Successful College Writing
The writing you will do at the university level may be more complex than the writing you are used to doing. In addition, you will likely have to do some research to gather information for your writing assignments.
This kind of writing is best completed over time. The first step is to thoroughly Understanding Your Writing Assignments.
After you understand what is required in the assignment, you should follow a writing process that includes these elements, not be seen as steps in a linear process; rather, the elements are part of a recursive process that may recycle many times as you work to improve successive drafts:
Invention is the process of creating or gathering information for your writing (or speaking) project. Depending on your particular project, you may select from a variety of invention strategies, including: Clustering--creating a visual representation of your ideas and the connections among them: 1) write your topic in the center of a paper (or screen) and circle it;
2) write down the main parts or ideas related to the topic, circle them, and draw lines connecting them to the center topic;
3) think of details, facts, or ideas related to the main parts, write them down in clusters around the main parts, circle them and again draw lines to connect them to related ideas.
Listing-- listing applies a familiar activity to generate ideas for a writing project.
1) write down a title--your initial representation of your topic or main idea
2) write as fast as you can, in short phrases, what you know or want to include. At this point, include anything you think of--do not be judgmental.
3) reflect on your list
4) put an asterisk next to the most promising items
5) number items in order of importance 6) put items in related groups 7) cross out items that do not seem promising 8) add new items as needed
Outlining-- outlining lets you invent as well as organize your ideas. Outlining works well for invention IF you remain open to new ideas and new ways of grouping ideas and ordering the groups.
Cubing--cubing involved considering your topic from six aspects:
1) describing: what does it look like? size, shape, color, texture, components?
2) comparing: what is it similar to/ different from?
3) associating: what does it make you think of? How does it connect to other ideas/ experiences?
4) analyzing: what are its origin? What are its parts/ features, and how are they related?
5) applying: what can you do with it? What uses does it have?
6) arguing: is it controversial? What is the controversy and where do you stand?
Discussing--Talking with others about a topic can help you discover what you know, how you feel, and the important or controversial aspects.
Journaling--writing down your responses to your reading, especially as you research a topic, can help gather together your thoughts on a topic. Other good strategies to practice on a regular basis include writing up notes from a class, preparing for class by writing up main ideas from assigned readings, summarizing readings. Writing everyday for ten or fifteen minutes will also improve your ease with writing.
Dramatizing--think of your topic in terms of action and actors. Answer these questions: who?, what?, when?, where?, how?, why? This method is useful in writing up a field observation, reporting on an event, analyzing characters in a story, and in thinking about the audience for your writing. Free writing/ looping--looping is especially useful when you are first exploring topics.
1)write down you topic or area of interest
2) write nonstop for ten mintues--start with the first thing that comes to mind and keep your pen moving/ fingers typing
3) pause to read what you have written--decide what is most important or most interesting and restate it in a single sentence--called the "center of gravity" or "hot spot" This is the end of the first loop
4) begin now with the hot spot and write for another 10 minutes. This is the beginning of the second loop.
5) Repeat the steps and loops until you have a focus or thesis for your writing.
Questioning--asking questions is a good way to find out about the topic and also to decide what you need to research and learn about a topic. Good research is based on formulating good research questions. More. . .
Quick drafting--write what you know, quickly. This method is useful when you know well everything you want to say. The quick draft is still a draft in need of evaluation and revision.
Researching--an important strategy for gathering information is research (see questioning, above). Mundt Library has many video tutorials that will help you improve your ability to conduct good research:http://www.departments.dsu.edu/library/VideoTutorials/.
1. Start anywhere--some writers write the introduction after they have written the rest of the paper.
2. Construct paragraphs beneath headings you generated during the invention stage.
3. At some point create orienting statements: a thesis that tells the reader the point or focus of your paper, and a forecasting statement that tells the reader the subordinate points, in the order in which they will occur in the essay.
4. Create topic sentences for paragraphs--a good topic sentence not only states the focus of the paragraph, but also indicates the direction the paragraph will take. Readers need to know whether the paragraph introduces a new aspect of the topic of the paper or further develops aspects previously discussed. This is especially important in an essay format does not use headings and subheadings.
5. Use transitional words to signal the relationships between paragraphs and sections. Don't be afraid to repeat key terms--this will help to establish the flow of your ideas for the reader.
5. If you get stuck, there are several strategies you can try:
Dictation--writing is only one process of verbalization. Try talking into a tape recorder--just be sure you carefully select from and edit your dictations.
Distance--put the work away for awhile, work on some other aspect of the projecct, or sleep on it. When you come back, you may find a new perspective that will lead you forward.
Conversation--talking to a friend or colleague will allow to verbalize the issues and also to anticipate some of the audience questions or reactions to your message. This is an invaluable step at any stage of the process.
Writing Tutors--You do not need to have a complete draft to consult the writing tutors in Mundt Library.
Revising is an essential part of the recursive writing process in which you verify that your document is in fact expressing for a reader the meaning you want to express.
Revising includes both editing and proofreading.
When you edit, you make changes to the content of your paper, rewording to make meaning clearer, rearranging the grouping and ordering of information to create an effective organizational structure and to create a logical flow of information.
Following a checklist to guide you through the editing process will facilitate the process, make it more effective, and also help you to practice the steps involved until they become second nature. Use this checklist to guide your editing process.
Remember, editing takes place frequently throughout the recursive writing process. Also, if you are not certain how to improve the document, take it to a writing tutor in Mundt Library or send it to DSU’s Online Writing Lab (OWL).
Proofreading is the final step in all written communication. All your hard work will be lost if your audience loses confidence in you because of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
Read the draft slowly and carefully to spot errors. During editing you will read for meaning. At this stage, you consciously look for errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
- Read the draft out loud. Even if you are not an expert in grammar and punctuation, reading aloud will allow you to hear your mistakes.Use Spell Check!
- If you make frequent typing errors with some words, you may find it useful to add these errors to the auto-correct feature of your word processing software.
- Check for commonly confused words. Many errors will not be detected because the misspelled word is still a word; for example, confusing there, their, they're will not be detected by your spell check tool. Try to determine the words you most frequently confuse, and prepare a list for yourself to check every document you prepare.
- Using the find/replace tool will facilitate this process.
- Ask a friend (or colleague, significant-other, mother, father, . . .) to look over your work one last time. If the document is important, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. It is difficult to detect your own errors--you tend to see in your draft what you meant to write, not what you actually wrote.