Writing, writing, writing...
Writing is one of the primary skills that students are expected to demonstrate. We first face this challenge in the TOEFL writing session where we struggle to write to the point in a limited time. The pressure IS big. Now, the real challenge comes when we start to work on our writing assignments at school. The amount of writing depends on the field of study, but in my department, for example, the average length of one paper assignment is 10-page-long. When it comes to a final paper, the required pages can even reach 20 or more. Waaah! Don't freak out. There are certain ways and resources that help us learn to write more academically. So here are some tips for you.
At first, I was so tempted to write SOMETHING on a blank screen. I wanted to fill out one page as quickly as possible so that I could begin to count down the remaining pages. This is not a good idea at all. Sooner or later, I would usually get stuck. So only to be more productive and efficient, you can start with:
1. Mind mapping:
Before starting to write anything in a structured way, I randomly write out keywords on a sheet of paper. This is a so-called "mind mapping." This allows me to explore possible thoughts, topics, and concepts that I want to include in the paper. When they are all up, I organize them a little more systematically. I connect relevant keywords, or categorize them by contents. This is a brainstorming exercise and helps me prepare for the next step-to outline the flow of the paper.
Now on a computer, I list up the above categories and topics in the order I want to present in the paper. These will form the basic body of my paper. Don't forget to put the intro and conclusion, too. The intro precedes the body like an announcement: "What I am going to write in this paper are: A, B, and C..." The conclusion comes at the end of the paper by summarizing the content nice and clearly again: "What I have argued in this paper are: A, B, and C..." When the outline is ready, you will feel much better about writing the paper. You are getting there!
3. Start writing:
You are ready to go. Keep writing based on the outline that you have made. Make sure that each sentence is not too long. Don't worry about grammars and small errors halfway through your work. Keep going until you reach the end!
4. When you are done-revise and use available resources on campus:
Congratulations, it's time to revise the whole work. Check the flow of your argument, grammars, spellings, etc. As Hee Sung introduced in his previous entry, get professional feedbacks at the Writing Center. It definitely helps you improve your writing skill.
And...if you are still wondering how you can write in a nice and smart way.
Learn to speak the language:
It's not about English. Every field of study has its favorite vocabularies, phrases, and expressions. You can learn the "intellectual way of speaking" through the readings in class. Increase the variations of the language and develop your writing skill!
Oh, but don't get confused. You are NOT supposed to copy and paste any whole sentence of other's work (ideas, explanations, etc.) without citations in your paper. Beware of "plagiarism" because it is strictly prohibited.
Good luck, friends!