Do you know a student who doesn't lack sleep? It's amazing how exhaustion is perceived as something normal when you're a student. You don't sleep for days because the exams are approaching and you have a huge essay marked with red on your schedule. That's normal; you're a student after all. Wait! No; it's not normal! If you're a student, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a life, does it?
So, you just decided to sleep from time to time. Finally, you're doing something normal. You start a daily exercise routine, you cook yourself some healthy meals, and you devote reasonable hours of the day to studying. But, what about that essay? When the deadline is dangerously close, you have no other option: you freak out! You start looking for essay writing tips that tell you the same thing over and over again: always start ahead of time. Yeah, like that's an option now.
Let's see what options you have in this situation:
- You can pull an all-nighter. But, you have to be ready for Murphy 's Law to hit you: just when you need to be really productive, you won't be able to write a single word because of all that stress you're going through.
- You can buy an essay. Outsourcing the project to a paper writing service may be the solution you need, but you don't always have money for that. What happens if it's the end of the month and you're completely broke? OMG! That perfect solution slipped away and you feel more miserable than ever.
- You can follow our guide with practical tips that help you write a great essay in a matter of hours. Now we're talking!
Step By Step Guide to Last-Minute Essay Writing
Step 0: Calm Down. Breathe!
When you're trying to figure out how to write a college essay really fast without sacrificing its quality, there is something preventing you to achieve that goal: stress. You're extremely anxious and you don't believe that the process will turn out well. So, you commit to writing a paper of mediocre quality because you think that's the best you can do with the time you have at hand. Wait; you're wrong!
Close your eyes for a moment and take few deep, deep breaths. Say to yourself: "I can do this. I CAN do this!" It sounds silly when someone tells you to do that, but it really works and you have to believe yourself when you say that. You need to approach this essay writing process with the right mindset, so don't even try to skip step 0.
Visualize the final result: it will be awesome. When you get relaxed, you create the space your mind needs for developing fresh ideas. The sense of control will enable you to get through each of the following steps easily, and it will make the entire process more actionable and less intimidating. Now that you're calm and confident, you can proceed further.
Step 1: Compress All Your Thoughts on Paper. Create a Killer Essay Outline!
Are you aware of the most common step of the essay writing process that students love to skip? It's the outline. Do you know what their biggest mistake is? - Skipping the outline. It may seem like a waste of time, since you're writing down the essential frame of the paper, which you'll then expand into an actual college essay format. No one will see the outline and your professor won't grade it. Does that mean you don't need it? Absolutely not!
Every guide on how to write an essay will tell you the same: start with an outline. There is a reason for that! You need to be aware of the essay structure, which will organize the chaos in your mind. Plus, mind-mapping is fun!
- Take a plain piece of paper and write down all ideas that come to your mind.
- Don't try to categorize the ideas as silly or awesome; just write them down.
- Then, the process of selection will come on stage. Observe those fragments of ideas and connect them into a single outline. Don't be too attached to them; some of them will be silly so you'll need to get rid of them and focus on the productive ones.
- Craft a clean mind map and follow its structure when you write the paper. For this purpose, you can use online mind-mapping software, such as MindMeister or MindMup.
Here is a sample of a plain mind map, created with online software. It should represent the basic features of the essay, so it will guide your thoughts in an organized manner.
When you have a mind map in front of you, you'll know exactly what you're trying to achieve. The essay writing process will be much faster thanks to the 10-15 minutes you spent in outlining.
Step 2: Research Now, Write Later
You thought you were ready to start writing? Not so fast! The best essays have a common feature: they are well-researched. The lack of time is not an excuse for lack of research. Your professor won't appreciate a repetitive paper based solely on your vague, unconvincing arguments.
Don't worry; the research process for a college essay doesn't take long. Here are a few tips that will help you conduct a research in less than 15 minutes:
- The important thing to keep in mind is the goal of writing a paper under the specific outline you have in mind.
- Try using Google Scholar instead of the good old Google. Let's take the example from the mind map above: imagine you're writing an essay on global warming. If you search Google, you'll have to dig deep to find authoritative sources you could use. You'll need to try searching with different phrases and keywords, and you don't have time for that, so you'll end up using the first random results you run into. They might help you get ideas for writing, but they won't convince the teacher you conducted a thorough research. If you search the web through Google Scholar, you'll find sources worthy of referencing solely by typing global warming.
- Don't neglect Wikipedia. It's an underestimated online source because it can be updated by the users, but it offers great information that you can use in your paper. That doesn't mean you can reference Wikipedia in an academic paper, though. Use it to find the information you need, and then locate that same information in a more authoritative online source.
How can you do that? By checking the citations on the Wikipedia page. They will quickly lead you to all the research you need. Choose few of those references, search the books, journals, research, and authors online, and voila - you just conducted a brilliant research in a matter of minutes.
Step 3: Write Like You Mean It
The mere fact that you're being forced to write an essay makes you hate the topic, no matter how hard your professor tried to make it intriguing. That's the wrong mindset to have. With all preparations you did by following the previous three writing tips, you already know how to start an essay and you have confidence that you can handle the process within the timeframe you have.
Now, all you need to do is write the content itself.
- Find a really interesting aspect that will intrigue you to write the best essay ever. Even the most boring topics have something interesting in them; you just need to discover it and add your own personality in the writing process. Let's take the same example again (we hope you're not getting bored by it): global warming.
- The introduction has to be amazing! Make it fun by using quotes or real-life experiences. Then, wrap it up with a powerful sentence and write it like you mean it!
- The body of the essay should provide arguments and evidence that prove the thesis statement.
- Finally, you need an outstanding conclusion. It needs to connect all loose ends of the paper's body, restate the thesis statement, and end with a bang. The conclusion is the part that leaves lasting impressions.
- Take care of the citations as you write! Whenever you use a certain resource as inspiration or support for your claims, make sure to reference it in accordance with the citation standard you follow.
Everyone will keep writing about the same things, but you're expected to offer something different. You can search for information and facts provided by scientists who don't believe in global warming. You can write a really fun essay making a case for them, but you can also use those claims just to shed light on the side of the issue that students and teachers rarely think of.
The reader should end up being satisfied, knowing that he learned something new from your essay and he just spent quality time with it. Leave some space for further research and intrigue the reader to dig deeper into the topic and find out more about the things you tackled.
Step 4: Tweak Your Text
You must be extremely happy about putting that last sentence of the conclusion in place, but you're not done yet! You'll need at least another half an hour to edit and proofread your essay. Every sentence has to make sense in terms of the thesis statement, and you cannot leave a single misspelling in the paper. You invested a lot of effort into this project; you can't ruin everything by submitting the first draft. A smart essay writer always edits!
Don't worry; the editing part is not that hard.
- Read the essay you just wrote. Take side notes of the corrections you intend to make. Don't start with the proofreading yet; that part will come a bit later.
- Are there any parts that don't fit in? Take them out. Are there gaps in the logical flow? Maybe you didn't support some of your claims with facts? Add the needed information wherever necessary.
- Once you're sure that the structure of the paper is fine, you can go with the final proofreading.
- Grammarly - a nifty tool that identifies more spelling and grammar mistakes than your usual word processor.
- Hemingway Editor - it marks the complex sentences and it encourages you to make the essay as readable as possible.
Here are two tools you can use during the editing and proofreading processes:
Step 5: Own Your Essay
Remember when you did all that research? Maybe you got too inspired by some of the sources so you copied the ideas without being aware of what you were doing? You really need to check the paper for plagiarism before submitting it. These are the right tools to use during this stage:
- Plagtracker - plagiarism tracking engine that warns you about the suspicious parts of the content. When you identify the sections that are not entirely unique, you can either paraphrase them or reference the sources.
- Citation Machine - You really need to proofread and format the references as a final step of the process. Thanks to Citation Machine, you can automate the process.
Over to You
If you followed all these steps, you have an essay that's ready for submission. Whoa, that wasn't easy, but you did it! Now, take long, deep breaths. Congratulate yourself and go to sleep!
Read all news
There's nothing like an approaching deadline to give you the motivation (and fear) you need to get writing – don't stress though, we're here to help you out!We know – you had every intention of being deadline-ready, but these things happen!
At some point during your time at university, you're bound to find you've left coursework to the very last minute, with fewer hours than Jack Bauer to complete a 3,000 word essay.
But don't sweat, cause 3,000 words in a day is totally doable! Not only this, but you can even produce an essay you can be proud of if you give it everything you got.
Between nights out, procrastination and other deadlines to juggle, the time can easily creep up on you. However, the worst thing you can do in this situation is panic, so keep calm, mop up the cold sweats and read on to find out how to nail that essay in unbelievable time!
Just to clarify – we're certainly not encouraging anyone to leave it all to the last minute, but if you do happen to find yourself in a pickle, you're going to need some help – and we're the guys for the job.
Are you a procrastination master? Check out these 13 hacks that will do wonders for your productivity levels, or these apps to help streamline your life!
Credit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos – Flickr
Fail to plan and you plan to fail – or so our lecturers keep telling us. Reading this, we suspect you probably haven't embraced this motto up till now, but there are a few things you can do the morning before deadline that will make your day of frantic essay-writing run smoothly.
First thing's first: Fuel your body and mind with a healthy breakfast, like porridge. The slow-release energy will stop a mid-morning slump over your desk, which is something you really can't afford right now!
Not in the mood for porridge? Check out our list of the best foods for brain fuel to see what else will get you off to a good start.
Pick your work station
Choose a quiet area where you know you won't be disturbed. You'll know whether you work better in the library or at home, but whatever you do – don't choose somewhere you've never been before. You need to be confident that you'll be comfortable and able to focus for as long as possible.
Be organised and come equipped with two pens (no nipping to the shop because you ran out of ink), bottled water, any notes you have, and some snacks to use as mini-rewards. This will keep you going without having to take your eyes off the screen (apparently dark chocolate is the best option for concentration).
Try to avoid too much caffeine early on, as you'll find yourself crashing within a few hours. This includes energy drinks, by the way!
Shut out the world
Procrastination is every student's forte, so turn off your phone (or at least switch notifications off) and refrain from checking Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other social media channels you're addicted to. We mean it!
A good tip is to get a friend to change your Facebook password for you for 24 hours and make them promise not to tell you it, even if you beg (choose a friend that enjoys watching you squirm). Otherwise, you can also temporarily deactivate your account.
Set yourself goals
Time management is of utmost importance when you have 24 hours before deadline. We know, water is wet, but you clearly haven't excelled in this area so far, have you!
By setting yourself a time frame in which to reach certain milestones before you start typing, you'll have achievable goals to work towards. This is a great method of working, as it makes the prospect of conjuring up 3,000 words from thin air much less daunting if you consider the time in small blocks.
Let's say it's 9am and your essay is due in first thing tomorrow morning. Here's a feasible timeline that you can follow:
- 9:00 – 9:30 – Have your essay question chosen and argument ready
- 9:30 – 9:45 – Break/ snack
- 10:00 – 12:00 – Write a full outline/plan of your essay
- 12:00 – 13:00 – Write your introduction
- 13:00 – 14:00 – Take a break and grab some lunch (you deserve it)
- 14:00 – 16:00 – Get back to your desk and do all your research on quotes etc. that will back up your argument
- 16:00 – 20:30 – Write all of your content (with a dinner break somewhere in the middle)
- 20:30 – 22:30 – Edit and improve – extremely important step, so take time with this
- 22:30 – 23:00 – Print and prepare ready for the morning
- 23:00 – (morning) – If you've not finished by this point, don't worry – completing in time is still possible. Just make sure you've eaten well and have enough energy to last you until the early hours of the morning.
Also remember to schedule in a few breaks – you need to spend the whole 24 hours productively, and you can't be on form for a full day without short breaks to rest your eyes (and your brain!).
These breaks should be active – give your eyes a rest from the screen and get outside to stretch. We recommend a ten minute break at least every 1.5 hours.
Choosing a question and approach
Time: 9am – 12pm
If you've been given a choice of essay questions, you should choose the one you feel most strongly about, or have the most knowledge about (i.e the topics you actually went to the lectures for!).
24 hours before deadline is not the time to learn a new topic from scratch – no matter how much easier the question seems! Also, beware of questions that seem easy at first glance, as often you'll find that the shorter questions or the ones using the most straight-forward language can be the hardest ones to tackle.
Next, decide your approach. How are you going to tackle the question? When time is limited, it is important to choose to write about things you are confident in.
Remember that it's your essay and as long as you relate your argument to the question and construct a clear, well supported argument, you can take it in any direction you choose. Use this to your advantage!
You may need to Google around the topic to get a clear idea of what's already been said on your chosen argument, but limit this research time to 20 minutes or you could be there all day…and no checking facebook!
Now, type out 3-5 key points that you'll aim to tackle in your argument, and underneath these use bullet points to list all the information and opinions, supporting arguments or quotes you have for each point. Start with the most obvious argument, as this will provide something to link your other points back to – the key to a good essay.
Once you've done this, you'll now find you have a detailed outline of the body of your essay, and it'll be a matter of filling in between the lines of each bullet point. This method is perfect for writing against the clock, as it ensures you stay focused on your question and argument without going off in any tangents.
Nailing that introduction
Credit: Steve Czajka – Flickr
Time: 12pm – 1pm
Sometimes the introduction can be the most difficult part to write, but that's because it's also the most important part!
Don't worry too much about making it sound amazing at this point – just get stuck into introducing your argument in response to your chosen question and telling the reader how you will support it. You can go back and make yourself sound smarter later on when you're at the editing stage.
Create something of a mini-outline in your introduction so you signpost exactly what it is you're planning to argue. Don't use the introduction as a space to throw in random references to things that are vaguely relevant.
When in doubt, leave it out!
Doing your research
Credit: Photo Monkey
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Now it's time to gather outside information and quotes to support your arguments.
It's important to limit the time you spend on this, as it is easy to get distracted when Google presents you with copious amounts of irrelevant information. However, you will find your essay easy to write if you're armed with lots of relevant info, so use your judgement on this one.
Choose search keywords wisely and copy and paste key ideas and quotes into a separate ‘Research' document. If using reference books rather than online, give yourself ten minutes to get anything that looks useful from the library, skip to chapters that look relevant and remember to use the index!
Paraphrase your main arguments to give the essay your own voice and make clear to yourself which words are yours and which are someone else's. Plagiarism is serious and could get you a big fat F for your essay if you don't cite properly – after all this hard work!
Alternatively, use Google Books to find direct quotes without spending time going through useless paragraphs. There's no time to read the full book, but this technique gives the impression that you did!
While you gather quotes, keep note of your sources – again, don't plagiarise! Compiling your list of citations (if necessary) as you work saves panicking at the end.
Extra referencing tips!
Take quotes by other authors included in the book you're reading. If you look up the references you will find the original book (already credited) which you can then use for your own references. This way it looks like you have read more books than you have, too. Sneaky!
Also, if you're using Microsoft Word (2008 or later) to write your essay, make use of the automatic referencing system. Simply enter the details of sources as you go along, and it will automatically create a perfect bibliography or works cited page at the end. This tool is AMAZING and could save you a lot of extra work typing out your references and bibliography.
Bashing those words out
Credit: Rainer Stropek – Flickr
Time: 4pm – 8.30pm
Get typing! Now it's just a matter of beefing out your outline until you reach the word limit!
Get all your content down and don't worry too much about writing style. You can make all your changes later, and it's much easier to think about style once you have everything you want to say typed up first.
More ideas could occur to you as you go along, so jot these ideas down on a notepad – they could come in handy if you need to make up the word count later!
Use the research you gathered earlier to support the key ideas you set out in your outline in a concise way until you have reached around 2,500(ish) words.
If you're struggling to reach the word limit, don't panic. Pick out a single point in your argument that you feel hasn't been fully built upon and head back to your research. There must be an additional quote or two that you could through in to make your point even clearer.
Imagine your essay is a bit like a kebab stick: The meat is your essential points and you build on them and build around each piece of meat with vegetables (quotes or remarks) to make the full kebab… time for a dinner break?
Editing to perfection
Time: 8.30pm – 10.30pm
Ensure that all the points you wanted to explore are on paper (or screen) and explained fully. Are all your facts correct? Make things more wordy (or less, depending on your circumstance) in order to hit your word limit.
You should also check that your essay flows nicely. Are your paragraphs linked? Does it all make sense? Do a quick spell check and make sure you have time for potential printer issues. We've all been there!
A lot of students overlook the importance of spelling and grammar. It differs from uni to uni, subject to subject and tutor to tutor, but generally your writing style, spelling and grammar can account for up to 10-20% of your grade. Make sure you edit properly!
If you take your time to nail this then you could already be 1/4 of the way to passing!
Time to get started…
While completing essays 24 hours before the deadline is far from recommended and unlikely to get you the best grades you've ever gotten (try our top tips for getting a first if that's your goal), this guide should at least prevent tears in the library (been there) and the need for any extensions. Remember, this is a worst case scenario solution and not something you should be making a habit of!
Now, why are you still reading? We all know you've got work to do! Good luck!
Exams coming up? Check out our guide on how to revise in one day too. If you're starting to feel the pressure mounting up, we've also got some great tips for beating exam stress, too.
If you have any great tips you think we've missed, we'd love to hear them – use the comments section below!