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  1. #1
    Senior Member phoenix31's Avatar
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    Default Your Paper Writing Process

    If you are in college or were in college at some point, what is/was your process for writing academic papers? How did you organize your information and approach the project? I am just curious if different types approach it in different ways.

  2. #2
    Fe this! Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    I would start by unloading a whole lot of stream-of-conscious tangents on to the screen, often moving around the text in the process (e.g. backing up to add an explanation before a previous tangent, skipping ahead to put a tangent, etc). After a while I hit a wall of trying to work on it on a computer, so I'd print it out and continue to do the same thing on paper (make notes in margin, move big chunks around with arrows or write out paragraphs with a note where to insert). Then I bring the handwritten notes back to the computer and type in the changes, which often turns into doing more of the same at the computer again. I do this back and forth until it feels finished.

    I had to finish a thesis last year (50+ pages) and it's the first time I actually needed note cards. I started in the usual way of writing out a bunch of tangents. But then I had to summarize tangents/big chunks of text on the notecards, and then use the notecards to organize a sort of skeletal frame. I don't think I would have been able to organize all the tangents in a paper that big in my usual way (without the note cards, just repeatedly reading though it and tweaking until it effectively flowed). I usually don't find them helpful though.

    (I'm INFJ).
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    INFJ 5w4 sx/sp Johari / Nohari -or- disagree with my type?
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  3. #3
    nunc rosa cras fex senza tema's Avatar
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    I'm a last-minute writer ... I keep telling myself that I'm going to fix this bad habit since I can't write a whole dissertation at the last minute ... but let's just say I'm not there yet.

    So let's talk about what I do rather than what I should be doing. I basically read and do research while waiting for inspiration to strike and take notes of anything that looks promising. Then, without consulting those notes (I would get bogged down in the weeds if I did), I make a list of evidence that interests me about the topic (sources, quotations that jumped out at me, etc.) from memory. Once the list has grown to the critical mass of evidence I need for a paper, I get to outlining. I think about what I want to argue and then structure my evidence list in a way that makes sense in terms of continuity of ideas and argumentation.

    Once that's done, I stare at the screen of MS Word while turning over phrases in my mind. Basically, it is very hard for me to start writing for real until I craft the perfect sentence to start with. Once I do, the whole paper pretty much pours out of me since I have my outline. I periodically stop to refer to notes to make sure I'm quoting my evidence correctly and not leaving anything out. My energy peters out by the time I get to the end so my conclusions are pretty half-assed: "Here's what I think, here's a brief summary of what I said in the paper to support why I think that, ok, the end."

    Then if I have time, I take a short break to read it over to see if it makes sense structurally, move a couple paragraphs around if I need to and work on continuity issues from section to section as long as I have patience. Once that runs dry, I give up in disgust and submit it so I don't have to think about it anymore.

  4. #4
    Macabre Reputation Thestralis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phoenix31 View Post
    If you are in college or were in college at some point, what is/was your process for writing academic papers? How did you organize your information and approach the project? I am just curious if different types approach it in different ways.
    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.
    They are quite gentle, really, but people avoid them because they are a bit . . . different.
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  5. #5
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    Sit down and write it all at once. Dont proofread because Im secretly a perfectionist who ISNT secretly way too hard on myself. Means Id be there for hours. And the end product might actually not be much better, or could even be worse.

    Print it off. And done
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  6. #6

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    I’d have a rough outline. Then I’d procrastinate profusely. I’d wait until the night before the paper was due and then spend all night and deep into the morning writing it and then I’d pass it in. Then I’d struggle to not fall asleep during class. Repeat. I considered them absolute crap and yet the professors usually liked them.

    Oh and kids, if your girlfriend is an art major DO NOT take her up on the offer to write your intro to fine arts paper because you’re already overwhelmed doing political and psychology papers. She’ll do an outstanding job, so outstanding in fact that the professor loves your eye for art so much she wants you to critique a bunch of classic works for the class.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member phobik'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.
    This is, ideally, the de facto way to do it right, ime. /thread
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  8. #8
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    I start 3 days before it's due and write very little at a time. it probably takes me like 2 hours at most if you count the time actually writing. but if i wait til the last minute i get overwhelmed and give up. also i just organize as i write.
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  9. #9
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    1. I pick a word, phrase, subject. 2. Get obsessed with gathering sources and use about 10% of them 3. Narrow the scope to to 3-4 nuances. 4. Write the paper.

    I always struggled with brainstorming and outlining. ENFJ.
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  10. #10
    Fe this! Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    I've always envied the ability to create an outline as a first step. It makes the whole process infinitely more difficult for me. It's actually easier for me to write the paper first, and then create an outline of the finished paper. (Which is what I need to do when prefacing the paper with an abstract - an outline helps reduce it to bare bones for the abstract).
    Reality is a collective hunch. -Lily Tomlin

    INFJ 5w4 sx/sp Johari / Nohari -or- disagree with my type?
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