Writing Tips

Tips on essay writing for College Students Rule

I’ve worked through a fair few student essays in my time, between various forays back to university study as an adult learner and more recent work as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University.  (My most recent triumph came after reading through an essay for my son and encouraging him to think about ways he could restructure some sections and simplify some sentences and paragraphs.  He said he’d got a better grade as a result.)

Anyway, I know from my work with the Open University students that writing essays could be a big bugbear, turning the minds of normally sensible, intelligent people to jelly.  One of things they found hardest was working out how to structure and organize their material - and how to present it back to the person reading (and marking) their work so it was clear and easy to follow.

It was that marker’s perspective that was the inspiration behind a piece I’ve just written for College Students Rule.  It’s based on the idea that writing an essay is like making a path or leaving a trail… and preferably one that’s easy to follow.

Here’s an excerpt from How To Write a Term Paper: A Trail-Blazing Guide

Make a clear path. You want to write the paper so it’s easy for your teacher to follow on.  Think about it like a path or a trail that you’re leaving behind, showing how you’ve got from A to B – and how someone else can get there too.

Remove obstacles. Writing the paper’s only half the battle – then you need to go back and edit it. Look out for obstacles that trip your reader up: long sentences, unwieldy paragraphs, lots of jargon, academic language that even you can’t understand – and you wrote it! Break up long sentences (and paragraphs) and make them shorter. Swap complex words for plain English wherever you can.

Avoid detours. We develop ideas as we go along, so you might find that you took a few detours when you wrote the paper. When you edit it you’ll need to think about whether they get to stay or not. Do they help you to develop your argument or just make things more confusing? What would happen if you swapped the order round a bit?  Think about the path you’re creating – make it as clear as you can.

Use signposts. Headings and bullet-points help to break up the text, make it easier for your teacher to scan as well as close-read your work, and to signpost where you’re going. They can help you to write and organize your work too, as they map out the different sections of your material.

You’ll catch the rest of the article - and other practical tips and suggestions for students - at the site.

About College Students Rule

College Students Rule is a fantastic new blog site from Tim Milburn, author of StudentLinc, (“creating lifelong leaders, one student at a time”).

Although it’s been created by Tim this blog is going to be a team effort.  He’s welcoming contributions from students, professors, college administrators and staff, and even parents of college students. [Er Tim, what do you mean "even" parents of students??!]

Do you think you could make a contribution to College Students Rule?  Tim’s put the offer out for you to write at the blog - he’s even got an author submission page ready and waiting for you.   This is a great opportunity to spread your writing wings a bit, take a stretch by guest writing at another site, reach a different audience - and support the lifelong leaders of tomorrow.

I’ll probably save my writing tips for students for future posts at College Students Rule - unless you’d find it useful to me include some here?  Let me know if you would - including any queries, issues, suggestions for topics.  Thanks :-)

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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6 Responses to “Tips on essay writing for College Students Rule”

  1. On January 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm CatherineL responded with... #

    Hi Joanne - these are excellent tips. I have studied with the OU in the past and I had one of their handbooks on how to write academic essays, which I found useful. I don’t remember the title but, I’m sure it would be easy to find on Amazon.

    I’d hoped to do another course this February but have decided to wait until later in the year, as I just don’t have time right now to give it my best.

  2. On January 17, 2008 at 5:44 pm tim responded with... #

    Can’t say enough good things about what a great article you posted. It is sound and solid advice and a definite asset to the CSR Blog.

  3. On January 17, 2008 at 6:56 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Catherine, I’ve been a student as well as a lecturer with the Open University and it’s a great institution - but a lot of hard work :-)

    I’m not doing any studying just now either - happily learning through blogging instead


  4. On January 17, 2008 at 6:57 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Tim, thanks. I think the CSR site is a great idea and I was happy to make a contribution to the first month. And hope to come back for more!


  5. On April 29, 2008 at 9:50 am Essay Papers responded with... #

    Thank you for this wonderful tip. The only secret that I know in writing an effective essay is just be true to yourself. Write down all ideas you have and prioritize your targeted audience or reader. I agree on what he said that “writing an essay is like making a path or leaving a trail. and preferably one that’s easy to follow”.

  6. On April 30, 2008 at 1:20 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi, thanks for stopping by. I don’t think essay writing is as much about being true to yourself (lots of better outlets for that!) but focusing on your audience or reader is v. important, and then helping them to find their way through your words. Of course those words should also reflect your ideas, your opinions, your learning, your research - a lot to pack in, which is why structure is so important.



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