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

So you've got fewer hours than Jack Bauer to complete a 3,000 word essay? Not ideal, but don't stress. You can make it happen by following our steps!write an essay in a day

We know. You had every intention of being deadline-ready, but sometimes life can get in the way.

The good news is that 3,000 words in a day is totally doable. Get your head down, and you could not only meet submission but produce an essay you are proud of.

Take a breath. Remain calm. Mop up the cold sweats. And let's get this done!

There are many reasons students find themselves in this pressurised situation (some more innocent than others). We're not here to judge, rather help you make the best of a tricky situation.

Getting prepped

organisedCredit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos – Flickr

'Fail to plan and you plan to fail' – or so our tutors like to remind us. Reading this, we suspect you haven't entirely embraced this motto, but there are a few things you can do the morning before deadline day that will make your day of frantic essay-writing run smoothly.

Eat first

Fuel your body and mind with a healthy breakfast, like porridge. The slow-release energy will prevent a mid-morning slump over your desk, something you really can't afford right now!

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

Pick your workstation & equipment

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 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, bottled water, any notes you have, and some snacks to use as mini-rewards. These 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.

Shut out the world

cat hiding
Procrastination is a student's worst enemy (besides a hangover). Turn off your phone (or place it face down on silent) and resist urges to check social media.

Don't trust yourself? Temporarily deactivate your accounts or get a friend to change your passwords for 24 hours.

Set yourself goals

Time management is pretty important when you have 24 hours before a deadline.

Setting yourself chunks of time to reach certain milestones breaks down the big daunting task, and provides motivation as you knock off achievable goals as you go.

Let's say it's 9am and your essay is due in first thing tomorrow morning. Here's a feasible 14 hour timeline that you can follow:

  • 9:00 - 9:30 - Essay question chosen and overall argument
  • 9:30 - 12:00 - Write a full plan and outline of your essay (breaking it into mini-essays)
  • 12:00 - 12:45 - Flesh out your introduction
  • 12:45 - 13:30 - Lunch break
  • 13:30 - 14:30 - Research quotes and references to back up your arguments
  • 14:30 - 18:00 - Write the body of the essay
  • 18:00 - 18:45 - Dinner break
  • 18:45 - 22:30 - Edit, improve and meet word count
  • 22:30 - 23:00 - Print and prepare ready for the morning

Remember to schedule in a few short 10 minute breaks – you need to keep productivity up and resting your brain is key. Stretching and brief exercises will also help.

Victim of procrastination? We have 13 hacks to boost your productivity!

Choosing a question and approach

Trees with question mark graffiti
Time
: 9am - 9.30am

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.

24 hours before the deadline is not the time to learn a new topic from scratch – no matter how much easier the question seems! 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?

Remember that it's your essay and as long as you keep relating your arguments to the question you can take it in any direction you choose.

Do a quick Google around the topic to get a clear idea of what's already been said on your chosen argument.

Now, type out 3-5 key points that you'll aim to tackle in your overall 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 - 12.45pm

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: 1.30pm - 2.30pm

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 Scholar to find direct quotes without spending time going through endless paragraphs.

While you gather quotes, keep note of your sources – and, 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 text you're reading. If you look up the references you will find the source which you can use for your own references. 😉

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.

Check out episode three of our podcast, No More Beans, for even more great tips on writing essays against a deadline!

Getting those words down

fast typingCredit: Rainer Stropek – Flickr
Time: 2.30pm - 6pm

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
: 6.45pm - 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 wordier (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!

Time to get started...

While starting essays a day before the deadline is far from recommended and unlikely to get you the best grades, 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. Go get 'em!

Exams coming up? You may want to bookmark how to revise in one day too!

Comments

Biddymacp

This is genuinely brilliant I have been in this situation a few times and this is exactly the best process I wish I had seen this as an undergraduate. I think actual writing time is a bit optimistic in truth it would be an all-nighter and I have always worked better with less food. A belly full of porridge would send me back to bed but I'm a hefty bloke and missing a meal wont kill me.

Anyway, back to the dissertation, 14000 words to go, still have 5 weeks though.

Carly

me reading this, is me procrastinating my assignment that was due 3 days

Jake Alexander Murray

This is one excellent article! I've referred back to this specific website (article) over for the past 2 years and it works wonderfully! Thank you for updating it!

George

For one of my finals, we actually have to write a 3500 words essay in 24 hours... We will get the topic at 10am on a Tuesday, and have to hand it back at 10am the day after... so, it's not a bug, it's a feature

DinaHaines

some great tips

Marwah

Here goes nothing! 3000 words in a day (and maybe handing it in a day late if I cant finish in time and copping the 5% deduction).

James

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.

Georgia

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.

Jake Butler

You can do it!!!

Natalie

some great tips

Chamnan

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. ;|

Olivia

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!!!)

Chiara

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

Bindi

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 🙁

Beth

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

Megan

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

Josh

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

Shaun

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!

jordan

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

Katy

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!

Loki

I do that all the time LOL

unijane

Yes this guide is Awesome! thanks.

scribbledoutname

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

scribbledoutname

Challenge accepted.

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