When you’ve been given a deadline which seems really far away, it’s easy to see it as an opportunity to kick back and relax until the week before it’s due. Don’t do this! An essay written in a pre-deadline panic will never reflect your true abilities. Break it up, do it bit by bit and take the time to write it, read it and edit it as many times as you please. You’ll have a better essay and feel relaxed and confident when you hand it in.
You’ll find it much easier to get stuck into writing your essay if you have a plan to work from. It doesn’t need to be detailed – leave the detail for the essay itself – but just a sentence or two to prompt your argument and organise your ideas will make for a better structured and more considered essay.
Also, writing a plan is a much less daunting prospect than writing an essay, so if the thought of writing that opening paragraph is making you feel a bit queasy then it’s a great starter activity to ease you into that academic frame of mind.
Gather your evidence
One of the worst things about writing essays is trailing through countless musty-smelling library books looking for quotes or evidence to reference in your essay. It’s time consuming and annoying at times, but there are ways to speed it up. Don’t be put off by the biggest book in the pile – you don’t need to read all of it! Instead, look at the chapters. Is there a relevant chapter? Turn straight to that. Look at the index. Is that key word mentioned? Well flip to that page, scribble down a few snappy extracts after you’ve made your plan, pop them into your essay – in context, of course – and you’re good to go. Good essays shouldn’t be overflowing with the writing and opinions of other authors – their role in your work is to strengthen your own ideas.
Writing a concise, fast-paced essay is a skill – and a great one to have. Whatever you do, don’t ‘pad out’ your essay with pointless waffle just so you reach the word limit. Everything in your essay should add something to your argument – so focus on the question.
All questions have a key instruction – so if it’s not a point, evidence, explanation, analysis or evaluation then chances are it’s best to leave it out. Think about the poor person who has to read the huge pile of essays once they’re handed in – if yours is a few sides of A4 of mostly nothing then you’re just going to frustrate them, and your grades will suffer.
As with everything, the more you write essays, the better you get. Use your old essays and make a note of feedback, so you can evaluate what you’ve done well and where you’ve fallen short in the past. Practising writing in general, perhaps by gaining some writing work experience, will also help to brush up skills such as spelling, structuring sentences and getting points across clearly and quickly. Essay writing is not impossible, and if you do the groundwork you’ll see the results you want in no time at all!
Have you got any other practical tips for writing a first class essay? Share in the comments.
About the Author:
Sara Kamouni is a student who’s always trying to find ways to spend less time in the library. She recommends GKBC as a first port of call for improving your writing and cutting down those hours.