Essays. The bane of every student’s existence, one might agree. Me? I beg to differ… to some extent. Honestly, I quite enjoyed the essay-writing aspect of both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees; not only am I a passionate writer, but I was – and am still – deeply passionate about my courses of study, which made the processes of learning about, conducting research into and producing pieces of work based on such a hell of a lot easier. Throughout my studies, I saw every essay, fieldwork study and report – even my 16,000-word master’s thesis, as lengthy (albeit interesting) as it was – as an opportunity to develop my written communication skills; writing is a craft which becomes more easily attainable to master with every piece. Don’t get me wrong: like many students, I often lacked motivation to begin, continue and complete an essay; procrastinated some to the night before (and, in a couple of cases, the day of) its due date; and fought the very real urge to frustratedly throw my laptop at my bedroom wall – believe me. Nonetheless, my best pieces of work – on the basis of their grades and my satisfaction upon completing such – were those that I’d invested ample time into. As a student, it is only inevitable that you might not feel as motivated to produce some essays than others, but for when you are motivated, here are some tips on how to produce a great essay.
Do your research
What good is an essay if you haven’t done your research? The point of an essay is to execute your argument in response to a question or statement posed by your professor in a clear and competent manner, and to acknowledge alternative perspectives to clarify the validity of your argument. Whatever the topic, make sure you do your research; investigate past literature on the subject by various scholars, identify gaps in the literature and consider how the literature can assist in explaining your argument.
Plan the structure
I can ~almost~ guarantee that every good essay ever written was planned. Hell, it was only possible that I achieved a first on the essays I started the night before because I had a plan; without a plan, I would’ve been screwed. Planning doesn’t have to be over-complicated; I planned most of my essays by creating sections and bullet-pointing under each section header the points I wanted to communicate. Be it a list, a mind map or a detailed proposal, whatever works for you – make sure you plan your essay.
Allocate enough time
Again, in my experience, my best essays were those that I spent the most time on. I know, I know – it can be hard to fathom how to best prioritise your assignments. But, once you do, I can assure you that you can make the time to write your essay. As I recommend in my blog about how to be more organised at university, invest in a diary, download a countdown app or even create your own study timetable to not only keep track of your deadlines, but to plan your time around producing your essay.
Proofread it all
When planning your time to produce your essay, it’s so important to incorporate enough time to proofread your essay. I’ve already written a blog on how to successfully proofread your work but, in sum, proofreading is a vital step in the essay-writing process because it enables you to not only identify any errors or mistakes you might have made as to spelling, punctuation and grammar, but also to ensure that you’ve covered everything you intended to. As per my proofreading blog, you can proofread your essay in a variety of ways.
Submit a draft
Most of the time, your professors will offer you the opportunity to submit a draft of your essay and, if they haven’t vocalised it, they will probably accept one if you ask. In any case, take the opportunity to submit a draft to your professors (provided you submit it approximately a week before the deadline) so they can provide feedback on the work you’ve already produced and perhaps offer some suggestions on how to make it even better. From that one draft, your essay could gain just a few more marks which can make a great difference.
Whether you’re heading into sixth form, your first, second or final year of university or your first year of postgraduate study, I hope these tips were helpful on how to produce a good essay!
As usual, I welcome all comments and questions in the comment section below or via the form on my contact page.
Finally! At long last, you’ve reached the end of that seemingly endless assignment – the one that you’ve been working on day and night for the last 5 days straight, the one that you’ve been dreading most of all, the one that you deemed almost impossible – so, that’s it! Done! Finished! Complete! Right? Unfortunately, wrong; it doesn’t quite end there. After such hard work, there is one final – and vital – step that must be taken in producing a high-quality piece of work: proofreading. Whatever the assignment, be it an essay, a report or a dissertation, it is imperative to proofread it to identify any errors, mistakes or issues as to spelling, punctuation and grammar, clarity and overall presentation. Proofreading provides an opportunity to refine your work; of course, no assignment can be perfect, but proofreading can absolutely assist in boosting an assignment’s grade from a 2:2 to a 2:1 or a 2:1 to a first. Nonetheless, it is completely understandable that you might struggle to find the motivation to proofread your work after putting so much time and energy into producing it. As someone who loves to proofread (call me crazy, but it’s true; I even run my own freelance proofreading business), I wanted to share some tips for students on how to effectively proofread and when it is best to do so.
1. Allocate some time to proofread
I get it. When you have so many assignments to do on top of one another, it’s hard to try to complete them all before their deadlines with some time to spare for proofreading. However, this is a really important step in the process of completing your assignment for the reasons given in the introduction. Not only should you make a note of all your deadline dates (as I suggest in my blog about how to be more organised at university), but you should also set yourself personal deadlines to complete your assignments at least a couple of days before the official due date. That way, once you’ve finished the writing up of the assignment, you can close it, call it a day and proofread it with a fresh mind the following morning. It is also important to give yourself a break in between completing and proofreading the assignment so as to not fry your brain!
2. Read it to a friend or family member
Sometimes, the best way to decipher the clarity of your work is to read it aloud to a friend or family member. Even though your work will most likely require specific terminology related to your field of study to demonstrate your understanding of such, a great way to think about how to produce a clear and concise piece of work is this: “if a lay person were to read it, would they understand it?”. That’s not to say that your piece can’t be articulate and/or include highbrow vocabulary but, particularly for a fieldwork study or dissertation, think of it as a recipe: if somebody – anybody – were to read your study, they could replicate it. Reading your work to a friend or family member that hasn’t studied your course will help you determine the clarity of your work. Likewise, you can ask them to read it to themselves and provide feedback on anything that was unclear (or not – it could be entirely positive!).
3. If you don’t want to read, listen
Want to know something amazing? Microsoft Word has a function whereby it can actually read your work to you! What’s more, you can alter the reading speed and voice to your preference! It’s like listening to an audiobook of your work. Like I said: amazing, right? When I discovered this function, I didn’t stop using it to proofread my assignments. In listening to your work, it can be even easier to spot errors or mistakes – especially spelling ones as you can hear the word being said incorrectly (Word doesn’t always detect spelling errors or mistakes, particularly if it still spells a real word). It also provides some time away from the screen; while it highlights each word as it is being read aloud, you can stick your headphones in, close your eyes and just listen. This was my favourite method of proofreading throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
4. If you don’t want to listen, print
Another great method for proofreading your work is to print it out. After spending so much time in front of the screen to type up your assignment, it can be difficult to spot any errors or mistakes on said screen when you come to proofreading it. However, if you print the assignment, it can be easier to identify such errors or mistakes because the printout is larger and thus sometimes clearer. Again, it also means that you can spend some time away from the screen and read it more peacefully. The best part about printing drafts, in my opinion, is that you can annotate all over them – you can cross elements out, add some words or sentences in and draw on any missing punctuation – and use such annotations for reference when you go back to editing it on your computer.
5. Send a draft to your professor
If you’ve completed your assignment at least a week before the deadline, your module professor will likely be happy to read a draft and provide some comments either by using the comment function on Word, writing some overall comments in an email or sharing them in person. After all, it is often your professor who provisionally marks your work before it is sent to be examined externally, so there is no better person to read it than the person who runs the module! In my experience, my professors always told us when they were accepting drafts and, when I provided them, they were as helpful as they could be; unfortunately, they can’t tell you whether it’s fulfilled the criteria (they usually tell you that upon your final submission), but they can definitely guide you.
Overall, it is vital to proofread an academic piece of work for a variety of reasons. It demonstrates that you can communicate in a clear and competent manner, that you pay attention to detail and that you take pride in the presentation of your work; skills that professors and examiners seek.
As usual, I hope you found these tips useful and I welcome all questions and queries in the comment section below or via social media or email (you can find my contact details here). Alternatively, if you’d like more assistance from me with proofreading, you can visit my proofreading business website PavProofed.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am really (and, sometimes, annoyingly) well-organised. After my distinctively short height (which I recently evaluated in another blog), I’d say it’s one of the first characteristics that others notice about me. Just a couple of years back, I remember one of my (many) aunties explaining to me that she remembers how – when I was really young – I used to place everything on my desk at home in a very particular manner, like ornaments facing certain directions and sitting specific distances from one another; still, everything sits symmetrically, orderly and well-aligned on my current dressing table (I could just be mad; I haven’t quite figured it out yet). There is no doubt that I adopted my organisation skills – or madness – from my wonderful yet hyper-organised mother who insists that the beds be made as soon as we leave them, that the washing be put away as soon as it comes off the line and that the kitchen worktops be cleaned twenty-four-seven (all of which, due to having lived with her my whole life, I too have adopted and agree with!). Nonetheless, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I realised that organisation is something that many people find difficult to grasp; it’s so imperative to my everyday life that I forgot that it’s not a trait of everyone. This blog is the first of a forthcoming series on how to be more organised in an array of life situations and is aimed at prospective and current students on how to be organised during their university studies.
Being organised at university
To me, being organised at university was critical to my overall success in my degrees. It allowed me stay on top of my module requirements (which is important when undertaking multiple modules at once), keep track of deadlines (which is vital as assignments are often due in close proximities), and manage a healthy study-work-life balance (which is crucial to stabilise your mental health throughout your studies). I’m not saying that organisation alone will guarantee that first- or second-class honours as many other factors contribute to such, including appropriate studying of your course, the quality of your assignment submissions and your enjoyment of the course overall, but it does play a huge part. For which reason, I have offered a few tips on how to be more organised during your studies below.
1. Folders, folders and more folders
Again, if you know me, you know that I love a folder. Folders are joy; folders are life (O.K., I might be getting a little too excited, now). The amazing thing about folders is that you can put everything you need in one little place. If I’ve lost you by this point, hear me out: for every subject module I took, I created a folder. In both my second and third years of my undergraduate degree, I took three modules per semester (twelve modules overall); over the course of my postgraduate degree, I took four modules in the autumn and spring semesters and completed my 16,000-word thesis during the summer semester (nine modules overall). That’s a lot of modules. How many modules you take – or can take – depends on your course of study however, everybody I know that didn’t study BA (Hons) English Language and Linguistics or MSc Global Marketing like me had to take many modules too since your overall degree classification is often determined by the culmination of your module and dissertation results. I organised my module folders like so: there are usually twelve weeks in one semester, ten of which are teaching weeks (as one week is usually a “reading” or “independent study” week and the final week is usually designed as a recap or discussion week), so I divided the folder using ten tabs for each teaching week. Under each week’s tab, I would place my lecture notes from that week’s lecture, any handouts that were provided either during the lecture or online that would assist in the completion of my assignments, and any further notes I’d made from relevant readings to that week’s topic.
Remember, these are just tips. I’m not saying that if you want to use folders, you must organise them like this. The beauty of folders is that you can organise them however you like and however works best for you. You could organise them by placing all your lecture notes in consecutive order under one tab and all other bits and bobs under another. Or, if you’d rather use one huge arch-lever folder for all your course’s resources, you could simply divide the folder by each module that you take throughout your degree. However, on my university’s online portal, everything was organised by week under each module tab on there also, so my folders corresponded with the portal whenever I needed to refer to a particular module and week.
2. Folders… again?
If you’re not old-school when it comes to stationery like me and are completely down with technology, you don’t have to use physical folders to keep your work organised; you can create folders on your computer, too! On top of my physical folders (because I’m that organisation-mad), I created folders on my laptop which made it much easier for me to navigate my typed-up lecture notes, assignment drafts and any PDFs of readings I could save. For my master’s degree, for example, I created folders called “Autumn”, “Spring” and “Summer” for each semester (hella creative) and, within those folders, I created sub-folders for each module i.e. in the “Spring” folder were sub-folders titled “Global Brand Management”, “Financial Performance Management” and “Leadership and Change Management”. However, you don’t have to go so far as to making folders upon folders; you could simply create one folder for all your assignments and another for all your readings if that works for you, too.
3. Use a diary
Ah, diaries. Another key to my heart. Diaries are ~ almost ~ just as brilliant as folders because, similarly, you can keep track of everything in one place: deadlines, meetings and any social events to name a few. If you’re not too fussed about presentation, you can merely jot these down under their dates; if you’re a little more creative, you can use different-coloured pens or highlighters for each event – for instance, red for deadlines (because they are ~ serious ~), blue for meetings and green for personal activities. Or, if you’re – again – anything like me, you might want to buy separate diaries: one for your university-related events and another for your social life. From my experience, the best places that provide excellent diaries for students are TK Maxx and The Works; I had one from TK Maxx that highly resembled my high school planner, and my current ones (yes, I have two for the very reason I suggested, except one is now for work as opposed to university) from The Works beautifully present the day- and week-to-view formats. Again, however, if you’d rather use the calendar on your phone or computer to note key dates, that’s a perfectly practical option, too.
4. Download a countdown app
Now, not everybody gets on board with these because they can be quite scary when approaching deadlines and it occurs to you that you only have so many days to finish (or, in some cases, start and finish) your assignments. However, for me, a countdown app was really helpful in that it acted as a reminder of my upcoming deadlines as well as a clear representation of the order in which deadlines were due. Throughout my studies, I used an app from the iPhone App Store called Event Countdown where you can customise each event by assigning a relevant icon, colour and description to the event. I used it for both university and personal purposes as the reminder that I had a holiday, birthday or other exciting event coming up motivated me even more.
5. Regularly check your university’s online portal
As I mentioned earlier, my university had its own portal whereby professors would share resources under each module, such as PowerPoint presentations of every lecture each week, handouts and important dates. It’s extremely important – and, ultimately, your responsibility – to regularly check your online portal as deadline dates, lecture and seminar times and professors’ office hours, for instance, are all subject to change. More often than not, your professors will remind you of such in your lectures and seminars or via email however, in some cases, you will only be notified on this platform (especially if you miss a lecture for whatever reason). It’s a good idea to ‘favourite’ the link of your university’s portal on your internet browser so that you can easily access it when necessary. Or, your university might even have an app version of your online portal which, for us millennials, is even easier.
As usual, I hope you found my tips useful and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment section below or by contacting me via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).
Prospective and current students, I wish you all the best in your studies, and… happy organising!
Before I began studying for my master’s in Global Marketing in 2018, I had the slightest clue about business and marketing. The only understanding I had of the subjects before then derived from my 12-week marketing internship in London three summers ago which I sought as an opportunity to spruce up my CV, incognizant to the fact that it would later become a subject of interest and – better yet – a desired career path. Therefore, in order to prepare myself for a year of strenuous knowledge acquisition and intense research into an area I lacked such in, I tried to immerse myself into as much business-and-marketing related content around me as possible. The modules I would be taking covered the likes of e-marketing, brand management and performance management, so the answer to my wondering “what can I do to gain a better insight into marketing and brands now?” was a simple one in this day and age: social media. “On social media, follow all the brands that you like, and discover as many influencers that you relate to,” I considered. The best platform to do this on? Instagram.
I realised that, on Instagram, I was only following a minimal number of brands. I was predominantly following people I know from school, university and other walks of life. The only brands I were following were those that I’d either worked for or that would pop up under ‘people to follow’ that made me think “oh yeah, I like that brand”. I realised that I probably wasn’t receiving the full extent of the Instagram experience that was available, which is so imperative to marketing these days. So, after gathering all the brands I’ve ever liked or encountered in my mind, I went on an extremely large follow spree. I gazed around me as I sat cross-legged on my bed with the Instagram app open on my phone for inspiration; “a Dunelm duvet? Let’s follow Dunelm. A Cath Kidston moisturiser? Let’s follow Cath Kidston. A Fjallraven Kanken rucksack? Let’s follow Fjallraven”. And the bout continued. The most significant following of all, however, was Benefit Cosmetics. Soon after said following spree, I would notice that they would often appear on Instagram Live; on Tuesdays, in particular. At the time, Lisa Potter-Dixon, a long-time professional makeup artist, best-selling author and glitter enthusiast was Benefit Cosmetic UK’s Head Makeup Artist and, every Tuesday night, she would conduct a “Tip Tuesday” Live on their Instagram. Thus, every Tuesday night, the “@benefitcosmetics is now live” notification would emerge at the top of my screen. Little did I know that, from the first time I tapped on that notification and would watch the live video, I would become addicted.
“This woman is incredible!”, I thought, as I watched Lisa enthusiastically present her favourite Benefit products and expertly apply them to her flawless skin whilst amicably speaking to her live audience; “why have I not seen these before?”. By the time I’d engaged in these Instagram Lives a few times, the teaching for my master’s had started. And, when told in our E-Marketing module that, for our summative assessment, we were required to write a report that critically evaluated the digital marketing strategies adopted by an organisation of our choice on a social media platform of our choice… Boom! Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram came straight to my head. (I loved that about both my degrees; being given the ability to research into topics, contexts and brands of our choosing made the completion process so much easier.) My thinking as to following as many brands on Instagram as I could turned out very, very well.
Eventually, there was no way I could wait every Tuesday to partake in Tip Tuesday (such a millennial with a thirst for instant gratification, huh?), so I followed Lisa’s personal account on Instagram where I would discover even more delight; her “5 Faves of The Week” where she offers honest reviews of a multitude of products not just relating to makeup, but also fashion, beauty and lifestyle, her fabulous nails which I would often use as inspiration when I get my own done at the salon once a month (outside of lockdown, of course), and her incredible thigh-high vibrant pink boots which she pulls off so naturally to name a few. Then, one day (over a year ago now!), she announced that she would be co-hosting a new podcast with another stunner, expert and inspiration of a makeup artist, Hannah Martin, called Life and Lipstick. I’d been longing for a podcast that I could listen to with interest and not cut it short and turn back to my music (again, talk about a social-media-influenced short attention span), and this was it. Of course, I also started to follow Hannah who I developed as much admiration for upon learning that she once held the role of Pro Makeup Artist at Bobbi Brown, listening to her also honest and wholehearted product reviews and watching her excel at life as a busy mama of two, and my commute to uni for the foreseeable was sorted: listen to Life and Lipstick!
After listening to their first episode, which was an introduction to their crazy but lovely selves and the podcast overall, I was sold. I adored listening to their stories about how they became makeup artists which shared wonderful similarities and differences; for both of them, it wasn’t something they particularly intended to pursue, similarly to the story that I shared in my previous blog about how I changed my mind from wanting to pursue teaching to wanting to pursue marketing. That’s what I loved about this podcast from the onset: it’s so relatable even if you’re not a makeup artist yourself. As the episode progressed, Hannah shared that her grandmother influenced her love for makeup and, likewise, Lisa explained how much her model mother inspired her when she was younger. It really made me reflect on my makeup influences; something I’d never taken the time to reflect on so profoundly before. It made me realise that, like Lisa especially, my mum has greatly influenced my makeup habits, too.
When I was in Year 6 – around about 11 years of age – I started to break out in clusters of spots on my forehead and chin. The thought of going to school with these uninvited, irritable lumps on my face was daunting. At the time, my mum used Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which she would also use to apply an ever so light coat to my face once I’d got ready for school in the mornings after I broke out and, my god, it worked a charm. A simple light coat of foundation to disguise the redness and unevenness across my face made me feel so much more comfortable and confident in my own skin. When I wore it, I had no worries about feeling ugly, being picked on or feeling low, which wouldn’t stop consuming me when walking around in my bare-faced, acne-prone skin. As I progressed into high school, my acne gradually became worse and worse and I would rely on that foundation to make me feel better about myself. Of course, I couldn’t always use my mum’s as she wanted to use it for herself, so she kindly bought me my own Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation at the age of 12 not as a birthday or Christmas or any sort of occasion gift, but as a treat because she could see how much happier I was in myself when I wore it (thanks, mummy!). That foundation, then, was unknowingly the start to my impending makeup collection.
As a young teenager in high school, I inexorably developed a desire to play around more with makeup. Throughout my high school career, I woke up at 6:00am every morning, even though school didn’t start till 8:30; likewise, my mum woke up at this early hour every day even though she didn’t start work till 8:30, too. My mum always likes to ensure that she has enough time to wake up, get herself ready and complete some household chores before she leaves for work and I adopted this mentality from her whilst I was at school; I still like to be ready as early as possible for any event like work, a social outing or a date night. So, when I’d get ready for school and still have time in my morning to spare, I’d sometimes watch my mum apply her makeup and imitate her routine. I’d watch her apply her Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation gently with her clear-tailed Clinique foundation brush, apply her Clinique Lash Power Mascara (can you tell she likes Clinique?) flutteringly to her eyelashes and stroke her neon blue Bourjois pencil eyeliner carefully below her eyes. Obviously, I couldn’t wear blue eyeliner to school – or any makeup for that matter, but I ~ rebelliously ~ did every single day anyway (thinking about it, I can only recall having one makeup-related detention after trying on a super orange-tinted powder foundation a friend bought for me; either I did my no-makeup makeup look really well or my teachers loved me that much) – but I replicated many of my mum’s makeup habits when applying my own. Also, I couldn’t own as many high-end makeup products as my mum because I was only in high school – I wasn’t earning my own money – so I would buy most of my other makeup products like mascara, blusher and lipstick from brands available in Boots (I mean, their 3 for 2 deal has always been a winner) including the likes of Rimmel, Maybelline and Collection with either birthday, Christmas or pocket money (although my mum continued to kindly renew my Clinique foundation every time I’d run out – isn’t she amazing?).
Echoing my earlier statement, only after I’d listened to the first Life and Lipstick episode and reflected on my own makeup influences did I realise how much my mum’s makeup habits had shaped my own. Again, as I said, I’d never thought about it before; I merely saw makeup application as an essential part of my mundane getting-ready routine. Then, when my skin finally started to clear up by the time I was 16 and I no longer needed an “anti-blemish” foundation, I was eager – after 5 whole years – to try a new foundation. The summer I turned 16, I went to Brighton with my mum and walked into their Mac store – a brand I’d heard a hell of a lot about through word-of-mouth, but never experimented myself – and each of us had a lovely lady apply numerous foundations to our faces until we found the right ones for us. I can’t remember which one I purchased exactly, but I used Mac foundation for about three-to-four years until, for some reason, it began to disagree with me. That’s when I turned to Benefit, thanks to Lisa Potter-Dixon. After watching her use Benefit Cosmetics’ Hello Happy Foundation on a Tip Tuesday soon after it launched, I thought “I need to get my hands on this baby”. And so, one day after work in Kingston-upon-Thames, I headed to the Bentalls Centre and straight for the Benefit Cosmetics counter. The sweet Sales Consultant on shift applied it all over my face and, honestly, I felt rejuvenated. It was exactly what I was looking for; all I needed was a light coverage to conceal my acne scars. I don’t like the feeling of full-coverage, heavy foundations on my face, perhaps from my experience of using a light coat of anti-blemish foundation to cover my acne spots and adhering to a no-makeup makeup look for so long, and this foundation is anything but heavy. I’ve tried a couple of other foundations since, like Benefit Cosmetics Hello Happy Flawless Foundation (yes, it’s different – notice the word ‘flawless’), but I still use Hello Happy at present because it works so well for me.
The entire Life and Lipstick series was such a pleasure to listen to, especially the latter two seasons where they talk with an array of big names in the beauty industry including the powerful Caroline Hirons, the inspirational Zoe Boikou and the one and only Bobbi Brown; not only did it make me appreciate and develop an everlasting respect for the beauty industry, but it also made me realise how impactful makeup has been in my own life. Thanks to Lisa and Hannah (and the aforementioned Zoe Boikou from the very emotional episode in which she is featured), I now use the best makeup brushes I’ve ever used (from Zoe’s brand Zoeva Cosmetics; they specialise in high-quality makeup brushes which are INCREDIBLE), I can create the ~ almost ~ perfect feathered natural brow (which I receive compliments on so often) and I have discovered a plethora of inspiring women to follow on Instagram and engage in their Instagram Lives, Instagram TVs (IGTVs) and merely enjoy their content during my evening social media scrolls. So, Lisa and Hannah (if you were to ever read this), thank you!