I recently got asked how I became a good writer and why I enjoyed writing so much. For me, writing has just always been a part of my life. So coming up with an answer to this question made me think about what it was about writing that I enjoyed and why I continue to want to write (even those pesky research papers).
Personally, I love the way words flow and how a single thought can be conveyed in such manner that makes people understand, commiserate, and think. But it can be hard to translate this flow when there are requirements, procedures, and restrictions in academic writing. So, I went searching for others opinions (through the magic of Google) and here a few nuggets that I found which may or may not help you write with a little less anxiety.
Reading is so critical when it comes to writing. It gives you a wider vocabulary and if the subject is interesting to you it can spur ideas, theories, or questions which you can begin to incorporate into your writing. http://blog.bufferapp.com/5-ways-to-be-a-better-reader-and-improve-your-writing-in-the-process
Writing academically means focusing on the most important pieces. A paper that is concise and clear will help convey your message in the best way possible. Additionally, it’s the little things, like correct grammar, that improve writing easily and quickly. http://www.nextscientist.com/tips-improve-your-academic-writing/
And remember, it is always important to revise, revise, revise! The more you notice your mistakes, the less you will use them. http://emedia.leeward.hawaii.edu/lrc/handouts/acad_writing_checklist.pdf
In 1966, Robert B. Kaplan published the following diagram to illustrate what he took to be the preferred or most common ways of organizing written discourse across different cultures:
Kaplan’s schema has been criticized for being overly reductionist, but it does raise some interesting questions about how the value attached to focus and directness in academic writing vary culturally. Whereas sticking to a tight focus and advancing one’s argument in linear, systematic fashion tend to be thought of as virtues in American academic writing, such characteristics may vary in relative importance in other academic cultures — as compared to, for instance, approaching a topic from many different angles.
Expectations about catering to the reader may also differ by language and culture. Is it the author’s responsibility to present arguments in a way that is easy for readers to understand? Or does such reader-centric writing show a lack of esteem for the reader’s intelligence?
When writing a paper for an international audience, then, it is worth reflecting upon the audience’s expectations, to see how well your preferred style of organization matches up with what your readers expect.
Kaplan, R. (1966). Cultural thought patterns in intercultural education. Language Learning 16, 1–20.
Over the course of this semester, professors will require students to write many academic papers from policy memos to research papers to literature reviews and so on. After staring at a computer screen for hours, it is possible that you may overlook some mistakes in your papers, for example, subject-verb agreement, prepositions, and verb tenses.
A great way to identify grammatical mistakes is by reading your paper out loud. Although it seems time-consuming, you will have a better chance of detecting errors in your paper.
After writing, take a short break and then find a quiet place without distractions where you can read your paper out loud. This will allow you to focus and will help make sure that your final draft is error-free.
For all those students in Policy Analysis looking for help on their policy memos and other related work, it can often be difficult to know where to start. So many policies, so little time!
It is important to remember that many students will go on to use these first pieces of their work here at MIIS as writing samples for their job and internship applications. There are a good brief overview of a person’s ability to communicate a single idea in a concise, yet clear manner.
As a fellow IPS-er. I’ve been there. And while I can’t tell you what to write about or how exactly to convey your message, I do want to give some advice.
First off, remember that this is one of the first pieces of work which demonstrates your abilities and your own personal interests. So choose a policy that intrigues you and is relevant to the direction that you would like to pursue for your career. Papers will always be better if you are invested in the subject matter. And this is your chance to choose that material, so take it!
Secondly, make sure your language is clear and concise. With only two pages to deliver a whole lot of information, it is critical that each and every word is carefully selected. You want to make sure that your audience understands and is not left with any additional questions.
And finally, visit the Graduate Writing Center! Even if you have no clue where to begin, the tutors here can help you develop your ideas and get you started.
Additionally, I’ve included a worksheet that I found online to help structure your thought process. Remember, that the internet is filled with helpful advice on writing policy memos and recommendations, so don’t be afraid to Google in order to jump start your own writing.
2012-2013 WORKSHEET TASK ONE
What is the most important component of a successful paper? Focus? Cohesion and coherence? Sentence variety? Appropriate Citation? Strong grammar?
Truthfully, they are all crucial aspects to writing. However, in the revision process, some concerns come before others. The writing center takes a top-down approach in our sessions; this means that we deal with higher-level concerns like focus and organization before moving on to grammar and other surface aspects. Why? Well…if your paper needs several revisions to meet assignment guidelines, the grammar of the sentences will also be changing. Why double your efforts? Work smart, not hard. Of course, sometimes we have to work both smart and hard.
Ellie Wolf is an English as a Second Language instructor with five years of experience as a writing tutor. She graduated from the MIIS MATESOL program in summer 2013 and currently teaches Reading and Writing, Oral Communication, and Active Listening Strategies in the MIIS Intensive English Program. In spring and summer 2013, she was an ESL instructor for the Kanda and Shimane University special English programs, as well as the writing tutor for the English Preparation for Graduate Studies program at MIIS. Writing instruction has been one of Ellie’s primary professional interests since earning a BA in Writing and Spanish at Pitzer College, where she worked for four years as a writing tutor in the Pitzer Writing Center.
Vincent Lauter is a third-semester MATESOL candidate at MIIS and a veteran teacher of English to speakers of other languages. Before coming to MIIS, he earned a BA in English with an emphasis in writing from the University of San Francisco, worked at the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper, and then taught English as a foreign language for eight years in the Czech Republic. Writing instruction and tutoring for writers of various language backgrounds has long been Vincent’s primary focus, and he’s had the pleasure of teaching writing courses at many different levels both here and abroad.
Adrienne Matunas is a MATESOL candidate in the Peace Corps Master’s International program at MIIS. She earned a B.A. in philosophy and religion at Middlebury College, where she worked as a writing tutor for three years and conducted research on tutoring outcomes at Middlebury’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research. She also tutored calculus and astronomy, and taught English as a foreign language during a semester abroad in Italy. This past summer, Adrienne worked as an ESL instructor for international students at Exploration Summer Programs. Adrienne also has a special interest in writing poetry. For the time being she is nervously awaiting her Peace Corps placement, where she hopes to teach English as an education volunteer beginning in the summer of 2014.
Danny McCarthy was born and raised in the Monterey area. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Oregon in Linguistics with a minor in Business Administration. During his time as an undergraduate, Danny tutored all steps of the writing process for the College of Education. Additionally, he worked with ESL (English as a Second Language) learners on improving their spoken and written English. In his free time Danny enjoys playing basketball and baseball recreationally as well as sitting down to read a good book.
Margaret Conant began working at the writing center last year. She is working towards a degree in International Policy Studies with a focus on Human Security and Development and attempting to gain a career in either the human security or national security sector. Originally from Massachusetts, she received her bachelors degree in History from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2012. Her research interests include security studies, human rights, conflict resolution, and Islamic studies.
Stop by the GWC for milk and cookies from 9am-12pm this week!
Meet tutors, get your questions about the writing center answered and enjoy some yumminess!
by Mike Cline at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikekline/
Tired of multi-tasking? Take your writing into your own hands this semester at the graduate writing center. We are now open to serve all of your writing and revision needs. Drop in from 9-12pm Monday through Friday to learn more, or make a free one-on-one appointment for 4-8pm Monday through Friday. Visit us at gwc.genbook.com to make your appointment today!
To assist you with final papers, the Graduate Writing Center (GWC) is offering extended hours next week by appointment only. If you are interested in an appointment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the day and time you would like to come. Please offer 2-3 possible time slots. We will get back to you promptly to set a time.
The Graduate Writing Center and the Center for Advising Services present a three-part workshop series designed to help students write competitive and creative fellowship essays. Workshops will be held in Casa Fuente 434 on Tuesdays, October 9th, 16th, and 30th. See you tomorrow at 12:15 sharp!