When you are assigned an essay or another type of writing assignment, you might feel completely overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are plenty of great writing strategies to help you get through your assignments in one piece and ensure that you write something that is engaging and worthy of a good grade.
Having a wealth of great writing tips is helpful when essay writing, or any other form of academic writing, has been assigned to you. Fortunately, there are many writing strategies that can help you learn writing skills in college. The following 35 writing strategies cover how to get started, how to research, how to prepare for writing, how to write your paper, and how to finish it off. Take a look through these strategies to use in writing and pick and select the ones you feel will work the best for you.
Whether you choose your topic, or a topic is assigned, your primary task is to know how to perform research properly to manage to gather relevant sources to craft a thorough and informative essay. The process might begin with you choosing of being assigned a topic.
Your goal here is to collect as much appropriate information as possible. Here is a list of writing strategies to help you do that.
- Whenever possible, choose a topic of your interest. In the case you are assigned a specific topic, you can still choose an interesting angle or an unusual perspective.
- While this might not seem like one of the most obvious examples of writing strategies, always feel free to ask for help, don’t be afraid of asking. If you don’t think you know how to follow the requirements, you should ask your instructor.
- Make good use of the internet. If your professor has provided any links as sources, then you should use them for sure and expand from there. Remember to use only credible sources. Not all guidelines, articles, and research found on the Internet are provided by writing professionals or experts in your subject matter. And remember that the Internet can be an incredible source of inspiration. The Muse can jump out from where you least expect it. Sometimes the social media sites, such as Pinterest or Reddit can be quite inspiring and useful.
- Libraries are still very relevant when researching for an assignment. A library is an incredibly valuable place if you have to get a wide understanding of the subject. Start in the reference section and make use of general resources. Search the library’s catalog. Finally, take a trip to “the stacks” and browse the shelves in your subject area to see what titles are available.
Owl Purdue also provides some great tips on how to conduct research. And now that you know how to research, you have to do move on to the next stage—do something with all those sources and information you have uncovered.
Sometimes, getting started is the most challenging part of a writing assignment, especially when you have to pick your own topic. Knowing what is expected of you and having a good idea of what interests you are crucial.
But that’s not all:
Effective writing strategies include learning brainstorming techniques that will help you narrow down your essay topic and sift through the information your research has uncovered so you can identify only relevant and up to date information. Check out the following writing strategies for students that offer brainstorming techniques and teach you how to start organizing that information.
- The first of the strategies helpful to master your writing skills is to use the free-writing technique. Take a pen and a piece of paper, relax, and just write down your stream of consciousness for a selected topic. It can be clumsy or grammatically incorrect, but who cares if it works for you and helps you to focus. Try to generate as many ideas relevant to your topic as possible. Never mind how good the ideas are. At this stage, the more ideas, the better. Write down even the silliest ideas coming to your head. Set a timer if you wish. When your time is over, carefully check what you have written and evaluate all the ideas. Choose only the best ideas to include in your assignment.
- Try mind-mapping. In the middle of the sheet of paper, draw your question and use lines to connect that question to relevant ideas, words and images. These ideas, words, and images might branch out to other ideas. Write them all down and connect them to one another. In such a way, you will find out the trend in the ideas that will help direct you in researching and writing your paper.
- Begin constructing paragraphs using the information and data from your research and brainstorming sessions. You can distribute the information you have chosen to use between paragraphs. Note how many paragraphs you will need and which points you will use in each.
- Finally, you can come up with a topic sentence you will use for each paragraph. Topic sentences are handy when you want to save time because it provides you with a summary of what you wish to include in the paragraph.
For more information on how to organize the information you have, check out what the Walden University has to say.
Well, it is time for the main event. Stayed tuned for strategies that will help you better understand the act of writing.
Yes, it is inevitable. You do have to begin writing now, but as long as you have done the previous steps well, including conducting thorough research and brainstorming extensively, you will be well organized and have plenty about which to write.
But here’s the thing:
Writing can still be a complicated process, even when you are organized and know the above writing techniques. For this reason, you need to have a good grasp of the following writing strategies to ensure you can write something that is intelligent, meaningful and expresses your views appropriately.
- Use active voice whenever possible. Towson University gives a great description of active and passive voice in writing. Writing in the active voice demonstrates that there is a subject (someone or something) and that this subject is conduction the action expressed by the verb. The opposite is when the subject is being acted upon, which is the passive voice. Keep in mind that the active voice is much more potent and is the preferred voice.
- Do not hide the doer of the action using these phrases—“there is” and “there are.” (For instance, you have to write “Three ways exist to tackle the problem” instead of writing “There are three ways to tackle the problem”.)
- Do not confuse your readers by starting sentences with phrases like “It has been…,” like “It has been hypothesized that…” A reader cannot understand who has done the hypothesizing. Since it is obvious that a hypothesis must have an author, start your sentence with the author’s name and give the proper reference at the end of the sentence: “John Doe hypothesized that…(Doe, 2005)”
- Avoid redundant words. You should delete any redundant words, such as “completely,” “extremely,” and “absolutely” in the majority of situations.
- Make sure your writing is clear. The reader needs to understand all the points you have made.
- Ensure your writing is concise. Avoid using general statements to make your readers think that there is more valuable information than there actually is; stick to the point.
- Your writing must be precise. Your written work has to communicate the meaning you intend to get across to the reader.
- Remember that accuracy is important. Be sure to double-check facts before using them.
- Approach your writing with honesty. Good writing has to be free of prejudice and has to reference all sources of information.
- Don’t edit while you are writing because you will interrupt the flow. You can save the editing until after you are finished writing your rough draft.
- If you have difficulty writing the introduction, simply skip it. It is absolutely fine to start writing with the main part or the body of the essay and go back to the introduction when you are ready.
- When teaching writing to struggling writers, the significant thing is the usage a variety of words when writing, so be sure to look up synonyms for words you find repetitive. It’s amazing how effective and inspiring a synonyms search can be. Look for synonyms in online dictionaries or choose the synonyms suggestion option in MS Word.
Check out the University of New South Wales for more essay writing information.
The writing will take care of itself, as long as you can focus.
It is easy to lose focus when you are working. Either you are working and becoming tired and unable to concentrate, or you are procrastinating, finding other things to do than actually settling down to write. It is critical that you focus and be highly productive during your work time.
How do you accomplish this?
You must understand how your brain works, you need to minimize distractions, and you need to keep yourself motivated. These tips for struggling writers are some of the writing skills that are useful in college. They can help you stay focused.
- Work with the rhythms of your brain. The human brain goes through a cycle called the ultradian cycle, which takes it through periods of active concentration and focus and then into periods during which it needs rest. Fast Company explains that the natural cycle is to work for 90 minutes and then rest your mind for 20 minutes. You will then be energized enough to work for another 90 minutes. If you take advantage of this natural cycle, you will always be working at peak efficiency, and you won’t lose focus and waste your time.
- When you do take breaks during your writing time, doing some form of exercise is important. Stand up and do a couple of stretches or go for a walk. Sing, dance, wave your hands or even scream. It will help you wake up and complete your essay as soon as possible.
- If you are working in a place with various distractions, then listening to music is a good idea. Music can help you reduce tension and concentrate. Make sure you don’t start singing because it can be very distracting. Choose tracks without lyrics or songs in another language.
- Block out all potential distractions. If you don’t need to use the internet, then work offline. If you do need to have access to the internet to do research, then close any tabs related to your email and social media. Oh, and turn off your phone! All the Twitter updates and text messages can wait. Avoid drinking too much liquid because bathroom breaks can be very disruptive. Basically, avoid anything that could distract you during a work session.
- Plan something fun to do for after you are done with your work. Sometimes, an immediate reward means a lot. Think of what you will do after you finish that essay because this will motivate you to write faster. Promise yourself that you will take a walk, eat a treat, or call a friend and your writing will move at lightening speed. Knowing that you have to complete your project by a certain time can be very motivating, but knowing you have something exciting to do when it’s done can be even more motivating. With this in mind, just get your work done and enjoy life!
- Use the carrot and stick method to keep yourself motived through each work session. This approach is effective. Praise yourself if you start early and punish yourself if you fail to start on time. Be ruthless. Stick options include not using Facebook for a day or two or working out longer than one hour. Carrot options could be eating a nice treat or watching your favorite series or funny cat videos.
- Think of the worst consequences of failing that essay and let these motivate you. What might happen if things go absolutely wrong? Will you fail the entire course? Will you have to drop out of college?
- Compete with someone. Suggest to one or more classmates that you compete in writing your assignments to see who can get theirs done first. Of course, it’s not the most exciting game ever, but since you have to write the essay anyway, a little competitive spirit might just improve your time management.
Now you are done writing, but there is still more to do…
After the Writing
You have finished writing, and it’s brilliant! Or is it? Just because you have finished writing, doesn’t mean your essay is done. You still have work to do because strategies for good writing include the following tips.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! Now is the best time to start proofreading the paper and editing it, making any changes that are necessary. When revising, the University of Pennsylvania recommends you begin with fixing the big things, like organization and content and then revise the details, such as spelling and grammar.
- Formatting is a must. Chances are one of the conditions for submitting your assignment includes a precise style of formatting. Make sure that font and margins are correct. For help with formatting, check out this guide to formatting.
- References are also required, so be sure you have inserted all the citations and references you have used while writing your paper. For help on how to include citations and references in your work, check out these articles on APA style and MLA style.
If you are still unsure about the above writing strategies, you can always choose to write one or two practice essays. While this sounds like it’s a lot of extra work, doing so will help you sharpen your college level writing skills so that when you write your assignment, you will do a better job. Here are some activities for struggling writers that will help you write a practice essay.
- Prepare several pieces of paper for writing your practice essays.
- Surf the web to find practice essay topics. You may use any search engine and type in something like “topics for essays.” Choose a topic according to your grade level.
- Use the five-paragraph essay structure for your practice essays. Bucks County Community College outlines the five-paragraph essay.
- Keep in mind other important criteria of essay evaluation like content, grammar, and style.
Writing assignments don’t have to be scary, but you have to have a grasp on good writing strategies. Just click on this video to see how stress-free it can be.
If you are still struggling with writing when assigned an essay or another type of paper, then you can find more help with the University at Buffalo, Harvard College, and the Government of Ontario. You can also hire a custom writing company that knows how to help struggling writers. Regardless of how you produce your assignment, you will have a top-notch paper to hand in to your professor.