Is it just me or does this image make you feel very studious? It’s probably all an illusion. But it’s the tiny steps that matter because that’s still progress. We all have different ways of tackling essays and getting the best result. The thing is we have to take a chance and try different methods. Maybe you need 3 drafts, maybe you need to mind-map it, or maybe you need to read through everything first… Along the way we learn what works best for us. If you are struggling or want to try something new, these tips will help you.
- Shortlist Essay Questions: I’m usually given the list of essay questions at the start on my module handbook. Or I reckon you should at least be given a good time ahead before the deadline. It’s good for you to read through that handbook or at least the topics that are being covered in each lecture. Then check out the questions and select a few. You won’t panic later on. You can still change them later, of course, but you’re better prepared and also you can now zoom in on that specific lectures to decide on one and prepare it.
- Identify Keywords: This is for your essay question itself – know what are the action words, what the question wants from you, understand your audience and think about what angle you want to take the question. This will lead you to the next point…
- Paragraph Mapping/Skeletons: You have your keywords and you know how you want to tackle it. List out paragraph 1, 2, 3 etc and write down a few words or lines saying what that paragraph is going to be about. Always make sure it answers back to your question. If you struggle with word limit (exceeding or meeting), you can also just have a rough amount for each paragraph. Ideally it is: Introduction – 25%, Body – 50%, Conclusion – 25%. You could also ask your lecturers for help at this point and ask them to have a look.
- Research: This step can come in at any point – to see if you have any interest, if you can find enough resources, if its challenging enough for you. I have written an extensive post about this and you can check it out here.
- Drafts/Reread: I know some of my friends need drafts before they start on their final piece. You can always start working on that one piece from the start. No matter what, always make sure to reread and see if it all makes sense, do the paragraphs connect, are you being clear. You could also refer back to your marking criteria and see if you are ticking off each requirement. My lecturer gave a super useful tip – after writing each sentence, ask “so what?” Each sentence must be of substance.
Share some of your tips too!