I’ve just submitted the last essay of my first year at University and I am beyond relieved (although what follows is now exams so perhaps I’ll regret saying that). For some reason, this last essay was the one I found the most difficult (although it was contract law so that would probably explain it). After 6 essays in the space of a few months, I feel like I’ve learned a little about essay writing which I figured may help others.
Take regular breaks
This is so important. I know it’s mentioned in pretty much every essay writing/revision tips post that was ever written but with good reason. I don’t just mean scroll through Instagram for five minutes and then getting back to writing. Get up from the desk, grab a coffee or a snack, go for a 20-minute walk or just do something to give you a change of scenery and some time away from a computer screen.
Try a change of scenery
Sometimes being stuck at the same desk or dining room table for days can be soul killing. Take a trip to the library or if it’s nice weather maybe work in the garden? It sounds small but it can make a huge difference.
Take a break from writing and go back to research
You may think you’ve got a perfect essay plan with perfect resources all lined up but if you’re really struggling try taking a break from actually writing, go back to your resources and brainstorm. In my most recent contract law essay, I simply couldn’t find a relevant case to back up my point. I thought there was no way I could have missed it while doing my initial research but guess what? I’d missed it. Going back to your resources and brainstorming can really help when you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall.
Stop trying to be perfect
Sometimes writing an essay can seem overwhelming when you have to worry about things like referencing and perfect grammar and paragraphs. Start simple, when I have a problem question to answer I often use the IRAC method, I start by bullet pointing and then eventually turn those points into real sentences. After I’m happy with that I’ll go back and look at things like grammar and paragraphing. I actually leave my referencing and bibliography until I’ve finished the entire essay because I just find it easier.
Write the introduction last
It can be really difficult to start writing if you’re trying to write the introduction first. You’re basically trying to summarise what your essay is about before you’ve even written it. If you find yourself stuck then skip the introduction and come back to it.
No, I don’t mean literally. But if you find yourself reading your own sentence again and again but 30 minutes later and you’re still no further then leave it. Go on to write something else. In law essays especially there is always more than one point to write about so concentrate on that and come back to the bit you were stuck on.
Use Wikipedia or Lawteacher.net as a last resource
Yes I know we are specifically told not to use these two resources as law students but just occasionally they will prove useful for background research or finding additional resources. If you don’t feel like you know much about the subject you’re writing about it can be useful to read a few articles on Wikipedia or a few student-written essays on Lawteacher.net. Just be careful and do not take anything you read as gospel. Remember that anyone can edit Wikipedia and anyone can submit an essay to Lawteacher.net so do further research on anything you want to include in your essay. Also, remember that both Wikipedia and most Lawteacher.net essay’s include a list of resources used which may be useful as additional reading.
Do you have any tips for essay writing and staying motivated? Let me know in the comments; I feel like I’ll need all the tips I can get for next year!