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Essay Hack That Got Me My Degree

by Lee Andrew Butler about a year ago in how to
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Works For High School And College Settings

Essay Hack That Got Me My Degree
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Look, I know why most of you clicked on this article- you procrastinated way too hard on writing your final paper and now it's due in two hours. No judgment here, I applaud the effort to just get it started. Go you! Here’s how I did this over and over again, as chronic procrastination should have been my middle name. Just for the sake of full disclosure, this hack works best if you read the article all the way through and also have a little bit of knowledge on the thing you’re writing about.

y'all @ these deadlines

With that said, you need to find some key pieces of information before you can write your essay. How long do you have before the essay is due? What is the minimum page/word requirement? How many sources are required, and how many of them do you have available to you at this moment? What do you know for certain is included in the prompt for the essay? What do you know for certain from the sources you have read already?

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If you have this mental list compiled and ready to go, this is how to write an A grade essay within three hours.

By Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

The first step to your process is to absorb as much as you can, taking short notes as you go. If you are working within a two-hour context of a big test, do not spend more than fifteen minutes doing this for each of your essays. If you are outside of a testing context, go back to notes from class and discussion points that you have. What points did the teacher or professor point out or repeat often? If it's available to you, put in a quick google search onto whatever work you're dealing with and use whatever ideas come up as a baseline. For my folks working with three hours, spend anywhere between half to a full hour on this part. Take this time to get step two going as well.

Alright, take a deep breath because the hardest part is over and your subconscious is doing most of the work for you already. Take those points that you have on the work and write them down exactly as you have them in your notes on a separate sheet of paper. This allows your brain to visualize the patterns and connections between the ideas. Don't get distracted by direct quotes, write out a simple notation for them, and be done with it. For example, I always write out the first and last word I want to focus on and the page number, so it comes out looking like this (RLF AAP But/night 7-8)*. Throughout this process, your subconscious starts on step three for you. Don’t spend more than ten minutes on this part.

Congratulations, these notes are the first draft of your essay.

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Now it’s time to expand and edit as you write.

The third step is to turn the jumble of run-ons and citations into fully written-out sentences. Now this is the truly hacky bit (and the part where I lose a couple of English majors from all the numbers.) Take your page requirements given to you in the rubric. Multiply your maximum page number by two. This is now how many total paragraphs you need to write. Subtract two from this number. The remaining number is the number of body paragraphs that you need, and thus as many ideas as you need to work with from your notes. The two that you subtracted are your intro and conclusion paragraphs, which will be the last things you figure out in this process.

For working with word requirements instead of page numbers, the process is very similar, it just requires a little honesty with yourself. This honesty is a huge factor in determining your baseline words-per-paragraph number. For example, on the occasion that I get to choose what I write and I’m passionate about a project I tend to get a little wordy with each paragraph. These projects can easily average anywhere between 300 to 400 words per paragraph. On projects I’m not invested in, like tests, I try and get up to about 200 words per paragraph just to keep the flow of my writing. Of course, some will come shorter than those averages and some will be much longer, but those numbers are how I honestly gauge my work as I create. You have to be completely honest with yourself in establishing your baseline word-per-paragraph number, otherwise, this entire plan falls apart and your essay comes out way too short. Push comes to shove and you genuinely have no idea about this number, use 250 words as your base. That being said, it’s time to do some actual math like the page requirements people. Take the minimum word requirement and divide it by the baseline number you just figured out. Then subtract two from that number, as you know you need to write an introduction and conclusion paragraph. The remaining number is the number of body paragraphs that you need, which you already started in your notes.

By Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Alright, now the math part is over, onto step four. Now that you have your body paragraph goal, take the written out sentences from earlier and rearrange them in a way where there’s a supported, conclusive argument. Edit out or combine similar ideas if you have too many, go back to step one if you have too few. Once you have all of your ideas in order, you'll want to read through them all the way to make sure your first idea connects directly to your conclusion in a logical order. If you need to remind yourself what the link between two ideas is, you need to rewrite your sentences to include that link.

Step five is simple. You no longer have to think of the ideas as just scribbles or sentences, now they are a fully arranged argument with each idea supporting and defending the next. Now take this order and use each sentence, not as a guide to each paragraph in your final draft, but as a mini-thesis statement supporting a grander argument. By now, it should be pretty clear what point you are trying to make in your writing and your thesis statement should be one of the last things you write in this model. By following the natural flow of your thinking, your writing comes out clearer in the first draft and keeps your pacing at a level that you can get this essay knocked out. By following a deductive line of reasoning within your work, your point is clear and your argument is that much harder to tear apart. Just as a bit of my own personal experience; any stop to the process is going to cut the flow of pace and it is extremely difficult to pick it back up once it’s gone. Eliminate all distractions to your writing, and get it done.

So in short, and because I know some of you skipped all of that, here's the list of what you need to do.

1. Read your sources

2. Write out what you know

3. Set a paragraph goal and write out full statement sentences.

4. Logically rearrange step three

5. The new order as subject sentences in each paragraph.

If you have all this, you have the skeleton of an essay. Go add the meat and fat. You can do it.

Hey guys, if you enjoyed this article please share it with anyone you think would benefit from it. If you loved it feel free to leave a tip, as I may or may not have drowned in student loans so I could learn this trick. Thanks for reading my work, you guys are the best!

*For anyone interested, this is a link to the Poetry Foundation's publishing of the poem I reference. It's really neat and is one of my favorite works on earth, so feel free to check it out.

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About the author

Lee Andrew Butler

Hello! I am a novice writer looking to give voice to some of my underdeveloped writing styles/genres. If you like what you read, please consider tipping as it would help me out a lot!

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