How to write a 3,000 word essay in a day

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By in Extra Guides. Updated November 2016.

There’s nothing like an approaching deadline to give you the motivation (and fear) you need to get writing – don’t stress though, we’re here to help you out!Write an essay in a dayWe know – you had every intention of being deadline-ready, but these things happen!

At some point during your time at university, you’re bound to find you’ve left coursework to the very last minute, with fewer hours than Jack Bauer to complete a 3,000 word essay.

But don’t sweat, cause 3,000 words in a day is totally doable! Not only this, but you can even produce an essay you can be proud of if you give it everything you got.

Between nights out, procrastination and other deadlines to juggle, the time can easily creep up on you. However, the worst thing you can do in this situation is panic, so keep calm, mop up the cold sweats and read on to find out how to nail that essay in unbelievable time!

Just to clarify – we’re certainly not encouraging anyone to leave it all to the last minute, but if you do happen to find yourself in a pickle, you’re going to need some help – and we’re the guys for the job.

Are you a procrastination master? Check out these 13 hacks that will do wonders for your productivity levels!

Getting prepped

organisedCredit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos – Flickr

Plan

Fail to plan and you plan to fail – or so our lecturers keep telling us. Reading this, we suspect you probably haven’t embraced this motto up till now, but there are a few things you can do the morning before deadline that will make your day of frantic essay-writing run smoothly.

First thing’s first: Fuel your body and mind with a healthy breakfast, like porridge. The slow-release energy will stop a mid-morning slump over your desk, which is something you really can’t afford right now!

Not in the mood for porridge? Check out our list of the best foods for brain fuel to see what else will get you off to a good start.

Pick your work station

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.

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).

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!

Shut out the world

Hiding-in-roomProcrastination is every student’s forte, so turn off your phone (or at least switch notifications off) and refrain from checking Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other social media channels you’re addicted to. We mean it!

A good tip is to get a friend to change your Facebook password for you for 24 hours and make them promise not to tell you it, even if you beg (choose a friend that enjoys watching you squirm). Otherwise, you can also temporarily deactivate your account.

Set yourself goals

Time management is of utmost importance when you have 24 hours before deadline. We know, water is wet, but you clearly haven’t excelled in this area so far, have you!

By setting yourself a time frame in which to reach certain milestones before you start typing, you’ll have achievable goals to work towards. This is a great method of working, as it makes the prospect of conjuring up 3,000 words from thin air much less daunting if you consider the time in small blocks.

Let’s say it’s 9am and your essay is due in first thing tomorrow morning. Here’s a feasible timeline that you can follow:

  • 9:00 – 9:30 – Have your essay question chosen and argument ready
  • 9:30 – 9:45 – Break/ snack
  • 10:00 – 12:00 – Write a full outline/plan of your essay
  • 12:00 – 13:00 – Write your introduction
  • 13:00 – 14:00 – Take a break and grab some lunch (you deserve it)
  • 14:00 – 16:00 – Get back to your desk and do all your research on quotes etc. that will back up your argument
  • 16:00 – 20:30 – Write all of your content (with a dinner break somewhere in the middle)
  • 20:30 – 22:30 – Edit and improve – extremely important step, so take time with this
  • 22:30 – 23:00 – Print and prepare ready for the morning
  • 23:00 – (morning) – If you’ve not finished by this point, don’t worry – completing in time is still possible. Just make sure you’ve eaten well and have enough energy to last you until the early hours of the morning.

Also remember to schedule in a few breaks – you need to spend the whole 24 hours productively, and you can’t be on form for a full day without short breaks to rest your eyes (and your brain!).

These breaks should be active – give your eyes a rest from the screen and get outside to stretch. We recommend a ten minute break at least every 1.5 hours.

Choosing a question and approach

Trees with question mark graffiti
Time
: 9am – 12pm

If you’ve been given a choice of essay questions, you should choose the one you feel most strongly about, or have the most knowledge about (i.e the topics you actually went to the lectures for!).

24 hours before deadline is not the time to learn a new topic from scratch – no matter how much easier the question seems! Also, beware of questions that seem easy at first glance, as often you’ll find that the shorter questions or the ones using the most straight-forward language can be the hardest ones to tackle.

Next, decide your approach. How are you going to tackle the question? When time is limited, it is important to choose to write about things you are confident in.

Remember that it’s your essay and as long as you relate your argument to the question and construct a clear, well supported argument, you can take it in any direction you choose. Use this to your advantage!

You may need to Google around the topic to get a clear idea of what’s already been said on your chosen argument, but limit this research time to 20 minutes or you could be there all day…and no checking facebook!

Now, type out 3-5 key points that you’ll aim to tackle in your argument, and underneath these use bullet points to list all the information and opinions, supporting arguments or quotes you have for each point. Start with the most obvious argument, as this will provide something to link your other points back to – the key to a good essay.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll now find you have a detailed outline of the body of your essay, and it’ll be a matter of filling in between the lines of each bullet point. This method is perfect for writing against the clock, as it ensures you stay focused on your question and argument without going off in any tangents.

Nailing that introduction

fairytale introCredit: Steve Czajka – Flickr
Time: 12pm – 1pm

Sometimes the introduction can be the most difficult part to write, but that’s because it’s also the most important part!

Don’t worry too much about making it sound amazing at this point – just get stuck into introducing your argument in response to your chosen question and telling the reader how you will support it. You can go back and make yourself sound smarter later on when you’re at the editing stage.

Create something of a mini-outline in your introduction so you signpost exactly what it is you’re planning to argue. Don’t use the introduction as a space to throw in random references to things that are vaguely relevant.

When in doubt, leave it out!

Doing your research

studyingCredit: Photo Monkey
Time: 1pm – 4pm

Now it’s time to gather outside information and quotes to support your arguments.

It’s important to limit the time you spend on this, as it is easy to get distracted when Google presents you with copious amounts of irrelevant information. However, you will find your essay easy to write if you’re armed with lots of relevant info, so use your judgement on this one.

Choose search keywords wisely and copy and paste key ideas and quotes into a separate ‘Research’ document. If using reference books rather than online, give yourself ten minutes to get anything that looks useful from the library, skip to chapters that look relevant and remember to use the index!

Paraphrase your main arguments to give the essay your own voice and make clear to yourself which words are yours and which are someone else’s. Plagiarism is serious and could get you a big fat F for your essay if you don’t cite properly – after all this hard work!

Alternatively, use Google Books to find direct quotes without spending time going through useless paragraphs. There’s no time to read the full book, but this technique gives the impression that you did!

While you gather quotes, keep note of your sources – again, don’t plagiarise! Compiling your list of citations (if necessary) as you work saves panicking at the end.

Extra referencing tips!

Take quotes by other authors included in the book you’re reading. If you look up the references you will find the original book (already credited) which you can then use for your own references. This way it looks like you have read more books than you have, too. Sneaky!

Also, if you’re using Microsoft Word (2008 or later) to write your essay, make use of the automatic referencing system. Simply enter the details of sources as you go along, and it will automatically create a perfect bibliography or works cited page at the end. This tool is AMAZING and could save you a lot of extra work typing out your references and bibliography.

Bashing those words out

fast typingCredit: Rainer Stropek – Flickr
Time: 4pm – 8.30pm

Get typing! Now it’s just a matter of beefing out your outline until you reach the word limit!

Get all your content down and don’t worry too much about writing style. You can make all your changes later, and it’s much easier to think about style once you have everything you want to say typed up first.

More ideas could occur to you as you go along, so jot these ideas down on a notepad – they could come in handy if you need to make up the word count later!

Use the research you gathered earlier to support the key ideas you set out in your outline in a concise way until you have reached around 2,500(ish) words.

If you’re struggling to reach the word limit, don’t panic. Pick out a single point in your argument that you feel hasn’t been fully built upon and head back to your research. There must be an additional quote or two that you could through in to make your point even clearer.

Imagine your essay is a bit like a kebab stick: The meat is your essential points and you build on them and build around each piece of meat with vegetables (quotes or remarks) to make the full kebab… time for a dinner break?

Editing to perfection

cat computer freelance
Time
: 8.30pm – 10.30pm

Ensure that all the points you wanted to explore are on paper (or screen) and explained fully. Are all your facts correct? Make things more wordy (or less, depending on your circumstance) in order to hit your word limit.

You should also check that your essay flows nicely. Are your paragraphs linked? Does it all make sense? Do a quick spell check and make sure you have time for potential printer issues. We’ve all been there!

A lot of students overlook the importance of spelling and grammar. It differs from uni to uni, subject to subject and tutor to tutor, but generally your writing style, spelling and grammar can account for up to 10-20% of your grade. Make sure you edit properly!

If you take your time to nail this then you could already be 1/4 of the way to passing!

Time to get started…

While completing essays 24 hours before the deadline is far from recommended and unlikely to get you the best grades you’ve ever gotten (try our top tips for getting a first if that’s your goal), this guide should at least prevent tears in the library (been there) and the need for any extensions. Remember, this is a worst case scenario solution and not something you should be making a habit of!

Now, why are you still reading? We all know you’ve got work to do! Good luck!

Exams coming up? Check out our guide on how to revise in one day too. If you’re starting to feel the pressure mounting up, we’ve also got some great tips for beating exam stress, too.

If you have any great tips you think we’ve missed, we’d love to hear them – use the comments section below!

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19 Responses to “How to write a 3,000 word essay in a day”

  1. James

    27. Nov, 2016

    This is bullshit. I have a 10,000 word essay due tomorrow. I fucked up by leaving it to the last minute, but the time required to research the content spans a couple of weeks.

    I am a medical student, and I have to write an essay about cancer. God knows how I even got into medical school.

    …Fuck

    Reply
  2. Georgia

    17. Oct, 2016

    Literally a God send! Just written out my plan for my essay on the political implications of the Italian Renaissance- Really don’t want to start but I have a plan now and feel more motivated. Kind of.

    Reply
    • Jake Butler

      17. Oct, 2016

      You can do it!!!

      Reply
  3. Natalie

    06. Sep, 2016

    some great tips

    Reply
  4. Chamnan

    18. Jan, 2016

    But I have only 6hours left to complete my essay, and it must be a very long one. What should I do? I got the outline, but seems not provide plenty information to write. God…I’m panic, procrastinated and stressed. ;|

    Reply
  5. Olivia

    16. Dec, 2015

    Honestly, I can’t get anything done without the thought that it needs to be in!

    Did most essays last year within the last week and passed with flying colours… The one I took my time over and worked on for over a month I had to re-submit because I failed first time.

    With the flood in Cumbria this year it’s been easier to stretch myself out a little rather than drag myself through 16 hour periods of writing each day as we were given extentions. Hopefully, these ones will be graded even higher because although there’s still pressure, I am able to re-write them in a more academic style (yay thesaurus!!!)

    Reply
  6. Chiara

    03. May, 2015

    I’m doing this now. I’m so scared I wanna cry.

    Reply
    • Bindi

      28. Aug, 2015

      Doing this right now have 1 more week to do 10000 words. Done most of the prep, with kids, work etc…goodness knows how it’s going to get done…but it will. Hard part will be editing 🙁

      Reply
  7. Beth

    03. May, 2015

    deadline in a couple days, going to bash it out tomorrow using this, fingers crossed it works!!

    Reply
  8. Megan

    09. May, 2014

    16,000 words 6 days.
    3 night shifts.
    Urgh. Thanks for this though!

    Reply
  9. Josh

    07. Jan, 2014

    Will use this guide twice until friday! then no lectures till 21st, Challenge accepted!

    Reply
  10. […] means planning, organisation and not leaving your assignment until the day before, even if you “do work best under […]

    This comment is awaiting moderation.

    Reply
  11. Shaun

    18. Mar, 2013

    I thrive on pressure and find it easier to write and concentrate within the last 24hrs before submission. Remember ” Anything is Possible”! You can do it. MSc essay completed within 2 days fully researched and handed in with 10 minutes to go. Received a Merit grade! Push yourself!

    Reply
    • jordan

      26. Mar, 2014

      could have started earlier and got a distinction* / 1st class

      Reply
  12. Katy

    17. Mar, 2013

    Doing this right now… the feeling of freedom once you’ve finished the essay though… and then instantly forgetting half the stuff you wrote about!

    Reply
  13. Loki

    08. Jan, 2013

    I do that all the time LOL

    Reply
  14. unijane

    06. Jan, 2013

    Yes this guide is Awesome! thanks.

    Reply
  15. scribbledoutname

    27. May, 2012

    Oh, and thanks, this is really helpful >:)

    Reply
  16. scribbledoutname

    27. May, 2012

    Challenge accepted.

    Reply

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