During my time as an undergrad, I always had problems getting started on my academic papers. I knew what I wanted to write about, but it was always hard to put that down on paper because of the overwhelming amount of ways I could approach the assignment. What I wanted to do was start my paper out on the right foot, but I didn't have the strategies to do so. Since then, I’ve picked up a couple of tricks that will help you get started on almost any writing assignment. Hopefully, these tricks can help you too.
Read the assignment sheet.
The assignment sheet has everything that you need. Yes, it is long, but professors give you these so you will read them on your own time. Most professors put important information in assignment sheets such as guidelines and requirements that they might not mention in their lecture.
Getting something down on paper is better than nothing. This isn’t a draft. It is for you. Sometimes writing out what you think you need to do can help. Free writing can help you gather your thoughts and determine your next move. Since this is for you, you can do it anyway you like as long as it is productive.
Get a head start.
Having 5+ days to do an assignment is always better than 24 hours. We have all been told “don’t wait until the last minute” a thousand times, yet we have all done it. Waiting until the last minute doesn’t allow you to get all your ideas out and it also puts more work on you. If you start five or more days before it is due, you have time to rewrite, revise, and also come into the writing center for some help.
Review your notes (or start taking notes).
Notes help you remember what was said in class, in the books, and by your professor. Usually, you’re writing about something that you have been taught already. Reviewing your notes from class can help jump start your brainstorming. When you go over the information that you need to put in your paper, you can start to see the pieces come together.
Do not be scared of your professor.
They really just want to help. This is something that I had to learn. It can be scary, especially when you are new to a university, but they love to help. They have years and years of knowledge that they love sharing with anybody that is willing to listen. They can clarify a lot of things that you might have questions about. Chances are they have encountered the problem that you are dealing with a million times and have advice about it.
Write what you know or want to know.
Making sure you have knowledge on your topic can relieve some of the pressure of writing. In some rare cases, you will be able to pick a topic for your assignment. If you get this lucky, pick a topic that you want to learn more about or a topic you would love to teach people about. Writing about something that you care about makes the research, work, and outcome a lot more satisfying.
Come to the Writing Center!!
We love helping students brainstorm or go through their assignment sheets. It helps to talk ideas out and hear yourself say them. You would be surprised by the number of ideas you can produce by having a simple conversation. If you are further along than that, bring your drafts and any questions you might have. No matter what stage of the writing process you are in, or what type of student you are, we at the EIU Writing Center will try our best to help you!