University Writing Center Blog

Posted on March 2nd, 2014 by Jennifer Mahoney

by Kelsey Lorraine Moore, Student Consultant, University Writing Center

‘Tis the season for midterms. Essays, exams, expectations – a complex juggling act involving a heap of responsibility. Yet with appropriate planning, students may approach their tasks with confidence. As a fellow undergrad, my advice to frazzled students is simple: be intentional and do not procrastinate – papers do not write themselves.

When it comes to writing midterm papers, students are often overwhelmed before they even begin. Staring at a virtual sheet of blank paper is disheartening, especially when the assignment calls for a researched essay with a minimum of five pages. To avoid the familiar feeling of creeping dread, plan out the paper in advance. Do not give into the temptation to procrastinate (you will regret it). Rather, break the writing process into achievable chunks and set attainable goals.

1. Do your research. First rule of thumb: know your audience. If you are writing for your professor, tailor the essay to meet their expectations. Familiarize yourself with the intended audience, understand your topic, and consider your purpose. Pre-writing is a vital step in the writing process. Know where you are going before you proceed. Readers do not want to read aimless papers.

2. Get content on the page. Every writer approaches writing in a unique way. For some writers, freewriting is a beneficial strategy. Alternatively, structured writers prefer outlines, choosing to map their paper. Others cannot proceed until they have nailed down the ideal title. Whatever your prerogative, it is essential to gather your thoughts and transfer them to the pages. Fill that blank screen with words! Remember, first drafts are messy. Do not expect perfection.

3. Stuck? Schedule an appointment at the UWC. At any point in your writing process – whether in the pre-planning, drafting, or revision stage – the tutors at the writing center are available to help. They will not write your paper for you, but they will help you brainstorm ideas, answer formatting questions, or act as a sounding board. Tutors offer students a different perspective and introduce innovative writing strategies. Oftentimes, tutors help students clarify their writing. Utilize the resources that are at your disposal.

4. Revise and refine. Allow yourself time to ‘polish’ your essay. When your thesis is sound, your ideas organized, and your conclusion appropriate, it is time to grab a highlighter and read the composition aloud. Go back through and mark up your paper. Do you stumble over wordy sentences? Is your language vague? Should you clarify your position? Are you repeating a word or phrase to excess? Effective writing is a form of communication. Fellow consultant David Gurecki offers advice to writers who have reached this stage in the writing process. Peruse his article for awesome tips regarding conciseness:

Chunking your writing process relieves undue stress and helps you produce a well-developed, polished paper prior to your deadline. Develop a plan for your midterm essay(s), carve out time in your schedule to write in spurts, and be intentional. Responsible students sleep better at night – they aren’t fretting about term papers. Embrace your responsibility and tackle your projects. Carpe diem.