I have my first essay due in on Tuesday 1st November, so today I went to the library (I was there at 10.30am!) and started writing. I’ve been planning my essay, which I started to do on Friday, and finished planning the whole thing this morning before I set off. Starting essays can be really hard, especially if you haven’t really done it much before and suddenly you’re doing an essay based subject, or even if you’ve had the whole summer off from writing anything at all, and it can be hard to get back into the swing of things. So this evening I thought I would share with you some of my top tips on writing essays!
1- Make sure you look at the questions properly, and in advance.
You don’t want to find out that you have an essay due in a week’s time, and you don’t even know what the title is. Make sure that this is one of the first things you do, and that you actually understand the question that is being asked. If you’re not sure, then go and ask your teacher/lecturer. They want you to do as well as possible, so obviously they will give you some advice.
2- Get the right books out of the library.
Choosing the right books out of the library shouldn’t be too difficult, but if you have a really horrible, obscure question, or even a very vague question, it can be quite tricky. Make sure you look at the university library website (if there is one) and refine your searches to be as specific as possible. For example, I have an essay about Victorian marriage and I have to link it to Middlemarch and North and South so it is quite broad. But if you have some kind of idea of where you want to take the question, then it should help you out a bit more. Which leads me on to number three:
3- PLANNING IS KEY!
I swear to God, planning an essay is the most important thing you can do. I used to hate planning essays because I thought it was a waste of time, but then I came to university and you can’t just write an essay essentially blind. You need to know where you are going with it, and how the whole thing is going to link together. Also, if it’s taking you a few days to write your essay, you don’t want to forget where you were or what the next paragraph was going to be about. So, if you plan your essay paragraph by paragraph, it will help you to keep on track.
4- Send draft essays to your teacher/lecturer
Most of the time, your teachers or lecturers will want at least one draft of your essay, so make sure you make the most of this! They will read through your draft and tell you if you’re going in the right direction, or if you need to look at it from a different angle. They will also leave some comments as well, which might inspire you to write about an aspect which you may not have thought of before.
5- PROOF READ!
Proof reading is probably just as important, if not more so, than planning. You don’t want to get marked down on silly grammatical mistakes or accidentally spelling a name wrong. That’s just embarrassing. Especially if you’re an English student and you spell the name of the main protagonist wrong… This is also a good chance for you to see how it all flows together. If you’re like me, and hate reading your own work (not because it’s bad, but because you’re bias and think it’s amazing), then you can always ask someone else to read it. They don’t have to study the same course as you (I usually send my essays to my mum) and if they think it works, then you should be good to go!
6- Motivational Essay Writing Music.
I had a motivational essay writing playlist last year, but by the end of the semester I just ended up listening to Hamilton whenever I was writing. I recommend keeping this as background music, so you don’t get too distracted. However, if you know it’ll distract you too much then maybe leave the music for before and after your essay writing. For me, I cannot read and listen to music at the same time, so when I’m doing my research and reading books and writing down quotes, I need absolute silence. Even if one of my housemates is talking or playing music downstairs, it will distract me. Usually I try and get my reading done in the library because it’s such a good place to focus.
7- Getting a “quotes book”.
I have a notebook which I use explicitly for secondary source quotes which I think could be useful in my essays. I have this for all of my modules this year, and I’ll probably end up getting another one because it’s not the biggest. This is quite good, but if you do this I would recommend writing a bibliography at the back just in case you have to return said library book before you’ve finished your essay. It’s also good because then you can highlight things, or put stickers in without feeling bad about writing in a book!
So yeah! Those are my top tips for writing essays, and I hope it helped in some way!