Start as early as possible. If you are an experienced writer, you may be able to do a five paragraph essay at the last minute, but you will not be able to put together a long essay so quickly.
Carefully study all of the requirements outlined on the rubric. Note how long the essay has to be, how many sources it has to have and what types of sources, what topics are allowed and what material your essay is expected to follow, and what tips, if any, your professor gave you. No matter how well-written your essay, you probably will not get a good grade if you do not follow the teacher's requirements.
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Set a schedule for yourself. Give yourself a deadline to finish researching your essay, to complete the outline, to write your first draft and to finish your final draft. Plan to have the final draft done several days before the essay is actually due. That way, if you fall behind, you will still be done in time.
Research the essay. Take notes on everything you have, including bibliographical information. Write down quotes you may be able to use in your essay.
Come up with your thesis (statement you intend to prove) based on the research you encountered. Your thesis should generally consist of an argument and three main reasons why it is true.
Write an outline. Put in as much detail as possible including the quotations you are going to use and counter arguments you want to address. Try to estimate how long each section will be so that you can be sure your essay fits the length requirement.
Write a first draft. Include all citations, quotations and arguments, as well as a bibliography. If there are parts that don't come together quite right or need more information, put an asterisk down and move on. For example, if one of your quotes doesn't seem to really prove your point, you can mark that section to indicate you...