The Impasse: Time to Seek Help

You may reach a stage in the essay drafting process when you feel like you have hit a brick wall. Clearing your mind, or simply giving yourself a break from the essay, can help. However, if you are still having problems, there are three things you can do:

  • Talk about it out loud.
  • Revise your plan.
  • See your tutor.

Talk about it out loud and make sure that what’s in your head gets onto paper

A good way to check if you understand what you are writing about is to explain it to someone else. Talk over issues with a classmate, friend or family member. Explain what you are trying to say in your essay. By talking out loud, you will quickly see whether you have a grasp of the topic. What usually happens is that you are better able to express your essay content verbally than in written form. It’s not unusual to have a good understanding of the topic in your head, but to fail to translate it to paper. So, talking about it out loud can help to clarify your understanding.

Revise your plan

Sometimes you may need to go back to your essay plan and revise it. This happens when your essay has gone off track from the original plan, or you uncover new issues and information that need to be included during the draft writing process. Revising your plan may mean a return to the muckraking phase of getting more information. Don’t get flustered or feel disappointed if this happens. It’s quite common to revise plans and have to go in search of more information.

See your tutor: It’s okay to ask for help

If you are at a writing impasse, it may be time to make an appointment to see your tutor and discuss your essay. This isn’t an admission of failure. Lecturers and tutors are there to help you. It’s their job to offer advice and guidance, and to clarify issues for you. As a lecturer I am surprised at how few students make use of their lecturer or tutor when they are having trouble with an essay. Sometimes a simple phone call can help to clarify the issues enormously. So, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t be backward in coming forward. However, don’t turn up to a meeting with your lecturer/tutor with a blank slate. Prepare a list of questions to make best use of the time.

Drafts 2 and 3: Place yourself in the marker’s shoes

The number of drafts you do is up to you, but three would be a minimum. It will clearly depend on the time you have to complete the assessment task, as well as the amount of effort that is required for the task. During the second and third draft stages, your essay should be taking shape. It is at this stage that you should work on your sentence and paragraph structure. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the marker. What will she or he be expecting? What mark would you give yourself?