The Challenges Of Writing An Essay – And How To Overcome Them!

If you’re a humanities or Social Sciences student then you’ll be faced with the task of writing an essay more than once. But getting it right can be a struggle. In fact, a study found that 46 per cent of California State University’s freshers struggle with writing!

The whole process of writing an essay can be a bit messy. Where do I start? How do I avoid plagiarism? What should my plan include? So many obstacles to overcome.

This short guide should help with that.


Step 1: Talk to your lecturer

So, you’ve got your essay title and you’re ready to start. But start where exactly? Well, you can start by getting the most out of that nine grand you pay per year of education. Have some one-on-one time with your lecturer!

Email them or go to see them during office hours. Find out what they want from your essay. This will give you an idea of what to include and stop you from wandering off-track.

Remember that your lecturer is an expert in the subject and they’re here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask! Talking to them could be the difference between a 2.1 and a first. Make a note of the advice that they give you so you don’t forget anything!


Step 2: Stop, drop and READ!

Reading a wealth of material is key before you even think about a plan. Jot down notes as you read, or after scanning each chapter. Your notes should include evidence and arguments relevant to your essay.

If you find anything unique or particularly interesting that you think will add a bit of originality to your essay, make a note of that too. Spice it up a bit! But don’t include anything that you’re unsure of: your essay needs to be accurate for you to get a good mark.


Step 3: Pick out a path

After careful reading, it’s time to organise your thoughts into a coherent structure. You should have some idea of what points you are going to make, and in what order you are going to make them. Outline the structure of your essay on a side of A4. For example, write a subheading for each new paragraph and a brief description of what it will include.

Remember that you don’t have to live by this template. You’ll probably end up moving paragraphs around and altering points when you start writing. Still, having something to go off will make planning and writing less hair-grabbing in the long run.


Step 4: Plan

It’s time to get reading again. Yay!

Now is also the time to start planning in detail. Not so yay!

Refer to your former reading notes and the A4 guide you’ve laid out. You can use these alongside more reading to create a detailed, bullet-point plan. Make sure you keep a record of the book and page number where you found each piece of information; it’ll shorten the referencing process when you’re writing.


Step 5: Get writing

Now you’ve got a detailed plan to follow, writing up the essay should be a straightforward process. Remember that your plan isn’t gospel; you’re entitled to mix things up. Add something new or leave something out if you think it works better that way.

Make sure you input your footnotes as you write; it’ll be a pain if you have to retrace your steps at the end and you’ll end up in a fluster.


Step 6: Plagiarism is a doddle to dodge

Plagiarism is easy enough to avoid, but it can also have some pretty serious consequences.

Make sure you put everything into your own words. Take the information and make it your own, and you’ll be right as rain. Remember never to copy a phrase or sentence directly from a source unless you’re going to include it in your essay as a quote. In this case, use quotation marks and a footnote; make it crystal clear to the marker that it’s a quotation.


Step 7: Hack your proof-read

Proof-read your essay as much as you can before you submit it. That’s an order! In the world of academia, there’s nothing quite as embarrassing as realising you used ‘their’ instead of ‘there’ after handing over your essay to an academic.

Before you proof-read your essay, change the font of the text. This change in the text will help you to identify mistakes more easily. Don’t forget to change the font back when you’ve finished though! Papyrus doesn’t exactly scream professionalism.


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