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Write your way to an A!

Almost any author can tell you that writing lots of drafts is vital to producing a top-quality product. Here are a few tips to get you started with your rough drafts:

  • Start early!  Give yourself as much time as possible to write a first draft and then make multiple revisions.
  • Don't get stuck.  Sometimes there is a tendency early in the writing process to get hung up on things like grammar and flow.  Don't worry about perfection now.  Write informally, letting the words and ideas spill onto the page.  Edit later.
  • Keep your keywords, outline, or concept map handy.  If you find yourself getting off track, revisit the materials that you prepared early in the research process.  Use your outline or your concept map to guide your writing.
  • Try a writing routine.  Rather than trying to write your report in one sitting, try spreading it out over the course of multiple days or weeks.  Set aside time to tackle one segment of your report each day--or in another time increment that is comfortable for you.
  • Take a breather.  If you find that you've become too absorbed in your writing and you have lost a sense of perspective, set aside your draft for a few days.  Clear your head.  Think about something else for a while, and revisit your draft with fresh eyes.

Asking for and using feedback

While you are at university, you have the unique opportunity to receive feedback on your writing from professors and fellow students.  Learning how to elicit, respond to, and utilize feedback is a critical step in the writing process.

It can be hard at first to hear criticism of your work.  That's completely normal for most writers!  But ultimately your writing will benefit from the feedback you receive.  Remember that knowledge is created in dialogue with others.  Find someone -- or even a group of readers -- who will read your work with an objective eye and who can respond in a thoughtful, yet respectful manner. 

Below are some questions that you might ask to get the most out of peer response.  (Remember that it takes a good deal of thought and time to be a peer responder. Select just a few of these questions to start with.)

  • Can you identify the thesis or main objective of the paper?
  • Is the thesis or main objective supported in the body of paper?
  • Does the introduction give readers a clear understanding of what the paper will be about?
  • Was there anything in the paper that seemed confusing to you? If so, briefly explain what and why.
  • What idea(s) need more evidence or support?
  • Are the ideas arranged so that they are easy to follow? Were there any transitions that seemed weak or abrupt?
  • Is there any evidence that seems irrelevant to the thesis?
  • Are unfamiliar terms explained or defined?
  • What would you like to know more about? What questions do you still have?
  • What would you say are the greatest strengths of the paper? The greatest weaknesses?