The Essay Writing Process that got me into English Honours

The awards I received in Grade 12 for my Humanities courses. Needless to say I was not concerned about my writing skills for university.

By my final year in high school, I had built myself quite a sense of confidence when it came to my ability to write an essay.

I had taken AP English and History, and was always praised for my performance. Therefore, it goes without saying that when I started my English degree at UVIC, writing essays was the least of my concerns.

However, after receiving my first essay grade back, I was unpleasantly surprised. My grade was much lower than expected, and I started spiralling. How was I supposed to fix something I thought I was great at?

In retrospect, every part of your first year at University is going to be a learning curve, essay writing included. Now that I am halfway through my third year, I have very nearly nailed down the essay writing process–it even got me into the English honours program! If you’re curious about my essay writing discoveries, keep reading!

Outline (2 weeks prior to due date)

Even though the outline process has less words than your final product, do not be fooled. The outline process is where I do most of the heavy lifting!

I construct my thesis and argument and do all the research required to defend my points. Make sure to note any source you use for your “work cited.”

Although I am smiling, this photo was taken during a serious academic spiral. I was trying to physically channel Hermione Granger to boost my grades!

Free Write (1 week, 6 days prior to due date)

The day after I write my outline, I construct a very rough draft of my essay. My main focus is to connect the bones that I created in my outline.

This process is usually where I discover where I need more evidence, or if a piece of evidence is out of place. Do not fuss too much over grammar at this stage, you have tons of time to edit!

Self Edit (1 Week, 5 Days prior to due date)

Here, I read my own work and fix anything I notice. I also have invested in a monthly subscription to Grammarly. I am self aware that grammar is not my strength, so running my essay through this AI grammar proofing service helps me a ton!

Here is the link to download Grammarly!

Peer Editing and Office Hours (Any point before the due date)

After I have edited my paper as much as I can, I always send my paper over to some trusted peers for a second pair of eyes (note, this also means you are the second pair of eyes for your peer’s paper!). If I am still feeling unsure about my essay, I attend office hours with my professor to go over anything that is making me particularly uneasy – as much for my mental state as for the essay.

Before I send you off on your essay writing journey, just know that everyone’s process is different! This process works for me, and it’s an awesome place to start if you are searching for strategies, but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t fret! Finding effective learning strategies takes time, and you’ll get there.

My best friend Aideen peer edits my papers through Google Docs Sharing.

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