For years in both high school and college, I’ve pretty effortlessly been able to pound out essays and research papers. It’s just luckily one of the gifts I was blessed with, thank God…. because I was also cursed with ADHD. So, pounding out that college essay in the 12 hours before it was due was something I really needed out of life. It saved me quite a few failures.
Somewhere in the very beginning of my essay writing days, probably around 5th grade, I vaguely remember a teacher telling us to come up with a thesis statement and a topic sentence for each paragraph of the paper that we would write.
This has always stuck with me.
If you do absolutely nothing else ahead of time, make a basic outline. Figure out what your actual topic is going to be about or what you’re trying to argue, and make up a thesis statement for your paper. -You don’t necessarily have to use it in the end, but it will help you to have it.- What are you trying to prove or disprove? What is your main argument? Hell, just what are you going to be expounding on in said paper?
This will quite literally save your life when you’re down to crunch time, and you’re freaking out in your Adderall and caffeine induced panic attack. (Just kidding, Drugs are bad, mmmkay.) Chill the fuck out, and pull out your outline. It’s literally ALL you need to make this happen. All the rest is bullshit and quotations.
AN OUTLINE WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE!!
~Begin Filling In
Once you have your outline, a large part of the weight is really off your shoulders because you have the basis of what your entire paper is going to be about. There isn’t really a ton more to have to think about.
I generally have a very vague direction in mind for each of my outline paragraphs once I’ve created the outline. To go from there is generally pretty simple. The hardest part is forcing yourself to sit down and ignore all the distractions around you. How?!
Well, my favorite way to ignore distractions and get to writing is to find some classical (or if that’s not your cup of tea, at least instrumental only) music and a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. My personal preference when doing an outline and first draft of most essays is to actually pen and paper write them first. But….. I’m kind of a weirdo. I tend to get a lot more out of my head to work with by just jotting it into a notebook with a pen and scratching things out and rewriting as I go.
DO YOUR FIRST DRAFT HOW YOU ARE MOST COMFORTABLE!
Being comfortable will help you get the most out of your head and onto paper (or computer.)
It is 100% best to do this ahead of time. If you wait until the day before, you’ll have no way of being comfortable because you’ll know exactly how strapped for time you are.
~Use big words accurately!
Seriously. If you’re gonna use them, please make sure you’re using them correctly. It’s really best to try to look these up and throw them into your outline, so you’re not trying to come up with stuff the night before that you can’t get someone else to proofread for you. If you’re not absolutely sure you’re using a “big word” correctly, best to take it out unless you have a super smart friend who can make sure for you.
But, use of words that make you sound smarter are always a good way to impress most basic English teachers/professors. And…. for essays outside of the English classes like History and Chemistry — you’re gonna blow them out of the water most of the time.
~Word / Page Requirement?! 🙁
Now, some sadistic professors may have word or page count limitations for their preferred length of paper. These are paper destroyers for those of us who can concisely say what we want to say in half the number of words, but it is what it is. Some professors will even give you a big fat ZERO if you don’t meet their minimum requirements.
So….. what do you do in this case?
Well, once you’re finished writing the paper that you think is perfection prior to having to make it a certain length, put it all into Microsoft Word or whatever software you’re using if you haven’t already. Then, check your word and/or page count. If you’re at or past the limit, congratulations! You’re golden. If not, well here we go.
When it comes to writing papers, my personal preference is to write it the exact way that I want to write it with the bare minimum of requirements.
So, let’s say your professor is requiring one quotation. My first draft will include only one quotation from whatever text I’m using.
Once I’m finished my first draft with all original requirements, then I want to check my length requirements. If I know I need 300 more words, then that’s when we go in and start tweaking.
My personal preference and the preference of most actual writers and editors is to write things with as few words as possible to make them understood. I try to keep to this as much as possible even when I’m trying to increase my word count. I don’t want to add just bullshit words into sentences until the very last minute. This will water down your paper and make it much less enjoyable to read.
(Is it the professor’s fault for instituting a word requirement? – Definitely. –But you still don’t want your grade to suffer because of your professor’s stupid rule.)
My favorite thing to do to increase my word count when I know I’ve already written a phenomenal essay is to add in a couple more quotations from whatever text I’m using. Now, the rule for this is they have to actually add something to whatever paragraph you decide to add them into. Don’t just add some bullshit quotation in a random spot where it doesn’t make any sense. Place it well, so that it adds to your argument or statement rather than detracting.
If I’m outrageously short on words, it most likely means that I didn’t come up with enough points for the essay to begin with. You may have to actually rework your essay to add another paragraph or topic in altogether.
DO NOT FORGET TO DO YOUR BIBLIOGRAPHY IF ONE IS REQUIRED!
REMEMBER TO FORMAT IN WHICHEVER STYLE YOUR PROFESSOR IS REQUIRING! Find more about MLA formatting here. Find more about APA formatting here.
DO NOT WRITE AN ESSAY HOW YOU BLOG! — IT GENERALLY SHOULDN’T BE WRITTEN HOW YOU WOULD SPEAK IN REAL LIFE. AND NEVER END A SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSITION!
IF YOU’RE FINISHED DAYS AHEAD OF TIME, ASK YOUR COLLEGE PROFESSOR IF HE OR SHE WILL GO OVER YOUR COLLEGE ESSAY BEFORE YOU HAVE TO TURN IT IN. SOME WILL. SOME WILL NOT, BUT ALMOST ALL OF THEM WILL DIRECT YOU TO A TUTORING CENTER ON CAMPUS THAT WILL GO OVER IT WITH YOU IF THEY ARE UNWILLING.
There’s a ton more I have to say on this subject. Perhaps, I’ll put out a full tutorial series on writing the perfect essay or research paper. I’ve met many students along the way who did NOT have a good understanding at all of the proper way to lay out an essay.
Y’all are ridiculously lucky to have programs and software like Grammarly now. We had none of that when I was growing up. Of course, that isn’t saying much. The internet was just being put into normal households when I was a teenager…. Dear Lord, I’m old!
Y’all comment things that I forgot or things that you want to see better explained in a series.