Need to tackle a major paper? Write Along with Academic Skills
- What is a Virtual Write-Along?
- How do I participate?
- Virtual Write-Along Calendar
- Virtual Write-Along Resources
- Video Collection: Writing in Stages
Do you delay starting a big writing project because you do not know where to start? Let Academic Skills guide and support you through one of your major research papers. We will break that large assignment down into small and manageable chunks that can be easily accomplished in an hour or two per day. You will receive tips and resources via the Trent Academic Skills social media channels and #trentwritealong throughout the month of November 2020. You will learn the process of writing and complete a large assignment by the end of November.
You can follow the Write Along on any of the Trent Academic Skill media channels.
Choose an assignment for the Write Along
A good assignment for the Write Along would be a research paper over 4 pages in length and be worth a sizable portion of your final grade. This is an assignment that you want to spend quite a bit of time on. It could be from any discipline; it might be a research paper for Biology or Forensics or an essay for English or Cultural Studies, or a research paper for History or Indigenous studies. It could also be a reflection paper where you need to incorporate course readings into your reflection. The assignment should have a due date late in November or early December. You should have all the instructions from your Professor prior to beginning the paper.
If the steps we outline here don't fit with your upcoming assignment, but you'd like some direction on the research and writing process, book an appointment with an instructor to make a plan.
|Action - Task||Time Required||Dates*|
Understand and analyse your assignment
|0.5 - 1 hr||Nov 8-9|
|Narrow your topic||0.5 - 1 hr||Nov 8-9|
|Do preliminary research
Review course concepts
|1-2 hrs||Nov 9-10|
|Develop working research/thesis question||1 hr||Nov 10|
|Make a research plan
Find and evaluate sources/evidence
|4-6 hrs||Nov 11-13|
|8-12 hrs||Nov 13-19|
|Develop a thesis
Create an outline
|1-2 hrs||Nov 20|
|Write the first draft||6-8 hrs||
|Revise and edit||2-3 hrs||Nov 25-26|
|Proofread and check citations||1-2 hrs||Nov 27|
|Total hours (estimated)||25-38 hrs||(3 weeks)|
*Adjust dates for actions based on your available time and the deadline for your assignment.
- Understand and analyse your assignment
- Narrow your topic
- Do preliminary research and review course concepts
- Develop a working research or thesis question
- Make a research plan
- Read sources and take notes
- Develop a thesis and create an outline
- Write the first draft
- Revise and edit
- Proofread and check citations
- Ready to submit!
The Academic Skills website has resources on how to read and understand your assignment:
You could also book an appointment with an Academic Skills Instructor to discuss the assignment instructions.
Sometimes your instructor will provide a very specific topic, while at other times you get to choose the topic. Whether you get to choose your own topic or select from a limited range of topics, it is important to choose something that interests you. You may need to narrow the topic down from a broader idea.
Preliminary reading helps you get a broad overview of your topic and how the topic relates to course concepts. You need to consider the scope of your paper and your topic. Review your course notes and readings to understand how your topic fits into the themes of the course.
A research question is a starting point that expresses what you want to know about your topic and why you want to know it. A good question will help focus your research.
The research process will take a considerable amount of time, so make sure you have enough time at this stage. Think about the expectations of your research and the types of sources that you can access (see your assignment instructions). Now, make a research plan to help you save time in the long run.
This step is a key to your successful paper as reading and taking careful notes is the backbone of a research paper. The process of reading and taking notes is fundamental to putting distance between yourself and your sources to prevent plagiarism and promote academic integrity. Taking time at this stage is important for your paper and this stage may take over 5 hours over 4 days depending on the size of your paper and the number of sources that are required for your paper.
Academic Skills can help you in many ways in this area:
- Read your sources effectively and efficiently
- Take useful research notes
- Notetaking template for social sciences and humanities
- Notetaking template for the sciences
A thesis is your position on an argument and is the focus around which your whole paper revolves. For a science lab report the thesis is replace by a hypothesis and a prediction. An outline helps you to organize your arguments and see the overall structure of your paper. Spending time at this stage helps with the writing process as much of the thinking has been done before you start the actual writing.
Here are some tools to help develop a good thesis:
There are several ways to structure an outline, find one that works for you:
The first draft for most writers is full of errors, rough points, and incomplete sections. This is fine as you will correct these deficiencies later. Use your outline to put your sub-arguments in paragraph form along with explanations, definitions, and examples. Use evidence from your sources that you have noted during your reading and notetaking phase.
Here are some resources to help you write better paragraphs
- Writing better paragraphs
- Worksheet: Writing better introductions and conclusions
- Worksheet: Better body paragraphs
- Integrating evidence
Revision begins with a global review of your entire paper, and the consideration of the structure of your paper and overall argumentation. While editing focuses on sentence-level errors to ensure that you are communicating your ideas clearly.
Look at the Academic Skills web page for ideas about how to be a better editor:
Proofreading means to check for surface errors. This is your last chance to check for minor and surface errors before you send off your final copy. You should also check the Academic Skills documentation guide to ensure that your citations and references are in the correct format.
Congratulations! You made it!
Check your instructions one more time to ensure that you are submitting your paper in the proper format, check how to save the document, and where to submit the paper.