A Last-Minute Guide to Last-Minute Essay Writing

It is 1:25 AM.

The essay is due in under three days.

You sit at the desk with your head cradled in your hands, staring at the screen wondering what the words even mean.

Panic begins to take hold.

You question yourself.

How much coffee can one feasibly drink before their kidneys explode?


If your situation has reached this point you may want to consult this short guide to last-minute essay writing…

Milking Sources for relevant information

At the point you have recognized your jeopardy, time has expended its mercy- it taunts you mockingly as it dances away sadistically with unreasonable speeds. One no longer has the time to rifle through dozens of pages looking for relevant sources to add to the bibliography. There is; however, an alternative method for rapidly attaining source-worthy material: J-STOR. One can get access to J-STOR via Durham University and find what they need within minutes. One can speed up the process of looking through the article with the input: “CTRL + F”, this will open up a small search bar in the top right corner. If you are looking for a definition, simply type in the keyword and the search function will allow you to quickly view every instance in the journal/book/article where that word has been deployed. If you are looking for an explanation one can simply type in words and phrases such as “because” or “in other words”. If you are looking for a point to criticize in an article/book search for “if… then”, “given that…”, “considering that…” and think of a way to deny the antecedent or consequent propositions of the argument. If one is looking for conclusive statements, these should be clearly signposted by “therefore”, “in conclusion”, “evidently” or “as such”. Scanning for these argumentative markers is a great way to maximise the minimum time spend fishing through your sources.

Beware the Conman

It is a common trope that all people have an angel and devil on each shoulder: the angel is the voice of reason that compels one to act as a functional human being whilst the devil whispers corruption into your ear, tempting you towards self-destruction and moral degeneracy. However, in the case of a last-minute essay… that tiny devil is not your nemesis, his tiny bronze pitchfork might as well be a toothpick compared to the sword-sharp wit of the silver-tongued conman. The conman is the most dangerous manifestation of one’s consciousness when it comes to productivity. However, unlike that tiny imaginary devil, the conman comes complete with a suit and tie, shiny black shoes and slicked-back hair- a prim and proper package. The conman cheats you out of your time by making you invest it in haphazard “pop-up deals”.

“Take a nap,” he says, “you’ll wake up twice as sharp and make up for the time you’ve lost.”, “Go have a shower,” he says, “it’ll freshen you up and help you generate new ideas.”, “Go cook some food,” he says, “you can’t focus when you are hungry.” Every investment he proposes has diminishing returns yet he so often convinces you that your spending is wise- he is like a suave and charismatic used-car salesman, haggling you down until you concede, selling useless assets to you until you are in poverty- thus being short on time.

It is likely that the conman got you here in the first place and he will seduce you into temporal bankruptcy if you allow it to continue. Pay him no notice, the wisest thing to invest your time into is your essay.

Explosive Will

If willpower can be likened to stamina, then many of us are dangerously unfit. It is easy to perceive the project of writing a last-minute essay as a long and arduous marathon-length hill-climb; however, that is not really the case. Many people find that the hardest part about work is getting started and building momentum. Often, essay writing is not the struggle that it seems to be, though the first few sentences feel like running up a steep bank, once you build up the momentum the route is primarily downhill beyond that. As augean as the essay may seem, the difficulties only really arise as steep obstacles in a surprisingly easy track. One’s grit and willpower are only properly tested at certain points: starting the essay, hitting a mental block, lowering the word count and adding citations. Whenever the essay-writing process moves onto the next stage, the primary challenge is to sustain momentum through the change in task. Mental blocks can be avoided by good essay planning, if one thinks thoroughly through the route of the essay, they can plan their path as to avoid these potential obstacles. Furthermore, bear in mind that a mental block is not so much a “dead end” as it is a “high hurdle”; all of you were intelligent enough to get into Durham and a human’s fluid IQ peaks in the late-teens, with this in mind, you are all more than intellectually nimble enough to “free-run” over these blocks.

Your willpower only needs to be applied in explosive bursts. Writing an essay is less like a marathon and more like a series of sprints.

Removing Distractions

In this day and age, your life is rife with distractions, these can disrupt your flow and make you lose all of the aforementioned “momentum”, it uses a lot of mental energy to accelerate back to a good pace thus the repeated stoppages caused by distractions make the task of essay-writing several times more strenuous. A vast majority of your distractions likely stem from your computer and phone. That innocent “ping” from your iPhone? It is the slayer of productivity.

Luckily; however, there exist easily available countermeasures to temporarily disable these distractions:

Cold Turkey Writer

If you find that your computer is distracting you, you can use: Cold Turkey Writer. This tool converts your device into a no-nonsense work-machine by disabling all other functions except for your ability to type essays (even essay-formatting tools are temporarily disabled because something as simple as that could be considered a distraction). Your computer’s functions will all be locked until you have reached a certain word count.


If you find that your smartphone is your primary distraction, you can install the app Hold. This app is designed to combat smart-phone addiction by rewarding you for time spent without checking your phone. The app awards you a few points at twenty minutes intervals for time spent away from your phone. These points can then be used to redeem discounts and deals such as FREE cinema popcorn, discounted cinema tickets, discounts on contact lenses and discounts on taxi services. Furthermore, your points can be invested into charity to donate either stationary, textbooks or footballs to children in third world countries.

Final Remarks

Stop reading these articles and go do your work.


Featured image by timetrax23, available on Flickr under Creative Commons 2.0 license

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