Monday, December 8, 2014

Essay Writing Tips

Being an English and Journalism major I have a lot of writing to do; however, I would rather write an essay than do 80+ Spanish activities (I actually had to do that for every Spanish test…worst thing ever). I've also been writing research papers since middle school and perfected my technique in high school when I had to write 4,000 word research paper. Today I am going to share my tips which can be catered to people who work better with a pen and paper and those who prefer technology. I also figured that now would be a great time to tell you how I write essays since it is finals and I have an English essay due this week. Here is my writing process and tips that I've figured out along the way.

#1 Know your topic
Regardless of whether or not your teacher or professor assigns a specific topic, a list of topics or you have to create your own topic, you need to make sure that you know your topic. Make sure you pick something you are interested in or can argue for/against if you are able to choose your own topic. If it’s not something you enjoy learning about and writing about then the writing process is going to be tedious. However, sometimes you won’t be able to choose your topic and it sucks but it’s still do able.

#2 Research
This is, in my opinion, the most tedious part of writing. Even though research has gotten easier with technology, there is so much out there that it can often be overwhelming. Many teachers now require paper and electronic sources and require that those electronic sources are credible and aren’t just google searched. Most universities and a lot of high schools have subscriptions to databases like Academic Search Premier and EBSOHost that can provide credible articles and research. Also, your public library may be subscribed to some databases that one can use. Learning to use these can be difficult, but most librarians should be willing to help you learn how to use them to get the sources you need. Take advantage of the resources your school has. Finally, do more research than you think you will need. It’s better to have too many sources than too little.

Citations, I feel, would also fall under this category. Citing sources is terrible, but it’s something you have to do. If you do not do it correctly, then you may get expelled or kicked out of university forever. That’s a lot of pressure. However, Microsoft Word can take some of the stress off of you. My teacher in ninth grade told me that if have 2010 or above you can go to the References tab and then to the Citations & Bibliography section and choose your style and then click on insert citations; all you have to do after that if fill out the form for each source! Word will take care of all the pesky periods, commas, italicizing, and all the other things that come with citing a source. After you have everything cited, go to your citations page and then click on bibliography and it inserts all the citations almost formatted. All you have to do now is change the font and size, double space, and do a hanging indent and you’re done! Isn't that so much easier? The first picture is how I compile my research if I'm keeping it together in a Word document. The second two pictures are what I do if I'm doing index cards.For the index cards, I organize it to have the source card on top and the quote cards for that source behind it; then another source card, quote cards etc. 

#3 Outline
A lot of people skip this step and admittedly, for small essays, I don’t make a detailed one. But I do find that having some kind of outline or plan before you start writing so that way you have a little bit of an idea of what you’re going to talk about and you don’t repeat and write in circles. For long essays I do like to do a detailed outline because…all you have to do is add fluff and the essay is done! When I wrote my extended essay for high school, I did a detailed outline and the paper pretty much wrote itself because all I had to do was add fluff to the quotes and it was done. I still do that now even though it seems pointless while I’m doing it but when it comes to writing it actually does help.

#4 Let’s get writing
I don’t have any tips for the actual writing of the paper except just write and don’t worry about how it looks or sounds. Get all of your ideas and explanations and fluff out onto paper/screen. Starting is the hardest part so maybe don’t start with the introduction and start with the body paragraph. Also, depending on your teacher, you may not have to write a full paragraph for the introduction. Often I just have a sentence or two in order to introduce the reader and then go straight into the thesis; although none of my teachers mind that make sure that it is okay with your teacher.

#5 Finishing up
Edit, edit, edit. Send it to your friends, sometimes if you get the essay done early enough your teacher might be willing to read it and edit it for you. If your university has a writing center where they edit essays for you, then make an appointment and take your essay there. Sometimes in the act of writing one might make a lot of silly mistakes that could be marked off, so it’s important that you or someone else reads the essay for those mistakes. Finally, make sure you turn it in as soon as you are finished! Don’t wait. I waited once and was like I’ll turn it in later tonight (it was due online) and totally forgot! I e-mailed my teacher and luckily she was really cool about it, but it was terrifying! Take my word for it, turn it in as soon as you finish completely.

I hope that these tips help you out during this stressful time of finals. Good luck!

Thank you for reading!


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