The basics
STUDY ABROAD : Once you arrive - Must read

18 simple essay hacks that every student needs to know

Your assignment deadline is closing in and you have no idea where to start with your essay? We've got some tips for you.

1. Start with a great quote for inspiration.



A strong quote provides credibility and purpose to your introduction. It also grabs the reader’s attention. A succinct quote could also be a great way to end your essay.  Even if you do end up taking the quote out of your draft, it can help you with the focus of your essay.


2. Give the Pomodoro technique a try.



The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. You work based on 25-minute bursts that are separated by short 5-minute breaks. After each interval, you can use the your break to walk around, stretch, get coffee, etc. Then you go back to work. The idea behind it is that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.


There are a bunch of apps available on both iOS and Android or you can use Tomato Timer or other similar website.


3. Block out all the noise and distractions.



We live in such a connected world; you’re constantly plugged in to social media and a multitude of apps that can divert you from your work. Freedom is an app for Windows and Mac that turns off your internet connection for a set amount of time that helps you focus on your work without any distractions from Facebook, Twitter, email notifications and the like. You can use this in conjunction with your Pomodoro timer and utilize the five-minute break to see how many likes you got for your “#AmStudying” post.


4. Block out distracting noises.


While some of us work better with our favourite mix blasting, the rest of us work better with ambient sounds. Ambient sounds create a buffer between your ears and immediate environment, blocking out distractions without overwhelming the senses. You can check out the apps and websites that generate sounds here.


5. Wikipedia is a great place to find sources. 




The footnotes at the bottom of Wikipedia articles act like a bibliography of sorts, you can use it for helpful sources on the subject that you’re writing on.


6. Recover lost files in Word or backup your research regularly on a cloud drive


There are many cloud service providers out there, find out which one’s the best for you from this list.


7. Use a cloud-based app




If you’re working on your essay on multiple devices and on the go, a cloud-based app like Evernote helps you keep track of your work and ensures a seamless transition from one device to another.


8. Make your sentences more succinct by eliminating unnecessary words.


9. Get up and walk around.


Taking a short break every now and then can help you get your creative juices flowing and might even help you better able to phrase your argument. Even a stroll around the room, going to get some water or stepping out of the building to get some fresh air helps.  Can’t step out? Open a window.


10. Get out of the house. Head down to your local cafe or library.



A change of environment and scenery can help with your writer’s block. For some, the aroma of delicious coffee and ambient bustle of a café helps them focus, others find getting some sun and fresh air in a park motivating. Heading to a library where like-minded individuals are also studying prevents you from procrastinating, especially when the sources you need for your essay are within reach.


11. Jot down any ideas that come to mind immediately



Sometimes, on the journey home in the bus or train or even when waiting for a friend in a café, you might suddenly come across an idea or a better way to frame an argument that you’re including in your essay. These ideas are often fleeting in nature and you might not remember them if you do not immediately jot them down somewhere. For those who prefer pen and paper, keeping a small notebook on hand at all times, or you can store these ideas in a note app on your phone to revisit once you get back home.


12. Write your first draft on paper



There have been some studies that show writing by hand stimulate parts of your brain that are not active when you are typing. Writing your first draft by hand allows you to scribble notes and helps with your thought process. Once you’ve got a rough draft, type it into your computer, you can edit as you transcribe.  


13. Try using WriteMonkey for Windows or IA Writer for Mac for a clean writing interface.



Both these programmes offers a clean user interface where the menus are hidden. Once you’re done with your document, you can convert it to word. These are perfect for those who want a clutter and distraction-free screen.


14. For those who want everything on their screen for easy reference, use Scrivener.



Available on both Mac and Windows platforms, Scrivener is the opposite of IA Writer and WriteMonkey. It has everything. You can keep track of what you’ve written, move sections around and many more. This is especially useful if you are working on a dissertation and need to have multiple windows open at once for reference. It even comes complete with a clean writing interface.  


15. Looking for synonyms? Use Wordle to generate a cloud of your most used word to avoid repetition


16. When editing, change the font to something with a serif, and print it out.


Printing your essay out will help you weed out errors that you missed on screen, plus a serif font is easier on the eyes.


17. Paste your essay into Google Translate and hit the speaker icon to hear it read aloud.



Hearing your essay being read aloud helps you improve you’re the flow of your essay and pinpoint any errors with spelling or grammar.


18. Experiencing writer’s block? Just continue writing.



Some of you might be thinking: “But how do I write if I have no idea what to write?” Sometimes just the act of writing helps with your thought process and can kickstart your essay writing.


Hope these tips get you started or finish that essay you’ve been procrastinating. All the best and happy writing!


Useful Links

Thinking of studying abroad? Browse our list of universities and their respective courses here! 

Learn more about what you would need, the things to expect and many more when studying abroad here.


Search for a course

Choose a country
Study level*
About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.