Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Using Your Syllabi to Plan Out Your Writing Assignments

Using Your Syllabi to Plan Your Writing Assignments

So, that time of the semester is fast approaching: the point at which you realize that, holy crap, your professors expect you to write something! And not only that, but multiple professors are asking you to write! The bad news is, you have to do the writing; there's no way around that, I'm afraid. However, here comes the good (great) news: you don't have to do it all at once!

The key to managing your assignments is the syllabus that your professor handed to you at the beginning of the semester. (If you didn't receive a syllabus, you can always ask your professor when things are due; don't worry, they'll probably be happy to tell you.) Not only do syllabi give a tentative list of when assignments are due, but quite often they give details about what is expected from those assignments. (Again, if such info isn't available, ask your professor; they'll be pleased that you're taking an interest in future assignments.)

Quite often, major writing assignments are due near the end of the semester—which means that they're all going to be due around the same time. Which should you start first, then? There are two primary factors at work here. The first is, of course, what you know: don't start writing a paper about advanced quantum mechanics if you haven't the faintest clue yet as to what quantum mechanics is. That doesn't mean that you can't do advance research, especially if you get to choose your own topic. Research always comes before writing; if you get your research done early, you'll get your writing done sooner as well.

The second factor is how much you have to do for which assignments. Ideally, the more complicated assignments—those involving thorough research, interviews, etc.—should be started A.S.A.P. This doesn't mean that non-research assignments (like a personal narrative about your summer, or a book report) should be put off until the last minute. PROCRASTINATION IS EVIL!!! However, let's be realistic—it's best to start the harder stuff early. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a polished piece of writing.

For both of these factors, your syllabus is necessary. Don't be afraid to look ahead; it's kind of like being able to see the future. Check your syllabi, compare them, figure out what is due when, how much work is required for each assignment, and plan accordingly. Trust me, when it comes down to crunch time and all of your classmates are cramming all of their assignments together, you'll be able to relax, laugh at them, and say, "Good luck, chumps!"

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