Do you have problems with sequencing, time management or organisation?
Students with neuro-diverse difficulties of sequencing, problems with working memory and time management would be particularly advised to read this. Whoever you are, whatever barriers you have towards completing essays, I hope this gives you a little insight into how to chunk tasks down to manageable, achievable goals.
Can you Relate?
Which of the following best describes you?
Step One: you take a list of the recommended reading books to the library and take as many of them out as possible.
Step Two: You start reading them cover to cover and try to finish as many as possible at least once in the first two weeks.
Step Three: the week before the deadline date you start the essay by writing the title in your new word document and then you stare blankly at the computer screen because you don't know where to start. You start to panic that you don't know how to answer the question.
During your deadline week...
You spend evenings complaining that the essay is actually quite hard, you procrastinate and keep reading instead of writing. Plus, you remember reading a quote somewhere that would be brilliant to use in the essay, but you can't find where the quote was. You are starting to get stressed and with only three days left to go you know you have to start writing something.
You start writing on the topic, doing whole paragraphs and sections that you think you know, but you are spending hours wasting time looking for the quotes that would support them. Time is running out and the pressure is on.
You have to turn your friends down and not go out with them because the deadline is approaching and you still don't have your essay finished. You might even start falling out with people because you're getting stressed.
You finally finish it the night before, not entirely to your satisfaction and with little time left proofread it but it's done and you are able to hand it in.
* Person B puts in an hour each evening for the first week and then devotes a whole evening to it the next week. The rest of the time they are not actively thinking about it at all!
You get home and find your list on how to write essays and immediately get to work on ticking things off the list.
Complete your targeted reading tasks, looking for quotes, writing the bibliography and getting the citations right.
Edit essay - you followed all the chores and tasks set down step one so well that within one week you should have achieved all the hard parts. Now it's just a case of putting them all together and writing link-up pieces and fillers.
You probably still have one week to go so now is the time to proof read your essay. If you follow steps one and two then you will not have looked at your essay for at least four days. That means you will be reading it with fresh eyes. This means you will be able to notice more mistakes than if you were doing it straight away.
During your deadline week...
You can spend the week leading up to the deadline date enjoying yourself, relaxing, and making the most of your time. You could in fact hand the essay in early and be completely stress free!
If you relate more to A. than B. then read on!
This is how to achieve the same results as person B:
Learning to chunk it down
Essay... Chunked Down into a list
Remember to tick each task once its done. If you are interrupted you'll know exactly where to get back to. Keep the book list on you, ring and ask to reserve the books and pick them up next time you are at the library.
1. Open new word document, write the title of the essay and save as essay draft one or working doc.
2. Open the second word document and save as essay quotes and citations.
3. Open another document and save as essay bibliography.
4. Now put all those documents into a folder for that essay.
5. Open the essay first draft document and write the following headings (assuming it's a 'discuss' style question).
* You may want to change some headings to fit your essay requirements better!
- Define parameters of the question.
- Arguments for
- Arguments against
- Flaws with current research
- Future research recommendations
* all the steps so far should have taken less than half an hour and is just setting you up ready to start the essay.
6. Now give yourself half an hour and define the question parameters in one paragraph.
7. Now ring the library and ask to reserve the books, you can pick them up next time you are at the library.
You are now almost ready to start reading the books from your recommended reading list, but first:
1. Grab your laptop, your iPad, your computer, your phone or a notebook and pen. If you don't have those make sure you have sticky page markers that you can highlight and find quotes later. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking, "I know I read it somewhere," and having a huge heap of books in front of you to look through. So if you read something cool - note it!
2. Print out a copy of essay draft one so you have an outline of the essay structure, the defined parameters and the scope of what you're going to be talking about.
3. Double check if the essay is asking you to describe, discuss or explain as the 'structure' may have to vary depending on which one is in the title and you don't want to get this wrong!
4. Go through the contents and indexes off the entire reading list one-by-one. Put post-it stickers in each chapter which is of relevance to your specific essay. Some of these books will be fascinating and although it's great to get a really good overview of the entire subject you don't want to find yourself drawn into spending all your time reading in an unfocused way. Read them in your spare time for now and just identify chapters that are relevant to your essay.
5. Try to take one quote from each book that is relevant to your essay parameters. Place them all into the essay quotes document along with the name of the book and the citation mark. More small quotes are usually better than one large one so remember to search the Internet for more sources as well.
6. When you select all your best quotes, move them straight into the relevant section of the essay. You may want to have two quotes from different authors in the arguments for section, and two quotes from different authors in the arguments against. By doing it this way you will ensure that you are quoting sources throughout your essay but not loading them all in just one area.
7. As soon as you have quoted a source, open the bibliography document, write the book details and the citation so that you know you have cited it properly and have put it into your bibliography.
8. Keep doing this until your essay is well balanced, your bibliography looks complete and all that is left is to string sections together.
You are now ready to start writing the essay.
1. Ignore the introduction
2. Re-read definition and parameters of essay.
3. Start to fill in the blanks. There should be enough quotes from here on to show you what argument you're putting for, and against. You'll probably already have the conclusion in the head. So enjoy piecing it together and keep an eye on the word count!
4. After you have finished the conclusion, go back to the beginning and write the introduction. A good introduction will outline where the essay is going and what you're going to conclude which is always easier to do at the end.
5. Re-read the essay once while ensuring it is within the desired word count.. Printout one copy, just in case your computer dies before you are actually due to hand it in, and put it safe.
6. Forget about it for at least 2 to 3 days assuming you still have that time before deadline day.
7. Go back to your essay to proof read it. I find using the paper copy is easier as I can mark corrections and I don't get carried away 'fixing' the essay so much that I end up with an entirely new essay.
8. Make the proofreading changes on the computer copy and save it as essay final copy and then transfer the bibliography into that essay document.
9. Ensure your name and the course code (or whatever other information is necessary) is on the document and number the pages. Include the word count if you're meant to. Save and print the final copy.
Did this help you?
This should allow you to spend the week leading up to the deadline date enjoying yourself, relaxing, and making the most of your time. You could in fact probably hand the essay in early and be completely stress free!
I hope these techniques work for you.
Please feel free to comment and share this with anyone you think could benefit from these techniques.