So….it’s Friday morning and you’ve just been given the prompt for your first major writing assignment. It’s due one week from today. You may as well just toss it aside until next Thursday night. I mean…the weekend is approaching, who wants to begin writing a paper anyway?
Everyone has been guilty of the age-old practice of procrastination. This is especially true when stacking 4 or 5 other classes worth of workload onto your already hectic schedule. When placed under the very burdensome and stressful lifestyle that college brings to the plate, students generally focus on their short term writing assignments and otherwise neglect deadlines that are due weeks in advance. In actuality, if a professor gives weeks to complete an assignment, it isn’t because he or she is being courteous, it’s because the assignment should be given sufficient time for research, revisions, etc.!
So, you’ve finally decided to plan ahead and use the next week to your full advantage. What steps should you take when completing a writing assignment due one week from today? Many students use very different methods when planning out their assignments, personal preference is essential. However, taking myself into consideration, I grab my assignment prompt, find a computer, and type away. Think of it as capturing a stream of consciousness and placing it onto paper. Type whatever comes to mind, ignoring grammatical errors (for now). Obviously this technique will produce a rather rough sketch, but the point of this exercise is to get the majority of your content onto paper.
Writing an argumentative research paper on foreign policy? Without hesitating, picture how you want to form your argument. What is your claim? Do you have supporting evidence for that claim? Go ahead and type whatever comes to mind. Once you get a rough idea of the logical structure of your argument, a natural organization will begin to form. Self dialogue may even ensue: “Ok, this is my stated claim. I’ll place this at the end of my introduction…and the rest of these statements will each act as a premise supporting my thesis….I better go ahead and make each premise a topic sentence for the remaining paragraphs within the body of my paper.” Once you get the content down and recorded, you will have more than enough time for sentence refinement and organizational restructuring. This strategy is mainly advantageous when students have a rough time starting their paper.
I have one last suggestion that is not often taken into consideration. Being that you have a week to prepare, I cannot more than stress the importance of meeting with your professor during his or her scheduled office hours. Make an appointment if you have to. Professors enjoy working with students who take a very active role in their assignments. This is an important step for more than one reason alone. It would be wise to verify that you are following the writing prompt accurately, your professor may offer to check over your rough draft, or even make suggestions you hadn’t even considered!