It’s a well known fact that most subjects will require you to write an essay at some stage. Now I’m in my third year, I feel like I can share some tips for how to get through writing one.
Studying English, I’ve written my fair share of essays, some of them energy-drink-fuelled and rambling and some of them with weeks spent on each page. I can tell you, quite predictably, it’s not the ones written with a caffeine soaked brain that got me the better marks. It was the (almost) stress-free ones written with plenty of research time to spare. So here are a few dos and don’ts based on that!
A blank page with a blinking cursor is probably the worst part about starting an essay – it can be intimidating with a very high word count to reach. Regardless of the subject, preparation is key and research is the best way to go about it.
- Research – it will probably require a good 2 or 3 days in the library reading around the subject of the essay before beginning. Research is also an important element throughout, you will probably keep going back to look up different things and the librarians are always on hand to help you locate the necessary information.
- Give yourself enough time! Most of the time, a good essay can’t be achieved in a few hours (something I learnt the hard way in first year – never again!) so allow yourself a good week at least before the deadline.
- Read the question or essay topic. Okay this sounds condescending, we’re all adults, but it’s so easy to go off on a tangent whilst researching and end up not even answering the question. Make a plan if this helps you stay on topic.
Right, so it’s time to begin. The introduction might not always be the easiest place to start; personally I fill a document with notes and critics quotes so that I feel like I’ve got all my ideas down on one page and I’m not faced with a white empty screen.
- Ask your tutors for advice. They are there to help and a very valuable resource! Email them, see them after a seminar or during office hours, whatever works best for you, just don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Don’t waffle! Writing at uni seems very different to GCSE and A level because for the most part it’s all about being concise and engaging.
- Use the feedback from your last essay – constructive criticism is always useful.
- Keep calm. Stress is a natural part of uni but it doesn’t have to impact on your work if you can give yourself enough time and use methods like mindfulness to keep your mind from spiralling.
You’ve done it, reached your word count and now it’s time to edit.
- If using critics or quotes, check your referencing handbook for the correct way to format them.
- Get a friend or family member to read through it – it can be difficult to cut out words you’ve written so getting someone else’s opinion can help edit the waffle from a reader’s perspective.
- Give it one last read over to double check for typos.
All that’s left after that is submitting it to TurnItIn or Blackboard, hopefully more than 10 minutes before the deadline!
Happy essay writing!
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