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Writing in College

Student notes on Writing in College by Joseph M. Williams and Lawrence McEnerney, written in response to Miscellaneous Assignment 4.


College and high school are different. The expectations that a college professor has are much higher than the expectations of a high school teacher.

The Importance of Revision. A college essay written from beginning to end in one go can never be a good essay (unless you're a prodigy). A fine essay has to be revised, nitpicked and carefully modified once or twice before it can exhibit clarity.

Coherence. Your thesis statement is everything. If anything has more say in the success of a good essay, its a good thesis. Stick to this thesis. A thesis must anchor the essay and direct it.

Plagiarism. Always make sure to cite. Cite anything that is not your own and cite properly. Citing is probably the most important element in the transition between HS and college writing.

Expect the unexpected in writing.

See it through all perspectives.

Always share the knowledge you have because it is always subject to challenge and that's how one improves.

Don't be frustrated if your first drafts are not what your professor is looking for. there are many difference between college-level writing and high school writing, and the transition is not easy for everyone.

Make sure you have enough evidence to support your claim, and that the evidence actually pertains to the claim/argument.

Argument is not wrangling but serious and focused conversation.

Do not revise your drafts just after finishing them. give yourself some time to forget some of the information and find much smaller errors.

The longer you set aside your paper for revision, the better. If you can begin your senior thesis now, it will be great.

The main point of an analytical paper stems from a question or something that was confusing in the reading or research. The paper comes together when the author determines an original, possible solution to the question and attempts to convince the reader of the (not-so-obvious) solution through evidence and reasoning.

There are two main ways to make a point in a paper. One format may be more beneficial than the other from subject to subject. The point-first format lays out the specific main point/solution in the introduction and reiterates it in the conclusion. In the point-last format, the author interests the reader with the problem, but only reaches the full solution in the conclusion through the preceding paragraphs. According to the text, the point-last format may be preferred the most in Humanities, but can also vary from professor to professor (Williams & McEnerney 14).

It is very important to get started early (and not early in the morning the day the paper is due). One key part in getting started early is editing. The text says that the author of a paper needs to have the longest break possible between writing the paper and editing it, or essential revisions will be missed (Williams & McEnerney 11). At Grinnell specifically, it is expected to complete a draft a few days before the due date so there is ample time to utilize the writing lab, professor, peer editors, etc. (Williams & McEnerney 29).

It is alright to change your first draft entirely -- in fact it is almost expected. We develop and discover more on the topic as we write our thoughts out.

Don't forget to go back and finalize your paper. Especially look out for the congruity between the introduction and conclusion.

Your title should have some insight as to what your paper is about as well - do not to oversimplify.

Your first step in writing an assigned paper occurs before you begin writing. You have to know what your instructor expects.

Your writing must have a "point" or "claim." This means the most important sentence that you wrote in your essay, a sentence that sums up the most important thing you want to say as a result of your reading thinking, research, and writing.

If you have a writing block or help with revising go to the writing lab. The writing lab staff help you get over crisis moments in your writing and to help you improve your writing.

Try to create something unique and never seen before. It will catch the attention of the instructor.

Cover all your bases. Arguments will be challenged and the more you can back it up and answer those "what if..." questions, the better.

Prewriting and outlines will help greatly. It can make you more organized and speed up the drafting process. While writing don't hesitate to skip ahead and place some sort of marker that lets you know to go back and add more or fix something. Realize there are different styles and pick what works for you.
Topic revision: r5 - 2010-08-26, SamuelARebelsky
 

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