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Things To Do Before You Start Your First Draft

During your time at UC Davis, you will be required to write at least one academic essay. These essays will usually account for a good portion of your grade, so it’s worth the time to get the best grade possible. These essays will require you to analyze readings and respond to a provided prompt or do research on a topic. I dread the idea of receiving a bad grade so from one sleep deprived college student to another, here are a few tips that will hopefully help you find a direction to your assignment.

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1. Start Early

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It may be obvious, but don’t procrastinate. While you may have gotten into the habit of putting off your work until the night before it is due, starting early and planning out your writing can improve its quality and reduce stress levels. Starting early can benefit you even beyond the classroom as it makes you feel healthy, strong, and more motivated in your daily life. It’s definitely a lot better to begin an assignment as soon as it is assigned rather than rushing. Fight procrastination by setting daily reminders on your phone or write in a planner.

2. Find a Place to Concentrate

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Find the environment you work best in. Everyone has their own preferences from quiet rooms to noisy coffee shops; find your comfort zone. Great places to study on campus include the Coffee House and the 24-hour reading room in Shields library. The Activities and Recreation Center (ARC)’s cafe patio and courtyard are amazing places to study outdoors. These locations are in close proximity to Starbucks, so don’t forget to get your caffeine fix while you’re at it!

3. Read the Prompt Carefully

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Read the prompt. After you do that, Re-read the prompt. Try to identify how narrow or broad your topic needs to be based on the prompt. Always remember stick to the prompt. If an idea does not answer the prompt, then the work goes to waste. One prompt may ask you to write a compare and contrast essay while another prompt may ask you to persuade the audience of an idea. Mark down any important details outlined in the prompt such as: due dates, format, word count, number and type of sources, and citation style. Clarify any confusion with the professor before moving forward.

4. Brainstorm ideas

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List down all ideas that answer the prompt and create subcategories. Even finding a topic to talk about can be difficult to accomplish when there is either too much or too little to write about. The best strategy is to choose the idea you can talk the most about, so you have more to discuss and defend your claims. Depending on the prompt, you may need to narrow down or broaden your topic in order to obtain enough material to discuss in your essay.

5. Discuss Idea With TA or Professor

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Always double-check your idea and subtopics with either your TA or professor. Make sure you explain what you will discuss in your writing assignment and what supporting evidence you will use to make your claims. If you do not have time to meet with a TA or professor, bounce ideas off with a peer in your class or even a friend. Discussing the prompt with others can give you a new perspective on ideas and help strengthen your main argument. Whether your idea is good to go or still in development, getting advice is better in drafting early stages than later. You will regret not seeking help when you’ve invested more time and effort into your project. On the bright side you’ll get brownie points for going to office hours.

6. Find Supporting Evidence

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Supporting evidence comes in many different forms and depends on the type of assignment you are writing. For a writing assignment responding to an article or novel, it is best to go look in the text itself to find quotes. For term papers, it is best to do some research, online and offline, to find information. Shields Library has a variety of databases that can be accessed online through your student account on-campus or a VPN off-campus under the Quick Links section at! Online resources are also great places to use as along as they come from a credible source like Google Scholar. Looking for information and supporting evidence takes time and dedication so get off of Facebook, close that YouTube tab, and spend your time wisely.

7. Create an Outline

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After having a set idea and finding your supporting evidence, it is time to create an outline. Creating this outline will give your assignment direction and will construct a pathway for you to follow as you complete your work. Write down the focus of your assignment and organize your supporting evidence under the sub-categories that will go into your body section of the assignment. Don’t forget to analyze your evidence and connect it back to your thesis. Focus on the conclusion section later. The goal of the outline is to check how your ideas connect and if some need to be filtered out.

After completing these steps, you should now be prepared to start writing your first draft. While your first draft might not be the perfect draft, these tips may help you organize your ideas better and create a clear path for your assignment to follow.

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