Depending upon your academic goals and personal interests, writing assignments may not be your first priority when considering future career success. Many students, especially those seeking careers in science and engineering disciplines, underestimate the value of critical and analytical thinking skills gained when learning to write. Freshman seminar courses are designed to jump-start students’ critical thinking skills, however, few focus specifically on the mechanics of crafting compelling essays or basic research techniques, such as how to efficiently evaluate sources. Most students have access to college writing centers, and TxEE encourages all students to take advantage of these free resources. Students should be aware that college writing centers typically use a discussion-based approach to brainstorming and developing written arguments and do not offer copyediting, proofreading, text revision or fact checking.
To aid our clients and students adjusting to college academics, we have prepared a list of our top 5 stress-reducing writing tips for college students.
Sure, there are plenty of students and professional writers who thrive under the pressure of deadlines and produce passable work at the last minute. For the rest of us, writing excellent essays that communicate both knowledge and insight requires a significant investment in time. One of the surest pathways to writing success is starting early and setting a personal scheduled for each phase of the writing process.
Know Your Rubric
Students new to academic writing may attempt to complete college assignments using methods developed in high school. In college, each discipline or class may have specific guidelines and formatting requirements, and these are usually outlined in the assignment rubric. Avoid unnecessary point deductions by thoroughly reading the provided rubric and ask your professor to clarify any details that do not make sense. Check your final draft against the rubric to make certain your paper satisfies the assignment requirements.
Print Hard Copies
One of the easiest ways to position yourself for writing success is to copy and paste all online sources (news articles, webpages and blog posts) to a series of blank Google Docs for printing. Under the Edit tab, select “Paste without formatting” to eliminate distracting fonts, oversize quotes and advertisements. Past the URL at the top of the document to aid in drafting your References page. Once printed, underline and annotate your hard copies and keep a notebook with brief article summaries so you can find quotes and facts when you need them. Keep a binder of articles for each assignment. Be sure to note the Author and Date of each article if applicable.
Find A Quiet Place
Solitude is every writer’s best friend. Find a quiet place to do your work free of distraction and where you can have space to keep your research materials organized. If you like ambient background noise, great - just be sure you are able to work without interruption. If you have trouble focusing, try using a stopwatch set to 15 minute intervals and challenge yourself to work in short spurts toward achievable goals.
Read Slowly, Write Quickly
It may seem counterintuitive, yet many college students underestimate the amount of research needed to understand a topic well enough to write about it with authority. Students who have not invested significant time in background reading often struggle with the writing process, compensating for a lack of knowledge with personal speculation, redundancy, and digressions. Our best advice is to budget 3-4 hours per page for all research assignments, with 75% of the time spent reading and 25% of time spent writing. If you know your topic and have something insightful to say about it, writing a rough draft should be a snap!