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  • English Composition & Writing Studies: Writing Steps

    Steps to Writing

    WHAT KIND OF PAPER ARE YOU WRITING?

    Get to know your assignment rubric.

    • What is the purpose of the assignment?
      • Types of assignments include argumentative essays, research papers, biographies, and opinion pieces.
    • What kind of topic(s) does the assignment require?
    • How many pages (or how long) does it need to be?
    • How does the assignment need to be formatted? How should it be turned in?
    • What criteria will your assignment be graded upon?

    If it isn't clear, speak with your instructor.

    Lindsey's Writing Center has this guide about figuring out your initial thoughts and ideas.


     

    WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW?

    This is a preview to some of the questions your Lindsey librarian will ask you whenever you need help starting a research project.

    1. Think about the main topic/question for your assignment or project. What do you want to potentially answer?
    2. Write down some questions about the main topic/question. What are some specific things you want to know about your topic?
    3. From those questions, write down 10-20 keywords or phrases. This will help us search our databases and the internet.

    EXAMPLE

    1. What do you want to potentially answer?
      I want to learn about the history of baseball equipment.
    2. What are some specific things you want to know about your topic?
      I want to know what they first use when the game was invented and how it changed over time.
    3. Can you write down some keywords about that subtopic?
      baseball bats, baseballs, Louisville, wood, cleats, bases, baseball diamond, helmets, baseball hats, gloves, Wilson, history, leather, slugger, mitt


     

    FINDING TOPIC IDEAS

    Think about what you are interested in and would like to learn more about.  For instance, are you interested in hiking? Try looking up hiking in trails in Kentucky.  Do you enjoy a sport?  May visit the organizational page for the sport that you are interested in and see what is going on in the field.

    If you really get stuck, you can also browse these resources for ideas.


     

    CHOOSING A TOPIC

    Whether you a given a list of topics to choose from or selecting a topic of choice, your selection is incredibly important.  For instance, if you select a topic that does not interest you or that is too broad or narrow, it will impact the finished product of your work.  Below are some strategies to utilize when deciding on a topic and some websites that contain topic lists for your particular area(s) of study.

    • Brainstorm
    • Select a topic that will have enough supporting information
    • Select a topic that will be manageable (i.e. not too broad or narrow)
    • Use keywords and synonyms effectively
    • Remember that topics with research must be malleable (subject to change throughout the research process)
    • Define your topic
    • State the context of your topic (Remember that the same topic when applied to different subject areas have different meanings
    • Understand your topic (Do reference research to ensure you know a little about what you are writing about before beginning the research process)
    • Use your topic to generate a thesis statement

    Now that you picked your topic and understood what your assignment is, let's gather more information about the topic and organize it. Think about how you want to "tell the story" about the topic. What is the main point about your topic? How do you want to support it?


     

    PLACES TO START

    Here are some general databases *that the Lindsey library subscribes to* to help you start your research. They are multidisciplinary, meaning that they cover a whole spectrum of subjects and their interconnected relationships. Take a look at what subtopics piqued your interest and we can expand into other, more specific databases OR enhance your search on these databases.

    Please note you need to log in with your myLWC information before you can access these databases.

    Here is another general place on the World Wide Web you can use *without* you myLWC log-in.


     

    OUTLINE & ORGANIZE

    1. As you find sources, make a list and write notes about each one. A good practice would to jot down these notes as quotationsbrief summaries, and paraphrases. Here is a good guide from Lindsey's Writing Center.
    2. Review your notes. Lindsey's Writing Center has this good guide about reviewing your sources.
    3. Determine the "story" you want to tell readers. Write your thesis statement. This is the main point of your assignment. Lindsey's Writing Center has this guide about creating a thesis statement.
    4. Arrange these thoughts into an order that flows with your topic, or tells the story.
    5. Start writing a rough draft!

    *Still unsure on how to summarize an article?* Check out this webpage from Infobase that answers common questions about article summarizations.


     

    APPLY THE CRAAP-O TEST

    Let's make sure that those sources you use for your assignments are reliable and credible. There are many sources out there claiming to the real information when, really, they aren't. To make sure they are not "crappy," let's apply the CRAAP-O test!

    • Currency
      When is the publication date? Do the links work? Has the source been updated at all and, if so, when?
    • Relevance
      Who is the audience? Does the information relate to your topic? Have you evaluated other sources first to double-check this information? Is the intended audience of an appropriate age?
    • Authority
      Who is the author? Are they credible in their field? Who is the publisher / sponsor / source? Is there any contact information? What does the main URL show?
    • Accuracy
      Are there any spelling / grammar errors? Is it unbiased or free of emotion? Is there evidence to support the information? Where does the it come from? Did anyone or an organization review it?
    • Purpose & Objectivity
      What is the purpose of it? Are the messages clear? Are there any biases? Does it appear to be a fact, an opinion, or other?

    No one should ever should "crappy" information in any capacity. Remember this acronym and you will always find good stuff instead of saying "Aww, CRAAP-O!"

    Source: Blakeslee, Sarah (2004) "The CRAAP Test," LOEX Quarterly: Vol. 31 : No. 3 , Article 4. Available at: https://commons.emich.edu/loexquarterly/vol31/iss3/4.

    We found our information. We organized it. Now, let's piece it together into a draft of your paper.

    1. Write sentences, thoughts, anything to get your ideas on paper. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, and sentence structure right now. We'll fix it later.
    2. Write these thoughts with your purpose in mind. If you evaluate, evaluate. If you persuade, persuade. If you analyze, analyze. This helps you set the tone for your assignment.
    3. "Show and tell" your reader your story. Use this Lindsey Writing Center guide to help you with this.

    PRO TIP: Find out if your instructor wants the assignment in a certain format.  That way, you can write in that format as you go. This will save you time during the editing stage. Find the different styles (*Only if you need them*) under the citations section.

    Once you completed your draft, applaud yourself. The hardest part is over! Now it is time to edit your draft.

    1. Tidy up loose ends.
    2. Complete those incomplete sentences.
    3. Check spelling and grammar. Did you miss any commas, periods, or quotation marks?
      1. Also check for the correct conjugation of verbs, pronouns, and other words.
      2. Refer to this Lindsey Writing Center guide for commonly confused words.
    4. **Make sure that every fact, sentence, thought, etc. that needs a citation is cited.**
    5. Finalize your citations list. Make sure it is in the citation style your instructor asked for.
      1. If they did not require one, MLA or ALA is usually a safe choice. Check out our citation guide here or click the "Citation Styles" tab above.
    6. Finally, ask someone else to review it. A second pair of eyes can spot things you missed and provide corrective feedback as needed. Ask a friend, a classmate, or a family member. The Lindsey Writing Center provides free help as well!

    Didn't meet the page or word count minimum? See where you can expand a thought or two more.

    Are you over the page or word count? See where you can condense some thoughts. Tip: Sometimes, it is better to be clear and concise.

    Remember: Citation/Reference pages may not count towards your overall word count or page total. Check with your instructor or assignment rubric for direction.


     

    WHEN IN DOUBT, *CITE YOUR SOURCES*

    Everyone deserves credit for their work, including work you create. It is a common courtesy to make sure no one is cheated out of something they did, made, said, etc. Always check for the proper permissions before using information.

    You NEED a citation when:

    • You use or refer to a post, Tweet, video clip, newspaper article, etc.
    • You use or state another person's thoughts, ideas, etc.
    • It is new information that is uncommon knowledge.
    • You use your own thoughts, ideas, etc. from previous works or projects.

    You DO NOT NEED a citation when:

    • It is common knowledge (i.e. Columbia is a city in Adair County in Kentucky.)
    • You state your own opinion on a subject (i.e. The first Harry Potter book is the best one in the series.)
    • You use an object or information under the Creative Commons License.
      **Though it is courteous to cite someone who uses a Creative Commons License, you do not have to cite them.**

     

    That's it! You finished! Now you are a more confident writer!

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