How to write.

I’m no expert, and I’m not qualified to give advice extensive advice about writing. I do, however, have experience as an English major and as a tutor at my college’s writing center. After many semesters of writing, revising, and proofreading essays, I have accumulated a few tips (discovered by my own experience or given to me by others) to make writing a little bit easier. I can’t guarantee A+ work or claim expertise because of the list, but it might help you get closer to your writing goals.

  1. Make an outline. It sounds really easy and obvious, but I went a very long time without outlining my papers. Do it.
  2. Keep a notes notebook. I keep a notebook strictly for research notes. It helps me keep my research and academic life in line.
  3. Start early. Start your essays early, don’t put it off. Nothing good ever came out of “the night before.”
  4. Write down your thesis. With this in mind, you can find materials that can help strengthen your argument.
  5. Ask for help. I still struggle with this one. I don’t want to be underfoot with my professors, but each time I ask for help, they are more than willing to assist me.
  6. Prepare for criticism. True story: Early in my college career, a professor took the time to write constructive criticism on one of my essays, and I don’t think I ever looked at it. I don’t know if it was my ego or my feelings were hurt, but I didn’t know how to handle it. Prepare.
  7. Prepare to re-write. I’ve had to re-write before. It wasn’t pleasant, but I learned about developing a stronger thesis because of it.
  8. Use your opinion. I’ve told almost all of my friends that I help that if they have an opinion, and can support it using in-text detail, go for it. It’s a good exercise in developing arguments.
  9. Just do it. Just sit down and write. The worst thing that can happen is that you get finished early, and when everyone else is panicked, you’re not.

 Happy writing!

-Sarah

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3 thoughts on “How to write.

  1. Always write in your research notebook in pen, not pencil. I lost research that way before my life was digitized.

    Do you use Evernote or Microsoft OneNote? I got comfortable with OneNote during grad school, but it’s not portable, so I like Evernote for a lot of things, and use it the most.

    Good call on the criticism. Dr. Apple used to remind us in our historical methods course that we are not our ideas, there’s no reason to be upset. For example, when you told me you wanted to use your theology paper as a grad school writing sample, I knew that was a queue to be as critical as I can possibly be.

    It was a great boon when (after my degree), I got an expert in my research field to read and review my thesis. Then I had a priest friend (think practitioner) just tear it right up. If I expand it for a PhD, or prep it for publishing, I owe them big time.

    • I have an Evernote account, but since I do not own a portable device that allows me to use it wherever I go, I am still in the paper age. I’m trying though.

      I also like the idea of not being my idea, just as Dr. Apple suggested. I pour a lot into my work, and when I don’t meet the standard I think I should, I often take it personally. However, I’m working on this trait and hope to realize that one paper doesn’t contain my whole existence.

  2. Pingback: Why graduate studies? | a time and a season

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