I've nearly finished my first year with the Open University and well having a year out from education was pretty daunting in itself, but getting into the swing of writing proper essays again took a little getting used to again. I'm not claiming I'm a saint at writing I'm far from it but I've learnt a lot of tips and tricks that help me out when I hate to write monstrous essays, and like anyone it can be exhausting and effort to take your time to perfect your work. So I hope to achieve in this post to share some personal tips of my own that will help those of you who are needing a bit of friendly advice to enhance your essay writing.
First things first, get yourself set up. Grab yourself a drink and any brain foods that will help you power through this journey ahead of you, I fully recommend coffee and a glass of water too. Coffee will keep you alert but water will be better to hydrate you so you don't gain a headache half way through. As for snacks, bananas are good for the brain (so nutritionists tell me!) and for energy too. I don't know about you but I definitely get peckish when I'm thinking up what to write in essays, and I'm guilty of eating junk food- don't do what I do get that bag of grapes!
I find that having a clean and clear working environment is helpful too, having too much mess around you can put you in a mood and unmotivated to get cracking with planning your essay. Have a bit of a tidy up a clean room aids a clear mind, and I also think that having a window open to allow fresh air in helps too.
So now you're ready to absolutely smash this essay, so what do you do now?
Make a plan, I reckon you've heard that so many times in school and you've thought to yourself "I don't like plans", "it's wasting essay writing time", "plans don't work for me." Well I'm going to be that annoying person and tell you that making a plan is essential to keep you on track of answering the essay question. Whether you create a mind map or simply write bullet points, it will help tremendously. Use subheadings like your "Introduction" (what your essay is about with some background), "Main Body" (providing your points/arguments), "Conclusion" (summing up your thoughts) and lastly your "Bibliography" (to record the sources you've used). Once you've estabilished this you can begin to write points underneath each one as to what you're going to include in the essay- this keeps your thoughts coherent and easy to follow. You may even find that some essay's require you to provide a plan, and even mean gaining more marks- so don't knock them!
You may find yourself with a big word count and your brain goes into meltdown, and a tip I can offer that I put to practice is to divide up your paragraphs using the word count. Your introduction and conclusion should be about the same amount, and your main body the bulk of the word count. The bibliographies are not normally included in the word count so don't worry about that unless you need to.
Re-read the question several times, I can't tell you how many times I've had a feedback comment telling me that I've made silly mistakes from not reading the question properly. It's unlikely that this will always happen but for clarity and understanding, re-read the question several times so your brain can establish what the question is asking you to do.
This leads onto my next point...stick to the point of what the question is asking you to do. If you're adding something that has no relevance to the question- get rid of it. You're most unlikely to get any marks and therefore using up the word count, again re-read the question to make sure you know what it's asking and what you need to include and not what you think you should include. Answering the question direct without waffling will be clear for the marker and helpful to you because you won't panic about going over the word count.
Again relating to the previous point make sure you don't use extra resources unless you're told to do so, if the question/guidance notes have specifically said to use other sources then by all means do so. Don't do it when there is no mention of doing so, you'll again be wasting precious essay writing time and you may not even gain extra marks from doing so. It's awesome that you're passionate to find out more on the topic but if it doesn't gain you extra credit then well that's a shame and you'll feel annoyed/disappointed.
With regards to using sources that aren't course material ensure that your sources are reliable, don't grab snippets from sites like Wikipedia- anyone can edit them and make something up that will discredit your work. Often teachers/lecturers will provide helpful links to you, use them if you need to. You can tell if a source is reliable from the author of the article, and sometimes by the URL such as having "edu" in them for example meaning education. Knowing where the source is from is key too with regards to them possibly being biased, and therefore not reliable.
By now you're fed up of this essay and you just want it over and done with- I know! The second to last task is to record the sources you've used in your bibliography, even if they're course materials. If you've used information/quotes from them then you need to record that in the bibliography and using in-text citations (source name and date next to the quote) in your essay. Normally what's required is the: Name of the author (date), title, editors, edition, website link/name of book, the place the source was written and a page number. Do be sure to check the requirements specifically for your course and what your teacher/lecturer is after, and formatting these sources can easily be found online so don't panic!
You're finally finished- yay! Well done you, give yourself a pat on the back and a bit of chocolate to rewards yourself. Oh but wait you haven't done the most important thing to finish completely...proof read your work! I can't convey how many times I've spotted silly grammar mistakes, or structured my sentences wrong in an essay because I haven't checked my work (I've probably mad mistakes writing this post-oops!). Don't make this mistake too it can lose your valuable marks! Re-read through your work for mistakes, reading it out loud can help more so and if you think it's downright perfect give it to someone else to check for reassurance!
There you have it, you've completed your essay and you're going to get a brilliant mark because you've been organised and worked your butt off to ensure you've written the essay to the best of your ability- I'm proud of you! :)
I hope this post has in some way helped you or at least given you some confidence in your writing, and any feedback of your own is more than welcome to be shared. If we can help each other out we can be amazing essay writers and achieve well- I know you can do it!