Writing an essay that you’re proud of can be an incredibly stressful task. Believe me, I’ve been there. As an English Literature graduate, most of my degree was spent frantically putting together pages of words and hoping that they made sense. Luckily, my essay skills improved over the 3 years I was at university, but it was certainly a learning curve. English Literature is a tricky subject, but with practise and patience, you can end up writing the perfect essay!
Here are 6 tips for smashing that English Literature essay you’ve been putting off writing!
1. Plan, plan, plan!
I can’t stress this enough, having an idea about where your literature essay is going to go is so important. It will really help you out when you’re 500 words in and have no idea what to write next. Or worse, when you have nothing left to discuss.
If you’re the kind of person that thinks planning is pointless and will take up valuable essay-writing time, I hear you. But having a plan in front of you while you write is super helpful, so it’s well worth spending some time figuring out what you want to write about and when. If you’re really not into plans, then why not at least make a list of bullet points detailing the key aspects of your literature essay? You’ll thank yourself later.
2. Set yourself word goals
Once you’ve finished planning your literature essay, it’s important to schedule when you’re going to work on it, and how much you’re going to get done each day. Because it’s a writing-oriented subject, English Literature essays can be very heavy and overwhelming in terms of word count.
Set yourself a certain number of words to complete every day until hand-in, and stick to it! That way, you’ll be able to complete your work in manageable chunks, and your literature essay won’t seem so daunting.
3. Write a knockout introduction
A great introduction will set you up for a great literature essay. The introduction is the first thing your tutor will read, so you need to make a good impression. Try not to waste too much of the word count on the introduction. Keep it short and straight to the point, informing the reader exactly what the essay is going to be about, and what conclusion you’re going to come to at the end.
A polished and professional introduction is equally as important as the content. If your writing doesn’t flow properly, then the whole essay will take a serious hit. If your introduction is clear and concise, then the overall essay will read well.
4. Make sure you fully understand the text
Whether it’s a short story or a full-blown novel, if you don’t know the hero from the villain, it’s going to show in your literature essay. If you haven’t left yourself enough time to read the text(s), then SparkNotes or CliffsNotes are absolute lifesavers! These websites give a rundown of lots of different titles, and go over themes, didactic messages and all sorts. YouTube videos are also great if you’re more of an auditory learner.
But use these resources only as a last resort. Ideally, read the text(s) thoroughly before the time comes to start writing your literature essay, so you’ll be completely clued up on content. Make sure to highlight and make notes when reading.
5. Strike a balance between academic argument and your own arguments
Although including academic argument in your literature essay is essential, you don’t want to rely on it entirely. In other words, don’t let academic argument do the talking for you, rather use it to back up your own original thoughts and opinions.
If you rely too heavily on academic argument, this will come across as playing it safe to whoever marks the finished product, and your essay won’t seem as analytical or thoughtful. At the other end of the scale, you don’t want to totally neglect academic argument, as this will give the impression that you haven’t researched around the subject!
It’s all about finding the right balance, and this will become easier the more literature essays you write.
6. Cite academic sources and quotations as you go along
This is super important if you want to save yourself a lot of stress and hassle once you’ve finished writing. Instead of leaving the referencing and bibliography until the last possible moment, take a couple of minutes out of writing to cite as you go along. There’s nothing worse than frantically trying to find 16 different eBook links because you didn’t note them down anywhere.
Follow your university’s referencing guide and make sure there aren’t any errors in your referencing, as you could lose marks for mistakes.