So basically, I am a third year Social Anthropology undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and this is my process for writing essays successfully.


1. Pick your essay question.

I know this sounds overly simplistic, but making sure you pick the right essay question for you is super important. Things to consider are the nature of the essay question (i.e. is it theory heavy- this usually involves questions about political phenomenons like fascism, socialism etc.) More often than not, you'll find that theory-based questions involve a lot of abstract readings that you have to work that bit harder to apply to your question. Other types of questions include comparing and contrasting, in which you really have to be all over your argument and know your subject inside and out.

The one thing I cannot stress enough is pick an essay question on a topic that you are interested in or else this week will be a living hell for you.

2. Prepare your reading list.

In my case, I always go straight to the course handbook which prescribes us our weekly readings. I repeat the mandatory readings (usually 2-3 per lecture/seminar) and also add the extra readings. I only ever read the additional readings when preparing for an essay or exam, or if I really want to up my game in the seminar hour.

3. Mind map everything you currently know about the subject of your essay question.

...or you can list, take notes... whatever suits your style of studying!


Obviously this is a no-brainer but sometimes when you're really dreading the slog of an essay, it's seriously hard to get your brain in gear and just being reading. I suggest starting in a place that you're comfortable (I usually go to the library because I'm very easily distracted). But if you're more productive in your bedroom or a coffee shop then you-do-you, just make sure that all of the reading materials are available to you i.e. if you need books from the library get them beforehand so as not to interrupt your work while you're in the zone.

As well as this, make sure you have a playlist ready to go (I'll link my study playlist down below if you don't have your own), get your drinks and snacks together, go to the bathroom and put on comfortable clothing.

5. Work, work, work, work...

... and work some more. Get stuck into your reading in whatever way's best for you- print out journal articles and highlight and take notes, or type up some things you've read. Again, it's whatever suits your method of studying and however best you take your notes. You can use colourful pens to make it more fun, or you can use a boring-old black rollerball like I do. Repeat this until you've conquered your reading list or until you feel as though you're ready to formulate your argument. I suggest taking no more than three days to do this, four if you're a slow reader. I usually do all of this in the library and pull three 8 hour days of reading, usually 11am-9pm.

BUT make sure you take a breather! Meet some friends for dinner, take hourly 5 minute walks ( I usually take a trip to the bathroom or outside for a cigarette).


6. Formulate your argument.

By this stage, you should have gathered enough information to take a stance on the question. Use this time to formulate your argument, finding evidence from your readings to back yourself up. Remember, a good argument always counter-argues and then flips it back around so that you show your original point is best. I find that bullet pointing is the best way to do this, as well as using different coloured pens to show the argument and the counter-argument clearly.

7. Plan your assignment.

Decide what sections you'd like to write about, and make sure your argument is water-tight. At this stage I also like to write my introduction, just so as I know that I'm on the right track.

8. Start writing!

If you're introduction comes easily, it means that you'll find the opening paragraphs easier to write. Don't try to keep to the word limits at the moment, just write as it feels natural because you can always edit at the end.


9. Redraft

Redraft like your life depends on it! Make your language more articulate, perfect your grammar, and edit out the unnecessary parts. Make sure you have no run on sentences, and if you're struggling with sticking to the word count then cut out any unnecessary conjunctions, adjectives and little words like 'also'. I wholly recommend doing this on a separate day to writing your first draft, because looking at your work with fresh eyes will make you all the more critical of your work. I like to redraft my final time by printing out a copy, reading it aloud to myself and highlighting any mistakes.


10. Go over the essay again.

Make any finishing touches you'd like to, because due to Day Six being less intense, your brain is under less pressure and you are able to be more articulate and use more of your brain. Once you're happy with your piece of work, turn it in, and go home. Take the rest of the day/evening to cool off, take a break from school/uni work and practise a bit of self-love.

Spotify study playlist, feel free to follow and share!