The start of real academic work has properly begun. Even though many people have been attending seminars, watching lectures and completing their reading, this has probably been happening alongside a lot of leisure.
As long as you have viewed your lectures, and your essential reading is finished, however, you can, by and large, get through most seminars unscathed.
Yet that is not only what we are here for. Essays and assignments are part of the academic process, demonstrating whether you understand the content you’ve been taught and can apply it to a specific question.
Surely part of the fun is having to push yourself academically
Naturally, these are a step up from A-levels and previous assignments, and initially may appear really tricky. They certainly did for me. But what would be the point of coming to university otherwise? Surely part of the fun, if that’s the right word, is having to push yourself academically, and getting to try something new? Although it may seem difficult, to begin with, it may actually help you in the long term.
There are many important steps to performing well in such assignments. The first is being aware of the housekeeping rules of your essays. How many do you have to submit? What is the word count? When are the deadlines? Do the assignments count towards your final mark?
Being aware of these basic facts will make planning and academic writing far easier. If your word count is 2,500 words, you will obviously structure and write a very different essay to if the word count was only 1,500 words.
Think of essays as an exciting opportunity to read and discover new knowledge
This is where the planning comes in. For a large part of the planning process, your ideas will be based on those in the recommended reading- your academic tutors will have suggested them for a reason. I tend to look through the recommended reading and make some key bullet points that I think could be relevant to the question I have chosen. Don’t, however, limit yourself to the recommended reading – the Warwick University Library has hundreds of online articles and books that could prove useful.
When you’ve completed a significant amount of reading, the drafting process can begin. It is essential that you give yourself enough time to do this. I deeply admire people who can write the first draft and that be the final product- I can’t do that, as my essays require a decent amount of editing. By quickly getting the first draft down onto paper, it makes the editing process far easier.
I used to try and write a complete first draft in one day, but I realised that that was ineffective, and actually took me longer to edit. Instead, I try to write a paragraph of my essay each day. Often, with multiple essays on the go, that will mean writing multiple paragraphs each day, but spreading the information across a wide range of content, makes the writing process far easier.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself
When I’m writing, the word count will always be at the centre of my attention. Go over and you lose marks- too short and it becomes far harder to make a convincing argument. This is particularly relevant when redrafting, as you need to make sure that every sentence makes sense and has a purpose- otherwise, why have you included it? Being rigorous and tough on yourself will make it easier when it comes to submitting the final draft.
Even though every essay varies from degree to degree, try to think of essays as an exciting opportunity to read and discover new knowledge. You have the opportunity to make an academic argument and have it read, explored, and analysed by staff at the top of their game- make the most of this.
Just try not to put too much pressure on yourself- the most important point to remember is to always give yourself enough time to plan, so you can make your points in the most coherent way possible.