Raise your hands if writing essays for your class seems like an impossible task!
Me. Too. Being in Arts and Science, there seems to be a never-ending line of essays I need to pump out before the next set begins. One of the most frustrating aspects I’ve encountered is the nuances that are prevalent across the different schools of thought. Every course seems to want something subtly different, so how do you know what they want?
Well, I met with my professor regarding one of my courses and he had some really great advice that I just have to share. I’ve included a few tips of my own that I use to get the essay juices flowing, so sit back, relax… and then, get writing!
Writing Centres: Go. To. Your. Writing. Centre. Writing Centres are offered by every college! If you aren’t part of a college, sometimes your faculty will have its own Writing Centre as well. For example, Engineering has a Writing Centre to assist their students navigate the Arts and Science world as an Engineer student. Tip: if you aren’t part of a college but live there, you are still allowed to sign up! I have used the Writing Centres consistently and found that they were a great resource for any point in my writing process.
Go to office hours: I know this sounds obvious, but seriously: go. I find I get really nervous going to office hours because I don’t like running into other students when I want to speak to my professors (or TAs), so what I usually do is ask them if they are willing to book an appointment with me outside of office hours. This way the time and space is reserved for you (or me in this case) and there’s no pressure to rush your questions because other students are waiting behind you. Granted, I like to show up with at least two questions or a specific idea I need clarification on so that it shows that I’m not just there to have them “teach me the lecture” again.
Brain dumps: Brain dumps are awesome. I’m currently writing an essay and I keep getting stressed about resources and citations and formats etc. So, what I did the other night was I just typed everything I retained from my research and tied it into the prompt questions very crudely and obviously. If my essay is about the relationship between x and y I’d just type “the relationship between X and Y is obvious because of A which leads me to think about B which leads me to C which ties into X because of…” This way there’s no pressure to focus on the “proof” because you are just focusing on the content. It’s like brainstorming on the page!
Lastly, my prof introduced me into a different way of formatting my essay draft. It goes as such: By looking at X (insert research), we can see ABC (thesis points), which is important because (course themes).
Try structuring essays in a very rigid form until you feel like you have all your points properly executed and then FINESSE.