10 Tips for Writing Assignments
- Clarify the task. Don’t let questions about the task encourage procrastination.
- Do the research early. Collecting and absorbing the material will help you meditate on what you will write, even if you don’t get to work on the writing immediately.
- Leave a strong paper trail. Frequently, the lack of good note taking doesn’t register until you are in the throes of the final preparation of your project, when deadlines loom, and materials are difficult to recover. This is because one often reads and discards materials as not being relevant during the research process, only to discover later, during the writing process, that they are.
- Brainstorm, make notes, jot down ideas as they occur, and begin by writing the stuff you do know. Most writing will be complex and you can’t do all of the stages–brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, proofreading–in one fell swoop. Breaking the process into smaller steps makes it more manageable, and lets you make progress even when you don’t have large chunks of time to devote to writing.
- Get feedback. It’s difficult to anticipate the gaps, confusion, and potential misinterpretations that complex writing can generate. You need to have at least one outside reader to help you.
- Allow time for revising and editing. Once the ideas are drafted, you’ll usually find that you need to go back and re-read, re-search, re-organize, and re-think what you have said.
- Make the organization apparent. Use paragraphs, subheadings, and spatial divisions (layout) to indicate clearly changes in subject matter, focus, and depth. Sometimes this is a good time to prepare an outline, to make sure that your organization makes sense.
- Write the introduction last. A good introduction must point forward to what the writing contains. It is a promise to the reader, and should be accurate. The best introductions will be prepared after you know what you will say and how you will say it.
- Check for accuracy. Research-based writing is often complex and it is easy to overlook a mistake made while drafting. Check your sources, read carefully through your quotations, citations, and documentation.
- Proofread carefully. This is often a step left out in the crunch to finish by a deadline, and yet, it is often little mistakes (typos, errors of punctuation and grammar) which communicate to your reader a sense of carelessness or inability to write.
Forgive yourself for what is not perfect. We never stop learning how to write. No draft is ever perfect, but the deadline requires that you do your best and then send it out into the world of the reader.