Many of us who have been through any type of formal education know the often daunting experience essay writing can be. It’s time consuming and can all of a sudden grow into an overwhelmingly complex task. Teachers can sometimes forget the basics and leave their students stumbling around in the dense dark “mindscape” of academic writing.
Basically, without the right tools, essay writing can become quite a painful feat of mental gymnastics.
In today’s world however, there are enough resources out there to guide the first time essay writer or even a long time writer looking for new ways to get their ideas on paper, through the essay writing process. We have gathered several of the best tools for helping avid thinkers go from the gene of an idea to a fully researched, written and edited essay.
This is a mental exercise that needs to be worked on, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself the time. Writing the night before a deadline turns this from an enjoyable learning experience into a laborious uphill battle. This isn’t just about getting words down on paper so that you reach the proposed word count or necessary number of pages, it’s about structuring your thoughts into a cohesive argument filled with valuable insights. Consolidating previously learnt knowledge is one of the main reasons essays are written, but essays are written for many reasons and you have to know why you are writing yours.
The first five tools on this list will help you wrap your head around the pre-writing stages integral to writing an essay.
1. Teen Ink
Before Quentin Tarantino became a master of the film medium he was a lover of it. If you want to write not only good essays but great ones, then you should read several before you get started. This gets your head into the right space, you can start intuiting how a great essay should flow from its introduction to its conclusion. Surprisingly there aren’t that many reliable essay databases out there that don’t require any subscription fees. If you want to pay there is always Jstor. There are also some great books you can get hold of like, The Book of Lives by Aleksandar Hemon, which will inspire you to take your essay writing to a deeper level. We also recommend Teen Ink for a range of essays from long to short that’ll give you some idea as to how an essay should be structured.
Often the thing that can throw a writer off is the pressure one feels with regards to nailing grammar. Guide to Grammar and Writing is a great tool to have by your side before you kick off your writing. It’s a great companion if you have any questions along the way.The Writing Lab is another great tool for helping with grammar.
Getting to the crux of your topic is the first step any writer must take before putting anything down on paper. You have to ask yourself a series of important questions;what is the question at the heart of my topic? Why am I writing about this topic? What is my argument? What is the main argument against mine? You have to figure out the core aspects of your argument, this is the gene from which your research will grow, and will lead to more questions and therefore a deeper excavation of the subject at hand. Thesis builder is a simple tool that helps you generate an outline for your essay, it gets you asking yourself these important questions which is important grounding for your research process.
Doing research can be a lot of fun if you go about it the right way. Researching can quickly become unorganized and your notes can end up all over the place making the important consolidation process that much more difficult. Memonic or Evernote are two great note taking tools that help you make sense of the various sources you are using and the ideas that blossom as you gather various strands of information.
Now that you have begun your research you want to start finding connections between sources. You want to drive your research forward so that it contributes to your central argument. The Literary Machine is a marvelous tool for helping manage your ideas. It helps order the chaos that will undoubtedly manifest from the exploring you have done. It categorizes information for you and makes brainstorming a lot easier by creating hierarchical or treelike analyses of your research. With the help of this tool hopefully you’ll have a blueprint in mind so you can go ahead and start writing your essay.
Having a clear, calm, stress free mind set is something we can often overlook when doing grueling, time consuming mental work. Taking a break is a great idea. Marc Balaban created this very simple but incredibly effective little tool that can be of some assistance once the writing starts taking strain. It’s very easy to use; you type whatever is on your mind and you watch as it dissolves away in 60 seconds. It may only take a minute to get your mind back into the calm space you need it to be in.
It may seem a little tedious at first but getting your references properly structured not only makes your paper look a whole lot more professional but its standard practice in the academic arena. RefMe automatically sets your references to any of several styles such as, Harvard, APA, MLA, and so on.
You may have finished your essay, great job, but that’s not the end, you still have to edit it. Often the best way to edit is to leave your essay for a few days and return to it with fresh eyes later, or to give it to someone else to read. We don’t always have these luxuries. Hemingway Editor is an app that can be those fresh eyes for you. It points out long, complicated sentences and suggests shortening them, it suggests more exciting adverbs or to use stronger verbs instead.
The Hemingway Editor will get your essay feeling a lot more fluid but you may want to take another read through using this useful checklist, just to make sure everything is in place.
So you’ve written and edited your essay! Hold on, before you publish it, or hand it in for evaluation perhaps you’d like to run it through The Readability Test Tool. This tool will give you some idea as to how readable your work actually is. This is great if you are aiming for a specific target market or if you just want to get an idea of how your writing weights up according to certain readability indexes.
Again, it is important to mention that you need time to write an essay. So don’t leave it to the last minute. These tools won’t write the essay for you, they will only help you consolidate your thoughts more easily. Happy writing!