Writing FAQs

On Pre-Writing

Struggling to get that paper started? Here are answers on how to begin the writing process .

1. Is there only one writing process?

No. There are a countless number of ways to write, and it is possible to have more writing process. Some writings will come to you easier than others, depending on how comfortable you feel on the assignment, professor expectations, your own individual stress level, what your writing about and etc.There are common threads in writing processes. Brainstorming, outlining, and writing and re-writing are probably the three most common practices in the writing process… how you do them, or when you do them is up to you.

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2. How do I know what my Professor wants?

By asking your professor! If your professor is no help, having an outside perspective can help you clarify your questions, you could visit the writing center, or ask another classmate. As lame and cliché as these may sound, you are not alone.

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3. How should I begin writing a long paper?  

Don’t wait to the last minute. Usually, it is easier if you divide the long paper and some classes and professors will do this even for you. An example: Let’s say you have a 10 paged paper due in “two months”, (assigned in October and due in December) the professor might require a annotated bibliography and your thesis in two weeks ( Mid October) , so you at least you are thinking about your paper. Then, a rough draft ( 3 pages, 8 pages, even 12 pages or a really big outline, all depending on what you done) could be due in another 2 weeks (Early November). Followed by, another draft along with a peer review session in class in another two weeks (Late November). Finally, your final paper is to be handed in by the due date (2 nd week of December).

  • So you could develop your own timeline, using your own discretion revolving around your specific workload and life to help start your paper.
  • Take advantage of your professor’s office hours and write emails and ask questions if you are having trouble getting started or are stressed out about the page length or specific topic choice.
  • Visit the Writing Center.
  • Brainstorming your ideas.
  • Outline what you want to discuss and use for your paper.
  • If it is a research assignment, start your research early! The library has resources ( i.e.: one on one appointments with a librarian, so you learn to how to navigate researching online, using primary sources, outdated sources….books!!, using Minerva, UAlbany's libraries catalog, checking academic databases, interlibrary loan, and etc).
  • Visit the Writing Center…again!

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4. Should I use an Outline to organize my ideas?

 It is hard to say what will and what will not work for each INDIVIDUAL student. An outline is ONE suggestion to help one see and organize their thoughts and ideas.

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5. How many drafts should I have?

As many as you see fit, generally long papers could require more drafts. Having a rough draft and then a final draft is the most common, two drafts. You could have 2 to 20 different drafts; there is no standard number for drafts.

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6. How can I get excited about this paper?

Dance around!! Have a paper party!! You can use self rewards as a way to motivate yourself. You could try of thinking of your paper as way to either impress your professor, your parents and/ or yourself. You can think of college as a place where you are supposed to learn, and by writing this paper, you will be learning about the topic you write on and on how to write. Also, you can find exigency in your paper. Although your paper might not be published in a journal, try to find out what makes your paper special, and why people need to hear what you are saying. Talking about your paper can help build your exigency, because you will start to take control of your ideas and show people that you are writing something super cool.

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7. When should I start my assignment?

Now! The earlier you start preparing yourself to do that assignment the better, whether it’s having it at the back of your brain and brainstorming, or reading and understanding the material and your assignment.

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Return to the University at Albany Writing Center