Introduce this as a model for a brainstorming activity students could adapt to their own needs in developing paper topics. Elicit comments on common factors contributing to negative writing experiences and to positive ones. Alternate version: have students write about EITHER their best or worst writing experience.
Write student concerns on the chalkboard, Einstein. Promise to address all the listed concerns in the course of the presentation, or they can ask you about any of them they’re still confused about at the end of the planned talk.
According to Harvard Study of 1600 undergraduates Richard Light. Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (Harvard University Press, 2001).
Think of writing project as a process rather than a product… this shift already moves you toward thinking of smaller, manageable steps instead of as one big, intimidating chunk.
Type of paper: research with sources, personal reflective essay, close reading, literature review, mapping of a controversy, etc. Audience impacts amount of background information necessary, rhetorical style to employ (friendly or hostile, informed or uninformed, etc.) Formatting includes # of pages, font, type size, margins, use of section headings vs. free-flowing essay, etc. Author’s voice includes use of first person (varies from discipline to discipline and even class to class whether this is acceptable; one engineering prof will say yes while another says no, etc.) as well as less tangible aspects like creativity and extent to which author’s personality shows through writing Level of formality influenced by use of contractions, slang, humor, etc.
Try breaking topic into subsections to gauge whether it is appropriate for length of paper – not too broad, but not too narrow either. For brainstorming methods, see UWC handout on brainstorming at http://uwc.utexas.edu/handouts
Introduction does not and perhaps should not include your thesis in many cases, but in those cases you should probably include a hypothesis or a thesis question, both of which do the same structural work in that position as a thesis statement. Research questions define an area of investigation, thesis statements make a claim within an area of investigation: in the history of the printing press, for example, we might define a research question as How did printing methods change in the 15th century, and a thesis statement as Change X in printing in the 15th century led to change Y in reading habits of the time.
First impressions…Consider opening with a question or a dramatically brief sentence. Is the style fresh or just so so? Does the writer seem smart? Well-informed? Spirited? Authentic? Is this an interesting, worthwhile topic?
Above all, instead, however, therefore, to sum up, yet, in fact, admittedly, again, also, besides, but, certainly, consequently, finally, first, nevertheless, rather, similarly Substantiate your thesis with logical, organized supporting paragraphs that make one point at a time Assert, then support. Assert, then support. Organize paragraphs around a single point. Begin with a clear topic sentence related to thesis stating main idea of paragraph. 3 to 6 sentences long, mostly supporting examples from your research Clean continuity, build bridges!
What have you contributed to the scholarly conversation? Try to make the reader happy he just spent his time with your paper.
For choosing a strategy: students can either formulate a thesis first and then look for backup from their sources, or they may begin by researching and then formulate a thesis. Consider the pros and cons of each approach.
Express main ideas before worrying about grammar, style, etc. First drafts are often choppy and messy.
Don’t be afraid to change your thesis or focus after writing your first draft--most writers find their true thesis in the last paragraph of their first draft.
In second and third drafts, make sure you have a strong structure and that you follow through on ideas. This is a great time to have someone read your paper who is unfamiliar with your topic. Remain prepared to make changes!