First class English grad, still can’t write essays- help!

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EllaWelly
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I graduated from university a year ago with a high first in English Literature. I got consistent firsts in all my essays across my degree. However after a year internship at the student paper I am now going onto do a postgraduate course in journalism and I am freaking out because throughout my whole degree I never learnt HOW to write an essay properly!

I have never made or used an essay plan. Ever. I have tried but I can’t. The struggle I always fall into is that I find it impossible to structure my thoughts without the process of writing. But writing is next to impossible when I have no structure or direction. So what i found myself doing for every undergrad essay was just LOADS of reading and highlighting and thinking - I’d have to think my brain to death until suddenly the “crux” of what I was trying to say just came to me (I never knew when this would happen) and then I would splurge it all out in a fairly chaotic way. My feedback tended to be that my ideas were very creative, unique and advanced but it lacked structure and it took me a while to get to them. That’s because I was doing the thinking process by writing the essay.

Does anyone have any tips as to how I can get over this? I really want to learn how to get to these interesting ideas in my mind in a more orderly way lol.

PS. may or may not be relevant but I suspect I have ADHD and am currently in the process of getting diagnosed. But I may be wrong and have never received any support for this.

Thank you!

EDIT: I am obviously really really happy with my grades and feel grateful to have been marked highly! This is not really about improving those but rather improving my process for my own mental clarity. I hate every essay feeling so chaotic and feeling like I have no methodology or room to work on my technique
Last edited by EllaWelly; 4 months ago
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ashtolga23
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Sounds like a bit of imposter syndrome. I don't know, if you still got a first then you can't be that bad.

I get the stress though, because I'm very similar and was wondering about possible ADD. I think looking at help for the possible ADHD would be a good first step.
Last edited by ashtolga23; 4 months ago
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Catherine1973
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Isn’t a plan just introduction/argument 123 then conclusion and then you flesh them out?

Does palgrave study skills books cover your course?
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EllaWelly
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(Original post by ashtolga23)
Sounds like a bit of imposter syndrome. I don't know, if you still got a first then you can't be that bad.

I get the stress though, because I'm very similar and was wondering about possible ADD. I think looking at help for the possible ADHD would be a good first step.
I’m happy with my grades! but I just hate the stress it takes for every essay, knowing that I have no order, routine or methodology for writing and just having to hope that something will come to me before the deadline. And I just think i could really improve the clarity and structure of my points if I learnt how to write in a more conventional way.

Will keep seeking out the ADD support as I agree this could be the root of it. Thank you
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Reality Check
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(Original post by EllaWelly)
I graduated from university a year ago with a high first in English Literature. I got consistent firsts in all my essays across my degree. However after a year internship at the student paper I am now going onto do a postgraduate course in journalism and I am freaking out because throughout my whole degree I never learnt HOW to write an essay properly!

I have never made or used an essay plan. Ever. I have tried but I can’t. The struggle I always fall into is that I find it impossible to structure my thoughts without the process of writing. But writing is next to impossible when I have no structure or direction. So what i found myself doing for every undergrad essay was just LOADS of reading and highlighting and thinking - I’d have to think my brain to death until suddenly the “crux” of what I was trying to say just came to me (I never knew when this would happen) and then I would splurge it all out in a fairly chaotic way. My feedback tended to be that my ideas were very creative, unique and advanced but it lacked structure and it took me a while to get to them. That’s because I was doing the thinking process by writing the essay.

Does anyone have any tips as to how I can get over this? I really want to learn how to get to these interesting ideas in my mind in a more orderly way lol.

PS. may or may not be relevant but I suspect I have ADHD and am currently in the process of getting diagnosed. But I may be wrong and have never received any support for this.

Thank you!
It's a bit of a contradiction in terms, 'I got a high I class degree but can't write an essay properly'. Evidentially, you can write a good essay! It sounds like you're being a bit performative with this whole 'essay plan' thing - sometimes those formalised 'plans' don't work for everyone.

I have some kinship with your description of how you write: I tend to vomit out a load of stuff on a page, and then set to organising it all and doing some editing. I really don't think this is particularly problematic, as a modus operandi. Is the bit you're having trouble with organising, cutting and re-writing the vomited ideas? How do you write? By hand, or on a computer?
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EllaWelly
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(Original post by Reality Check)
It's a bit of a contradiction in terms, 'I got a high I class degree but can't write an essay properly'. Evidentially, you can write a good essay! It sounds like you're being a bit performative with this whole 'essay plan' thing - sometimes those formalised 'plans' don't work for everyone.

I have some kinship with your description of how you write: I tend to vomit out a load of stuff on a page, and then set to organising it all and doing some editing. I really don't think this is particularly problematic, as a modus operandi. Is the bit you're having trouble with organising, cutting and re-writing the vomited ideas? How do you write? By hand, or on a computer?
I always write on a computer but I just feel like I have no modus operandi at all and it’s left me with no room to improve. I’m obviously very happy with my grades! but they stayed consistent over my whole time at uni, never got better or worse, and I just feel like there is nowhere for me to get to from here. I just have to hope a moment of insight comes to me and it all feels very stressful and chaotic. I can never get into the “flow” of writing, I just have to keep digging for my point, and it makes me kind of hate the process
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gjd800
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I don't write a plan, but there is always a direction in my head: what is my point, problem, argument? Why do I think this? What is my evidence? How might an objector want to respond? How can I defeat these objections?

I am not sure how much this applies to English lit but I have wrote a bit on the religious thought of Tolstoy in his later works using a similar approach and it always goes OK for me
Last edited by gjd800; 4 months ago
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chazwomaq
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(Original post by EllaWelly)
I’d have to think my brain to death until suddenly the “crux” of what I was trying to say just came to me (I never knew when this would happen)
This is the key to essay writing. Once you have done the reading and worked out what you want to say, then you can start essay planning. Don't plan your essay before you've done your research.

One tip is to write that key thing you want to say as a single sentence. This sentence could well become either the first line of your essay, the last line, or the first line of your concluding paragraph. Next expand that sentence into an idea in the form of a paragraph - this could become your conclusion.

Good tips in this article too: https://www.theguardian.com/educatio...write-an-essay
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