Do you wait until the end of the term to start writing your school papers?
This blog post helps graduate students plan a smooth writing process and demystifies the belief that they perform better when writing under pressure, to tight deadlines.
Cramming writing essays in the last week of the term might have been an option during your undergrad degree but graduate school is a game-changer. Graduate students are expected to write a higher quality text and demonstrate their critical engagement with existing scholarship. These higher standards require time to research, write and reflect on your topic.
Given the high-quality expectations during grad school, a last-minute writing mindset is likely to harm your academic performance. Specialists argue that pressure and stress are not appropriate levers to productivity, and research shows that prolonged stress periods harm individuals' mental and physical health.
By the time you start writing your thesis or dissertation, you are expected to master a clear and concise writing style. Becoming a strong writer sounds vague and daunting, especially for non-native speakers, but this is the goal of academic research papers and course assignments. They hone your writing, research and organizational skills. At graduate school you are expected to plan your paper writing process and have the discipline to follow through and meet your milestones. This structured approach to writing gives you time to write a draft, critically review your work, get feedback and rewrite to improve your essays.
Writing can be enjoyable if you approach the task with a clear plan and timeline well ahead of your deadlines. Here we share six steps to achieve a smooth and less stressful experience when you write your next essay:
1. Select your topic early in the term
Define your topic as early as possible to give yourself time to complete your research, literature review, drafting, editing and proofreading steps. Choose a topic or angle that interests you to make the writing process fun and productive.
Lacking the inspiration for your topic? Browse through your class notes, scholarly literature, or the internet. Mind maps are great tools to connect ideas about your subject research, and you can find free online options like MindMeister.
2. Plan for a smooth timetable
Planning and time management helps you to spread the writing work throughout the term. Establish milestones and dates to keep you accountable in regards to your writing tasks. Add time in your schedule to review your draft several times. It is also helpful to ask someone else to read and give you feedback on your writing. Plan to end your research paper two days before the deadline to provide you with a buffer if something unexpected happens.
A practical tool to set a timetable is The Writing Assignment Calculator by Concordia's Student Success Centre. You plug in your paper's due date, and the system gives you the steps and deadlines from start to finish.
3. Research and prepare your literature
Read more to write better. Start with readings recommended by your professor to master the critical arguments related to your selected topic. Find additional literature on your theme by searching keywords in Concordia's online database. Make sure you note the keywords and authors you searched to avoid wasting time repeating yourself.
Master the tools and skills to speed up your research with our practical workshop on Library Skills & Resources: Maximize Your Graduate Research Potential (GPLL231). Cite the authors you used to prepare your arguments through adequate citations and avoid plagiarism. Tools like Zotero help with this.
4. Outlines fight Writer's Block
Start with a paper outline to give you the subheadings you need to complete (introduction, thesis statement, main points, conclusion) to avoid writer's block. Start jotting down your ideas, and let your writing flow without too much critique. This first draft is about dumping what is on your mind, not editing. Aim to have a rough draft that you can add arguments later once you have read more scholarly literature and reflected deeper on the topic. Becoming a better writer comes with practice, so establish a habit of writing, editing, and rewriting your drafts multiple times.
5. Have a strong thesis statement
The essential item in your paper is the thesis statement. Do you know why? Because it is your perspective on your chosen topic. It allows you to guide your reader to see things your way. Other times you may decide to challenge an idea, so the thesis statement has to be refuted. You structure your arguments throughout your paper to lead your reader to either agree or reject the main idea stated in your thesis statement.
Willing to write powerful thesis statements? Join GradProSkills workshop Crafting Strong Thesis Statements and Introductions (GPSC36).
6. Merciless editing
Readers are put off by mistakes, and professors lower your grade when coming across grammar errors and typos. Be prepared for every hour you write to spend, on average, two hours editing. Start by running free online spell checks on your essays, like Grammarly, Hemingway Editor or Google Docs. Read your draft multiple times, and avoid repeating the same words using synonyms from an online free thesaurus. For a more thorough correction of your text's coherence, structure, and argumentation, book a free consultation with a Student Success Centre writing assistant.
Remember to write furiously and edit mercilessly. Good luck with your writing!
Learn editing strategies and improve your text's structure with
GradProSkills workshops on
For free learning services and tools available to Concordia graduate students
visit the Student Success Centre.