Writing is a crucial skill for university students, not only for academic success but also for future career prospects. It's a way to express your thoughts, ideas, and arguments clearly and convincingly. Here's a guide to help you navigate the writing process.
Step 1: Research and Note Taking
The first step in any writing process is to conduct thorough research on the topic at hand. Dive deep into the subject matter until you feel like an expert. Use reliable sources such as academic journals, books, and reputable online resources. Take detailed notes as you go along, highlighting key points, interesting facts, and potential arguments. This will form the foundation of your essay.
Step 2: Formulating Your Argument
Once you've gathered enough information, it's time to figure out how you want to answer the question or address the topic. If it's an opinionated essay, structure your arguments in your head and put them into notes. This will allow you to find out what your opinion is on the topic. This viewpoint should synthesize all the research you've collected. Ensure you have ironed out any contradictions and potential gaps in your knowledge. You should only begin planning and writing your essay once you feel like an expert.
Step 3: Planning Your Essay
Before you start writing, create a skeleton plan of your essay to structure your thoughts. This plan should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each section should serve a specific purpose in your essay which you define in this part of your writing process. Without purpose, paragraphs and therefore sentences become useless.
Step 4: Writing Your Essay
Start by writing a plan for your introduction. Write each sentence as a bullet point, allowing you to see each sentence individually. This will help you evaluate whether these sentences are valuable. Once you're happy with the paragraph, collapse the bullet points into sentences and add connectives or other bits to ensure that the paragraph works as a cohesive whole.
Repeat this process for each paragraph in your essay. Before writing each paragraph, identify its purpose. Are you presenting your idea (introduction), developing it, or trying to disprove arguments? If a paragraph does not achieve your defined goal, it should be rewritten.
Step 5: Creating Value for Your Readers
Finally, identify your readers and create value for them. This is the most important step of writing. This is because in the real world, readers will only read your work if it is useful to them. This usefulness is determined by whether or not your work can or may change their opinions and outlook on the world. You and I both know this as we are both readers. The second you read something which is useless, boring, or hard to read, what do you do? That's right, you stop reading. Unfortunately, in university, your lecturers have to read your work to grade it. This means that instead of binning your essays, they will instead get very annoyed and will just give you a poor grade.
To avoid this situation, your writing should be clear, logical, and valuable to your readers. As such, although this is step five of this article, creating value for readers is also step zero. You should aim to create value in all chains of your writing process. To do this, there are three things which you should do. First, avoid writing "like a professor" and instead aim to write in a way that is easily understood by non-academic readers. This will make your writing more effective and impactful. Second, avoid following writing rules. This step may seem like a contradiction to the entire article, however, by rules I mean learned structures such as writing in PEEAL or PEE paragraphs. This does not work and makes your writing sound robotic, repetitive, and boring. Instead of following predetermined structures, identify the objectives of each paragraph and then write it the way which you want to write. Third, give your readers a reason to read your article. You can do this by identifying why your work is important. For instance, does your essay have a novel approach? Does it fill a gap in the outstanding literature? Are you disagreeing with the literature itself?
This might be quite bold to do at the undergraduate level but trust me, if you have done your research effectively, you can do this in no time. Even if your lecturers disagree with you and you fail to change their mind, you still give them a reason to keep reading as your work will be interesting and valuable. The good part of this tip is that it also applies to the real world. Different readers find value in different things. For instance, those reading the BBC economy read because they want to be informed about UK affairs. Those who read the Financial Times opinion columns do so because they want new perspectives on the world. This means that 95% of the writing process isn't about the writing itself but about the audience. Remember this fact carefully.
Writing at university is not just about getting good grades. It's about learning to express your ideas clearly and convincingly, and developing a skill that will be invaluable in your future career. So take the time to master the art of writing - your future self will thank you.
Remember, writing is a process. It takes time and practice to develop your skills. Don't be discouraged if your first few attempts aren't perfect. Keep practicing, keep learning, and keep improving. You'll get there.