The Secret to Organizing Your Time to Write Essays

Rarely does a student enjoy being handed a topic and told to write pages and pages about it, but it's an essential part of just about every single degree program out there. And if you want to complete your degree program successfully, it'll help you a lot more to know the best way to write your paper early on in the game. While essays may seem like an abstract art form that take years to figure out, they're actually not: there's a formulaic science behind writing papers, and we're here to tell you exactly how they should be done.

Step 1: Start as Early as Possible

As soon as you learn about your paper and when it's due, start working on it. You're never going to have as much time to spend on it as you do right at the beginning, and you have to learn how to put time back on your side. Once you get your topic, plot out a schedule right away. What your schedule looks like will differ based on your familiarity with the topic and your writing skills, but it should look something like this:

Week One: Go to the library and check out at least three books on your topic. For example, if your essay topic is "How Politics in Post-Colonial Kenya Impacted their Trade Relations with the United States in the 20th Century", you should be looking at sources that deal specifically with that. Ignore books and articles that talk about Kenya's trade relations with all other countries except the United States, as they're just going to waste your time needlessly.

Week Two: Start skimming your materials. The difference between skimming and scanning is the former means to lightly browse reading material, while the latter is to read deeply and look for certain phrases. What you want to do is go through what you have and narrow down which sections and paragraphs are going to be most important.

In Week Two, you're also going to be making notes on what you've read, and one of the easiest ways of doing this is to put sticky notes at the tops of pages, with one or two words on what it's about. Alternatively, you can write this down on a piece of paper so you can have all your information in one spot.

Week Three: Start writing your essay. There are more steps involved than can fit in one paragraph, so read on to find out what you need to be doing.

Step 2: Crafting the First Draft

Very rarely can someone sit down in front of their computer and produce an essay awesomely the first time around, and have it so good that edits and revisions can't improve it at all. If you are that one in a million special student, you can skip ahead to the next section. For everyone else, keep on reading.

Most students find it a good idea to make a skeleton outline, such as writing a few bullet points about what each page or section will consist of. This helps keep your thoughts organized and on track, and gives you something concrete to refer back to.

And remember, your first draft should be just that: a draft. Just sit down in front of your computer and start typing, and don't worry at all about the quality of your content. The idea is to only get material in front of you without worrying about if it's "good" or not, as it's always easier to edit something than nothing.

Week Four: Editing your work and polishing it to a final piece. This doesn't necessarily have to happen in the last week before your essay is due, but there should be at least 72 hours between the time of your last draft and when your paper's due. This is so you get a break from being around it so much and can view it with fresh eyes, giving yourself the best chance possible to catch any last mistakes.