Why planning politics essays is essential
The arrival of spring brings longer days, lighter evenings and, for all students, the start of essay preparation. Yes, in most young people’s minds, their thoughts will be turning not to the spring season but essay and exam season. That is no different at Warwick. Depending on your course, the precise timing of essays will vary. Yet even those who enjoy a highly active social life can’t ignore the looming impending deadlines just around the corner.
For my course, I currently have five essays due on 4th May, which is week two of term three. I also have three exams from 16th May to prepare for, though the exact dates aren’t confirmed until the middle of April. Over the last few weeks, my mind has thought of little else. Often, I will Google how many days I have left until my submission deadline and then what I was doing that number of days ago in the past. The time between the two has rapidly diminished.
However, I have found a key way to reduce stress for this obviously intensive period: planning and writing essays with plenty of time to spare. Thinking about essays in an abstract manner as this impending academic task seems deeply perturbing, almost frightening. It appears a monumental task, even as we’ve managed essay seasons in the past.
By instead focusing on one essay at a time, the task suddenly seems less impossible. There is not an essay to worry about but instead reading to concentrate on. Choosing a specific topic early on similarly ensures your mind can consciously and subconsciously be thinking about what to include in an answer.
Generally, the choice of summative essay questions for politics modules will be linked to a particular week. This is deeply useful, as it ensures research is grounded in the literature recommended by your module director for writing a good answer. After I’ve made my choice, I find the relevant week and seek to work through the entire list of books and journal articles worth reading.
Like my lecture and seminar notes, I tend to make key bullet points about the best arguments within a text. Whenever I’m reading a book or article, the core purpose is understanding what point the writer is trying to make. By knowing this, I can better link the argument to my essay and work out whether I agree with them or not. Indeed, given I may not start drafting the essay until I’ve finished all my reading, it’s essential that each point I make is understandable and comprehensible for later reference.
I’ve also come to recognise the benefits and freedom offered by going outside the reading list. The Warwick library website will have plenty of additional reading materials, as well as Google Scholar. If the reading is relevant, that will no doubt impress your essay markers for the independence of research. With the reading completed in a logic, coherent manner, it will make the task of writing your essay, grounded in the literature, far easier. For a blog on essay writing, watch this space.