Help! My Essay Sucks!

My essay is too long

If your essay is too long, go through it and remove one sentence from each paragraph. You’ll be surprised to find that you can do this easily. A lot of what you write in your first draft is inessential. If it is still too long, go through sentence by sentence, and make each sentence as short as it can be while still conveying the same message. Finally, if it is still too long, cut your weakest point of argument.

My essay is too short

If your essay is too short, add a paragraph summarizing counterarguments to your thesis and offering an explanation for why (1) the counterarguments don’t apply in this case, (2) the counterarguments limit but do not invalidate your claims, and/or (3) the counterarguments are wrong. If it is still too short, add another paragraph explaining how your analysis could be applied in a specific, hypothetical situation relevant to your argument.

My essay is incoherent

If your essay is the right length, but it just isn’t coherent (e.g., it reads like a bunch of random facts, not evidence that systematically argues a thesis), try reverse outlining. You will end up re-ordering your essay, and you might need to make a new thesis statement, but you should be able to copy and paste the bulk of your first draft into your new essay.

I left it until the last minute

If you left your essay until the last minute and don’t have time to do what you need to do to get a decent grade, then do a condensed version of this guide:

  1. Read the assignment instructions.
  2. Think of a topic that isn’t too boring.
  3. Use your topic as search terms in a library database and find as many articles as you need to meet the assignment guidelines, choosing only from among the ones whose abstracts you understand.
  4. Read the articles and make point form notes on what evidence each offers to you, making your bibliography as you go.
  5. Use those point form notes to make an outline.
  6. Decide on a thesis that is plausible, arguable and supported by your evidence.
  7. Write the body paragraphs of your essay, making sure to state in each paragraph how your point supports your thesis and including your in-text citations as you go.
  8. Write your introduction and conclusion, making sure both paragraphs state your thesis and summarize how you made your argument.
  9. Read your essay to yourself out loud to make sure it makes sense and doesn’t contain a distracting number of spelling or punctuation errors.
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