After a gentle introduction to my studies the third week brought the start of my first assignment. The deadline of 30th October seemed so far away and it didn’t seem such a daunting task. For psychology, the starting point is reading, and lots of it. Books and journal articles took up much of the following two weeks until it was really time to start writing.
Once it was time to start writing I really did start to panic as, despite the lectures and reading I had done, I felt like I knew nothing at all about what I had to write. The best thing to do at this stage is not to panic and just start writing something. If, like me, you have done the reading and research and attended the lectures and read over the slides again, then the chances are you do know something. I started writing a fairly generic introduction and as I did I found that I started getting ideas. In the end, I pretty much re-wrote my introduction at a later stage but that is part of the process.
After that I didn’t have any plan for my assignment and just wrote about the similarities and differences as I found them as my essay was comparing and contrasting two theories. This did mean that the assignment was all over the place but it got me actually writing things down and finding the research I needed for references.
I found that I got to the point where I needed order in my life (well, in my assignment anyway) so I transferred the paragraphs onto a new document in a better order and those extra bits and pieces that didn’t fit anywhere got cut. This meant that I had some structure. After that it was a case of checking I had everything in I should and editing it or adding in studies.
As for editing it, a lot of people (myself included) will begin the assignment process saying I can’t possibly write 1500 words (in my essay) but by the time it comes to editing it, the exact same people (myself included) will be saying that they can’t possibly get the word count down to that amount. I spent a long time editing to get the word count to within 10% of the word limit but luckily I have had practice of this at the college course I took before university.
Looking back on the process now, I can see a few things which I could have done better. First I should have started the reading for the essay as soon as it was set but I spent too long flicking between articles and not actually reading them in their entirety. Also, asking other people about how far they had got was a mistake because, no matter how far ahead you think you are, there will always be someone who is ahead of you.
I am not going to pretend there were not moments where I thought I couldn’t do it or that it was too hard but having recently finished and sent it off, I have a fantastic sense of achievement. It is possible to do these things and there are places to go for help.
In terms of assignments that are essays, my advice would be (and this is just my advice, nothing official) make sure you are always answering the question as it is so easy to go off at a tangent and start answering something you would rather be writing about. Also it is a good thing to write a bit too much because you will find there are sentences you don’t need to keep in and it is harder to have to add little bits but always keep an eye on the word count as you go through the writing stage of the essay. I learnt this the hard way when I was still in college as I had a 1500 word essay to write and when I finished the writing stage there was over 3000 words there. To edit it down was a really long process taking nearly as much time as it did to write it in the first place. Also, always plan the assignments in advance. Tutors and lecturers will always give the tools you need to do the essay and if they don’t, the academic skills know-how team will, so make sure you use them. I used some and not others and that made the process harder and more stressful but it is the first assignment so I am sure I will learn as I do more of them.