How to write an essay in manageable steps

By Rachel Measures, BA (Hons) Media, 3rd Year.

Writing an essay can become a battle. A battle against your desire not to do it, a battle against procrastination, and a battle in getting everything done in time for your deadline. This is how I cope with essay writing, and all the techniques I have ‘mastered’ in the last two years of being a university student…

Technique #1: Little and Often…

Right from the beginning of the semester, I usually know what assignments I am expected to be writing and when my deadlines are. Even though at the start of the semester the jigsaw pieces of the assignment may not fit altogether into place, I can at least start researching, and trying to get my head around theories and content, so that when the crunch becomes real closer to the deadline, I have less of a struggle.

Technique #2: The 3 Week Schedule…

This is perhaps my most used technique. It’s three weeks until your deadline…

Week 1: Research which books you’re going to need to read for the assignment and then go and get them from the library on the Sunday. Then Monday to Thursday your task is to read through and collect all the quotes and ideas that you may need throughout your essay. On the Friday, you can read any articles or websites that might also be relevant.

Week 2: Get writing. In this week, it is your challenge to write as much of your essay as possible. Try and get your first draft finished by the end of the week. I start by setting out my document with all my notes on the topic, with what sections I’m going to have and then work little and often writing as much as I can.

Week 3: One week to go before the deadline, with your essay should be practically done. There’s no need to panic. Just ensure your essay is neatened up, edited and proofread before finally submitting. Then you can put your feet up and relax.

Technique #3: Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay

Similarly to my own techniques, Kathy breaks down the mammoth task of writing an essay into 7 simple steps…

  1. Pick a topic
  2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas
  3. Write your main statement: what are you arguing for or against?
  4. Write the main body
  5. Write the introduction
  6. Write the conclusion
  7. Add the finishing touches (review your assignment task, proofread).

When you first get to university, essays are a terrifying thought, but hopefully with the help of these techniques, you can break down your tasks into easy bite-size pieces much easier to finish. It’s also important to remember that your tutors are there to help you too, and if yours are anything like mine, they will more than willing to read over drafts of your assignments and give you as much guidance as you need.