Easter is a time for family, chocolate and holidays. Not if you have two 4000 word essays to write!
I started out with no idea, made a plan and then wrote one 4000 word essay in a week. I plan on starting the second tomorrow but I fought I’d share some ideas about planning, reading, note taking and of course writing to help you get started.
Plan you attack!
Don’t just go straight in and start writing with no idea what to write about or you will find yourself deleting a lot later. This may be OK to get some ideas down but not if you don’t have any references to back up what you say. and a note on references: you should be filling in your refrence list as you make your notes and write your essay, don’t decide to spend a day putting together the references list after you’ve written your essay because this will get very boring very fast. Also, don’t bother writing your references on paper, if you have something to type on handy then you might as well type out the whole reference then just copy and paste this to your list later.
Know your topic, spend a day speed reading around the topic area to get a good understanding. This gives you fuel for the rest of your essay so you don’t run out of steam half way through a great idea.
Keep it brief and accurate for now, critical writing comes later. Make notes on the on the limitations of the study! You need to cover the facts, what is the point you making? Then back this up with evidence, this is your reference. Then be critical, make some comments on limitations of the study.
Write your essay.
Turn those notes into sentences and then sentences into paragraphs. They may not make sense at first but it will start shape itself together, think of the sentences like jigsaw pieces to the paragraphs and paragraphs as the bigger pieces of the puzzle, the finished product being your essay. Don’t worry about the word count for now, it’s better to get all your ideas down and shorten your sentences later.
Give that word count a hair cut.
Trim down the paragraphs and cut those long quotes, so that each sentence builds on the next and your not simply repeating yourself. Go over the essay question constantly and take out anything that isn’t answering the question. This might be hard at first, especially if you thought you had a good idea, but you might find that you can make it fit somewhere else in your essay. Go over each paragraph and decide exactly how it is answering the question, give each paragraph a heading so that you can separate them into different sections.
Check your references list.
Make sure you’ve referenced correctly, there are different ways for journals, news reports, websites, government documents and edited books. you can find information for referencing on your Blackboard page, in your department or in your seminars. For Criminology we use the Harvard ref system which is easy to get used to after a while, it’s simply: Aurthur (date) title publisher: Location. This is what you might already be used to but as I said there are many different forms of documents to reference, especially for a Criminology Degree.
Take a break….
Reward yourself. Have some Easter eggs. Play some computer games. Come back to the essay after a few days with a fresh perspective.
Revise those sentences.
Make your essay enjoyable to read, don’t use overly complicated words if you don’t know what they mean! However, if your using the same descriptive adjectives over and over then you might want to Google some fancy words. Remain academic and critical at all times but don’t use complicated academic terms if you don’t understand them, your lecturer will know! You will have plenty of opportunities to improve your vocabulary at University due to the amount of reading you do, so I would recommend creating your own personal dictionary of all the new words and terms you come across. I simply downloaded a free dictionary app to my iPod, favorite all the new words I search and voir la! I have my own personalized dictionary.
I’m starting my next essay today for my Youth Crime module and hoping to do the question ‘why do children kill?’ but I have a feeling the key book for that (Cries Unheard: the Case of Mary Bell) is on loan 🙁 so a last piece of advise, use place holds well in advance! Have an idea of which question you’d like to do as soon as you get your question sheet, then you can put a hold on the books you want before everybody else takes them.
Good Luck with your essays!