If you’re like me chances are that you find it really painful to sit down in front of the computer, keen on starting or keep working on that dreaded essay that’s due next week, and you haven’t finished it because you’re just stuck. Now, I’m not promising here a magical way to get rid of them or telling you to hire a VA to do them for you, no, that’d be cheating and honestly, like I said before, you’re only reading this because you’re like me, and that my friend means you enjoy writing, but only when it comes easy and with no (or at least a few) complications.
What I do offer here though, is a way of tackling your essay question with a strategy that’s helped me before and which I developed at university. See, before I started using this method I’d read an essay topic and jump off the chair and start jotting down likely main points, just to find myself beating my head against a wall because I’d be stuck and upset as a result. My method helped me understand that the key to a good essay lies in the topic or question. It’s critical that you study, memorise and analyse this question. Remember, your killer essay depends on this.
After memorising your question you’re ready to sit and follow this simple process, which I promise will help you a ton when doing essays, and once it becomes part and parcel of your essay writing process, you’ll see amazing improvements in grades and you’ll be churning out pieces and having more free-time to do whatever you want.
There are 7 simple steps in this method. It’s not a linear model, which means you can always go back and review your steps at any stage. Keep in mind that writing is a creative activity, and as such linear models aren’t the best option out there. So here it is what you need to do in order to get amazing essays:
1. What’s the question about?
Here basically make a list of all the words in the question that prompt your attention. Do you understand every single word? If not, look them up in a dictionary and write their meaning.
Next, and this is very important too, think about the assumptions that seem to be within the question. Are there any underlying preconceived ideas?
2. What do I already know about the question?
Jot down any ideas that come to your mind when you read the question.
Think about previous knowledge you may have about the topic. This could help you a lot when the time to do you research comes.
3. What might my thesis or argument be?
A basic rule about essays is that they generally portray a thesis (main idea) which is supported by various arguments. Without a thesis and arguments to support it you’ve got nothing. Back to the drawing board. Therefore, thinking about the way you’re going to back what you’re about to say is crucial. It’s the essence of your essay.
4. How much depth can this essay have?
This is pretty much pre-established by your tutor. Normally, you’d be told the minimum number of words or pages and you’d have to stick to that number. This is a good thing because it definitely sets some limits to the amount of research that we have to do.
Also, it gives us an idea of how many main points (arguments) we should include in our essay. At this point you might have to go back to previous steps and check that all the pieces of the puzzle are fitting well.
5. What are the possible main points?
This is where you’re going to take those possible arguments you came up with in step 3 and you’re going to define key terms or questions having these questions in mind. You’re then ready to start your research based on those key words.
6. Which structure?
There are two types of essays: argumentative and informative. You might be wondering how to go about finding out which one you’re supposed to follow. The answer is simple, remember step 1? Some of the words you studied included verbs, and these verbs will tell you the type of essay you’re meant to write. If in the question you come across verbs like ‘think’, ‘discuss’ or ‘reflect’ you can be sure they want you to write an argumentative essay. If, on the other hand, they ask you to ‘contrast’, ‘describe’ or ‘explain’, you’re being asked to do an informative essay. This is important because the way you present your arguments changes according to the style or type of essay you’re putting together.
7. What about personal opinions?
If you’re writing an argumentative essay you will have to decide on your position and thesis. Therefore, you’re expected to include your opinion and be prepared to defend it with your arguments. However, if you’re doing an informative essay, you shouldn’t include personal opinions; in fact you should strive to avoid the pronoun ‘I’ at all costs, and try to be as objective as reasonably possible.
By far this is not all there is to writing essays. There are literally loads of information out there about this topic. This is just my humble contribution to you so you can get to enjoy writing as much as I do. These are guidelines that I’ve developed to help myself in the past. I hope you’ll find them useful as well.