Strategies for Writing (Getting Started)

Writing can be an overwhelming prospect! While there is no one “right way” to write a paper, there are some useful strategies and tips that can help you to get started.

Generating Ideas

If you’re having difficulties getting started, consider undertaking a freewriting exercise. Because writing is not only a finished product, but also a process for generating ideas, it can be helpful to set aside 10 minutes and write in order to brainstorm, clarify ideas, or generate topics. See this helpful handout on freewriting.

Consulting with your Instructor or TA

Your instructors and/or TAs will be reading your work to evaluate your writing; therefore, they are therefore your best resource for finding out more about assignment expectations and guiding you in the writing process.

Take advantage of office hours and meeting whoever will be assessing your work early in the writing process. Here are some of the ways meeting with an instructor can be helpful:

  • Clarify assignment requirements. If you want clarification on a topic, they will be able to explain it from another angle so that you can understand it better.
  • Seek suggestions on your proposed topic. Bring a proposed topic or idea to office hours and explain it to your instructor. They may be able to help you narrow down your idea, make suggestions of sources for you to check out, or offer tips for undertaking your research. They will also let you know if your idea is off-topic or outside the scope of the assignment.
  • Receive feedback on your writing. Consider bringing a specific piece of writing, along with specific questions about this writing, to office hours. (Be sure to ask them if this is ok in advance. While some will welcome the opportunity to provide you with feedback, others may not be able to read your work in advance.)

By meeting with your instructor early, you have the opportunity to meet with them often as well, and check in throughout the writing process for additional feedback and direction.

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