How to Write A Damn Good Essay…And Save Time Doing it

September 21st, 2016

As the semester winds up we inch closer to long essays that are going to be written the night before they're due in a coffee-fueled binge.

Here are a few tips to write a well-organized essay as quickly and painlessly as possible:

Outlines are annoying, but it'll cut the time it takes you to write a paper in half: It lets you see how your ideas fit together, so you can move them around and organize them without having to re-write entire paragraphs or pages. If you write without outlines you probably find that you often get stuck on a certain point and can't move forward. The outline will let you progressively flesh out the whole paper without hitting a writer's block. Use the outline to strategically place your quotes and make sure they're all well-supported. The word you should always be keeping in mind is "Because." Every claim you make should be "because of" several examples from your sources. Every quote should have a "he says this because..." If you can't think of any "because"s for a certain idea, it should not be in your paper. Once you have an outline, all you should need to do is fill it in with transition and topic sentences.

The intro and conclusion paragraphs should be last things you write: In the course of writing a paper you will almost definitely reach conclusions or think of new ideas that didn't occur to you when you set out. If you get too attached to your original intro and thesis statement, you risk fudging your results to fit your hypothesis, when you should really make your thesis fit your findings. Your introduction should be written like you're trying to explain the paper to a friend who doesn't know anything about the topic. Your conclusion should be written like you're trying to explain to your professor why your paper is important.

It should be possible to read only the first and last sentences of each paragraph and still understand what your paper is saying: Not only should they capture the point of the paragraph, they should indicate how one paragraph leads to the other. Here is my personal technique for organizing my research. It's time consuming, but I find it extremely useful. When doing your reading, keep a word document open and transcribe passages from the books or articles, with page numbers. Not just quotes you intend to use, but the key points in every source, so that you can review them easily without going back to the book every time. A good writer will stop occasionally to summarize succinctly what he's just said. Collect these key sentences in your notes and you will always have an easy guide to each of your sources, not to mention that simply writing it all down will help it stick in your brain. 90% of what you've copied out won't make it into your paper (I sometimes wind up with 30 pages of notes for a 15 page paper), but you will be able to easily copy-paste quotes into your paper, and remember how they fit into the original article, so you don't risk misinterpreting.

Credit to /u/Son_of_Kong from his post on reddit -