Monday, February 8, 2016

The RSU Writing Center can help, even if you haven't started your paper yet!

Hi, all! Welcome back to another semester. A common question this semester that seems to have carried over from last semester is how to brainstorm and prewrite for assignments. Many students, especially freshmen, have never utilized any type of prewriting technique for their essays and this can cause problems in upper level courses when assignments can be more complex. Brainstorming and prewriting are effective and valuable for multiple reasons: they allow the writer to visually see the ideas, make connections between ideas, and organize the ideas in a logical manner. Many different steps to brainstorming and prewriting and multiple techniques can be applied. Some of these steps and techniques can be found in The Everyday Writer on pages 58-74.

The first step is to brainstorm by communicating ideas with others, freewriting, or even using more visual methods like clustering. From this phase, the writer can then narrow the topic and create some sort of tentative thesis that encompasses the idea of the paper. This can always be changed later but many professors require a working thesis statement before any drafts are crafted. The next step is to gather resources to support the topic of the paper, and that information must then be organized. This is usually where some students run into issues; a simple method to organizing main ideas and supporting points for an essay is to make some sort of outline or flow chart. Examples of these can be found on pages 71-73 of The Everyday Writer. After a plan has been made, it’s time to start writing!

The Writing Center also offers assistance for the brainstorming and prewriting steps of the writing process, so please set up an appointment with one of the tutors using All you have to do is sign in using your student email and password. We hope to see you soon and have a great semester!

-McKinze Hefner, RSU Writing Consultant

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Where do I start?!

For many students, including me, the most difficult step in the writing process is getting started. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at an assignment sheet, thinking to myself, “I’ve got nothin’.” With practice – and patience – you’ll likely develop your own process and techniques for initiating the writing process, here are some things that help me:
Read the assignment instructions. Done? Good, now do it again. Some assignments include multiple requirements – very specific requirements. I find it useful to make a checklist of the requirements and review the list before I submit my paper.  
Write. Write something, anything. This isn’t your final draft, so don’t worry about it being perfect. If you have an idea for your paper, this is the time to write it down. It’s easy to think it, but it can be challenging to put those thoughts on paper, and that’s why prewriting can be beneficial. If the assignment lists questions or prompts to consider, try writing brief answers to get started. 
What do I do when I don’t have something to say right away? I write anyway! Even if it doesn’t answer the assignment’s topic or prompt, I always have an opinion – and you do, too! If my assignment is to write a critical analysis of a selected text, I jot down my initial opinion, my reaction to the reading, and any comments I have. Even if you don’t think these ideas will be useful when writing your paper, they get you thinking about the topic of the assignment, and, who knows – later, you might come back to something you wrote and find that you can use it in your paper.  
I’ve got words…now, what? After prewriting and thinking about the assignment and topic, I start to think about how I’m going to present my information. I find that creating an outline, even a tentative outline, helps. I always include a bullet point for my introduction and my conclusion, but I never start there. Outlining helps me think about the order in which I want to present my information. After I outline my main points and sub points, I find that it’s much easier to tackle the writing little by little, focusing on one point at a time. 
For more tips on getting the writing process started, check out the University of Maryland University College’s Prewriting and Outlining page at this link. 

-Tessa Hill, RSU Writing Consultant