So, as many of you know by now, I study English. English and essays go hand in hand. No way around it. When the engineers and maths students among us have 6 exams, we have 6 deadlines. People perhaps don’t realise but having a coursework orientated degree brings up totally different challenges to those studying a more exam focused degree. I want to share with you some of the things I have learnt so far.
1. Preparation is key
The famous saying goes, ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. I have found that to definitely be true. If I have a big deadline coming up in a couple of weeks time I try to start all the preparation work as early as possible. That means, you’ve guessed it, hitting the library. The initial stages of preparation for a big deadline include doing as much reading as possible; I can guarantee that if you think you’ve read all you can on a particular topic there is always more.
Although this is arguably the hardest part of your coursework, getting all your preparation and plans done, it definitely pays off. When it comes to writing the actual piece of work I find that I can get it done efficiently if I have spent a considerable amount of time prepping. We all know that last minute stress as the deadline approaches, right? Preparing well for the coursework can decrease some of this stress, I promise, because you know exactly what to write and have all the evidence at your fingertips to support your points.
2. You should always pick a topic that you enjoy
This piece of advice can be said to everyone studying any degree. But, with coursework in my degree we often have a huge list of potential essay topics we can answer. Compare this to an exam, where often you have one set question, and suddenly the freedom in my degree is huge. We have been told by every man and his dog that ‘you should never study something you don’t enjoy’. Why else do we do the degrees we do, right?
However, I have learnt the hard way that enjoyment doesn’t come from choosing essay topics that seem ‘easier’ but are on a topic that I find a bit dull. There is honestly nothing worse than spending your whole Christmas holiday drowning in readings and essay plans about something you actually don’t find that interesting… Been there, done that, got the t shirt. Trust me, I would not recommend.
Having a topic that really gets you going is half the battle done. Now all you have to do is do the reading and write the essay. Easier said than done…
3. You should never be afraid to ask questions
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is ‘never be afraid to ask a question, no matter how big or small’. It might seem obvious but at the end of the day it is better to know something than be totally clueless. With coursework you have endless questions, particularly in first year when faced with writing your first ever proper academic essay. Trust me, lecturers have heard them all before so don’t feel embarrassed or nervous. These questions might be content based or they may be small things about referencing or the structure of your essay. Either way, you’ll be thankful you asked when you see you aren’t drastically marked down in your feedback.