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  1. #21
    Senior Member phoenix31's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Deadpan View Post
    Very similar to Z Buck.

    I research whatever is necessary to make mental connections and tangents, basically creating related chunks in my head which serves as a rough outline in that it organizes the info and deeper analyses.

    I then write from start to finish without a written outline, but may have some sloppy notes with scribbles and connecting lines all over that I use for reference. I fine tune and edit and rearrange as I go. I find that stream of consciousness writing is my natural preferred method of expression and creation and consider rigid outlines oppressively stuffy and counter-creative.
    This is pretty much exactly how I do it. When I was young I used notecards but once I started working on a computer, I just organized random chunks of information into a rough outline and then refined it as I went along.

  2. #22
    Dream without Hesitation Dreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    The hardest step for me in writing papers was selecting a topic. It had to be interesting enough to hold my attention for the duration of the writing, narrow enough in scope to be manageable, a topic where I felt there was some worthwhile point to be made or conclusion to be drawn, and of course, had to fit the requirements of the course. The narrower those were, the easier to find a topic. I would often spend perhaps a quarter of the entire time I had on this step, because if I didn't make a good choice, the whole process went downhill from there and I could easily be left starting from scratch with only a quarter of the time left.

    Once I had a general topic, I did my background reading and research, to collect all the details necessary. It was during this step that I refined the exact approach I would take in my paper: what was the point I was trying make, the conclusions I wanted to draw, the thesis statement I wanted to support? A general outline would start to form out of the gathered information almost unbidden. I would then start to steer the research more pointedly, to fill in any gaps and answer remaining questions.

    In terms of mechanics, for short or highly focused papers (e.g. literary analysis of a specific story), I took my notes on paper and that was easy enough to work with when the actual writing part came. Even for longer papers, though, like my undergraduate thesis, I could never get into the notecard method. I still took notes on papers, using underlining, highlighters, and marginal notes to categorize information for easy retrieval. Only rarely did I ever take notes directly on the computer. (Now, though, in the technical papers and reports I write, my "notes" are already on the computer, in the form of experimental data, and papers - usually brief - in electronic format.)

    The most important part of the writing process for me has always been making a good outline. I make this in my actual document, so when it is complete, I can just go back and flesh it out with sentences and paragraphs. The outline is driven by the structure of my ideas, not pages or paragraphs. I start with the introduction, and include in it all the points I want to make there. Then I go section by section, again listing broadly which points go where, and in which order. Finally I outline the conclusions, which for me is never simply a restatement of the introduction or top level summary. Yes, I do go back to the main point stated in the intro and sum up the final conclusions, but usually also go beyond this somehow, perhaps elaborating on its importance, or questions necessarily left unanswered.

    I cannot overemphasize the importance of this outline step. Even when writing essay questions on exams, I found outlining to be time well spent. In fact, I almost cannot start writing until the outline is completely finished. I cannot begin until I can see my way clear to the end. Otherwise, I can end up going around in circles and never get where I want to go. Once this is clear, I can start writing, and the writing itself comes out in nearly final form. Then I deal with any mechanics like references, bibliography, etc. Finally I revisit the text for a final spelling and grammar check, at which point I may change a few words here or there, or add an example I overlooked on first writing, but I am essentially done.

    I suppose I should add that this method has always produced good results, both in terms of grades, and my personal satisfaction with the work.

    My method actually sounds very similar to yours, though, a bit more...eh unstructured? Well I’ll try to explain it and hopefully you or someone else can see what I mean.

    For me, choosing a topic is the easy part. I choose an area of the given subject that interests me, and typically, I’ll question and think of things related to what I’m learning at the time. So, a professor will be rambling and as they speak, I pick up things from their lecture that leads me to think of this or that. Of course, I do also lose some information along the way since my mind isn’t always on the same track as the professor, but, it’s because I naturally learn this way (by relating the content to myself in a more personal way) that I have a fairly good selection of topics at hand, and each has already been explored a little bit while I was in that lecture. Now, the hard part for me is, the structure of it all and how to bring it all together.

    I have a general approach which starts from my main idea and thesis, look at what’s laid out in front of me (the texts, notes, any other info related to the content) then start to work backwards towards the beginning, so I start from a finished piece and work towards the individual components (the arguments for and against, the research that’s already out there, what my take is on that research, etc.) So ya, I’d say working backwards tends to work for me in figuring out what sort of research I will need to do and everything else involved, but the problem for me tends to be that I have a tendency to get lost in the weeds and can soon find myself accumulating TOO much information. It’s all related information, but some of it is so loosely connected to my thesis that it really just does more harm than good as it can detract the reader from my actual point. The problem for me is reminding myself that others aren’t like me in the sense that I LOVE looking at all that mumbo jumbo if it all ties with one another, I have no problem seeing the big picture. The problem is, I forget that for many, they might not see the loose connector pieces and all the strands that keep the web in tact.

    So to resolve this, I came up with a method part way through my undergrad years when I realized my normal way of going about things was absolutely inefficient and always left me with two to three times that required pages at the end, which then meant more effort and time spent, to try and make it more concise by weeding it out. I essentially do what you describe, sounds exactly the same in fact, where I will construct placeholder paragraphs on my actual essay document, and what those placeholders are, are sentences that pop in to mind that are freaking amazing haha, and I know that would require its own paragraph. These sentences basically become the descriptors that are all laid out in pre-essay form. Then I form my connector sentences between the paragraphs, how I will bridge one idea to the next, then simply fill in the blanks with the evidence and support as you mention. I don’t leave it at this though. As I’m doing this, my structure isn’t set in stone, as I will often think this paragraph might do better over here, or this one over there, so I’m fleshing out these paragraphs, while completely rearranging the paragraph order, and thus editing the connector sentences along the way, and as I play with the pieces in this way, my mind is seeing the “whole” as it starts to come together to support and drive my thesis home.

    So umm...ya, I literally do much of what you do, it would seem, except that the “structure” bit of my outline is completely irrelevant as it tends to change and morph along the way anyways.

    As my methodology pertains to my type, I’m probably a horrible example of this honestly, as this process is a mix of how I naturally flow and think, with a bit of “cut the BS time wasting, so we can go outside and play
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  3. #23
    The Bat Man highlander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Deadpan View Post
    Very similar to Z Buck. I research whatever is necessary to make mental connections and tangents, basically creating related chunks in my head which serves as a rough outline in that it organizes the info and deeper analyses. I then write from start to finish without a written outline, but may have some sloppy notes with scribbles and connecting lines all over that I use for reference. I fine tune and edit and rearrange as I go. I find that stream of consciousness writing is my natural preferred method of expression and creation and consider rigid outlines oppressively stuffy and counter-creative.
    Yes exactly.

  4. #24
    The Bat Man highlander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    The point, which I have mentioned elsewhere a few times, is that even people in scientific fields sometimes have to do quite a bit of writing, even as undergrads, something which I did not expect and found a bit discouraging. I find it really interesting that our approaches are so different. Once I finish a paper, I do very little revisiting or revising. Even at work now, comments from coauthors and supervisors are usually fairly superficial stylistic things that could go either way. I incorporate them most of the time just to be collegial.
    It is interesting. The way you approach writing is way too structured for me. I would find that suffocating. I find that the process of writing helps me to synthesize my thoughts and that is a very non linear and creative process. Often times I may not know exactly what I think until I start writing it down. Then there is the aspect of writing in such a way to elicit the response you are looking for from the reader and to articulate what I precisely mean which is what takes the refinement. I can spend a long time writing just a few paragraphs. I can also write things fast. I'm a one line email guy for example. Depends on how much it matters.
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  5. #25
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    I can't write last minute. At all. Mainly because I have a writing process that several of my friends have just stared wide-eyed and stunned at.

    It also sepends on if its an essay test. Essay tests are another ballgame that I think of as "aggressive infodumping," Which is exactly what it sounds like.

    For me the process goes something like this:


    1. Take notes on all my sources. Then get rid of any information I don't need. This is painful because I tend to hoard info and want to use it all. This is also the point where I go to professors' office hours if their assignment doesn't make sense.
    2. Outline
    3. Write the thesis
    4. Write paragraphs. This typically goes out of order. I write them first pencil and paper.
    5. I usually write the conclusion last. This is usuallyis preceded by me complaining to a friend that I hate writing conclusions because you state the same information. Once I complained in earshot of professor (not the one who assigned it) who actually agreed with me before telling me that I need to write one anyway.
    6. Type up paragraphs (typically done as I write them).
    7. make sure citations are formatted correctly. Then deal with the paper's formatting.
    8. Print the paper and edit it multiple times, taking space between.
    9. Have someone proofread it for feedback.
    10. Probably more editing until I just get sick of editing. Then it will be turned in as is.


    For longer papers, you usually can add a step in there in which I momentarily have a crisis where I think the whole paper is not going to work. This typically occurs when I am sleep deprived, hence why I can't do all nighters at the last minute to write a paper.

    I also have to give it a title at some point. Though my freshman year, I submitted a paper called "Title" because I left my placeholder I always use for formatting... The professor told me not to call things "Title" and I nearly dropped dead from embarrassment.
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  6. #26
    Liberator Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    It is interesting. The way you approach writing is way too structured for me. I would find that suffocating. I find that the process of writing helps me to synthesize my thoughts and that is a very non linear and creative process. Often times I may not know exactly what I think until I start writing it down. Then there is the aspect of writing in such a way to elicit the response you are looking for from the reader and to articulate what I precisely mean which is what takes the refinement. I can spend a long time writing just a few paragraphs. I can also write things fast. I'm a one line email guy for example. Depends on how much it matters.
    For me the nonlinear part and much of the creativity comes at that outlining stage, which is why I place so much emphasis on it. That is where I organize my thoughts and work out all the points I am trying to make and how they connect with each other - where the loosely differentiated fodder from reading and research takes on a coherent and focused form. The rest of the writing itself is almost just mechanics, though here I find more creativity in word choice, turns of phrase, parallelism and symmetry in how details are laid out, etc.

    I can take a long time to write a few paragraphs, too. Or, in a longer paper, I can write several pages quickly if my outline is detailed enough and the material is straightfoward.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  7. #27
    A Bittersweet Symphony... Eryn Silverfrond's Avatar
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    Depends really on the assignment. If at all possible I'll get a small group together to strategically divide out the grunt work based on strengths and weaknesses. Someone to read/take notes, someone to handle any spreadsheets or graphing, and I usually write the papers. Had good success with that method.

    If putting a group together isn't an option, I typically tend to find out either by classroom interaction or office hours, what the professor is looking for, what sorts of things they tend to grade well vs not, and usually I just make my papers fit that. When all else fails... I refer to the great philosophers Calvin and Hobbes:
    With all due respect,
    Eryn Silverfrond
    & Gentleman Jack

    I am the Cat who walks by Himself; and all places are alike to me...
    Se>Fi>Si>Fe>Ne>Ni=Te>Ti
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  8. #28
    Senior Member phoenix31's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gentleman Jack View Post
    Depends really on the assignment. If at all possible I'll get a small group together to strategically divide out the grunt work based on strengths and weaknesses. Someone to read/take notes, someone to handle any spreadsheets or graphing, and I usually write the papers. Had good success with that method.

    If putting a group together isn't an option, I typically tend to find out either by classroom interaction or office hours, what the professor is looking for, what sorts of things they tend to grade well vs not, and usually I just make my papers fit that. When all else fails... I refer to the great philosophers Calvin and Hobbes:
    No fair. I want a group of minions to do all my paper writing grunt work.
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  9. #29
    A Bittersweet Symphony... Eryn Silverfrond's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phoenix31 View Post
    No fair. I want a group of minions to do all my paper writing grunt work.
    Consider starting a study group. Not only can they be a lot of fun outside class, but they can really be good networking tools down the line in other classes and outside academia. Besides assignments are much more tolerable when you're working towards your strength, and everyone has at least one strength they can offer. I wish you the best if you decide to try it.
    With all due respect,
    Eryn Silverfrond
    & Gentleman Jack

    I am the Cat who walks by Himself; and all places are alike to me...
    Se>Fi>Si>Fe>Ne>Ni=Te>Ti
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  10. #30
    A Bittersweet Symphony... Eryn Silverfrond's Avatar
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    Also if you can't dazzle teachers with insights, baffle them with bullshit
    With all due respect,
    Eryn Silverfrond
    & Gentleman Jack

    I am the Cat who walks by Himself; and all places are alike to me...
    Se>Fi>Si>Fe>Ne>Ni=Te>Ti
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