Writer's WebTips and Guidelines for Writing

Transitioning back into college, academic writing can be difficult. Here is some advice to help you get started. We feel that this short guide will help make a quick impact on your essays.

Decoding the "Assignment Sheet Mystery":

  • Read the prompt carefully. In many cases, if you don't take the appropriate time to analyze an assignment effectively and fully, the essay itself might fail to answer the prompt. It's a common mistake to misinterpret the questions being asked.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the professor clarifying questions.
  • Muriel Harris writes: "Misunderstanding the assignment happens with such astonishing regularity that we ought more properly to view it as a part of the academic process- learning the language of academic communities, learning how to understand that language, and learning how to act on that understanding" (Talking, 39).
  • Developing Ideas:

  • When starting an essay, be sure to think broadly and then narrow to the specifics being asked.
  • The introductory paragraph should eventually culminate in one governing claim which will be the basis of the rest of your paper.
  • Writing essays is an adaptive process. Make sure to leave time to go back and revise your ideas. Your first thought may not be the best so don't look past conflicting evidence.
  • If you're having trouble getting started, try making an outline. Take a look at Richmond's Writers Web page for guidance: outline
  • Using Evidence:

  • When reading a source, take note of what you think may be important even if you don't have the prompt at that time. This may be helpful when you begin writing your paper.
  • Make sure your evidence directly related to your thesis. When using evidence, be sure to analyze it fully. Every quotation needs an introduction and a complete analysis.
  • Don't ignore any piece of evidence that may contradict your thesis. Remember that your thesis can be adapted or changed throughout the writing process.
  • Citing Sources:

  • Be sure to distinguish which ideas are your own and which ideas come from a source. You don't always need to directly quote a source, paraphrasing can be just as helpful.
  • Integrate quotations so that they flow seamlessly in your paper. Rather than building your paper from the quotes, use the quotes to supplement your ideas.
  • Try to avoid using block quotations (quotes of four or more lines) unless completely necessary.
  • Be sure to ask the professor what style of citation style she or he prefers.
  • Take a look at Richmond's Writers Web page for the various citation styles here.
  • Another helpful tool offered through the UR library is Easybib, which automatically formats citations after you provide the reference information.
  • Drawing Conclusions:

  • A concluding paragraph should begin specific and become more general, usually summarizing your main points in order to leave the reader with a clear impression of what you wanted to impart.
  • Don't include new information in your final paragraph.
  • Try to end creatively.
  • Revising Your Paper:

  • Start early enough to make sure you have time to look over your paper multiple times with a fresh perspective.
  • Consider making an appointment with a Writing Consultant to discuss your draft.
  • Read your paper out loud to catch sentence level errors.
  • Specific Advice for SPCS Students:

  • Make sure to manage your time. Start early so that you have time to revise. Try making a calender with deadlines to keep your responsibilities in order.
  • Because you may have more personal and professional responsibilities than traditional students, make sure to work on your paper as frequently as possible so you don't lose track of your ideas.
  • Be aware that you may have to relearn concepts you learned in the past, as concepts or techniques continuously change.
  • Works Cited

    Harris, Muriel. "Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Tutors." College English. (2007): 39. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. Available Online

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