You did it again.
You put off working on your essay for weeks, and now you have barely a couple of days to get it done. Should you ask for an extension or accept your fate and hope for the best? Neither!
Even if you have one or two days left, that’s plenty of time to write an essay if you play your cards right and follow our foolproof action plan. And if you bear with us till the end of this post, you will never run into this problem again because you’ll be able to whip up an essay at the drop of a hat.
How to Write an Essay Fast and Easy: Your Action Plan
You’ve heard all about turning off your smartphone notifications or proofreading with a friend. It’s all well and good in theory, but none of those tips actually tell how to write your paper fast. Today we break the mold and share actionable step-by-step hacks for every stage of your writing.
How to Pick an Essay Topic in No Time
Creating stuff from scratch takes too much time, and it’s overrated anyway. That’s true for many things, including paper topics. Instead of agonizing over the endless choices for days and weeks, use our three-step algorithm for creating fresh, relevant, and manageable topics every time:
- Find a reputable scientific journal or newspaper on your subject. It can be anything from The New York Times to The Lancet.
- Browse the recent issues and articles to find a topic that catches your eye and fits the parameters of your assignment.
- Check out the reference section or the links within the article to see if there are enough sources on the subject you can use in your work. Search for sources using the three tricks in the next section to double-check.
Now all you have to do is tweak the topic a bit to make it your own, and you’re golden. You can skip straight into research and outlining. Or you can alter the idea further by adjusting the scope. For instance, you can limit your essay to a certain timeframe, country, city, or population group.
All in all, devising an essay topic shouldn’t take more than 30 to 60 minutes, including preliminary research.
Bonus tip: Create a file or a note to collect all the topics (and links) you find interesting. They might come in handy at a later date.
How to Find References Quickly: Top-3 Tricks That Work
Unless you’re writing a personal essay, your paper will need references to support your arguments. Some professors go as far as to specify the minimum number of sources to be used. And they want credible references, not the first URL Google spits out at you. If you have trouble finding reliable sources, use these foolproof tricks:
- Be smart about using Wikipedia. Most professors frown upon using the free encyclopedia as a reference source because anyone can go online and edit the articles. But no one will fault you for using the reference section of a Wikipedia post to find a dozen or more credible sources to cite in your essay. Just make sure the links work and say what you need them to say before citing them as references.
- Trade Google for Google Scholar. Your Google search won’t lead anywhere but blog posts, online stores, or corporate websites, none of which fit the bill of a credible reference. Instead, use Google Scholar to search through books, articles, and conference proceedings. You’ll have better luck finding trustworthy sources to cite.
- Make most of the academic tools. If your school has access, you can start with Scopus and Web of Science collections to find the right authors and articles. But we prefer Academia.edu, ResearchGate, or DeepDyve, as they sometimes come with full-text versions of articles you can download and shred them into quotes.
Once you’ve selected enough references, don’t get stuck on them. Research can quickly turn into procrastination and an untenable drain on your time. Set a time limit and stick with it. Ideally, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes per essay page. So if you have to turn in a 4-page assignment, you shouldn’t spend over two hours on research.
To make every minute count, create a separate file for collecting all the interesting thoughts, ideas, and quotes from your sources. Start with listing the reference data you’ll need for citation, and then fill the blank space by copying the bits you think might come in handy. This way, you won’t lose track of where each quote came from.
If you want to take it to another level, structure your reference info by points or arguments instead of sources. For instance, if you notice three prominent themes running throughout the sources, divide the quotes into three piles as you go (but keep track of citation data), as this will make the next step of writing your essay much easier.
The Fastest Way to Write an Essay Outline and Draft
It’s not your first rodeo, so you know every essay comes with an introduction and a conclusion. We won’t go there for now. Instead, let’s focus on all the juicy parts in between. The body paragraphs are what matters, and there is a super-fast way to outline and write them.
First, you need a rough list of ideas or arguments you want to go over in your essay. There should be at least three, but if your essay is 5+ pages long, you may need at least five or six points. Once you shuffle the arguments into a logical order, this list will become your flat outline.
Now you need to fill the blank space under each point with quotes or ideas you’ve gathered from your sources. If you’ve followed our advice on research, a few minutes of copypasting should give you a working draft. And your piece is almost halfway done.
Unfortunately, professors want to see your input, so you’ll need to expand each section with your analysis and conclusions. Think of every passage or section as a mini-essay, all of its own. You’ll need an introductory sentence to tie the paragraph with the previous thought, quotes or paraphrasing from your sources, your analysis, and a sentence that rounds up the passage and transitions into the following section.
Only once the body passages are done, write your conclusion and then come back to the beginning to write an introduction.
This approach may seem counterintuitive, but it beats the main problem of writing essays - a stupor we all fall into when faced with a black page. If you follow our process, you will never run into writer’s block, and your paper will be a cohesive and logical piece your professor will love.
How to Write Essays Faster With the Right Software Tools
Productivity doesn’t rely on your word per minute speed typing. Motivation and the right frame of mind work, but smart tools can make your writing even faster. Here are four software categories that will make a world of difference for your essay writing:
- High productivity soundtrack. Getting rid of the distracting noises is key to getting into the flow. You can find a productivity playlist on Spotify, Youtube, or iTunes. You can also kick your productivity into high gear with Focus@Will.
- Text processors. If you’re always getting distracted by social media, use Cold Turkey Writer to block yourself from using any other app until you complete the set amount of words. If you’re more disciplined, use a full-screen mode of your browser that will at least keep you from seeing notifications.
- Grammar checkers. Hemingway and Grammarly both work wonders. The former will help you work on your writing style (fewer adverbs and passive verbs will do wonders for clarity). The latter is great for catching typos and mistakes that take away from the final grade.
- Citation generators. EasyBib, Zotero, and other online tools are invaluable at generating a list of references in your professor’s preferred style. They save hours of mindless work, but you should still give your list a once-over before submitting the paper to make sure there are no mistakes.
How to Write a Good Essay Fast(er) Next Time
Every hour you put into research and writing should pay off more than once. And it will if you are smart about storing and using digital information. Consider it your outboard hard drive that stores all the useful bits to be recycled and repurposed throughout your years in college.
Every essay you write should be stored there, along with your sources, the notes you take, and the interesting topic ideas you put off for later. Organizing this data can be tricky, so we recommend you experiment and find the most comfortable system for you. Second Brain’s PARA system is a good place to start if you’re at a loss. Sorting your notes into projects, areas of responsibility, and resources may sound complicated, but it will come in handy many times if you start as early as your freshman year in college.
You’ve got your paper writing action plan, so what are you waiting for? Go looking for a topic, breeze through research, and outline like a pro. Fill in the blanks with your analysis and make most of the writing tools at your disposal. Your essay will be ready in no time flat!