Tag: writing strategies

Actively Writing: Experimentation as a Way to Improve the Writing Process

As writers, we often struggle with what to do with a paper after we have finished saying all that we want to say. This stage can happen at any point in the writing process, from having 3 pages done and needing 5, to needing a conclusion, to just hitting a dead end with the paper. This moment, commonly referred to as writer’s block, is quite infuriating. However, one of the best ways to combat this moment is by redefining how you see writing.

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Most people see writing as a solitary act, one where the writer is stoically sitting for hours on end in front of a computer, unmoving except for one’s fingers across the keyboard. There has been a new emphasis on collaboration as part of the process today, which makes writing slightly more active, but not by much. However, what I wish to propose with this piece is that writing can be a very active process, and some techniques can help rejuvenate new work.

The main goal of writing is to capture that which is innately human. We wish to persuade others, to encourage them, to communicate with them in an intriguing and interesting way. Writers do this visually, by using the words on the page, but we also share ideas through our other senses. For example, many people compose while listening to music because the combination of the various notes will put us in a specific mood and encourage certain words to come to mind. Other people feel the need to write in busy areas, like coffee shops, so that the flow of conversation is in our ears. In this regard, writing is listening.

Writing can also draw on physical activity to some degree. Research is a major component of any writing project, but some articles can be really difficult to understand. Often, in order to understand what I am writing, I have to act out what I have read in some way. If I have to read a description of what someone is doing, I mimic what is described on the page until I understand it. Other times, I draw a map or a flow chart to connect major ideas. Techniques like these help with reading comprehension and provide ways for writers to organize their reactions to various works.

Also, I have worked with many people who, when brainstorming, need a way to channel their stress. That is the moment where I bring out the Legos or Play-Doh! Doing something with your hands while talking about your writing can help the feeling of being fidgety, without adding the stress of needing to write something down. Although putting words on paper is a key component of the writing process, the most important step is finding something to say. For this, I highly recommend grabbing Legos, a slinky, or even a coloring book, and meeting up with a friend for a conversation about what you are working on. It allows writers to feel active and productive, without the paralyzing fear of not writing something down.

Another way to be active while writing is to grab a pen and paper and go for a walk. The fresh air helps foster creativity, while the exercise is just as industrious as writing. Walking also allows writers to observe their surroundings and generate new ways to add detail to a paper. It also helps me find new ways to add clarity to my paper. If I watch the different ways people run, I can determine which verb I want to use describe the same moment in my own paper—sometimes it’s a sprint, other times a jog, still others a quick dart.

Finally, my biggest recommendation for getting out of a writing rut is to experiment with the writing process. What are your strengths? How can you use them in your writing? If you can’t, can you use them to inspire your writing? And don’t give up hope. There have been many times that I have tried something new and it hasn’t worked. The great thing about experimentation is that you can always just try something else. In the words of the famous author E.M. Forster, “How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?”

White & Gold? Black & Blue? The Dress: Read All Over

Chris Scheidler, Consultant

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If you were on social media last week you probably noticed a thing or two about a dress that, to embrace the hyperbole, “broke the internet.” I’ll leave the dress debate to the designers and physicists but I would like to draw your attention to the act of interpretation; specifically, I’d like to focus on interpreting assignment prompts.

We often take interpretation for granted. We interpret every day. Sometimes interpretation is straightforward: for instance, when your friend says, “Pass the mustard.” Other times, interpretation requires a bit more navigation, such as when your parent asks, “Did you do the dishes?” A blunt “no,” if your family is anything like mine, is probably not an advisable answer. We interpret so often that we sometimes forget that we’re doing it. In many ways, we’ve all become experts at interpreting.

But if the dress debate demonstrates anything, it is that we occasionally get our interpretations wrong. Our ability to interpret is not infallible. When we’re reading assignment prompts, the context, our previous experiences, and other elements all shape the way we interpret the prompt. If a two-tone dress can break the internet, how can we agree on what our professor expects from our assignments?

Don’t fret! Interpretation can be tricky but there are at least four helpful strategies that I recommend.

1. Visit the University Writing Center. Whether you’re just beginning an assignment or further along in the process we’re here to help. We tutors have years of experience interpreting not only assignment prompts but also texts in general. Sometimes just talking it out with another person can help. Which is why, if you don’t have time for an appointment you can:

2. Reach out to other students. Your peers have likely asked themselves the same question about what the assignment means. Ask them how they’re interpreting the prompt and you might find that you all agree on an interpretation or that there is some difference in interpretations. If you, like the Internet on the dress, can’t reach a consensus you can always:

3. Examine the keywords in the prompt. Is the professor asking you to analyze, annotate, summarize, synthesize, or something entirely different? The University Writing Center has a wonderful blog post dedicated to deciphering keywords – check it out! If the keywords are giving you trouble you can always:

4. Speak with the professor. Ask the professor in class or consult with the syllabus to see how your professor prefers to be contacted. If you’re emailing the professor, begin with a professional salutation and end with a professional signoff. If you’re nervous about contacting your professor you can always stop in at the University Writing Center and we can help you compose an email.

The Last Stretch – Making it through Final Papers

Jamison Huebsch, Consultant
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It can be stressful near the end of the semester. You have final papers due, perhaps in most of your classes, and you’re often not sure if they will be finished in time and to your professor’s standards. At least I’m often worried about that. Perhaps you haven’t even started your final papers yet. If so, don’t panic because it happens to the best organized of us, but try not to let nerves stop you for working on your paper. After all, the night before its due will come not matter what, and it’s best if you’re not trying to pull an all-nighter cranking something out. To help out I’m going to offer some tips on getting your final paper across the semester finish line, so that you can enjoy your break with everyone else:
  1. Manage Your Stress! :Take note that I didn’t write “Don’t stress”. That is almost impossible, as people have been stressing out about finals since classes instituted them. Finals are a stressful time, so learn to manage it instead. Since you know you are going to be stressed (and maybe are already suffering from some), managing your stress so you can remain productive is very important. Some of the most helpful tips on dealing with finals stress can be found in an article by our own Carly Johnson here: (https://uoflwritingcenter.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/keep-calm-and-start-your-final-projects/).
  2. Getting started:If you haven’t started on your final papers yet, it’s time to brainstorm. Your professors will give your guidelines for what will be acceptable paper topics, but it can be hard to pick what you should write about sometimes.  Since almost every paper will be based on issues discussed in class, you might think about what have been the major themes in the class so far. Perhaps you had a favorite book or topic, and you can expand on that. Other times you wish something had been covered in class but it wasn’t, so you can explore it on your own. Regardless of what you pick, deciding as early as you can and getting to work on collecting your research and materials is crucial.  Bounce ideas off friends who haven’t gotten sick of you talking about school. Making an appointment with the Writing Center can also be helpful, even if you’ve gotten started late, as we can help you at any step of the way from brainstorming all the way to revision.
  3. Plan Your Work:Hopefully you already have an idea for your final paper. Review the guidelines your professors have given you for your final paper. You might work on an outline, or start your bibliography or reference list. Sometimes it can be helpful, if you have the time, to annotate your research sources as a form of pre-writing. I personally find it helpful to make a checklist of any major requirements the paper should have, in my own work this is often things like which sources I have to add to my literature review or which theories apply to the topic I’ve chosen. Your class may vary, but making up a list of important details to cover can help you to avoid missing anything important. It also gives a real sense of accomplishment as you tick off things from your list as you write them, and this can be very important on large projects when you might spend days writing. Completing small goals and recognizing it can help you stay motivated.
  4. Revision:Once you’ve a draft done of your final paper, you’re nearing the finish line already. However revision and polishing are important steps before the final draft stage, and can often make a big impact on your final grade. The first thing would be to review any feedback you have gotten from the professor on past work. Usually you’ve turned in some sort of preliminary assignments, giving you a chance to see what the teacher thought you did well or what you still needed work on. When you revise take the time to do multiple passes, each one focusing on a specific goal like improving your transitions or checking if you used passive voice. Try reading your paper aloud, to yourself or a friend, so that you can hear how it sounds (and this is a good technique for catching errors). Double check your thesis, and make sure that it agrees with your paper all the way through to your conclusion. This is another good time to consider coming to the Writing Center if you can.
  5. Relax!:To twist a meme: Summer is coming! Once you’re done with your paper, take some space from it. If it’s due tomorrow, then go celebrate being finished. If it’s not due for a while, then take a day (or two!) off before giving it one last once over for revision. It can be very helpful to get some distance from your own work when doing revision. Once that is done however, go turn it in! Summer awaits!Make sure you get plenty of rest, and enjoy what time off you have, if you are like me you will be back in class doing it all over again soon enough. As you near the end of your particular academic goal, You might even begin to miss the whole crazy cycle.

Making Your Writing Process Work for You

Layne Gordon, Consultant

In the Writing Center this semester, I have worked with several students who are either returning to formal writing after awhile, or are being asked to do formal writing for the first time. (By formal writing here, I’m referring to things like research papers or argumentative papers that typically require the use of outside sources.) Most of these students have expressed some form of anxiety over the writing process itself—the most common of these being an uncertainty over how to begin the paper.

It has long been established in the field of composition that the writing process is not as linear as past scholars used to believe. You know the old drill: brainstorm-draft-revise-edit-done, with some additional steps sometimes. Instead, it is more of a fluid process in which the various writing activities blend and can even occur simultaneously. layneFor example, I often edit while I’m drafting rather than after. And I frequently make an outline of my paper after writing an early draft rather than before. Contemporary scholars have taken note of these phenomenon and now understand that writing is a highly recursive activity. However, despite this progressive theoretical understanding, many students still have a very real concern over constructing a paper in the “right” way. In the Writing Center this semester, I have found this to be especially true of more formal academic assignments.

So for those students feeling such anxieties at this point in the semester, I offer this advice:

Create a writing process all your own. If you are struggling to write an introduction, skip it for now and work on a body paragraph. If you aren’t quite sure yet what you want your overall point to be, try skipping to the conclusion of your paper and writing about what you want to have proven by the end. In other words, don’t be afraid to try new things in your writing process. To give a personal example, for years I was really against incorporating free-writing into my writing process. But this semester, I decided to try something new and start several papers by simply writing whatever came to mind on the topic. It turned out this was a great way for me keep writing without getting stuck and it let me see how my thoughts were working out on the page rather than trying to sort through everything in my mind.

My point here is twofold:

  1. if you are struggling to write a paper because you are adhering to a process that somebody else told you was a good idea, then now might be a great time to try something new.
  2. if you have been sticking to the same process for some time, then it might be worth switching it up to see if you could improve on your personal process. No one way of writing will work for everyone, and taking the time to explore what works for you can not only make writing your term papers easier, but also more enjoyable.

Of course, you can always visit the Writing Center to get more help at any stage of the writing process and to get ideas and strategies for writing.

Keep Calm and Start Your Final Projects

Carly Johnson, Consultant

I hope you all had a relaxing spring break, full of sunshine and unassigned leisure reading. As we begin this countdown to finals (and Derby) carlyit is difficult to garner the motivation to begin your final projects. However, as someone who has spent many a tear-filled, coffee fueled night feverishly typing a final paper hours before it is due, I can tell you truthfully that it is better to start sooner rather than later. At this point you may be saying to yourself “yeah, but I work better under pressure” and I thought the same thing—until I embarked on what I call “Carly’s 5 fool-proof methods for staying focused and sane throughout finals week,” which I will share with you now:

  1. Take it one step at a time, and reward yourself along the way.I like to set up a schedule for myself prior to finals week that allows me to get a little bit   done each day. When I am on a roll achieving these tasks, I reward myself by watching Netflix for a couple of hours, or purchasing a fancy smoothie. This enables     me to stay on schedule while still allowing myself to have a little taste of the relaxation that awaits me over the summer.
  2. The solution to writer’s block is not avoidance.When I would get stuck on how to start a paper, I used to think that putting it away for    awhile was the answer…and then “awhile” ended up lasting three weeks, and suddenly it       was due. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. If you’re stuck, ask for help, either from   your instructor, your peers, or by making an appointment with the writing center. Address           these small mental roadblocks before they become big issues.
  3. There is such a thing as too much coffee.During my late night writing sessions, I always thought the more coffee I drank, the          better my paper would become—but the fact is that too much coffee (or other caffeinated    beverage) will make you jittery and will cause your thoughts to race, which will end up making you feel more stressed than when you started. By staying on task with the        schedule mentioned in #1 above, you can avoid these all-nighters entirely.
  4. Feeling stressed? Go on a run.Even if you are someone like myself who only tends to run if there is an emergency, I       have found that physical exercise allows you to drain yourself of that excess negative   energy, and clears your mind so you are prepared to tackle those final projects. If      running isn’t your thing, check out some of the classes offered at the Student Rec Center     (I highly recommend the Zumba classes held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights).
  5. Reschedule social events for an after-finals celebration.If you struggle with turning down fun events with friend while you’re studying, plan an   event for after finals week that you can look forward to. That way, when you pass on plans for the evening you can invite them to your post-finals party, enabling you to     be social and productive simultaneously.

With these five methods, you can be sure to avoid the dark days of finals week, don your Derby hat and ease into your summer vacation knowing that you have overcome the pitfalls of procrastination. Good luck, stay focused, and remember that the writing center is always here to help!

Five Strategies to Keep Writing, Even When You Don’t Want To

Ashly Bender, Assistant Director

At the University of Louisville, Spring Break is next week and the Derby festivities are not far behind. The end always seems near in the Spring semester, but at Louisville perhaps it seems always within in reach. After all, university classes are all over by the first week of May to make room for the hats and horses!

For these reasons, and probably others, March is the final push before the end of the semester and final projects. To help you stay motivated, focused, and productive during these weeks, here are five strategies to keep yourself writing and working. Feel free to use them at other times of the year! 🙂

  1.  Write 100 words every day. Ashly_Version_3The key to finishing any large writing project is to make a habit out of writing every day—or nearly every day. This habit makes it easier to write because your mind becomes accustomed to the practice and also because it keeps your project fresh in your mind. Some days, obviously, are harder than others, so my personal strategy is to make sure I wrote 100 words every day. This is a small amount that keeps me accountable, keeps my project fresh in my mind, and allows me to feel productive even on days when I’m feeling writers block. Also, often if you can eke out 100 words, more come flowing. But if they don’t, you’ve still met your goal for the day. For a quick reference, the sentences in this strategy make up 145 words, including this sentence.
  2. Tally the number of hours you work, and reward yourself. A good friend of mine who just defended her dissertation uses a strategy of rewards to motivate herself. For every hour that she works, she earns one tally. In the evening or on the weekend, she can trade in tallies for hours of play or relaxation time. If you can hold yourself to it, this kind of reward system is great for making sure you stay on task when you’re supposed to be working. The strategy also helps you schedule time for working and time for relaxing so that you don’t have to feel like you’re working all the time.
  3. Take a break. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed by your project, it may be time to take a break. When we’re struggling with a project, we can get caught up in thinking about the struggle or the impending deadline and lose our ability to actually do productive writing or work. That’s the point at which walking away, for a little while, can actually be helpful. “A little while” might be 15 minutes, an hour, or even a day. You don’t want to take too long of a break, or else going back to the project will seem daunting. Before you take your break, try writing down questions you’re having, what you need to write about next, or other goals you have for the project.
  4. Write on a different “surface.” Dan McCormick wrote a couple weeks ago about how different tools or “surfaces” help us think about our projects differently and can lead to break-throughs. If you’re feeling worn out on a project, try writing about it on paper or in a different program. You might even try writing in a different location. The key here is to change things up a little to open the possibility for new thinking and new ideas.
  5. Talk instead of write. Especially if you’re feeling stuck on a project, it might be a good idea to talk about it instead of writing about it. You could, of course, come in to the writing center. Even I have met with another consultant to just talk about what I wanted to write about—that way I could hear it out loud and another person could help me figure out if it made sense. The consultant wrote down things I was saying, what I seemed excited about, what was interesting to her. After the appointment, I had some notes to move forward with. Another option is to use voice recording software. Word has a talk-to-text function (though it needs a little training), Dragon is a great talk-to-text program, and then there’s always just basic sound recording software on your phone or computer.

So, even though the allure of warmer temperatures, Derby, and other summer events are just around the corner—don’t give up on your projects! Try any or of all these strategies to find out what will keep you writing and working. And, remember, the Writing Center is a great resource for all stages of the writing process.

The Benefits of Writing across Different Surfaces

Dan McCormick, Consultant

Some writing happens all at once and on only one “surface”—a text, a to-do list, an email, or a short-answer response on a biology test. You have an idea, you write, and then you’re done. But lots of writing happens on more than one surface. A reporter might take notes on a pad during an event, and then refer to those notes as she types her article at a computer that afternoon. A magazine writer might type notes as he researches, write an outline of ideas in a notebook, and refer to both as he writes his feature. A novelist might jot down ideas in a moleskin notebook (or on cocktail napkins), type out character sketches and plot summaries on the computer, and write notes to herself in the margins of printed drafts.

Writers sometimes think that a piece of writing is supposed be only one piece—one document, one computer file—but’s that’s not the case. There’s no rule that says writing has to happen in isolation from other writing. After all, most student writing is in direct response to a specific piece of writing: the assignment prompt. Why not take advantage of the same variety of surfaces that professional writers use?

DSCN1636For myself, I find it helpful to have different writing in different places, on different surfaces—all for one piece of writing. I typically write down ideas in a notebook, write little margin notes in books and articles as I research, type notes and outlines in a Notepad file, and (as I refer to all of these) type my “paper” in a Word file. What’s helpful about all this different writing is having different empty surfaces where I can focus on different aspects of my writing—the ideas, the organization, the research. I can then guide my attention while I write by putting different surfaces in front of me. As I write this post, I’m switching back and forth between a Word file, where I type the post itself, and a Notepad file, where I’ve typed out an outline of ideas and examples.

I’m fascinated by the way these different surfaces do different things for my writing. Paper gives me a certain feeling of freedom (the “empty page”) and of permanence. Digital media give me the ability to re-arrange my thoughts and, of course, to copy and paste from my typed notes. And scribbles in the margins of books and articles—marginalia—let me compose mini-thoughts as I read or review, putting ideas in my own words while giving me quick access to where in the text those ideas came from.

It’s natural to think of these other surfaces as “process” and the final document itself as “product”—but I don’t think that’s necessary. Certainly these different individual surfaces can build up into one—but I don’t think the process is totally separate from the product. Writing notes on a pad, or in the margins of a book, requires thought and volition, just as writing a “full piece” does. And ideas change between these different surfaces, not only because time passes but also because each surface supports a slightly different way of expressing those ideas. So the final document that is turned in for an assignment or for a scholarship application or for publication is, in a sense, one more iteration of ideas and language that has developed out of other ideas and language. You might say that process turns into product only when you decide it does.

Alternatives to Procrastinating

Jessica Winck, Assistant Director

Approaching the end of the semester can be a stressful time, and those of us who are inclined to procrastinate might feel especially anxious. I tend to believe that procrastination involves more than just actively avoiding work. It often relates to a writer’s sincere challenges with any of the following: understanding an assignment; feeling overwhelmed by the workload in college; worrying about whether s/he “has what it takes.” None of these is easy to deal with, and we know that avoiding work doesn’t help us in the long run. If you’re worried about procrastination, try some of these strategies:

Contact your instructor about any questions you have. This might sound obvious, but not everyone feels comfortable with this approach. What if my instructor will think I’m stupid, or that I’m not trying hard enough, or that I’m not good enough to be in this class? Meanwhile, confusion about an assignment prevents us from working on it. Email your instructor or ask to visit her or his office hours, which are set aside specifically for helping students address questions and concerns.

If you have a large assignment on your hands, consider breaking it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. How we see the task plays a large part in our approach to it. “Write a research paper” sounds like a scary and overwhelming task. Try talking to your instructor about how you can approach the assignment in parts. You can also go to the writing center and work with a consultant on setting some manageable goals for completing the assignment. These should be goals that you can reasonably meet in the amount of time you give yourself. You will get more done, and you will likely feel more confident about finishing the assignment.

Try setting a timer when you write. This might sound like an odd piece of advice, but it’s one I always stand by. I often use the Pomodoro method: write for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Write for another 25, then take another 5. Writers who struggle with procrastination might find this method especially helpful. Over time, you start to notice that some tasks don’t take as much time and energy as you imagined. Tasks become less intimidating and more manageable. Plus, you don’t have to focus on writing for an indeterminate amount of time. If you grow tired or you need a coffee break, you don’t have long to wait; but for the time being, you write. Also check out what Alex Clifton, a writing center consultant, wrote about some online resources that help you keep writing in pre-set blocks of time.

DSCN1660Write with a friend or a group. Working alongside others can be encouraging, and it also keeps you accountable. My colleague Meghan Hancock and I often meet for the specific purpose of writing and working. It’s a great arrangement because we have a shared understanding that we write when it’s time to write (and yes, we set a timer). Since your classmates are working on the same assignment, ask them to join you. Though the time you make is for writing and working, it also presents the opportunity to get to know more people and to feel supported at the same time. Contrary to some of the received wisdom out there that good writers work independently without any help, you actually don’t have to do all this alone.

On that note, make an appointment at the Writing Center. We will be happy to sit down and work with you wherever you are in the process of writing. Plus, having specific times set aside to talk with others about your writing helps you stay motivated.

There are many alternatives to procrastination, and I hope you try some of the ones here. Have a great rest of your semester!

Why Do We Write?: In Defense of The Paper

Daniel Ernst, Consultant

The paper is a collegiate common denominator. In just about every class in every discipline, writing papers is required. Therefore, it’s easy to see the paper as busywork, a pointless academic exercise often with no real world counterpart. But the paper is more than some arbitrary unit of learning by which an instructor attempts to measure a student’s intellect. If we think about what we really do when we write, we see in fact that the writing process offers a unique and effective learning arena.

This isn’t just armchair philosophizing either; writing’s unique relationship with learning has been well documented by scholars in fields from psychology to linguistics to composition theory. One composition/education theorist in particular, Janet Emig, provides a general overview of writing’s role in learning in her article “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” Emig first distinguishes writing from other forms of language usage—reading, talking, and listening. Then, she explains how writing distinctively requires the deployment of and interaction among multiple learning methods, such as analysis, synthesis, experience, and genesis.

DSCN1632Writing’s interactive and multifaceted process is what makes it so challenging, but this process also fosters a uniquely instructive learning environment and sets it apart from other forms of language usage. For example, take the idea of analysis. College students are commonly asked to analyze; the term analysis (or its sister term ‘critical thinking’) appears on almost every essay prompt or class syllabus in one form or another. This is because analysis is a powerful educational tool in which an idea’s deconstruction into its elemental building blocks helps students better understand its composition. In general, though, analysis is accomplished through class readings and discussions. So if reading, talking, and listening in class helps to take apart these big ideas, what then to do with all the disassembled pieces? This is where writing comes in.

Writing papers is your chance to take the deconstructed concepts and theories and build something new. In other words, synthesize new connections/conversations that become new ideas. Not only is this a critically important move from “destructive” to “constructive” intellectual work, but it’s also your opportunity to contribute, as many of my teachers have put it, to the scholarly conversation. The significant and sort of radical thing here is that these are your ideas and your unique contributions. And in formulating these contributions, you are forced, through the nature of writing, to confront ideas in a special way. Writing’s combination of and interaction between analysis and synthesis, mediated by the writer’s own experience and end-goals, promotes a participatory brand of learning that is unrivaled and truly indispensable. So the next time you are assigned to write a paper, try to embrace the chance to learn in a unique way and capitalize on your opportunity to participate and contribute your voice and your ideas.

In Conclusion: Framing Your Paper

Arielle Ulrich, Consultant

Working at the writing center, I constantly hear students say that they hate writing conclusions. These students will bring in papers that seem finished, but end abruptly—or they may have written a conclusion, but it’s only a sentence or two re-stating the last paragraph.

I’m no stranger to this struggle. Even the conclusion to the simplest paper can leave me stumped, and I often have to leave the paper alone for a few hours while I try to think of the “perfect” conclusion. Of course, as the last thing the reader sees in the paper, conclusions are very important. But my obsession with the perfect conclusion instead psyches me out, leaving me with a case of writer’s block.writersblock

When this happens, I remind myself that a good conclusion cannot fix a bad paper, nor will it solve any of its organizational or structural problems. I find it more helpful to consider a conclusion as the closing statements of my argument. By this point, I should have already said everything I needed to say and written the meat of my paper. I’ve argued, elaborated, and explicated every point. My conclusion will simply wrap up my paper and place my topic into context for the reader.

  1. In light of this, I have a few tips for conclusions. Which tip you follow may depend on your field, so consider which strategy works best for your paper. These are my three go-to tips: Explain the significance of your paper. Make sure the reader knows why your topic is important. Usually, this involves placing your question into a broader context or comparing it to a current issue. If you cannot think of the significance, ask yourself, “so what?” This approach is especially useful in history or expository papers.DSCN1639
  2. Recommend further research. Now that you’ve examined the current research on your topic, you have the chance to take the next step and recommend a course of action for the future. Is there a topic or approach you would ask a future researcher to consider? In other words: what questions are you left with at the end your paper? This tip will work best with papers that have a significant research component.
  3. Synthesize your points. This strategy requires that you not only summarize your paper, but also put together the pieces for your reader. How does your argument come together? If your paper is either very long or complex (or both!), this type of conclusion would be a good choice.

Any of these strategies would guarantee that your reader leaves knowing the purpose of your paper. You also shouldn’t feel that you can use only one of these strategies at a time—in some papers, you may use all of them, provided they are relevant.

These two writing center sites also have good pointers. Feel free to peruse these before writing your next paper:

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/conclusions/

University College, Toronto: http://www.uc.utoronto.ca/intros-and-conclusions

Happy writing!