Is anyone ever really prepared for the type and
number of research and writing assignments they face in college? Probably not. The
biggest reason is this: unless you have taken a specific high school course in
college essay and paper writing (only some high schools even offer this), you
will be ill-prepared.
- High school essay and paper assignments come throughout the year, and during the process of producing them, students are given reminders and progressive help.
- Topic selection, outlines, and rough drafts are usually reviewed by the instructor and specific suggestions and editing is given before the final product is due.
- Students are often given the opportunity to “fix” their issues and re-submit
- Expectations are for high school level writing unless a student is enrolled in an advanced placement English course
- Secondary research materials are fully acceptable
- Topics and purpose are simpler. High school essays and papers rely on factual information and sometimes, on opinions that are backed by factual information. College writing topics and purposes require deeper analysis and responses.
- That 5-paragraph essay? Consider it dead. College essays will be lengthier and far more complex in topic and structure.
And, if a student is already struggling with essay and paper writing in high school, it will only get worse in college.
Enter College Writing – Getting Prepared
There are some things you can do to get ready for college writing before and when you get there. Here’s a list of 6 actionable tips:
1. Brush Up on Grammar
No one is going to correct your grammar, punctuation, etc., and return a piece of writing for correction. You get only one chance to submit a worthy piece. If you know grammar is a problem, then make sure you get yourself to the campus writing lab as soon as you “hit the ground.” There is help there. And make sure that you have a good grammar reference book on hand at all times.
2. Use Online Tools to Edit What You Write
There are plenty of these, and most have a free or premium version. Two that come to mind quickly are Grammarly.com and Hemingway Editor. You can paste your writing in and get errors highlighted, along with suggestions for fixing the issues. These can be invaluable for editing rough drafts.
3. Connect with Online Writing Services
Yes, in the past, these have not had a good rep. But now there are some top writing websites that provide far more than cheap custom writing for students who want to buy essays and papers. You can find them by checking out essay and paper writing services reviews like Pick Writers and then accessing the best writing websites. You will find articles with lots of tips for effective college research and writing; you will find suggestions for college-level writing topics.
And, if you are seriously pressed for time, you can locate the best writing website for your needs and get a sample of an essay or paper that you use as a model for what you must produce. The other benefit in using one of these best custom writing services is that you will get a great bibliographical listing that is appropriate for college level research on a topic.
4. About That Research
Fortunately, technology now allows you to conduct most of your research online from the comfort of your room. Your campus library is probably online. The key will be to find and use resources that are appropriate for college-level research.
You obviously understand that Wikipedia is not a legitimate resource. But there are lots of other resources that are not either. Here is where you need to distinguish between primary and secondary resources. If you don’t know the difference, now is the time to learn. Professors expect primary resource material.
- Primary resources come from actual researchers and/or observers who write up the results of that research/observation for others to read and review. When you use primary resource material, you are getting your information and data straight “from the horse’s mouth.”
- Secondary sources come from authors who report on primary research, usually drawing upon several sources. These are the types of sources often used in high school.
The other type of primary resources is quoting someone directly. For example, if you are preparing an essay or paper in political science, on the US. election of 2016, you may want to use actual words of the candidates.
5. Learn to Use Graphic Organizers
Organizing your thoughts is a key factor to ultimately writing a piece that flows logically and coherently. Graphic organizers provide a roadmap for you to use when you actually sit down to write your rough draft. If you have a good graphic organizer, use it correctly, and follow it as you write, you will have at least one of your writing challenges “covered.”
In high school, you probably used the outline as the most common graphic organizer. And an outline is an excellent tool, especially if you have sections of a piece and you need to identify the details that must be included in each section. You also may have used Venn diagram – a classic organizer for comparison and contrast pieces.
There are lots of options, and you have to find what works for you for each type of piece you are asked to produce. Here are a few variations that you might want to experiment with.
This is a variation of a Venn diagram and is normally used to compare or contrast just two things. Draw a lowercase “T” or cross. On either side of the top bar place the two items to be compared. On either side of the bottom of the “T,” place the items for comparison or contrast.
The T-Chart does not work well when three or more items must be compared or contrasted. Often, a chart with multiple columns may be necessary for the more complex types of comparison and contrast topics that students will face at the college level.
Chain of Events Sequences
These will be important organizers for several types of writing pieces. Events are placed in boxes, starting on the left side of a piece of paper and moving to the right. The obvious value of this type of organizer is for narratives. However, they are also quite handy for “how to” types of essays or those pieces that require historical events in sequence.
A timeline is a good alternative to the chain of events, and it can show better the lapse of time between events.
Either one of these can also be used for “cycle” pieces when you need a circular model. These are valuable for ecological systems, for example.
Main Idea Web
These are tools to use prior to formal graphic organizers. They allow you to engage in the free flow of ideas, without any restrictions. You can use paper and pencil or any number of Internet-based tools for these webs or mind maps as they are also called.
Once all of your thoughts are out there, you can eliminate the ones that don’t make sense, combine the one that is related, and then proceed to place those sub-topics in a graphic organizer you have identified as best to use.
6. Get Help
As one student so aptly stated, “It’s like having an English class in every course you take.” And it’s true. You will be writing far more essays and papers than ever before, and you will be writing them in all of your courses. What’s more, you will be judged on your writing skill, as well as what you have to say, and professors can be pretty pesky about your grammar and composition.
Whether you use the writing lab, a private tutor, or go out on the web and find essay writing services that can provide professional assistance, you must get help if you know you have a problem.
You may bemoan the fact that writing is going to get a lot tougher as you get into college. The expectations are high, there is no doubt. But also, consider this. In your career, no matter what that may be, you will be called upon to write – memos, reports, maybe much more, depending on the career. You want to have confidence that you have the skills to “look” good in front of your peers and superiors.