Writing Strategies

While reading

    Write as you read. Record your reactions informally and briefly after you've read for a while. When you're done reading a section, write for five minutes to capture your personal thoughts, reactions, and questions as you go along.
    Keep your notes with your book. Tuck a few sheets of paper or a notepad inside the book to record your ideas as you read.
    Share your informal writing with a friend. Trade notes/questions/reactions to the book. Write five-minute responses to one another about the reading. This can be done by e-mail.
    Draw while you read. Drawing pictures, maps or diagrams of relationships or important issues that you see emerging from the reading can help you understand them. Be willing to revise or redraw the map as you read.

After you read

    React to the whole reading. Take twenty minutes to record your reactions to the reading as a whole. (Return to the reading strategies list to get you started if you need to.) Don't be afraid to guess, hypothesize, or follow a tangent.
    Get out a calendar and schedule the time you will need to write your paper. Working backwards from the due date, plot a timeline for producing the paper. Include time for at least one rough draft and one chance to receive feedback from others (a friend, your teaching assistant, your professor, the Writing Center, etc.) before turning it in.
    Plan your research and think about citation. If the assignment requires library research, clarify a strategy for collecting and citing sources as you research and write. Be sure to cite any quoted information or information that was not generated by your own analysis. Your instructor can answer all of your questions about this important step.
    Write a draft, preferably a few days before the paper is due. Instructors can usually tell the difference between papers that have been carefully drafted and revised and papers that have been hurriedly written the night before they are due. Papers written the night before often receive disappointing grades.
    Get feedback from at least one person, and preferably several people, before you finalize your draft. When possible, give your readers a copy of the assignment, too. E-mail can make this process easier. See the Writing Center handout on feedback.
    Proofread your paper to catch errors before handing it in. Taking the time to spell-check and proofread will make your paper easier to read and show your reader that you cared about the assignment. The Writing Center handout on proofreading may help.

When you get your paper back

    Read all of your instructor's comments. Assess your strengths and weaknesses in completing this reading/writing assignment. Plan what adjustments you'll make in the process for the next reading/writing assignment you will undertake. It may help to save all of your old papers so that you can refer back to them and look for patterns in your instructor's comments. You may also want to keep a small notebook for your own assessment—writing down that you didn't leave ample time for revision on one paper, for example, may help you remember to schedule your time more effectively for the next paper.

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