Hi everyone! Today is an important day for my degree. My semester one mid-term essay questions have been released. This now means I have four weeks to choose a question and get my essay response written and uploaded. I am a huge advocate for spreading out workloads so that you don’t ever feel overwhelmed at any one point during the essay process. Therefore each week I have a plan of what needs to be completed. I find that this way I have more time to get resources together and have a better chance of doing well in my essays.
Week 1: Question Selection and Plan
In the first week I will have selected my essay title. I really recommend discussing your chosen topic/question with head of the class as they will be interested in your early thoughts and can even give advice about where to start your research. Once you’ve decided on your topic choose the primary texts you’re going to write about. On my course the midterms only apply to the texts studied in weeks 1-5 of the module so the text selection is reasonably small. When you’ve decided on your text, re-read it with your essay question in mind. This allows you to highlight key moments in the text which would help you answer the question. After finishing the re-read make a draft plan of your essay. My essays this year are 2,500 words. By breaking down your word count into smaller chunks it’s easier to see where you need to focus. For an example I typically follow this breakdown for my essays: Introduction and Conclusion should be kept around 400-450 words. Your other main paragraphs should be between 500-600 words (this should cover half to two-thirds of an A4 page when typed, double spaced and in font 12). Each paragraph should have a key word to work off of during this stage so you know where the essay is heading.
Week 2: Thesis statement and Secondary Research
Your thesis statement should be a single sentence at the beginning of your essay where you outline your argument. Once you have your thesis and you have formed your own opinion about the essay question you can look at secondary criticism. Currently my university library is offering a click and collect service so I can still get books but there are lots of online resources to help you create a fuller essay. My tip for adding in secondary critics is to PEE. Point. Evidence. Explain. You make your point, at the beginning of a paragraph. You give evidence, this comes from quotations from your primary text and here is where you would add in either supportive secondary research or research which contradict you. You then explain why the quotations prove/disprove your point. By having clear and concise quotations to help strengthen your point your essay will appeal more to markers. For a top tip I would make note of your secondary research as you are doing it. This helps to create your bibliography at the end of the essay and will help when you are referencing in your essay. I would also say for a 2,500 word essay at least four different secondary sources should be enough to write about.
Week 3: Draft Essay
I feel that my approach to essay writing isn’t very common. Instead of writing an entire essay in one document I break my down paragraph to paragraph. This helps me to edit the work that I have done quickly. I begin with my Introduction every essay as I usually find that by writing down my plan of action in the introduction allows me to see where I should be going. I also do referencing throughout the draft process so that I’ve not got a whole lot of references to write up in the last week. Each paragraph is then written out and edited. Never worry about word count in the initial draft. Write out whatever you think is relevant- you can always edit. A big thing to look out for in your first draft is paragraph connections. Each paragraph should begin with a sentence that is your point/opinion. The paragraph should then be about (and only about) that one point. To make your essay flow better once you’ve concluded a paragraph, made your point fully with criticism to back it up, find a way to link your next paragraph. By doing this you allow yourself to think about connections throughout the essay and the writing will have a natural flow. At this stage do not worry about spelling or grammar.
Week 4: Final Edit and Upload
Once you have your paragraphs edited and connected I would now put them together into a word document. Your referencing should be complete and you can use that to compile your bibliography. This goes at the end of your essay and should be divided into Primary and Secondary reading and should be listed either in order of appearance of the essay or alphabetically. In this final edit you should be carefully checking for spelling/typing errors and incorrect grammar. Essays should have a formal tone. I would recommend leaving at least a day in between each edit in this final week. Re-reading constantly could make you less likely to spot a small mistake so taking time away can give you a fresher set of eyes to look over the essay. Once you are confident about the spelling and grammar and are happy with each of your points upload your essay! I tend not to leave essay submission until the last day purely because we upload online and the website has a tendency to be tricky on upload day as the whole school has the same deadline.
So there is how I plan my time for essay writing. I want to also say that there are infinite different ways to approach essay writing, this is just how I have found that I work best. If you have any special hints or tricks for making essay writing easier please let me know! I hope everyone is having a great day and is looking forward to the weekend!