I always study by writing down everything that I can think of about a specific topic. Typically, I use the topics in the forum posts and things hit on multiple times. Sometimes I try to think about the things that a professor wouldn’t expect you to have caught without reading. Basically, if I see it more than once or it seems a little too suspicious, I study it. As for the essay, I tend to plan out my intros in depth and then free write the rest. Often times I also find myself forming a filler thesis or open thesis that I can add to at the end if need be. The well planned introduction is what helps guide the essay to discuss what was actually asked while also giving a good start.