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How To Survive A Writing Assignment

Ten honest ways to improve your grade, from one writing novice to another.

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1. Don't Procrastinate

This is the most obvious advice to give, but it doesn't make it any less significant. Personally, in high school, I never started a writing assignment until the night before it was due. I would work through the night, often finishing at 2 or 3 in the morning- much to my mother's dismay and disapproval. The essays almost always reflected my procrastination habits. It would result in unorganized writing and awkward transitions. Ultimately, I would end up receiving my essay back with red marks all over the pages. Having extra time to actually plan out your writing assignments will substantially improve your essay and your stress levels.

2. Make An Outline

Making an outline or "brainstorming" is one of the most memorable things we associate with writing assignments in elementary school. Before any writing assignments in elementary school, our teachers would hand out "brainstorming" papers that we had to fill in before being able to actually start writing. It was an effective way to keep our topics on track and hit every bullet point that we wanted to talk about. So why don't we still do that now? Starting an essay without writing down your topics is just like trying to solve a mathematical equation in your head. You have more of a chance to get that math problem wrong if you don't write down each individual step, and the same idea applies to writing.

3. Use Your Resources


The University of California, Davis provides many free resources to undergraduate students. The Shields Library is the biggest library in Yolo County and the third biggest library in the UC system! It contains over 3.1 million volumes that you can use to enhance your essay and factually back up your evidence. You can also use their website to access the catalog of all campus and UC libraries. The website houses countless electronic journals and databases. Best of all, you can be in the comfort of your own home or the Starbucks closest to your home and still obtain access. All you have to do is sign-in by clicking the VPN button on the top right corner of the website.

4. Get Rid Of Distractions

Trying to write an essay in the same room as your roommate trying to binge-watch the entire series of Parks & Recreation can easily distract you. Even playing Pandora in the background while composing an essay has the ability to deter your mind from your essay topic to passionately singing the chorus of Hello by Adele. So whether you decide to go to a nearby coffee shop or to get on campus to the 24 hour reading room at the Shields Library, you should definitely escape to place where you can get away from distractions and be able to focus on your writing.

5. Revise, Revise, Revise

Revising not only means fixing grammatical errors, but it also means digging deeper and fixing the actual content of your essay. Everybody has a shitty first draft where they just let loose and rant about the topics. That's perfectly okay. It's actually a good way to get all the things you want to talk about on the page. The revising process helps refine your essay by adding in better transitions and organizing your topics.

6. Take A Step Back

Taking a break not only gives you time to recharge your mind, body, and spirit from writing but it also gives you fresh eyes for when you try to revise your essay again. Trying to accomplish everything in one sitting will cloud your judgment. There will also be more of a chance for you to misread your writing and think something flows well together, when in reality it doesn't.

7. Ask Your Friends Or Classmates For Tips

Asking your friends or classmates to help revise your essay is one of the best options if you need some advice or feedback on your essay. You can have an unbiased opinion of your piece of writing at almost no cost to you! (I usually offer food as a payment.) This would be especially helpful if your friend or classmate is an English major or has good proofreading skills. Also, this would also help your friend or classmate by helping them get more experience with their feedback skills and by getting free food.

8. Book An Appointment With An Actual Writing Specialist


"But what if I don't have a friend with strong proofreading skills or don't know anyone well enough in my classes?" you say? In that case, there are other options where you can still get great feedback at relatively no cost to you! On the second floor of Dutton Hall, you can get feedback from a writing specialist by appointment or drop-in to get some feedback from trained student tutors. You can make ten appointments per quarter for a one-on-one appointment with a writing specialist, but you can drop-in an unlimited amount of times with a student tutor. Drop-in hours are Monday through Thursday from 9am to 3:50pm and on Fridays from 9am to 11:50pm. Be sure to bring a hard copy of the writing assignment you wish to get feedback on.

9. Ask Or Email Your Professor For Feedback

Another option that you have is to get right to the source. Your professor is the person who will most likely be grading your writing assignments and he or she will hopefully give the most helpful feedback in regards to what they are looking for. You could email them, but I have heard that dropping in for their office hours is a better option. My professor has stated that dropping in for office hours really shows that you care for your assignment. Plus, they are required to hold office hours so (if you have some free time when they're holding their office hours) you should take some initiative and go!

10. Submit That Work Of Art

Finally, once you've completed all of these steps and feel proud of what you have created and accomplished, turn in that writing assignment, pat yourself on the back, and go on and treat yo' self!

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