I think someone should do a study on this.
I usually start with going and getting lots of books from the library. I look up things in the index, but I don't actually read the information. Then sometimes I photocopy and highlight, or copy huge chunks that I think will be relevent. I do the same with info from the internet.
Then I start a new MS Word document and type out the question in bold. There. That looks nice and scholarly. Then I write down all the questions that I plan to answer in my essay. Sometimes this bit happens before the chunks of info part.
So I end up with lots of information, questions, answers usually in quotes or point form. Even though I've started a new document called "French Revolution Essay" or whatever.
At this point, I open another new Word document. I set it it Times New Roman, size 12, justified, and 1.5 spaced. (Two is too big, but if it's a bit spacey, clearly it's a real essay.) This is my real essay, and has essay-type language, and paragraphs, and sometimes an introduction already (although this sometimes gets altered if I changed the questions hehe). It sometimes has headings which I may or may not take out.
I have the footnote button and the instant word count on my taskbar thingie cos I use them a lot. The footnote one cos they like us to cite things a lot and the wordcount so I can be going, cool 1025 words, that's almost 1500, which means I only have 500 to go! I do this a lot too.
After that's all written, I fix up all my footnotes, which I've just done in short form, and put all the commas and italics in the right places (hopefully, crossing my fingers cos they're so. damn. picky) and then open another document to write my bibliography. My bibliography heading and my page numbers are always in Arial font and bold. (Oh, I used to write Pg whatever in my references (or Pgs whatever-whenever) but I've decided not to annoy them any longer and just write p or pp (even though my way is prettier). And I change it to double-spaced and the right margins and all, cos once again, these things are vitally important.
I usually start my day with a bit of surfing the internet, just to get my fingers warmed up. And then my eyes need a rest before I actually start typing, so I go read a book for a while. It's probably time for lunch somewhere in there. Then I get back on the computer, check my email and WebCT one last time, then I'm good to go.
And there you have it. An essay. All prettiful.