An Honest Student’s Guide to the University ‘Str-essay’

Seventeen pages proofread, printed and stapled. Into the essay box and that’s my last piece of coursework for the semester submitted. Following a long exhale of breath, I’m ready for an evening of Netflix and gin! However, instead of gloating and before I pour a second gin tipple, I thought I’d put together a quick guide to surviving the creation of university essays – or the suitably ominous ‘str-essay’. Panic not, grab a coffee and indulge yourself in a little useful procrastination.

  1. Make the most of your time:

Every module handbook will tell you to start planning your essays from week 1… Let’s be real – we have people to see, cocktails to drink and daytime TV to watch, that kind of preparation just isn’t going to happen! What is important is that when you do get round to starting the dreaded ‘E’ word, make your use of time productive. Don’t lie to yourself, no one can work well whilst simultaneously listening to to music, checking out the latest discounts on Unidays and pretending to do a little bit of searching on Google Scholar (guilty!). Take yourself to the silent section of the library, or clear your desk and turn off the electronics. Give yourself a strict time frame with a clear goal – two hours without Instagram is possible and always makes for a much more productive essay writing stint.

  1. Eat and drink properly:

Forget the crash diet and the kale, super food salad, essay writing makes us all miserable, so have a bit of what you fancy.  A couple of squares of chocolate never hurt anyone and make for the best kind of self-bribery… Hydration is key, so water is important but wine is crucial. Suffering from writer’s bloc? I’m an avid believer in write tipsy, edit sober – sometimes a glass of wine can give you the confidence you need to crack on! A whole bottle will probably give you a little too much confidence – try not to get too carried away!

  1. Use your notes:

You make notes on your tutorial reading every week, this makes a really good starting point for an essay, so don’t forget about them. Pick your question and scan the relevant weeks reading for inspiration. If you’re struggling to find extra sources have a look at the works cited in the tutorial articles. If you were drunk, hungover or still in bed when you were meant to be doing that studying, maybe make friends with one of the A+ students.

  1. Make a Plan:

Creating a plan helps develop some kind of structure. Note the key points you want to make and attach quotations that support and help demonstrate your argument. If you haven’t left your essay to the night before make use of your tutor’s office hours. Take you plan along and clear up any questions, such as, if there’s anything in particular they think you should read. Last minute emails and popping into office hours days before the due date are a sure sign way of highlighting your disorganisation – just another motivation to get going on that coursework! As a side note, don’t forget to plan your post-essay celebrations too!

  1. Take Breaks:

Go for a coffee, take a spin class, or have a night off and pop some fizz. I find writing in small chunks, editing and re-editing is the best way to avoid silly errors, but if you don’t take some time off the misplaced apostrophes and accidently duplicated words words are more difficult to spot (see what I did there?). All-nighters and endless hours staring at a blank word document is not productive and is totally soul destroying. Starting in week 1 is obviously excessive, but starting as soon as reasonably possible will help take some of the stress out of the ‘str-essay’.

**Disclaimer** – 1st class grades not guaranteed. I do not condone excessive alcohol consumption (at least not until said essay is finished!). I am also guilty of all offences outlined above.

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