Completing assignments tend to follow the same sequence of events every time round, where you have loads of time, have loads of time then, gasp! The deadline is in a week and you’re aiming for a first (because why would you aim any lower)!
Now in my opinion the best and only way to succeed at an essay is to plan plan plan! Whether it’s a brainstorm, a grid, or even just a blank piece of paper with words written all over. It’s essential that the ideas that are in your head get written down somewhere, just so you’re able to gather your thoughts before you begin writing. Now I like to plan to read, plan to plan and plan to write, (hmm maybe that’s somewhat excessive planning), but there’s how I went about writing my first essay.
Step 1: Finding Readings and Resources
Having spent several weeks studying this topic I wasn’t blindly thrown into the subject of this essay, so the first thing I had to do was formulate an argument from the essential readings I had completed, and the lectures I had attended to form the basis of my essay. That is sometimes the hardest part of writing an essay, deciding where your opinions lie and what you want to argue. However it doesn’t stop there, the next step is to find resources such as books, journals and scholarly articles which support your argument. Which can sometimes be a pain, but you’d already know how to get around those issues if you’ve read my post Essay Quest. If you haven’t I’ll share the link at the end of this post just for you 😉. Once I had my sources I had to actually read them which swiftly brings me onto to step 2.
Step 2: Planning Your Reading
Now this step isn’t going to try to teach you to read again I’m sure you can already do that (or you wouldn’t have gotten this far in the post) this is how I make getting through tabs and tabs of resources and retaining information quick and easy. First thing to do is grab that blank piece of paper or grid or brainstorm, and divide it up according to your points. Now if your not prepared to read the whole article (this’ll only work for online resources) press that nifty old CTRL+F and search for key words within your article, read around those key words and jot down anything that has significance to any of your points. As you do this for each reading you will quickly build up your sources and expand your points.*tip keep a note of the source you used in your notes, it helps with referencing later* Now at this point I always end up with several pages of notes and my brain has temporarily turned to mush so Step 2.2: Take a break. Breaks are allowed! When step 2.2 is complete move to step 3
Step 3: Plan Your Plan
Now this part is really easy and is sometimes my favourite part (after the break), it’s simply picking those parts from your notes that are small nuggets of gold and ordering them so they make some kind of sense to you, do this on another piece of paper (it’s neater, sorry trees 🌲). This is also your chance to refine your notes, so anything you may have noted but is no longer relevant, leave it out. With the refined goldmine you can call your plan, you can expect your essay to flow like a beautifully meandering river (yes I am a Geog student). Step 3 being so easy I hear you begging for Step 4 so here it is.
Step 4: Plan Your Writing
Now this step you could say is unnecessary, but I would say is essential for your sanity. It’s very simple since you already have your plan and aids you to balance your essay. Take your word count and minus 20%, that’ll be for your intro and conclusion. What’s left of that, divide by how many points you have, and at this point you have small goals to meet in order to reach your final word count (trust me it really does help). With steps 1-4 complete step 5 comes really easy you’ve done everything thing you can to prepare so last but not least…
Step 5: Write and Reference
Like I’ve said, at this point you’ve done everything you can to prepare for this essay, so now you must do the dreaded bit WRITE. However if you’ve followed each step should come easy. Some people like to skip the introduction to their essays and leave it to last, but personally I like to start at the beginning just to get the ball rolling because I can always come back to it, if you’re ever stuck just write anything to get started, but MAKE SURE you come back to it as it is still important. As you go about writing your essay make sure as you write you cite your work, if you can’t be bothered to cite properly as your writing, at least make a note in your writing. Leaving all the referencing to the end is probably the most stressful thing to do so I most certainly would not recommend.
Hopefully when your next writing assignment comes along you can ease through it by following these 5 simple steps.
(P.S. Here is the link to that previous post http://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/sagestudents/2017/02/07/998/ )