Writing is a process - you’ll find that at St. Lawrence, it is common to submit drafts of essays and papers to receive feedback from your professor, and even your peers, before you submit them for a grade.
Before you write
Read through the assignment guidelines carefully and thoroughly. Though this seems obvious, students have mistakenly understood (or thought they understood) what their professors wanted from them or have written essays based on what they wanted to write about rather than what they were expected to write on. If something is unclear or you are uncertain about something, ask your professor to make sure you understand the assignment.
Develop an outline. Organizing your ideas and main topics with an outline will help you with the writing process. Going into your writing with a plan rather than starting with a blank Word document will make the process go more efficiently and effectively. Ask yourself what you already know about the topic and what sources you may need to integrate into your writing. Think about connections to lecture notes and class readings that can help further your ideas.
Gather all your materials. Having your sources all in one spot will save you time from having to find them later. Check out books from the library or make photocopies of pages from texts you cannot check out. Save PDFs of articles and place them in a folder on your computer (labeled with the course number or name) so you can find them easily. Do the same with photocopied pages from a book or printouts and store them in a physical folder.
While you write
Save often! Don’t let a computer crash set you back and cause you to lose all of your work. You’ll get little sympathy from your professors if you use this as an excuse. Use an online cloud service (such as Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive, which is free for all St. Lawrence users) that can automatically save your work and allow you to access it on any device with an internet connection.
Take a break. Sometimes you may find yourself hitting a wall or suffering from “writer’s block.” Rather than trying to continue to plow through with little progress or staring at the screen blankly, take a short break and step away from your writing. Have a snack, go on a walk, or chat with a friend. You may find yourself refocused and able to continue with your work and perhaps have new ideas to write about.
After you write
Proofread. Prior to turning in any writing assignment, be sure to proofread it. You probably spent a considerable amount of time creating it, so why not take the time to read over it? This will help you from turning in subpar work as you may catch typos and errors, common mistakes seen in students’ writing.
Peer review. You may be required to do some peer review for class but if you’re not, consider asking a friend or classmate to read over your paper (and return the favor!) Having someone else read through your paper will help make sure your ideas are clear and understood by someone who is not as familiar with the topic as you.
Visit your professor. Some faculty may encourage you to meet with them and go over drafts of your paper before you submit a final version for a grade. Take advantage of this opportunity - they may ask you more questions which will require you to do more revisions; however, this is because they want you to produce the best quality and in turn, earn a higher grade on the assignment.
The WORD Studio is an excellent resource to use throughout your time at St. Lawrence. The tutors are trained to help you refine your writing assignments - whether you are looking for help on developing a thesis statement, organizing your ideas into a logical argument, or citing your sources properly using the appropriate citation style. To see their current hours, click here.