The Myth of the 24 Hour Essay

For a lot of degrees 24 hour essays are common place with students being used to them since first year. However, with Geology type degrees (Geology, Geology and Physical Geography, Geophysics and Geophysics and Geology), these assessments are a haunting myth that you hear about taking place in our fourth year. Now that I’ve reached fourth year, the idea of a 24 hour essay has been looming over me since the start of the year and creating fear among my fellow students. I personally took Human Geography a Geography course in my first year which was examined with a 24 hour essay and I survived. So I was aware that this essay was not going to be as scary as everyone thought. The 24 hour essay for our fourth year Frontiers In Research course is over and we all made it. So I thought I’d write this blog post to clear up any fears among Geology year groups and future students. 

Imagine it is 09:00 on a Wednesday morning during the Festival of Creative Learning and seven essay questions are released – do you (a) read the questions and get started or (b) run away and hide under the covers until the 24 hours are over?

If the answer is (b) then I’ll take you through some steps on how to survive the 24 hour essay. 

Day 1:

Step 1: 08:45 – Find an area that you work well in. Some of us study better in our rooms, a cafe or the library. But deciding where you concentrate best in is really important when you’ll need to focus for so long.

Step 2: 09:00 – Essay questions are released you are give seven questions that cover a wide range of topics from sediment, climate change and evolution to glaciation, natural hazards and geothermal energy. This large choice of questions means that they’ll be something that you are interested in and want to write about. Maybe one question will stand out – for me glaciation is my favourite topic so the decision is made a lot easier. But some quick research around each topic that you’re interested in is always useful. The 24 hours will seem like a long time to be just thinking about a topic that you don’t enjoy.

Step 3: 09:30 – Once you’ve picked a question get reading! Normally there will be starter readings to guide you in the right direction. I would advise reading these first to get a general idea on the topic and are probably some of the key research on this topic.

Step 4: Lunch – Breaks are so important – you are going to work much better after you’ve had a chance to refuel!

Step 5: 13:00 – Then when you have read all of the starter references, find your own readings. The easiest way to find readings involves searching key words around the topic. I tend to use the library based DiscoverEd to find scientific papers that are easy to access. But others use Google Scholar or Web of Science. Familarising yourself with the literature around the subject is a good way to understand different view points on the topic and feel more ready to write the essay.

Step 6: Dinner – Again another break is needed before you go back to the library for another push.

Step 7: 19:00 – Write a plan for the essay. Planning is key to a good essay with structure and helps you cover all of the points that you want to mention. It also aids in understanding your train of thought and produces a 10/10 essay.

Step 8: 20:00 – Start writing! The introduction is the best place to start and helps set the scene for answering the question.

Step 9: 21:00 – Stop and relax. I mean you can’t keep going non-stop – take the evening off for watching Netflix or reading before having an early night for the write up day.

The 24 hour essay with Frontiers In Research is actually 09:00 first day and due in 16:00 the next day – meaning that there is time to sleep so use it! 

Day 2: Essay writing day

Step 1: 07:00 – If you work better in the mornings I’d advice an early night and early morning to allow for the best essay. So essay writing continues with the main body being written.

Step 2: 11:00 – Coffee break, you’ll need it after a 06:00 start!

Step 3: 11:15 – Keep on writing, you’re nearly there. I personally kept my essay short and around 2000 words but others were around 4000 so depends how much you want to say.

Step 4: 12:30 – Main body finished – write the conclusion by summing up the main points.

Step 5: 13:00 – Lunch break

Step 6: 14:00 – Read over the essay for any mistakes and add those references.

Step 7: Before 16:00 –When you’re happy SUBMIT IT!

And that’s how you cope with a 24 hour essay, simple.

Possible ways to celebrate hand-in: 

Personally I thought ice cream with course mates and a wander around the city in the sunshine was the best way especially in this February’s mini summer! But I’m sure a course night out or a movie night for more wilder year groups would also be sufficient.

So the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t let the 24 hour essay scare you, if I can do it anyone can!



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