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Light reading

If you need to write an essay but you’re crunched for time and fresh out of inspiration, relax, you’ve come to the right blog. I’m Logan Cook, and I’ve spent nearly six years writing essays for a living.

Now, I realize that may make me the academic equivalent of a Sith lord, but my hope is that by teaching you what I’ve learned on the Dark Side you’ll have more confidence in your ability to write a decent essay on your own. Writing essays is a skill, and like any other skill you can get better at it with practice.

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My last blog was a two-page double-spaced essay on the ethical approaches of Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche. In this post I’m going to take you through my process for writing it.

Topic

So, let’s start with our topic. I crowdsourced this one with a Facebook post in which I asked my friends for topics. I told them pretty much anything was fair game, except for math and physics.

I chose the very first topic suggested: A comparison between the ethical approaches of Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche. Talk about striking out on the first try!

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Topic in hand, I went on to phase two: research.

Research

Okay, first things first: Google Books is your new best friend. I’ve used it over the course of my career as an essay writer, and it has practically never let me down.

I opted to search for each thinker separately. Here’s the first page of my results for Marx:

Marx 1

Protip: keep things easy! If you look closely you may see that Google Books found about 84,300 results. I only used two for Marx, and another two for Nietzsche.

So, how did I pick ‘em? I pulled up several sources, largely on the basis of them being on page 1 of the results and looking relevant.

Here’s a look at one of my sources, Sayer (2012):

Sayer

This source stood out to me because it was giving me digestible information about Marx. In other words, I knew I could skim through a few pages of this and be able to, shall we say, make use of the info.

Here’s the skinny: if you’re me or you want to write like I do, you don’t have time to read all 260ish pages of the book that Google Books screen cap is taken from. So don’t: find the parts that present the info you need, and then make use of them.

Take a gander at these next screencaps, from the second source I used on Marx (Brenkert, 2013), and then we’ll see how I used both of these sources in the essay:

Brenkert-1

I liked this one because it gave me crystal-clear info I could run with. Ethics of freedom, great, I could run with that.

Brenkert-2

Research at the ready, I went and wrote the essay.

The Actual Writing

The actual writing was a breeze. I had the info I needed at my fingertips; all I had left to do was write the darn thing.

As with the vast majority of the essays I write, this one came down to finding neat ways to paraphrase. Take a look at this excerpt, and compare it with the screencaps above:

Marx’s ethical concern was the attainment of freedom, and it was this that fueled his opposition to the capitalist mode of production (Brenkert, 2013). This was his chief ethical concern, but he also believed that all values, all ethical standards and mores, derived from historical and social forces. In this Marx duly acknowledged his debt to Hegel: like Hegel, Marx held that social and historical forces give rise to ideas about morality and ethics, including Marx’s own ideas (Sayer, 2012).

I’m not going to pretend it’s great writing, but hey, for an assignment like this I’m not out to reinvent the wheel.

Another trick I’ve picked up in this business is to always write the body of an essay first, and then write the introduction and the conclusion. By the time you’re done with the body it’s usually a fairly trivial exercise to summarize what you’ve been writing for the introduction, and summarize it again for the conclusion.

Hooray, all done! And now you know how to cook your own delicious essay on the ethical approaches of Marx and Nietzsche.

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