There are many ways of going about writing. Over time, individuals develop habits that provide them with a sense of comfort and satisfaction. Once in a while, however, people work themselves into a logjam when writing. Perhaps a few pointers might help you out when you are stuck or when you don't know where to start.
First of all, keep in mind that writing a paper begins before you sit down and write the actual paper. While you're reading or doing research, it helps to jot down ideas, underline important passages, etc. Reading twice can make for really good writing; you can read the text once, then think about what's interesting and might belong in a paper, and then read again. The material that you collect before writing can be used as a basis for brainstorming when you sit down and decide how to approach the subject matter: Is there anything unclear? Anything contradictory? This could be interesting! Are there any patterns that develop?
Next, find a way to organize your ideas. Some people do this mentally; others organize quite literally. What's important is that the organizational process helps you find the key idea, the thesis, of your paper. Ask what about the book or topic was interesting or intriguing to you. Ask several times; do you see any relationships among the various answers you discover? Then ask yourself, "So what?" What about these relationships is important? Can you prove it? Now you're on your way to composing a thesis.
Personal writing habits come into play when you begin writing the paper. Some writers feel the need to write a paper straight through from the introduction to the conclusion. Others write individual paragraphs and piece their papers together from what they have. Some writers find it useful to plow ahead with the essay, no matter how arduous the task may be. Others find it useful to take a break from writing to refresh themselves. Vary your routines a bit each time you write to find "the magical way" of writing for you. Take a ten- minute walk; for many writers, taking a break actually saves time.
One never really finishes a paper--witness the number of "editions" of texts out there on the market. Revising an essay sometimes requires a certain amount of distance from the material. Read through the essay after some time has elapsed. Bring it to the Walk-In Service for additional help. Writers who give themselves time to take a rest from an assignment and come back to their work can approach the revision process with renewed energy and even new ideas to incorporate in the paper.
|© John S. Knight Institute Last Updated April 2006 firstname.lastname@example.org|