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Strategies for Approaching Written Assignments

Jitender Garg 
on 11 April 2008

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The following areas should be considered when writing a paper:

  1. Determine the content area to be covered by your paper.
  2. Do a complete literature review of your content area (e.g., book chapters, relevant articles)
  3. Determine the purpose of your essay (e.g., compare and contrast issues, case analysis, historical overview) and the audience your essay is targeting (other professions in the field, lay persons).
  4. Make a detailed outline of your paper including the order of major topics to be discussed and specific areas to be covered under each general content area.
  5. Make a list of important terms, vocabulary, and citations that you want to incorporate into your paper. Determine under which major areas these terms belong so that they can be integrated into appropriate sections of your paper.
  6. Edit for content. After writing your first draft, begin the editorial process by re-reading your paper and evaluating it with respect to content. Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Does the paper have a good beginning, middle, and ending?
  2. Does the paper follow a logical sequence?
  3. Does the paper address important content areas?
  4. Is there anywhere that more detail could be added?
  5. Are there any part(s) of the paper that are unclear/confusing?
  1. Edit for structure. After you have evaluated and edited your paper for content, go back and re-read your paper in terms of its structure. Ask yourself the following questions:
    1. Are the sentences in my paper complete and meaningful?
    2. Have I used correct and consistent verb tenses?
    3. Have I used correct punctuation and capitalization?
    4. Have I checked for spelling errors?
    5. Have I formatted my paper according to class guidelines (margins, spacing, headings, references)?
       
  2. Lastly, have someone you feel comfortable with (tutor, classmate, friend, family member) read your paper and give you constructive feedback regarding the above mentioned criteria.
  3. When your paper is returned by the instructor, go over the comments and corrections carefully. Note your areas of writing strength so you can use these same skills again for your next assignment. Identify your areas of weakness. It may be helpful to meet with your instructor and obtain additional feedback about ways to improve your writing skills. Under some circumstances you may have the opportunity to make changes and re-submit your paper for further feedback and consideration. This opportunity, if available, can be of great benefit in further developing your writing skills.
  4. Some people find it easier to organize and express their ideas by talking out loud rather than writing. You may want to dictate your ideas onto a tape recorder and then use this tape as a starting point for putting your words onto paper.



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