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Old 08-16-10, 02:04 AM
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Writing Essays and Papers -- For Those Staring Up School

I was just organizing some old folders that I've had literally untouched since I graduated Dec 2007.

I found all of the research papers used for references, and all my of notes, 3 x 5 cards, and outlines that I used for preparing for my Final Paper for my Senior Seminar Class (Molecular Approaches to Environmental Problem Solving).

Anyway, seeing it inspired me to share one of my methods of success for writing papers. Profs are looking for development of ideas that are backed up with plenty of support. I am not eloquent, I do not use language to a degree that even sounds good, but did well (A's, a couple B+'s).


Please share tips, tricks, methods/strategies and approaches for writing papers that you have found HELPFUL.

Mechnik recommended a website that is quite thorough and excellent in a different thread, and I thought it'd be a shame to let it get lost in the middle of it.

Originally Posted by mechnik
This website on writing essays is a gold mine.
It teaches to break down the process into manageable pieces so that an essay "writes itself".
I kind of assumed that the point of writing was to throw all these interesting ideas at the reader. Not so, the point is to communicate your ideas clearly so that the reader will understand you.
Better have 1 good idea and make it understandable to your audience than 10 brilliant ideas that are incomprehensible to anyone.
As he said, it helps break the process down.

If you're like me: you get lost on big sheets of paper, especially if you have 10+ research papers that will be included for references. I get frustrated with the mess of arrows, cross outs, etc. I feel confined and overwhelmed.

My tip: 3 x 5 cards

Ideally, you should have a general topic, and be familiar with some papers.

Before creating a diagram (mind map) for your paper --

For each paper/reference:

Write down the author(s), date, and title on a 3 x 5 card.

Write down any points(s) and any helpful or quotable information you may want to use.

Then make a diagram (mind map) of ideas/points.

Transfer that information to individual 3 x 5 cards, so you can move your ideas around and add ideas without having to make a mess of your paper.

Have a 3 x 5 card for each main point and subpoints, make note of any supporting information that is needed (especially missing information so you can gear any further research towards this).

Go back to the 3 x 5 cards made for the research papers or the research papers themselves, if necessary, find the relevant information that will support your point or is necessary as factual information.

As you understand how & where information from a paper will fit into yours -- make another 3 x 5 card, again with the paper title, author, and date... but this time only write down the pertinent information and place this card where it will fit amongst the "outline" cards.

This is just a basic idea of use. I found this helpful because I could MOVE my ideas and MOVE the supporting evidence around without an oodle of mess.

Once the 3 x 5 cards were laid out the way I liked, to keep them in order after I put them away, I would: 1) number my cards so I could keep them in order 2) tape all my cards together or 3) write a bullet outline.

After that, I could literally brain dump without worrying about eloquence because a well organized, well supported paper is more important (at least in the sciences, I've only taken a few Lit/Eng classes and History classes in college, although those papers were much easier and still did very well).

Can make it fun by using colored 3 x 5 cards. Can easily be adapted to English or history papers.

make your life easy

Pick a topic that has readily available supporting evidence that fits.

You are not being graded on effort... you are being graded on your ability to relevantly and analytically use evidence to support your ideas and points.

Do not try to "stretch" supporting evidence to fit your idea.


Please share tips, tricks, methods/strategies and approaches for writing papers that you have found HELPFUL.
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Old 08-16-10, 03:04 AM
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Re: Writing Essays and Papers -- For Those Staring Up School

Probably not exactly related, but here we are.

I suppose my method of writing papers until now has been "wait for an inspiration".
The inspiration would never come willingly so I would use deadlines/fear of failure to create a pressure cooker in my mind and let the pressure build until the safety valve blows and steam escapes as I would write in a frenzy.

I took some classes recently and had quite a bit of trouble with written assignments. Maybe learned a couple things:
1) be certain to understand what is required: mistaken assumptions bite me in the rear again and again. Better take a few minutes to carefully go over the requirements.

2) more generally, essay/research is not about trying to be something:
clever, funny, reflective, whatever. It's about clearly conveying ideas to your audience,
you really become the teacher and try to teach something to others. It does not matter if someone thinks your thoughts are brilliant if they can't understand them you wasted time and effort. So figure out a few ideas to convey and be done with it, that's enough. The rest is fairly simple in principle: keep polishing it. The more effort you put into this the more it will shine. Something not feasible under the pressure of deadline.
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