Deadlines might be looming – but don’t fear. Here are my top tips to essay writing:
Top Tip: Don’t read everything! It’s a waste of time.
It can feel overwhelming, but the biggest thing to keep in mind at this stage is that you don’t have to read everything (and you shouldn’t).
The most effective way to tackle reading is to stay focused. Make sure what you’re reading is applicable to your essay. Check out the abstract/table of contents before reading to decide if it’s useful or not. I recommend skim-reading through the parts of the paper that are less relevant.
If there’s a specific concept or theory you’re looking for, check out the index at the back (I somehow didn’t think to do this until midway through my degree). It’s also super handy to keep tabs on the parts of the text that you want to use in your essay – tab them or type them out on your computer (along with their page numbers!).
This is an essential stage for me because I find that it is much easier to ‘see’ the discussion when it is condensed and to cut and rearrange parts of your essay when it’s already separated into bullet points. I always like to take a moment to edit my plan before moving on to writing. I make sure that the the argument is sound, that it is focused and most importantly, answers the essay question.
Top Tip: Don’t try to put everything and the kitchen sink into your essay. Ask yourself if what you’re saying relates to the topic in hand. Be ruthless too. If it’s not relevant it needs to go. I have found it much better to write more about less instead of discussing too much and end up not saying nothing much about anything.
Writing and Editing
This is the point to put everything into sentences and paragraphs. I find this step pretty simple if I’ve written out a good plan beforehand. I’m not too big on editing my essays after I’ve written it. I usually read it over once to make sure there aren’t any grammatical errors, but most of the editing for me has been done before writing.
Top Tip: Keep the writing simple and keep the thesaurus at arms length. Bigger words aren’t necessarily better.
Essay-writing is a personal process – don’t feel like you have to abide by any one else’s process. But do experiment, especially in pre-honours – it’s the only way you’ll find out what works for you. Good Luck!