Coursework: How to plan and get started early

27 Mar 2018
By Luke C., Student at University of Huddersfield

Recently been set a deadline? It’s easy to do nothing at first, when there’s no sense of urgency. But hidden within these first days and weeks is the chance to do your best with minimal stress.

Plan well and start early - these are the secrets to a relaxed coursework experience. Need help planning and starting?

Chop the essay up into small, manageable chunks.

Here’s how to finish and submit your work on time.

1) Break down the task

Chop the essay up into small, manageable chunks. You won’t sit down to write the whole thing in one go, and the reading stage doesn’t work like that either.

So thinking about it as one job to do is not helpful. Instead, think about the little things you’ll do to arrive at a finished essay. Like this:

1. the reading task, broken down to:
a. Read book 1 (1 day)
b. Read book 2 (1 day)
c. Read book 3 (1 day)
d. Read book 4 (1 day)
e. Read book 5 (1 day)

2. the key-points-decision task (1 day)

3. the writing-up-key-points task, broken down to:
a. Write key point 1 (350 words, 1 day)
b. Write key point 2 (350 words, 1 day)
c. Write key point 3 (350 words, 1 day)
d. Write key point 4 (350 words, 1 day)
e. Write key point 5 (350 words, 1 day)

4. the intro task (150 words, half a day)

5. the conclusion task (150 words, half a day)

6. the bibliography task (half a day)

7. the proofread and edit task (half a day).

If you’re thinking, ‘Luke, that list is stressing me out’, it’s because you’re still looking at the whole thing. Ignore the list, and focus only on task 1(a).

‘I have to read the relevant sections from this one book tomorrow’, is less stressful than

‘I have to write 2,000 words in three weeks?’

Isn’t it?

2) Make a timetable

Set a mini-deadline for each mini-task, as shown above. And stick to it. This will allow you to complete every task to a good standard, without being held back trying to make it ‘perfect’.

Remember, it’s more important to finish than to finish perfectly. Just allow time at the end for editing, so you feel confident you’ve corrected any typos or dodgy bits.

3) Set a soft deadline

In our example above, we get from zero to finished in 13 days. Which is pretty good going. It’s unlikely you’ll ever be asked to write a 2,000-word essay with less notice than that.

Aim to complete the assignment five days before the submission deadline so you have enough time to make objective edits before you submit (see point 5 below).

4) Reserve your resources early

Understanding what’s required takes time. That’s why we’ve allowed a full day to read each book. But you don’t want to delay the writing stage because you haven’t been able to get your hands on what you need.

Check out any books, and reserve any equipment or facilities you’ll need, way in advance. They’ll be more in demand closer to the deadline.

5) Respect the editing process

It’s one of the last things you do, but it’s one of the most important. Losing points to typos on a well-researched and persuasively-argued essay is a frustrating thing.

Check your work multiple times for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Compare your essay with the criteria to make sure you’ve answered the question.

If you’ve got time, ask a friend or flatmate to read your work. Read it to yourself out loud - this is especially useful for finding sentences that are too long or missing punctuation.

So there you have it. A five-point approach to getting started early, staying on track, and handing in work you can be proud of, on-time. Try it next time, and good luck.

Chop the essay up into small, manageable chunks.
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Luke is studying Popular Music Production at the University of Huddersfield.