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10 Writing Tips for Students

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    Researching, writing and completing an essay or research paper isn't easy. If writing an essay is more appealing than buying a sample essay, Ultius hopes the following tips make the process easier. 

    Writing tip #1: Review the rubric

    If you want to get an amazing grade, then reviewing the professor’s rubric is one of the most important things you need to do. The rubric lets you know what your professor wants, and how your professor wants it done. In many rubric renditions, the instructor will even provide the grade you will receive if you meet certain goals. Consider the rubric your stepping stone to success or failure.

    The best choice is to use the information in the rubric to organize your paper. Not all professors provide one, but if they do, they are providing you with your outline. You don’t even have to give your outline any thought. Often, you can take the rubric section headings and turn them into the headings for your paper. Think of the rubric provided by your teachers as a glimpse into their brain. The rubric is the formula your instructors want you to use, so why not embrace it and follow their clues to success.

    Know your academic styles 

    The professor’s rubric usually identifies the citation style you should employ. Most writers find the perfect use of citation style as a difficult annoyance, so you are not alone. If your instructor insists that you use it, you might as well invest in gaining an understanding of it now, because as you continue on your academic journey, you will be expected to utilize a variety of styles, including APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago or Harvard. Often your teacher will select the style simply based on their own preference, or familiarity with the style, but here are some of the associated disciplines:

    • APA, which is short for the American Psychological Association, is used in the sciences, social sciences, psychology and education
    • MLA, which is code for the Modern Language Association, is used by those in the English and humanities disciplines
    • Chicago/Turabian citation method is often used in history, business, the fine arts and humanities

    The take away on citations, you are not alone, everyone is either frustrated or annoyed while going through the learning process, but grit your teeth, and as Nigel said, in The Devil Wears Prada, “gird your loins,” because if you intend to advance academically, it will become an intricate part of your life. For the most common citation and reference mistakes check out our blog article.

    Writing tip #2: Prepare an outline

    Preparing an outline for your writing, essentially giving your writing structure, is one of the most important things you can do to help you formulate what needs to be addressed. Teachers create lesson plans in preparation for class, architects design buildings by creating detailed drafts and blueprints, speakers organize their thoughts by drafting a game plan of their presentations, and writers create outlines of their prospective work. In addition to creating a road map for your writing, outlines help you to start writing about the portions of your assignment you like most.

    Having a hard time with your outline? Try one of these 10 study apps for college students.

    Breaking it down

    If you start on a section that you find interesting or fun, you are more likely to avoid what is commonly referred to as writer’s block. Creating an outline ensures that every aspect of your topic will be addressed. There are a number of outline organizational styles. You can tell your story in chronological order, which is one of the most popular methods of communication. You can tell your story in the order of importance. This is a leading technique, often used by mystery writers. They start the first line of the story with “the dagger was found dripping with blood” on the first line of the first page. This method is used to draw your audience in immediately. Your audience will want to know who was killed, who the murderer is, what transpired and why, all within the first sentence.

    Although you are likely not writing a mystery, utilizing this writing strategy can be effective if your topic has a mind grabbing context, or not. For example, if writing about a recent topic in the news, you could use the following headline as your first sentence, “Gary Brabham, son of racing car legend, found guilty of child rape” (Clark). Another method of organizing your outline is through the use of comparison. If you are writing about the voter demographics in the latest election, you can select a candidate, and write what you like about them and then what you dislike, and use this comparative format to describe each of the candidates. Another outline organizational style would be to use the cause and effect method.

    You can start with either the cause or the effect, once selected, you can then describe the other in detail. For example, Mary ran home crying and could not be persuaded to return to school, which would be the effect. Your next step could be to detail the causes which resulted in her running home crying, or you could give additional information about Mary crying (further delineating the effect), and then detail the causes, or vice versa. If you are new to writing, the chronological approach will be the easiest method to use. If you have been writing for a while and would like to try something new, you might consider the other methods. Whatever organizational style you choose, know that creating an outline is going to make your life so much easier.

    Writing tip #3: Give yourself time

    Time management is crucial when you write. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to get your creative juices flowing. Writing is an art and you have to relax and give your brain time to cogitate. Think of yourself as a musician creating an amazing song that the whole world will sing and remember for the rest of time. If you give yourself time and incorporate fluidity, you will overcome the difficulties that sometime come with the writing process. Make sure that you take breaks. After you have written a page or two, walk away and give your brain time to reboot. Yes, put your feet up, have a Snickers bar, then get back in the grind.

    Writing tip #4: Write freely

    Just write! Don’t worry about grammar, don’t worry about order, don’t worry about anything. Just write! You will be amazed at what you can accomplish when you do not give yourself a lot of rules and regulations, and just write freely. You will have lots of time to review your work, restructure, make corrections and revise. Your best friend is named Google. Anything that you are wondering about, or don’t have the answer to can be found by entering a keyword or formulating a question and putting it in the search box on Google.

    You are so lucky to be living and learning in this time in history. Remember, that Google began in 1998. Most of those who are older than you did not have access to such an amazing repository of information. Going to the library was how many conducted research. Can you imagine sitting in a library for every paper that you had to write, the demand for continuous quiet, the oppressive heat, the difficulty finding what you wanted, the investment of time that was required, the ongoing feelings of FOMO. Trust, life is good! Be free, write free!

    Writing tip #5: Add some humor

    Add your personality to your work. Your professor will appreciate it. One or two lines of effective humor are enough. The one thing that you do not want to do is over deliver the comedy, or add anything that is clearly inappropriate. Your goal is to make your professor happy, not make your professor angry. Your ability to productively inject humor demonstrates a comfort with your writing. In essence you are reaching out to your audience and attempting to connect with them in a way that demonstrates skill and confidence, but the caveat is less is more. 

    Leigh Ann Jasheway, a writer, comic and humor expert says:

    "Effective humor can be just as much about creative misdirection—engaging readers by taking them someplace they don’t expect to go—and subtly choosing metaphors and words that make readers giggle without even knowing why. And a smiling reader is one who’s paying attention and eager to read on." (Jasheway)

    If the written content you provide is on point and you can make your professor “giggle,” as well, you are on your way to an “A.”

    Writing tip #6: Avoid plagiarism at all costs 

    What is plagiarism? Plagiarism is the theft of someone else’s ideas, words, or work, and pretending that the work is your own. There are a number of consequences to engaging in plagiarism including, destruction of your student, academic or professional reputation, public humiliation, and legal and monetary consequences. You engage in plagiarism by copying even one sentence that belongs to someone else without attribution.

    Attribution is the act of citing the name of the author and identifying their work within your text and in detail in your reference section. Professors, schools and businesses now use plagiarism software that can specifically identify if you copied the work of another, in fact, most software can identify the percentage of plagiarism involved, which simply addresses whether you cut and pasted the information, or made an unsuccessful attempt at paraphrasing. Remember, an unsuccessful attempt at paraphrasing someone else’s work is plagiarism.   

    Writing tip #7: Using Wikipedia correctly

    No self-respecting student should ever use Wikipedia as a citation or reference, ever. There is nothing wrong with using the wiki as a resource tool to start or direct your information gathering and research process, but that is Wikipedia’s only function in academic writing. Rather than citing Wikipedia itself, towards the bottom of the wiki entry, there should be a list of sources. See if one of those may be better to cite, and look better for not citing Wikipedia.

    Writing tip #8: Revise your draft

    Once you have hunkered down and completed all of your free writing, your next step is to review your draft. Here is where you will make sure that all of the red underlined words are spelled correctly, and the green and blue underlined words and phrases are properly structured. The second read of your draft should ensure that you have structured your writing in accordance with whatever organizational style you’ve selected. For example, if you selected the chronological approach, then your paragraphs should be ordered sequentially in topical order. The purpose of writing free is so that you do not have to clutter your mind with grammar, sentence and paragraph structure. Writing free and then revising your draft afterwards should liberate your creativity and allow you to write faster. You leave the heavy lifting until the end, once you’ve had another break and a Haagen Dazs.

    Writing tip #9: Drive your point forward

    During draft review and revision, check to ensure that you have a beginning, middle and an end. Your goal should be to make certain that each sentence drives your point forward. If you find a sentence that does not contribute to forward movement, or that fails to provide an important and contributing point, the sentence should be eliminated. 

    Writing tip #10: Draw a conclusion

    Your final paragraph should end with a conclusion. The conclusion is a summary of your work, it should include your main point, a few of your sub-points and a final statement that makes your audience think. This is also a good time to check for any mistakes. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers this:

    "Your conclusion is your chance to have the last word on the subject. The conclusion allows you to have the final say on the issues you have raised in your paper, to synthesize your thoughts, to demonstrate the importance of your ideas, and to propel your reader to a new view of the subject. It is also your opportunity to make a good final impression and to end on a positive note."  

    Want to write like a pro? Check out 10 mistakes professional writers never make.

    Works Cited

    "6 Consequences of Plagiarism." iThenticate. Turnitin, LLC. n. d. Web. 24 March 2016. <http://www.ithenticate.com/resources/6-consequences-of-plagiarism>.

    Clark, Dea. "Gary Brabham, son of racing car legend, found guilty of child rape." ABCOnline. ABC. 24 March 2016. Web. 24 March 2016. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-24/gary-brabham-son-of-racing-car-legend-guilty-child-rape/7275746>.

    "Conclusions." The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill. n. d. Web. 24 March 2016. <http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/conclusions/>.

     Jasheway, Leigh. "How to Write Better Using Humor." Writer’s Digest. F+W. 16 January 2016. Web. 24 March 2016. <http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-mix-humor-into-your-writing>.

     
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