Writing essays can seem difficult and challenging at the best of times but at the beginning of university this is particularly so. When compared to high-school writing assignments the complexity and length of university level papers can be daunting. How does a student adapt to this change?
Understanding the guidelines for the assignment is a first step. Knowing how many pages are to be in the paper, how many references are required and the date on which the essay is due all help to orient your mind towards beginning and completing the assignment. Once these questions are answered the next thing to do is to read the material from which you need to draw from for your paper.
While reading, it is good practice to take notes and/or remember ideas with certain marks and techniques. By doing this, the information that will be of assistance in the writing process will be easy to access. This stage of the writing process can often be difficult for new university students, as it is the process of idea formulation—beginning to put ideas into words. Writing down all relevant ideas that come up during this stage helps, as an excess of information is preferable to not having enough.
After the material is read then the true idea formulation begins. Sorting through the ideas that have been written down during research and organizing them into categories which may turn into paragraphs is another important step in the writing process. Once the ideas are written down and organized, refer back to the parameters of the assignment for guidelines such as length. It is often an easy guideline to have one to two paragraphs per page of double-spaced text, and one individual idea or group of related ideas in each paragraph. For example, for a six-page paper you may need nine paragraphs, one of these paragraphs as the introduction, seven paragraphs with ideas relating to your topic and one paragraph as a conclusion. This is a rough guideline, but can help when beginning to write university papers.
The process of organization is a great way to become familiar with the ideas that will end up in the paper. Organization is a first step and is perhaps one of the most important steps when learning how to adapt to the expectations for university papers. After becoming familiar with the types of organizational strategies that work most effectively for you it is then possible to become creative with these techniques and truly begin to formulate your own style in the writing process.
Useful Links for ‘the writing process’:
UNC Writing Center—handouts and links page
Linn Benton community College Learning Center—Organization Strategies
Union Institute and University—Organizational Strategies for Writing