Right. First things first, we do not recommend this as a regular strategy. Don't sue us.
We've all been there, usually for one of the following two reasons:
Scenario A - Your essay has been eaten by your USB stick/laptop/dog/flatmate
Scenario B - It's the night before hand-in and so far your essay exists only as a scribbled reminder on a post-it note
Yeah, we know - it's scenario B, isn't it? You're not fooling anyone.
It's OK, we're all friends here.
Now if you’re interested in how
to achieve that, know that you need to use your time productively. A huge time waster, and something which many students fail to do is read the essay question properly, and make sure they understand it fully. If you fail to do this, you might end up spending a lot of time researching and writing the answer to
the question you think you are asked, but not the one that is actually asked. I have seen intelligent and otherwise diligent students fall into this trap. This mistake can mean getting a lower grade or even failing. Even if you realise your mistake halfway through writing the essay
, you will have already wasted valuable time answering the wrong question
First it's time for some positive thinking. Take a deep breath. Believe that it can be done. Take another deep breath. Imagine you're in The West Wing or, more aptly, 24. If Jack Bauer can save democracy in 24 hours, you can write an essay in that time, so stop whining!
First things first, you're going to need enough caffeine to keep a small herd of elephants awake.
Don’t believe me? There is such a thing as a “Last Minute Dissertation League”, an infamous ranking of students who started and finished their dissertations anywhere between 48 and 16 hours. Definitely not something to strive for, and with plenty of unhealthy side effects, as this article points out.
Now is the time to stock up on your caffeinated beverage of preference. We recommend the diet versions, unless you want to emerge with an essay and a half-stone weight gain. Some other things you might need include: easy-to-eat, reasonably nutritious snack foods (bananas and cereal bars = good; family-size bars of Galaxy = not so good); lots of water; all your notes on the topic (you do not want to be hunting for that elusive-but-vital-to-your-entire-argument quote at 3am).
Be organised and come equipped with two pens (no nipping to the shop because you ran out of ink), bottled water, any notes you have, and some snacks to use as mini-rewards. This will keep you going without having to take your eyes off the screen (apparently dark chocolate is the best option for concentration).
Open your laptop and write down everything that springs to mind when you look at the essay title - it doesn't matter how inane your ramblings are at this stage, it's just a way of breaking through the panic.
If one of these students was able to produce 12.000 words in 16 hours, that means you can write a 3000 word essay in one day.
Rejoice in the fact that you now have 600 words or so of what journalists would call 'content'. Have some more caffeine.
Utilise the power of the JStor abstract. Countless degrees have been built on this wonderful, wonderful gift to humanity from the benevolent online journal powers-that-be.
You can most definitely research and write a 3000 word essay in one day. There are countless students around the world who pull it off, motivated by close deadlines.
Type obscure things like '15th-century gender studies' or 'history of macroeconomics' into this goldmine of abbreviated quotability and hey presto, you have the makings of a proper academic essay. Do your references and bibliography as you go along, unless you have a particularly masochistic streak. Under no circumstances should you attempt
actual research - as in, visiting the library, making notes, actually taking things in. That has its place - this is not it. Desperate times and all that...
Smoosh the results of steps two and three together until they resemble something approaching a logical argument.
Before you begin, avoid warmth and soft furnishings. Propped up on pillows in the glow of a laptop may feel like savvy ergonomics, but your keyboard will start to look pillow-like by midnight, and 418 pages of the word "gf64444444444444444444" will detract from the force of your argument
. You could try the kitchen. Or Krakow. But your industrially lit 24-hour campus library should do the trick.
By this time it's probably around 4am, you are likely to be quite hyper from all the caffeine and your judgment may become impaired. Resist the temptation to add jokes, personal anecdotes and acrostic poems into your essay. Try also not to insert smiley faces, doodles, or impassioned pleas to the lecturer at this stage in the process.
Go to bed and take a nap. Or at least do something else for an hour or so. Yes, really.
As dawn approaches, re-read your essay with fresh eyes now that the caffeine buzz has begun to wear off.
Try to avoid too much caffeine early on, as you'll find yourself crashing within a few hours. This includes energy drinks, by the way!
Greet your flatmates as they return from a night out. Bribe them into proofreading your essay.
Spellcheck, sense check, etc. You know the drill. Now get printing!
Hand in essay.
Feel elated. Then feel sleepy. Resolve to never, ever do this to yourself ever again.
Choose a quiet area where you know you won't be disturbed. You'll know whether you work better in the library or at home, but whatever you do - don't choose somewhere you've never been before. You need to be confident that you'll be comfortable and able to focus for as long as possible.
Collapse into bed. You did it!