Imagine spending 3/4 weeks planning researching and writing a coursework essay, then finding out one of your coursemates wrote hers only the day before the deadline.
Our class were given the titles, and 5 weeks to write the 1500 word essay on either the history of Islamic Spain or the literature of the Spanish Golden Age. I will openly admit that I feel less confident with writing about history in exams, so I tactically chose to write a history coursework essay so that I could answer two literature questions in the final exam.
So, I had 5 weeks to write my 1500 word essay on my chosen topic, here is how those five weeks panned out:
Week one: I weighed up the pros and cons of each title and chose my title of writing an outline of the Taifa period, the rules of the Almoravids and Almohads, taking into account the political and cultural situations inside and out of al-Andalus.
Week two: [Week one of Easter holidays] I spent three long days in Hallward library, making notes on my topic and saving these notes onto my memory stick, as you cannot save documents on the borrowed library laptops. A successful week, with lots of notes made, I was ready to write up my essay and felt confident about my coursework.
Week three: [Returned home to Coventry] I had a few days rest over the bank holiday weekend and then on Tuesday was ready to get to work. I plugged my memory stick into my laptop and was surprised not to hear the usual ping! of the device being recognised. After
- trying to plug it into different usb ports
- refreshing My Computer hundreds of times
- trying it in a different laptop
and each time the laptop not reacting to, or acknowledging my memory stick’s existence I had to admit defeat…my memory stick had died and taken all of my notes on the Taifa period (and the notes I’d been making for my Spanish Literature essay) with it to the grave. Yes, some tears rolled down my face and I was left bewildered, confused and I had no idea what to do.
I started brainstorming and realised that as a Coventry resident I am able to use the University of Warwick library. I knew that they have a Hispanic Studies course there, so presumed they would have some of the books I’d been working from. An online search of their library catalogue soon showed that they didn’t have any books that would be useful for me. I couldn’t find any useful journals online and as the books I had used before were not very modern, no e-copies were available. I had no option but to return to Hallward library, take out the books and do all the research again.
Week four: I went back to Nottingham, and painstakingly sat in the library trawling through pages of Muslim Spain amongst other books, retyping up information in some horrible type of déjà vu. Armed with plenty of Vimto sweets to keep me going I soldiered on, saving my notes on my own laptop to avoid last time’s catastrophe. Despite all this information I now had, my word count at this point was still zero, and I hadn’t even made a Word document with my title on it and all the information in the header and footer. On the Sunday of this week I flew to Italy for a mini break I’d had planned since March.
Week five, Crunch Time:
Monday – Thursday: I really had expected that I would have at least written 1000 words of my coursework by now, with exactly one week until I had to hand it in. However, I was in Italy for these blissful four days away from computers, academic books and mobile phones. I didn’t really think about my coursework and all the work that awaited me when I returned home.
Friday: Just over three days until my essay was due, still zero on the word count, but I had to pack all my stuff from home to go back to Nottingham, so no words were written on this day. However, I did book my flight for Valencia at a good price, so the day was slightly productive.
Saturday: I was travelling from Coventry to Nottingham, and when I arrived back to my student home in Notts I was tired from the journey. Instead of going to the library, I unpacked and swept my room, leaving my coursework until tomorrow. Oh, I also went for a Chinese meal with the China China society.
Sunday: I was unusually calm, despite having just over a day to write up all my notes, do the references, proof read my essay and submit it. But after a long day in the library, I had written 1700 words and decided to leave the ‘essay housekeeping’ until Monday (deadline day).
Monday: After my early morning Chinese class I rushed to Hallward to grab myself a good spot in the silent section to proof read, cut down and reference my essay. I had completed all of this by 12pm, but then disaster struck again… I was unable to log into Moodle to submit my essay online. After tweeting various uni departments, refreshing the page many times and lunch, eventually Moodle was back up and I could submit my coursework. Still unsure of how to use TurnitIn to check my essay for the plagiarism percentage, I thought “YOLO”, it’s too late to change anything now, so I submitted my essay 3 hours before the deadline.
After I had handed it in it, I was relieved, but also as the saying goes
There is no rest for the wicked.
as at 4pm the following day was the deadline for my second piece of coursework for my Spanish Literature module; yes, you guessed it… the word count for my literature essay 24 hours before the deadline stood at zero.
Yesterday I got back said piece of coursework for the Islamic Spain module, and was over the moon to see I had achieved a high 2:1. I wondered whether I was worthy of this mark, for an essay which I rushed to write in two days, when I had five weeks to carefully plan and deliberate over each word I used.
Well the answer to that is YES, of course I am worthy and deserving of the mark I achieved. The anonymous marking policy of my department means that any possibility of unfair marking, favouritism etc is impossible as the assessors can only see the student ID number, rather than names. Despite writing the essay in the final hours before the deadline, I had done a vast majority of the research (which was key to this essay) many weeks before the deadline. Personally, I think that the death of my memory stick was a blessing in disguise, as the second time I was making notes my time was limited and I was able to pick out the relevant information and discard unimportant things which I had previously noted. The repetition helped me understand the subject a lot more than after my first three days of note taking which I think contributed to a better understanding of the subject and hence a better essay.
I have since said that I will not leave it so late again, but as long as I have done all of the research and reading a few weeks before the deadline, then it doesn’t matter how many days/hours I give myself to actually write the essay. All that being said, I still don’t know the result of my Spanish Literature coursework, so I do not advocate my coursework writing method of “leaving it to the last minute”.