8 Steps to Writing a Great Essay or Report

There have been so many times when I sat down to write an essay and nothing got done, or I’d go off on one and before you know it I have 1000 words of nonsense to proofread. So, here is the plan I have devised for myself (beta tested on brothers, mothers, and roommates) to help prepare myself for an essay.

1. Find a situation that suits you. If you work best under pressure, set your personal deadline for it 2 days before it’s due and work under your own deadline the night before your feisty self wants it. If you need time, give yourself time.

2. Do some research. Do not go straight from a meeting/class/event to your computer. Talk to people, read a bit, look things up on the internet, watch a related film or documentary. And then give your brain some time to deal with that so sleep on it. Everything was always clearer and easier for me to comprehend the next day (as long as I fully understood it in the first place). Take notes into a document: this will be your fact file so email, text or post it note messages to yourself to remember key titbits.

Once you’re here, you can start thinking about your message. Don’t bother writing (or even saying) anything if you haven’t got anything to actually say. Find your message, and stick to it…or argue against it in the conclusion, but have a journey with it.

3. Plan it – this is the most important stage I think. You can even do this before all the other points, but here seemed the best place for those who needed to see the bit about research and not jump the gun. Everything can be planned when you’re writing an essay: it will always have a beginning, middle and end, so space it out sensibly, like this:

Planning an essay

4. Find your space – a good place to study is crucial.

a. Sit at a desk, on a nice chair (not armchair I’m afraid), sit feet shoulder width apart, back straight, hands on the table, fingers curled on the keyboard. This will reduce the risk of RSI and general back pain from sitting at a desk too long.

b. Do not clutter your desk – have only the essentials: computer, drink, snack, book, pens. Anything else can be kept off the desk in a bag on the floor.

c. Have the colour green nearby, apparently that encourages creativity (and even a spreadsheet could do with a bit of that from time to time!).

d. Have lots of natural and synthetic light – studies proved that productivity increased incredibly when offices brightened their light.

e. Decide your music: if you want to listen to music, have it on a player in your pocket, a premade playlist and if you are using words in your work, listen to instrumental music. As we know from sea shanties and chain gang history, people sang and listened to music to get a rhythm going with their work. HOWEVER, if you are writing about music, scrap the whole thing and only listen to what you are writing about.

5. Take breaks at pre-set intervals that get longer – work for 20 mins, break for 5 mins; work for 25 mins, break for 7 mins; work for 30 mins, break for 10; etc…or if you work better in larger time frames, do the same on a bigger scale.

6. Proof read – just do it. Not just as you go along (though it wouldn’t hurt to after each paragraph) but also at the end. And remember: our eyes fill in words that aren’t there! Get someone else to proof read it, or get the computer to do it for you. Listen and read your essay as they speak – a good sign is if it sounds as natural as talking, but without being informal. A good test to determine this is reading it out loud – if you can’t do it without tripping up on the words, it may be overcomplicated.

7. Bring in your first finished draft to your teacher/supervisor. They will give you notes that will mean the final essay that you actually handed in is exactly what they asked you for and written to the quality they expected. Now aren’t you glad you left yourself some time to make amendments?

8. Sit back and enjoy your good grade or praise. ☺

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