Get Writing! Essays & reports

Some of the scary stuff explained!

Will I have enough time to do my assignments?

You need to be both realistic and flexible. Almost certainly you won't have the amount of time you would ideally like, and it's also possible that something will happen at work or home which will affect your timetable. It is important therefore to carefully plan your work and stick to deadlines rigidly, that way you won’t feel like you’ve lost control of your studies. You will need to prioritise, and will probably need to make time for your studies by stopping doing something else for a while e.g., get a cleaner in or someone to do the ironing, ask family members to help out with domestic arrangements, ask your boss at work for some ‘study leave’.  Then block out the time in your study calendar or diary, and see how far you can stick to it. If you find that you need more time for certain stages, then have another go for the next assignment, allowing the extra time in order to make it more workable.

Will I be able to meet deadlines?

Of course, there are lots of different patterns of working: some students can only work to deadlines at the very last minute; while others prefer to work in shorter snatches over longer periods. The main problem with the former is that you may have to skip over some of the points we are now discussing, which could be counter-productive. Waiting until the last minute may be because you are afraid to begin. If this applies to you – as it will to many others – you might find it helpful to pause here and consider why you feel this way.

Try this:

Spend a few minutes answering the question: Why might I always seem to look for excuses to delay beginning work on an assignment?

Think about this:

Is it because you might be frightened by the prospect of starting? Perhaps you have looked at some of the assignments required by a particular course and felt that you just don't understand what is wanted. You might have some ideas but don't know how to put them together. Maybe you just don't want to do it; it seems a daunting task. Or is it because you need to develop your reading or note taking skills? Try reflecting on your own experience. Then you will be in a better position to help yourself, if procrastination is a problem. You can ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do about this?’ What help do I need?’  One of the most important things to remember about any assignments, whether they are essays or a report is ‘Good enough is okay’. We can almost hear you saying that you think you may never have enough time for your assignments, whatever your approach, and we empathise with this view. This may be even more of a problem if English is not your first language. It is well known that time constraints are a barrier for adult learners, and you may well have to be satisfied with doing what is good enough, whatever your circumstances. Your aim should not be to submit the ‘perfect’ assignment (even if there were such a thing). Your aim should be to do the best you can in the circumstances, to learn from the experience and benefit from your tutor's comments so that you can improve for the next time.

What next?

If you have enjoyed this taster into the exciting world of essay and report writing, why not try the Open University OpenLearn unit Essay and report writing skills

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