No Marshmallows, Just Term Papers
A 12-Step Guide to Research and Writing for Students: One Essay at a Time
Candis Steenbergen and Robyn Diner
Whether you’re a seasoned writer, an emerging scholar or a student just learning the ropes, writing an essay (or a review, journal article, or book chapter, or anything for that matter) can be - depending on the day - either an absolute pleasure or an exercise in complete and utter frustration. Rather than banging your head against your keyboard or incessantly cleaning your apartment, we’ve developed a series of steps that may help get you (or your students, or your roommate) through the research and writing blues.
Regardless of your area of study, there are a number of key things that make an essay solid from introduction to conclusion. These guidelines were compiled by us after teaching various topics in women’s studies, facilitating writing workshops at Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, and struggling with our own writing time after time. They include the criteria that we use for evaluating student work and which we use ourselves when writer’s block inevitably hits. Some topics covered herein will be more useful to some than others, but all combined should help you or your students get the grade. Again, these are just the basics to help lay the foundation - feel free to use your own style to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s. After all, it is your paper, and your style should shine through.
The 12-Step Program
1. Read the assignment (or call for papers or submission guidelines). Read it again.
Do you know what is expected of you? Did your professor ask you to use course readings? Outside sources? Primary data collection? Should the paper comply with a particular style? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be sure.
2. Think about possible themes.
For example: If you are required to write a paper for a course on “Women and Health,” there are an innumerable number of themes to choose from. Breast cancer, AIDS/HIV, substance abuse,...
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