College Method of Writing
a faster and more efficient way of writing essays
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Writing college essays is mostly bullshit. If you’re in an English class, than your professor is grading you on how well you can follow directions. However, if you’re in an elective class than your essay will be graded on domain knowledge. This guide is focused on how to write “A‐grade” papers for your English classes, think freshman level composition, literature classes, etc. This guide is not for everyone and is intended to help freshman get better grades in composition class, while getting their essays done as quickly as possible. Background When I was a little freshman, my first college class was composition. Thinking I was a talented writer, I spent most of the time developing my thoughts and doing proper research and then spending the proper time making sure those ideas were communicated properly to my professor. My first essays got B’s. After some help from the writing center on campus, a graduate student finally shared with me a little tip “your professor is going to grade you backwards on how many mistakes you make, you should spend more time on making sure your grammar and form is correct”. This tip is what helped me develop this method and worked very well for me until I wrote a paper on chauvinism for a feminist professor, which is another story all together.
Research Find your sources and turn them into usable quotes Organize Put your quotes in a logical order, organized as main points Develop Write around your quotes and develop your essay Finish Add any finishing touches and double‐check your quality
1. Finding your sources a. If your professor directly gives you the sources for your essay, go ahead and skip to step 2. b. If you are supposed to do your own research, then following directions (ex. If you need three database sources) find appropriate sources. Tip: When doing research this is my hierarchy for sources “Peer‐edited” journals School databases Newspaper articles (online or offline) Books Websites Tip: Wikipedia is a great source to get ideas from, but not to quote as a source 2. Quoting your sources Read through your sources, scouring for important quotes that take a side. Personally when I do it I look for what seems to be the easiest side to take either the positive or negative and then skim only for quotes that support that side (even if I don’t necessarily agree with them). Copy and paste or write the quotes into a word document like so: Ex. “Free Testbank is the best testbank out there.” (http://kiwigrove.com)
Make sure in parenthesis to include your source, also depending on how your citing your sources, Chicago, MLA, etc. make you include paragraph number, author, or whatever you need to. Tip: If you don’t know how to cite sources in your format properly, google it, ask your professor, or even look it up in your composition book.
1. Organize your quotes Let’s do some math. Figure out how long you want your paper to be, in example, five pages. With this method ~3‐4 paragraphs make up a page on Times New Roman, 12 point font, double‐spaced. Each quote we get is going to turn into it’s own paragraph. On a five page paper we need 20 – 2 (the introduction and conclusion don’t need the quotes), so 18 quotes. Group these quotes into main points or overlying ideas to make it easier on you. Make sure in your word document you started that you have that many quotes. Now organize them in a logical sense that you feel you can string together. We now have a barebones paper. 2. Write your thesis Most professors are going to tell you to start with the thesis, as it is the most important part of your paper. They are right that it is the most important part, but you should do the research first because you need knowledge of the topic your going to write about BEFORE you make a judgment and write a paper about it. Look at your quotes and see the natural argument that they make. Take this and form it in your own words to an overlying assumption. In example, if you have quotes supporting gay marriage and your quotes hit on the topics of human rights, adopting kids, and existing laws a good thesis might be: Gay marriage should be legalized because it should be protected by the bill of rights, couples could adopt kids that otherwise would not find a home, and there are already existing laws that conflict with our national system. Your goal is to write a statement that is strong in the sense that you either completely agree or completely disagree and that your statement can be proven with your underlying points. Put your thesis as the first thing on your paper and let’s move on.
Now your paper should be a thesis statement with quotes under it, here is where the magic happens. You are going to expand your quotes in to paragraphs almost instantly. When writing an essay most of your time is spent “thinking about what comes next” by eliminating this and sticking to a logical flow, we can write faster and more concisely. 1. Open for your quote. Use a quick sentence to introduce the quote and put it into the context of your paper. 2. Embed your quote, chop a piece off and write some in your own words or add a bit to make it say exactly what you want it to say. 3. Explain the significance of the quote, in high school they want you to be able to find information, in college they want you to explain why the information is important. The next sentence after your quote, in your own words, describes why it is important. 4. Transition to the next paragraph. Find a way to connect the two thoughts together. Overall a paragraph is going to look like this: A similar problem rises again when Rivoli discusses the unintended consequences of Congress’ legislation that intends to support American jobs. The specific example is “that of CBTPA and that “this “yarn forward” requirement actually often handicaps American yarn spinners, who are discouraged from both exporting their yarn to the Caribbean and from shifting production to more cost‐efficient locations.” (143) If the legislation we are passing is not even helping, than why do we waste time in the first place? The time and money wasted on preserving obsolete jobs could easily be used to educate and fund educational programs for displaced workers. What is hard for me to understand is that we know it is an uphill battle that cannot be won, and yet like the habitual lottery player we always think we can beat the impossible odds. Actual example from one of my A papers for International Politics (Senior level course) Follow this process for the rest of your quotes. With this format you should be spending less time thinking and more time writing. The example paragraph is from a book review in International Politics. It was a nine page paper that I read a 400 page book, well more like skimmed, and wrote a twelve page paper in less than five hours.
Here are a few tips that should help you finish your paper and make it A‐quality Introduction When writing your introduction, you want to use a story. Go back to your sources and find a story you can summarize in less than three sentences and put it before your thesis. Now you can simply connect your story to your thesis and be done with it. You do this to give your thesis context and use the story to show why your thesis is relevant. Conclusion Your conclusion should restate your entire paper. Use an introduction sentence re‐ explaining why your paper is significant or refer to the story in your introduction. Then restate each of your main points in one sentence. Finally, restate your thesis in different words. Bibliography Use http://easybib.com for your bibliography page to make it as easy as possible for you. Formatting Do not worry about formatting until the very end of the paper. It is much easier to use the select all tool, and format the entire paper than to continually edit the paper as your going along. Writing Center If your campus has a writing center, use it. My grammar is terrible and used to be even worse. By knocking out a paper in an hour or so and then taking it in to the writing center, I saved myself having to go from rough draft to final paper. Just talked to a graduate student who knew how to use semi‐colons and learned a good amount in the process. Just make sure when you go to bring your laptop and make the changes while you are going through the paper. This will save you even more time and energy.
By spending the twenty minutes or so to read this and apply it you will save your self many hours of writing useless papers your freshman year. If you want to save even more time look for your notes, exams, and other student’s essays at http://FreeTestbank.com About the author Alex Baldwin is a co‐founder of FreeTestbank.com and an undergraduate student. He got a B in his first freshman composition class because of a feminist professor and lack of writing skills from high school. He loves to drink tea, canoe, make websites, and frat hard. You can e‐mail him suggestions for this guide at [email protected]