How to Write an Essay in an Hour*

This essay writing method will help you write your essay in around an hour. Depending on the page-length for the essay, it may take closer to an hour and a half to complete. Either way, this method will shorten amount of time you spend on your essay. Let’s begin!
*For a 1-5 Page paper. Add an additional 10-30 minutes for each additional page. 

Part One: Before the Hour

Before starting the “timer” make sure that you have: created a thesis statement and collected your sources.

Step One: Create your Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement should be succinct enough to fit into one sentence. If you find yourself dedicating two or three sentences to explain your thesis, it is either too complex or too vague. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon your topic, just refocus on what you found interesting about your topic in the first place and try to be more specific.

Step Two: Organize your Sources

Once you have your sources, organize them. Make sure that you have the amount of sources required for your essay.

Skim your sources. If they are short enough, read them all the way through. Highlight and make note of important things in the margins or on a separate piece of paper.

Plug your sources into a free bibliography service (such as easybib) as you collect them. Create a document just with citations for your sources, organizing them in alphabetical order. Even if you don’t use all of the sources you collect, this will make your life easier after you finish writing your essay.

* Tip: Have at least three (3) sources for your essay (unless otherwise specified). If possible, mix the origin of the sources. Ex. One article, one academic journal and, one print source. 

Part Two: Start the Clock

With all the prep-work out of the way, you now can sit back and relax until the absolute last moment to start actually writing this essay (that’s what I do…)

Step Three: Take Notes on your Sources

All that highlighting and note taking from Step Two will greatly help you now. Open an empty word document (or do this by hand, whichever you prefer) and write down anything that will help you make your point in your essay.

Make sure to also write down your thoughts on the subject, that way you have material for your essay that is your own.

*Tip: Make sure you write down the page number when you take notes. That way you don’t have to re-find the quote when you’re inserting internal citations. Standard MLA citation is:  (Author’s Last Name, Page #)

Step Four: Organize your Notes into an Outline

Now that you’ve gathered the content for your essay, create the structure. You can put fillers in for your Introduction and Conclusion paragraphs but don’t try to write them now.

Stretch your notes into complete sentences. Mix together sources and your own thoughts (still keeping those citation notes next to them for later). A standard outline should have: three (3) body paragraphs and at least three (3) points/argument for each body paragraph. Along with the points/arguments, you should attach sources that correspond to or defend the points/arguments you’ve put forth. They don’t have to be complete sentences, but writing in complete sentences now will help you in Step Four.

Step Five:  Start Writing Your Paper

If you wrote in complete sentences for your outline, the beginning of Step Four will be a bunch of copying and pasting.

If you didn’t write in complete sentences for your outline, start stretching those thoughts now. Stretch one-word thoughts into sentence fragments and sentence fragments into full sentences.

Make sure to include all of your citation tags.

Step Six: Introduction and Conclusion

Now that you’ve fleshed out your body paragraphs, you can turn to the dreaded introduction and conclusion.

I recommend starting with the conclusion first. Your conclusion is a summary of your work. Make sure your conclusion is around five (5) sentences, that way you can dedicate three sentences to each body paragraph and then have two others to wrap up your paper and to restate your thesis.

Sentences of your Conclusion:

  1. Wrap up your essay (this can extend to two sentences if needed).
  2. Touch on Body Paragraph 1
  3. Touch on Body Paragraph 2
  4. Touch on Body Paragraph 3
  5. Restate Thesis

Your introduction will then just be your conclusion backwards:

  1. State Thesis
  2. Touch on Body Paragraph 1
  3. Touch on Body Paragraph 2
  4. Touch on Body Paragraph 3
  5. Introduce essay (this will be similar wording to your “Wrap up your essay” sentence from your conclusion)

I always start with the conclusion first because I find it easier to write from the point of view of summarizing what has already been read versus summarizing what you are about to read.

NOTE: If you get done pasting and stretching everything from your outline and you’re still not at your page count, don’t fret. There are a few things you can do to fix this:

– Go Back to your Notes

It’s possible there are thoughts/source material that you didn’t include in your outline. Pick out those things and integrate them into your outline.

– Find Additional Quick Sources

This might seem jaunting because this method requires jumping all the way back before Step One, however, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Despite the warnings of every teacher you’ve ever had, Wikipedia is your best friend. Find the Wikipedia article on your topic and scroll all the way down to their sources. Sometimes, Wikipedia will have links to the online sources they have pulled from or links to e-book versions of print sources.

To make the most of your time, skim the article itself first before venturing down to the bottom of the page. Find passages that relate directly to your thesis statement and click on the footnotes at the end of the sentence or paragraph.  That will give you the source you need.

Step Seven: Editing

Now that you’ve reached your page requirement, it’s time to go back through and double check that everything looks and sounds good.

Check for:

  • You’re / Your
  • It’s / Its
  • Where / Were / Wear
  • Their / There / They’re

– Read it Aloud

You’ll find most of your mistakes immediately after reading it out loud.

– Run it Through Hemingway Editor

This free online service quickly checks the readability of your work. It catalogs the use of passive voice, number of adjectives, and complex phrasing. You want to shoot for a reading level of between 6th and 9th grade. This does not mean that you yourself are at a 6th-9th grade reading or writing level, but simply measures how readable something is to avoid unnecessary jargon.

Part Three: Time’s Up

By now, you have completed your essay, congratulations! Before submitting your hard work, do some last minute things before your deadline.

Step Eight: Bibliography and Finishing Touches

This is where your sources document from Step Two comes into play. Copy and paste the sources you ended up using to your essay document for your bibliography section.

If you didn’t organize your sources before, do that now. Your sources should always be organize alphabetical by the author’s last name. If the source doesn’t have an author (most web page sources don’t) simply organize the source by the title of the article itself.

Before you submit your essay double check:

  • Your grammar and punctuation
  • Page numbers
  • Footnotes (if you used them)
  • That all of your citations are properly cited
  • That the header on the first page includes:
    • Your name
    • Class Name
    • Course Number (if applicable)
    • Your professor/teacher’s name
    • The date
  • That you have a title
    • That it is relevant to your finished product
    • That it is not too long or too short
    • That it is not too vague (be specific!)

Step Nine: Sleep

If you’re like me, you’ve stayed up all night procrastinating this and it’s now nearly sunrise. If you’re lucky, you have a few hours to get some shut eye before class tomorrow. Celebrate your completed paper with a good ole nap.




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