basically just an organized version of your thoughts and beliefs. An illustrative essay allows you to -- illustrate -- why you believe what you believe and is often a required element in an English class. For example, if you are studying a novel, the instructor may want you to write an essay on your opinion of a certain character. You would then have to come up with a statement about the character -- the cat in "The Cat in the Hat" is self-centered -- and then provide support and evidence for why you believe that statement. There is a simple formula to follow to organize your thoughts.

Step 1

Clearly define the element that you want to illustrate. You have to have a definite idea of what you want to say if you want to be able to support it. Also, think about three key words or phrases that explain the reasons you believe or don't believe this idea. This will give you your thesis statement. Taking the example from the intro, you could say, "The main character of the cat in 'The Cat in the Hat' is clearly self-centered because his only thought is of having fun, he disregards the children's concerns and he relies on Thing One and Thing Two to clean up his mistakes."

Step 2

Write your introductory paragraph. Once you have your main idea in sentence form, write a paragraph about it. Write about two to three sentences that give a general overview of the element that you will be illustrating. Write two sentences that suggest a couple of reasons why other people may have a different opinion than yours when it comes to this element. Write or include your previously written thesis statement that provides your three key reasons.

Step 3

Create an outline for your essay. You already have the skeleton of an outline if you've written your thesis statement: your three key reasons. You simply have to write a paragraph about each reason, giving examples that support why the reasons have led you to your conclusion. So for your outline, you would list your first key reason and then perhaps two to three points that indicate how it supports your thesis. Then do the same for your second and third key reasons.

Step 4

Write your paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain two to three sentences that explain the key reason and how it relates to your conclusion. Then add three to four sentences that provide clear, specific and supportive examples. Using "The Cat in the Hat" example, you could say that the cat seems focused only on having fun in the moment because when he arrives, he immediately begins to devise ways to entertain himself and the children on a rainy day, regardless of the consequences. Then you would cite examples from the book. End each paragraph with a closing sentence that reiterates how the examples support your key reason in the paragraph.

Step 5

Write a conclusion. Write one to two sentences that will restate your thesis. Write two to three sentences that highlight specific examples from your body paragraphs. Write one to two closing sentences that wrap up your reasons and lead you to your conclusion.