I was once asked by a former student what the secret is to writing an excellent paper or essay. I don’t think I gave my student the answer she wanted to hear. If I remember correctly, I told the student that the secret to writing about anything is hard work.
That was the answer I gave because writing for me is hard work.
Last week, I was cleaning my old files and I found an essay, written by a college student, which could partially answer my student’s query. It might be too late, but I hope she gets the opportunity to read this essay.
Here it is in its unedited version.
As far as I can remember, I have always hated writing. I felt that I just was not good at it. Writing was so hard for me. As a result, I utterly dreaded and feared when my past English teachers assigned essays. I knew that I would get a disappointing grade. Thus, I always blamed writing for screwing up my goal for a perfect grade in high school.
I carried this attitude of hate and fear with me to college. It took me two whole quarters to realize that I could not postpone writing any longer. As a result, I forced myself to enroll in English 131. Surprisingly, my pessimistic outlook on writing changed to a more positive attitude.
I have learned that with certain techniques, such as creating a well-developed thesis, forecasting, establishing the “know/new contract”, and careful revision, it is so much easier to write better papers.
First, in order to make a paper more successful, I have learned that having a well-developed thesis in the introduction is necessary. The claim that is made needs to be interesting and controversial enough to keep the attention of the reader. In general, one wants the reader to read on, not to put down one’s essay because he or she is bored of it right from the beginning. For example, the thesis in this paper is interesting because it proposes the idea that it is possible to write a good paper with ease with the aid of certain techniques.
Second, the claim needs to be specific. I have learned that I cannot have a general and broad thesis; otherwise, not only will it be more difficult to support my claim with specific examples and evidence, but there will be greater possibility for me to ramble on about useless information which will confuse the reader. An example is the thesis of this paper. In my claim, I listed specific techniques that have helped me in writing. Had I not done this, I could have written every single thing that I have done this quarter in English. By doing this, I would bring up so much information that would not prove my claim and I would lose my reader’s interest.
Third, forecasting statements are important pieces of the introduction. Similar to the thesis, forecasting statements provide a general outline to alert the reader of what is to come. They are specific statements that give an idea of how much of my examples will be used as support and evidence.
Fourth, another technique that I have learned is the “know/new contract.” This means that each sentence in the paper is related to the one following it or preceding it. I have learned to practice this technique by carefully reading each and every one of my sentences and making sure that they are all related. If I found that I added new information that may be relevant to my argument, it would then be necessary to create a transitional sentence that connects the two together. This technique allows my paper to flow without unexpected or unknown information popping up throughout the paper. The sentences in this paper follow each other in such a sequence that no new information suddenly appears out of nowhere.
Lastly, one of the most important techniques I have learned is the revising of the essay. In the past, my rough draft, with the exception of minor grammatical problems, was my final draft. Wrong. By asking for feedback or comments from my friends or professors, I have learned to polish my paper a bit and make sure that my arguments are supported. This way my final paper is cleaned and ready to be turned in.
Obviously, I have learned a lot about writing in one quarter. There’s no doubt that these techniques are useful when I am assigned other essays to write. I guess writing is not so hard after all.