The feeling of dread that comes when a professor begins to write the word “essay” on the board is one felt by college Seniors and Freshmen alike. But analytical writing is nothing to be afraid of! If you practice a few of these tips, next time you’re assigned a five page paper you’ll be saying, “bring it on!”
1. Unplug the music and find a quiet place to study (not your dorm!)
You might think that listening to music while you work helps you think more clearly. Actually, it’s very hard to come up with your own original ideas and words when an artist is whispering his/her own into your ear. You also might think that there’s no better place to focus than your comfy room with the fairy lights and personalized desk. Nope. You’ll never be able to concentrate on a paper while your warm, cozy bed is right there and Netflix is just a click away. Go to the library or a quiet study area where it’s impossible to be distracted.
2. Try to pick an position you can be passionate about
You might not be crazy about every assignment your professor throws at you, but you can find a way to care about what you write. When you take a stance, try to choose one that you genuinely want to defend. The more excited you are about your argument, the better your writing will be and the more ideas you will have.
3. Begin with an evidence or quote list before you start
Almost every single essay assignment requires cited quotes or personal evidence used to support a prompt. Before you even think about starting your introduction or jumping right into the outline, make a list of the quotes or evidence you felt strongly about and want to use in your essay. Write notes next to them about why you chose them and what idea they contribute to the main question you’re being asked (the prompt).
4. Group your quotes
Look at your list and see if your quotes tend to show a similar idea or if your reasoning for choosing them was the same. Try to make a couple different groups of multiple quotes that could be contained under some larger point. These will function as your main points in your thesis and, depending how you like to format your paper, possibly the body paragraphs.
5. Begin and end with originality
There’s nothing more cliché than a paper beginning with, “in society…” or, “many people believe…”. Think of the prompt as a problem. Who is it a problem towards? How is it affecting our world? In other words, why should the person reading your essay care? Like a creative story, you want to draw the reader in and make them excited to read more.
The conclusion follows similar rules. In high school you might have been taught to summarize in the last paragraph of your paper, but this should only be done in really lengthy papers where the person grading might forget your points by the end. Normally, you want to work hard to make your paper give the reader a new understanding of the world. Treat your issue like it’s the most important in the world, and use your conclusion to try to convince the reader the same.
6. Outline and then fill in
After you’ve grouped all of your evidence, start laying out an outline for your paper. Use simple ideas, don’t worry about complete sentences. After you’ve finished, go back to the beginning and start writing your full paper now, filling in the other sentences that weren’t important in your outline.
7. Print two copies of your rough draft
If you have time after you finish your final draft, print out two copies. Give one to a friend to read through and evaluate. Then look through the other on your own and read it outloud (it might feel a little weird) to yourself. Sometimes you might have to hear your words to realize that a sentence isn’t formatted properly. Also it helps to see how another person reads your ideas, since someone else might not understand a thought in the way that you meant it to come across.
8. Don’t do your final draft in the same day.
Leave time for at least a day or two in between your rough draft and your final draft. You’ll be able to think much more clearly and pick out unnecessary details when you’ve taken time to step back from your writing.
Lead Image Credit: Nickelodeon