Time to buckle down and hit the books
It’s a good idea to head to your school’s library as soon as you can after you get your essay assignment. In fact, you may want to do so even before you decide on a thesis. That way, you’ll be able to scoop up all the best books on your topic before your classmates can get them. Your essay will be chock-full of great sources, and your classmates will be praying that the prof will accept an article from last month’s issue of Maxim or Vogue as a valid source for their essays on the Industrial Revolution.
Take out as many books on your topic as you can. Don’t forget to look for journal articles, either in physical form or online, as they are a great source of information and can be read much faster than a book.
If you’re having a hard time finding books, go to the help desk. Most college libraries employ people to assist students with their research.
Making Research Notes
Read your books and journal articles and take notes. Use good reading strategies so that you don’t waste time getting bogged down in details that aren’t relevant to your essay.
Seek out evidence that supports your thesis (and make note of anything that contradicts it). Look for passages that you can quote in your essay. Keep track of all the ideas and quotations you take from your research sources. When you’re writing your first draft, you will need to include citations so you don’t get busted for plagiarism.
Preparing an Outline
Not even the world’s best writer can produce a perfect essay on the first try. Essay writing is a process. The rough outline is an important step in that process. Before you type anything into your word processor, you should make an outline.
Take your research notes and group them into separate topics. These, ultimately, will become the body paragraphs in your essay. For each body paragraph, write a topic sentence and pick out at least three quotations from your research sources that you can use to support your argument.
Build this outline until it becomes, essentially, an essay in point form. At this point, you’re ready to move on to writing the first draft of your essay.