Tips for Tackling Writing Assignments

May 7, 2018 by

As an English major and avid reader, writing is one of my favorite things to do. Through writing, you can express feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that aren’t always possible through words. But as an educator, I also know that some students find writing extremely frustrating. Many students struggle with finding the write words, deciding which tense to use or what the correct spelling of a word is. Many students dread research papers or any type of writing assignment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of healthy writing tips, skills, and exercises that students can practice to help improve their writing and make the entire process more enjoyable.

  1. Create a Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is the heart of the assignment. This one sentence should be the main focus of your entire piece of writing. The thesis statement is also referred to as your argument. Once your thesis statement is clear, it will help guide your entire piece

Take a look at the subject of your paper and decide what the main point is. What stands out as the most important information in relation to the assignment? What is your objective for this piece? What argument are you making and how will you prove and support it? This main objective is your thesis statement. Once it’s in place, you’ll have a direction for your paper, which is the perfect place to start.

  1. Make an Outline

Once you have your thesis statement in place, you can begin making an outline. Most papers or basic writing assignments include opening and closing paragraphs, and several supporting paragraphs as the meat of the writing.

Your opening paragraph should introduce writers to the subject of your paper and leave them wanting to know more. This is done using something called a hook, in conjunction with your thesis statement. The hook is a sentence or phrase that entices the reader’s interest and leaves them wanting to know more. This will encourage them to keep reading.

Now, make a list of 2-3 arguments or points that you want to make to support your thesis statement. Ask yourself questions like: How do I know my thesis statement is true? What are important facts that the reader should know? If my reader knew this, would they agree with my argument? Your writing should always refer back to your thesis statement. This will help you maintain a clear focus throughout the piece.

Your conclusion is where you will tie all of your arguments together in a nice, concise package. Here, you can reinforce the points you made throughout the writing and provide one more reference back to your thesis statement. The important thing to remember is not to be repetitive. Just because you’re referring back to your thesis statement and supporting your argument, it doesn’t mean you’re simply repeating yourself. Be careful of this.

  1. Get Some Distance

This is extremely important as a writer. Once you’ve completed your first rough draft, walk away from your writing for at least an hour or more. Get a snack, take a walk, or do something mindless and fun. Whatever it is, you need to step away from your writing before reading it over for edits.

Why? Because as writers, we tend to read what we’ve written as we intended it to be and not as it’s actually written. This means your mind and eyes will naturally skip over many typos, misspellings or confusing concepts. By getting some distance, you can revisit your work with a fresh set of eyes and make the necessary corrections.

  1. Do Not Plagiarize

No matter where you attend school, study, or work, plagiarizing content is 100% unacceptable, no matter which way you cut it. Plagiarizing is stealing the ideas and words of someone else and presenting them as your own. Most projects and papers require a certain level of research. You’ll need to gather information from a variety of sources. You can then use this information and ideas to help support your argument. But you must do this by rewording and reworking the ideas and concepts you find – not by copying them word for word. The later is plagiarizing.

It’s sometimes difficult to take a complicated concept and reword it without losing meaning. The first step in avoiding plagiarism is to site your work. Depending on the type of format you’re using, a bibliography, MLA or APA format is used to give credit to the source of your information, also known as a citation. Another tip for avoiding plagiarizing is to gather information, pinpoint the main concept and idea of that information, and than say it in your own words. It’s not always easy and will take practice. But plagiarizing, in most circumstances, is an unforgivable offence when it comes to writing.

  1. Get a Second Opinion

This goes hand in hand with getting distance from you’re writing. Before handing in any assignment ask a friend, teacher, or parent to read your paper. As a writer, it’s sometimes difficult to read your own work objectively. Not only do you become emotionally invested and attached to your words, but to you, it makes perfect sense. This is because you know what you intend for the writing to say and the message you’re conveying. Unfortunately, if this message doesn’t translate to your audience, than you’ve missed the mark.

Your thesis statement and main argument should be clear throughout your paper. The reader should understand the point you’re trying to make and follow a clear flow of ideas. If the reader doesn’t understand your writing, your teacher likely won’t either. Let someone you care about point out the areas where they became lost or disconnected with your message. Someone else may also pick-up on typos and grammatical mistakes you missed. It may not be easy, but try not to get offended by your readers input. This is why asking a friend or family member is probably best, as they will likely be kind and gentle with their feedback.

Writing is a Work in Progress

I believe there’s no such thing as a final draft. There are revisions and rewrites that ultimately result in the the final piece of writing you hand in, but chances are, if you revisit that same piece months or even years later, you’ll see areas for improvement. That’s because you’re constantly growing, evolving, and changing as a writer.

Writing is an art form that takes time, patience, and knowledge to improve on. And no two writers are the same. There’s something unique about your style of writing. Embrace your individuality and you may just surprise yourself.

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