Have you ever procrastinated writing a major essay to just a few days before it was due? Replace ‘days’ in the previous sentence with ‘hours’ and you’ve got the recurring theme of my educational career.
There’s something about a 10 or 20 page essay that sounds so daunting and painful, it goes straight to the back of the mind, never to be heard from again. Until the due date looms overhead.
If this situation sounds familiar – this article is for you. I’ve discovered that writing these behemoths can be a quick and (relatively) painless task. How, you ask?
The Magic Formula for Writing Massive Essays
Once you begin using this formula, you will be able to breeze through page after page of writing without breaking a sweat. You’ll start wondering why they don’t teach this in schools. Hell, you might even blog about it. Using this formula I have written 20 page papers in a just a few hours. Better still, I received an A+ grade on all them.
The formula goes something like this:
- Create a list of the requirements for your essay from the rubric or assignment, make sure to include the number of required sources.
- Find more than enough sources for your topic. You don’t have to read them. Just find them.
- Skim your source material, a paragraph or page at a time. If a piece of the source looks interesting or related to your topic, copy/paste it into a word processor. (Word, Google Docs, etc.) Try to keep these pasted ‘quotes’ to about a paragraph. You’ll want to grab a few quotes from each source.
- Go through the bits you’ve copied and pasted one at a time. Write an analysis for each one, relating it to the primary topic of your paper. An analysis should be simple to write, because you’re just explaining the quote in your own words (aka rewording) and then tying that back into your topic. Throw an intro and concluding sentence onto your analysis and you should have a decent sized paragraph.
- Take your paired quotes and analysis and put them in a ‘logical’ order that illustrates the topic of your paper. You want to have a progression of ideas. Each section of the paper should build on the idea presented before it.
- Write your introductory paragraph and work in a thesis statement – this should almost write itself because you already have your essay in a certain order and the writing already ties into a central idea. A good introduction should look something like this:
- An introduction sentence to the paper’s topic (“In this paper I will discuss…blah blah”)
- Thesis statement/main argument (“My research shows that x is indeed y”)
- The order in which topics will be discussed (“First I will discuss [first topic], then [second topic], etc.”)
- A brief sentence explaining how your writing will demonstrate your thesis (“It is evident from these topics that [insert thesis here] is true”)
- Write a closing paragraph. This is just a clever rewording of your intro paragraph.
- Apply polish. Start each paragraph with a transition sentence. Read through and fix spelling errors, grammar, and make sure that the paper has a nice flow. If you are unfamiliar with transitions do a quick read of this handout from the University of North Carolina.
- Go through your paper requirements, edit existing paragraphs or introduce new paragraphs to meet each of them.
Wait…How is This Easier?
The way most of us were taught to write in school is:
- Do actual research. Read over sources and understand the information. (hours – maybe days – of work)
- Write a thesis statement that explains your topic and argument. (requires creativity and boxes you into an argument you made up, rather than what’s apparent from the sources cited)
- Write your paragraphs in order, cite sources to back up your thoughts. (now you have to reread the sources until you find one that supports your claims. You’ll have to write lots of these paragraphs to reach your length requirement)
- Rewrite your paper 2-3 times until it is perfect.
- Get a B and wonder what the hell you did wrong.
In contrast, the first formula works because:
- You spend maybe an hour or two gathering quotes from sources.
- The quotes make up nearly 1/3 to 1/2 your length requirement.
- Analyzing quotes takes much less mental effort than coming up with original ideas
- Your thesis, introduction, and conclusion paragraphs basically write themselves.
- The quotes you gathered are written by professional scholars who know a lot more than you do about the given topic, piggybacking on their thoughts instead of writing your own lends you credibility — which means a better grade and less work.