Essays are the bane of most students’ existence.
Whether you are majoring in law, medicine or accounting, the one thing that is
common is essay writing. The further you advance in your academic career, the
more the likelihood that you will be required to write essays. You, therefore,
need to master the nightmare. A change of attitude is probably the first thing
that you have to overcome. The good news is writing is a skill that can be
developed or improved over time. With the right approach and practice, you will
be able to come up with a winning essay and surprise yourself.
Essay Writing Strategies
1. Get Organized
Before you begin the essay planning process, the first thing you should do is take some time to understand what you will need for the whole process of writing. You should determine which sources you require and whether they are available on the internet or the library. If you do find that you have to visit the library to access the sources you need, commit to going there even if you might be feeling lazy because you want to work from home. Remember, this is for your grade, and it is important that you make an effort to improve it.
If you find yourself working with sources that require internet access, try and stay as focused as possible. Do not be tempted to take a break from researching so that you can browse the internet or go through your social media feed, because you will most likely get carried away and end up postponing the research for some other time. Procrastination is a killer for most essays and last minute rushes will probably show in the quality of the essay you hand-in.
Come up with a timeline for your essay and ensure that you strictly adhere to it. It takes a lot of discipline, but then again it is necessary and worth it. Allocate specific times for reading, researching, planning and writing your essay. Allow 1 to 2 days to the deadline to edit your paper. Also, in case things do not work out as planned, and you can’t stick to your timeline for a good reason. This might seem extreme, but a good essay does require good planning.
Your lecturer may assign a reading list to use for your research or ask you to find the sources yourself. If you have a specific reading list, it will be wise for you to check into other reliable materials to see whether you can get some additional material to add on to your argument. Considering that your classmates are writing essays on the same subject, you need all the help you can get to make your essay more interesting, unique and original when compared to the rest.
Depending on the subject of the essay, the sources you use may vary. Some of the most reliable sources include; Wikipedia, academic articles or newspaper articles. Online articles may not be very reliable since you have no way of determining how valuable their facts or opinions are. If they are from a well-known expert, you can go ahead and use them.
Taking notes as you conduct your research will save you a lot of time when you plan and write your essay. Summarizing important information will save you from the hustle of having to go going back to the sources to look for certain information. Make notes of all the relevant material as well as things you find interesting.
3. Plan your Essay
This is a very crucial step in essay writing. With the notes you took in the research step, you should determine how your essay should be structured. Go through the notes a couple of time and pick out anything you find particularly important or interesting and also anything relevant to the topic. Organize your thoughts and see if you and see if you can identify a pattern. If you happen to have a couple of topics for your essay in mind note them down and draw a spider diagram to see which topic works with the ideas you have and forms a logical pattern.
Determine the principle point you want to make in your essay and by identifying a clear line of argument. Using the pattern on your spider diagram, you can add some points to the ideas to expand on what you have and to form a skeleton for your essay. The next step is to fill out the skeleton with the notes from your research and other extra information you might have. Continue filling your skeleton with the relevant information listed in bullet form until it becomes a rough draft. All your information should be filled out in the rough draft.
Once you are through, get a friend to go through your plan and see if it is sensible and whether it has a flow to it. Your plan should be able to give the person going through it an idea of what your essay is about and any mistake should be identifiable. From there you can add or remove some things depending on the criticism you receive. It is much easier to edit your essay at this step than when you have written it out. Don’t expect this step to be quick; you may find that it actually takes you longer than anticipated because you are ironing out all the kinks, joining up the dots in the points and polishing all the information.
4. Write the Essay
Once you get here, don’t overthink the process by trying to establish how you many words you need to fill up the blank page. Instead, begin by writing whatever forms in your mind, using the plan as your guide of course, and continue until you run out of words. Even if it is not perfect, you can come back and make changes later.
If you get writer’s block, refer back to your plan and see whether it will jog your mind and help you form some additional ideas. Try writing what you want to say in the simplest way possible. If this still doesn’t work, you can go ahead and take a break to relax your mind.
You might get to a point and feel like your argument is drifting or like you cannot convince yourself to agree with what you are writing. If this is the case, refer back to your plan and see if you can make a few changes by adding a stronger argument and some evidence. Your professor can be able to tell if you are not sure about what you are writing. Therefore, you have to make him/her believe you.
5. The Style
Writing style varies between different individuals. Being too vague or giving too much unnecessary information could cost you some marks. You should use both compound and complex sentences to make an impact in your essay. Do not use words that you are not familiar with because they might end up changing the meaning of a sentence. If you decide to use genre-specific vocabulary, ensure that you fully understand the meaning of that specific lexicon and that it perfectly complements the sentence.
The last bit of your essay includes inserting references and footnoting because the examiner will check on this. After this, you can leave sometime, like one day, between editing your essay. Go through the whole article or get someone to do it with you. This makes it easier to make corrections which threaten the clarity of your essay.
Just a recap:
1. Get Organized
3. Plan your Essay
4. Write the Essay
5. The Style