As deadlines are approaching for the second time this year, these helpful tips will come in handy if you’re starting to feel a sense of impending doom, and have no idea where to start. Most should also help you write a well thought-out essay, no matter how long you have to write it.

  • Setting Prior Deadlines

If you haven’t left things untill the last minute setting yourself deadlines at the beginning of term for when you need to have chosen a question, researched, planned, and written your essay, is ideal. If you haven’t already done this do not worry, but keep it in mind for next term.

  • Research

It’s the foundation of any good essay. When doing research on any essay topic, make sure you stay specific to the question at hand. Do not just research the author of a book, or look up vague facts about a certain period of time. You should make sure you have decent knowledge of the issues and debates that surround your question because you do not want to make the rookie mistake making a rudimentary arguement that already exists. After you know what arguments people have already made about the subject you will be better able to position your own argument in relation to what has already been said. If you do not have much time, still skim through critiques on the subject you are writing on. Library search and google books are ideal sources.

  • Plan

This is probably the most important tip in the list. We have been told to plan since secondary school, but still struggle to do it adequately. I would recommend finding techniques that works for you. Possible solutions include; mind maps on A4 of initial thoughts and research points, and quotes; bullet point list breakdowns of what points will be in which paragraph, and giving the paragraphs subheadings so that you know what each one will be about. Ideally your planning techniques should not take too long, but it will give you an idea of the structure of your essay and its content. Even if you have 24 hours to do an essay, planning it is still important, or you risk your essay looking like incoherent word vomit.

  • Be original

When choosing your argument try to look at how you can add to the discourse of your essay topic. Don’t just regurgitate what other critics have already tried to argue; instead engage with criticisms to reflect your opinion, even if it just builds upon what someone has already said.

  • Take Breaks

This may sound counter intuitive, procrastinators may be screaming that they don’t have time for breaks, but you need them. Not sitting in the same place, making a snack, having a ten minute dance party, or just taking a short walk will help keep your mind refreshed. For people like me, who struggle with a work/break balance I recommend the Pomodoro technique. This is where you work for a set amount of time and then take a 10 to 15 minute break, before starting the cycle again. Personally I find 30 minutes of work and then a 10 minute break ideal for when I’m feeling a little slow, and 45 minute work sessions for productive days with a 15 minute break.