Planning for Your Essay

Photo Credit Deposit PhotosTime management is an important part of all aspects of life.  Knowing how long something will take you, and making mini-deadlines for yourself allows you to avoid late night anxiety-filled cry-fests.  We suggest a couple of fool-proof ways to keep organized when tackling a large assignment or essay.

Personalized Checklists

A personalized checklist allows you to adapt the checklist to things that you know you’ll forget. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it feels awesome to check off boxes systematically — there is a great deal of satisfaction that you can get from it.  There are a variety of ways that you can use a checklist, and we suggest the following:

  • When you first receive the assignment, use a checklist to make sure  you fully understand what the expectations are

For example: Do I have a minimum of 3 sources?

  • After you have written the first draft, use a checklist to revise the flow and overall argument of the essay

For example: Does each paragraph have a suitable topic sentence and conclusion? 

  • After you have revised, use a checklist to look for specific grammar mistakes

For example: Did I look specifically for incorrect uses of apostrophes? 

  • After you believe your paper is completely finished, review the personalized checklist you made for yourself when you first received the assignment

For example: Did I include the correct style of title page? 


Not everyone loves making deadlines, but for large essays they are essential.  We suggest making deadlines for when you should have your:Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

  • Research and/or reading complete
  • Rough thesis statement written
  • Rough outline complete
  • First draft complete
  • Bibliography complete
  • Essay draft edited and  proofread

 Backwards Planning

Backwards planning is exactly what it sounds like.  Start with a monthly calendar and record the essay’s due date. Then, add your mini-deadlines that we discussed above and start plugging them into your calendar!

Mapping out time to complete your essay will save you a lot of stress.  So many students want to write a 10 page essay the night before and panic when they realize it’s 4 a.m and they haven’t finished their research.  This can lead to unnecessary stress that you can easily avoid!  Next time you are assigned an essay, take a few minutes and plan!  Your future self will thank you!

Photo Credit: Deposit Photo
Dear Past Self, Thanks! Love, Future Self

Want to learn more about backwards planning and organizational strategies to help you with essay writing?  RRLS is now offering an online Essay Coach program to help you with all of your essay needs. A certified teacher will meet with you online and help you with the essay-writing process.  You will be left with invaluable skills and resources that you can use for a lifetime!