One of the hardest things about starting a writing project
is getting motivated when you don't know where to start. Sometimes
the best thing to do is simply put the steps into motion and
get ready. Each University system has its own requirements for
the format of your thesis or dissertation. Most provide a template
or written instructions. So step one, find out what's required
for your institution.
With your instructions in hand, conduct a search online for
completed and approved essays from others in your University
system. Seeing how someone else "did it" can be a great
example for what you need to do. Now I'm not saying plagiarize
their work! All you're doing is looking for how they formatted
their essay and what they put in each required section as an
example for what you will need to cover.
At the University of Metaphysics and the University of Sedona,
you are given a set of instructions with general information
about the format and process of setting up and working on your
paper. But sometimes seeing examples helps a student much more
than reading a set of flat instructions. I searched high and
low when I was looking for information and insight behind writing
my papers. There wasn't a lot out there at the time and I struggled
through the process. My first submission for my thesis was returned,
in part because of that. But thankfully I had a basic idea and
the feedback I received from the review committee filled in the
blanks that I had just guessed at. Because of that struggle,
I have placed my University papers online to help others like
me who might be looking for the same kind help I looked for.
Having an idea of what to do is just the first task. Now
you need to put your effort into practical steps. You know you
have to create a word processing file (assuming you're using
a computer to write your paper). So start there. Create the document,
format the page numbers, header and footer. Create the table
of contents and subject areas. Even if you don't know what you're
going to write about, you do know the headings required in the
outline. What you don't know, simply use words for a place holder
such as Title or Topic. Whatever has meaning for you.
The hardest part to writing your thesis or dissertation is
coming up with a topic to write about. Here's two pieces of advice.
1. Don't try to give it a title until after you start writing.
Worry more about the subject matter than the name you're going
to give it.
2. Choose a topic you have familiarity with, or a topic you
have a passion for and want to know more about.
If you choose something you already know about, there's a
likelihood that you already have an interest in the subject matter.
You can use your own experiences and your perspectives in defining
the topic and discovering research to provide a historical evolution
and current approach to the subject.
If you would rather choose a topic you aren't intimately
familiar with, that's ok as long as you have a passion for learning
about it. There's nothing worse than writing about something
that bores you out of your mind. So if you're going to write
on a topic that you don't know a lot about, make sure it's going
to peak our interest.
Things to Consider:
Try to pick a subject that is somewhat unique. You can be
pretty sure that others have written about holistic healing as
an example. If healing is a topic you're interested in, try to
find an approach to that topic that makes it unique to you and
Don't go way out on a limb. You don't want to choose a subject
that is going to be so unique that there will be limited resource
material to research. If you pick a broad topic you may have
too much to search through. But if you try to delve deep into
a general topic and focus on one specific modality or method,
you may limit your material and what you have to write about.
Choosing Resource Material
Choosing the right research material is essential to writing
a good essay. The better your resources, the better your information
will be in your essay. Look for academic resources first. Material
that has been well researched in its own right will provide some
of the best and most accurate information. But don't discount
expert material written by practitioners of your topic. Even
if they don't the academic credentials, they have practical experience
and that can go a long way to explaining your subject matter.
Look for material that not only describes a subject, but
provides the history of the topic. Who started it? Where and
when did it start? How did it evolve? How is it used today? Think
of your research like a reporter on a story. Who, What, Where,
When, Why and How are the key questions to be asked and answered.
If you are going to review controversial sources, identify
the controversies up front. Why have you chosen this resource
for your essay? Are you trying to bring up the concepts they
present? Or are you presenting counter arguments to their claims.
When looking for experts in the field of your topic, try
a good internet search to help get you started. Looking for magazine
articles on your topic will provide you with a list of experts,
and resource material. Studies at Universities on the topic of
your research can also be resources for your paper. Whether it's
an eZine, a blog, or even a simple search on Amazon.com to find
books or authors to look into can save you a great deal of time
looking for source material. It's better to go into your local
library with a list of things or people you want to find, than
to go and waste your time looking for something you're not even
Then Begins The Writing
At some point you are going to have to write your essay.
Every person works differently when it comes to writing. Maybe
you like to research and take notes, then combine your thoughts
and notes into your own format and words. I like to write what
I know, or think I know to create a starting point. Then I research
to either provide more insight into what I have written, or to
correct what I thought I knew. Start with what works for you.
Don't struggle so much about choosing the write words to start
with. You're going to go back and change them later anyway. Just
start with what you want to say as if you're talking to your
best friend on a topic that interests you.
Start with the Discussion area first. You don't have to be
formal at this point in your document. Make bullet points about
what you want to cover, what you think you know or simply what
you want to say. Here you are talking about your topic in general
terms. What it is, what it is about. Put your thoughts to paper
(or screen) and just begin.
It doesn't matter where you start in the process of your
writing. You are going to move things around, change the order
from chronological to importance, or back again or any other
varied order. What you want to do at this point is give your
thoughts a place to formulate their vision and knowledge. Let
the words flow, say what you think and at least get something
written down. Don't struggle over being formal. Just talk and
write what you say.
As soon as you start writing comments from the sources you
have chosen, start your Bibliography. If you wait till the end
of the process you're going to miss something or lose a piece
paper with that title and author written on it. It's a lot easier
to take something out, than it is to try to remember "where
did I get that?" You can always insert as you go, so don't
worry about trying to write all your sources down at once. Adding
lines in a word processing document is as easy as hitting the
By the same token, this is when you will also include any
appendices you may use or refer to in your Discussion. Again,
don't leave it to the end of your writing simply because that
section is at the end of the document. You can easily jump around
with the click of your mouse. Even if all you're doing is putting
an instruction for what goes "here", give yourself
enough detail to remember what it is you're referring to and
why it's used and where it's used in your essay.
Completing Your Essay
Once you're satisfied with the Discussion area, turn your
focus to the other sections of your essay. By now you should
be able to write the Introduction, Review
Of Literature, and your approach Methods. You must write these
sections before you write the section for our Findings. And you
won't be able to write your Summary and Conclusions, until you
have written the Introduction, Methods and Findings.
The Introduction doesn't have to be grandiose. You're giving
a high level over view of what you will be discussing in your
paper. What is your hypothesis, what is it you are going to prove
or disprove. So step back, go above the tree line and describe
the forest. You don't need to explain at this point what kind
of vegetation make up the forest. Leave that for your Findings
and Discussion areas. Be concise about what your paper will cover
and perhaps include why you chose this topic. What were your
influences and how have they formed your thoughts on this topic.
Writing the Review of Literature is a lot easier than you
think it might be. All you will do here is briefly describe the
resources you used for your essay and explain a little as to
why you chose that for your research. Why was this author or
this article, study or whatever important.
The Methods describes your approach to the topic. How you
are bridging a gap between topics or approaches to the subject
matter. Is your essay purely academic and based on research?
Is your writing more personal and defines your own experiences
and perceptions that are backed up by your research? How you
approached your research will provide insight behind your findings
and conclusions that your readers may need to understand as they
review your work. So explain why you came at the topic in the
manner you took.
Your Findings should be based on your research and not so
much from your perspectives. What did you learn? This is more
detailed than your Introduction, but may not be as specific as
the detail in your Discussion. What did you "find"
out about your topic is what you describe in your Findings sections.
Cite some of your resources and what they have said about the
Your Summary and Conclusions answer the questions you raised
and outlined in your Introduction. Did your research answer all
your questions or did it merely open new doors and avenues to
investigate? If so, you may want to go back and re-read your
paper and decide if you should expand on your Discussion. But
if the new avenues completely take you down another path of research,
then talk about that in your Summary and briefly explain why
that direction is separate from this discussion. The key here
is to end your essay by addressing the questions raised in the
Introduction. Review your introduction to make sure you cover
everything you brought up in that a section. If you miss something
or don't review your conclusions well, you may be rejected in
Edit and Read and Re-Edit
and Read Again
When you have a good base written for each section, start
editing. Here you start making your document formal and organized.
Review what you have written, how it flows, how you think it
should be organized. What areas need to be expanded and beefed
up with reference material. When you're happy with that. Re-read
You must read your own essay! Each time you actually read
it, you're going to find little mistakes, or better ways of saying
what you're trying to express. You'll expand some areas and in
others you'll think "I already said that" and you'll
remove some words, sentences or even entire paragraphs. Read
Anyone who has written a book and had it professionally published
will tell you the biggest part in that process is re-reading
the book. Over and over and over. And over again. This is key
to making your words clear and concise, finding mistakes and
ensuring your writing properly states what you're trying to say.
If all you do is skim over the text, you're going to miss mistakes
and risk rejection by your review committee.
Each time you re-read a section and edit it, you will need
to re-read it again. Until you read a section and have no additional
changes can you go on to the next step. A clean read through
is what you're looking for as your sign to move on.
Then, Spell Check! Don't assume you caught your mistakes
or typing errors. Mis-spelled words diminish your essay and make
it look sloppy. So Spell Check! Once you've done that, Grammar
Check! You may have written in conversational language, but that
doesn't guarantee your writing is proper or that will be accepted
by a review committee. Do your self a favor and use your word
processors spell and grammar checker!
The Final Step
The last thing to do to complete your essay is to...yes..read
it. The entire thing from start to finish. You've read all the
sections and edited and reviewed and re-read them. But now you
have to put the entire Essay in context and read it from start
to finish. Make sure it flows and answers questions. Make sure
you haven't contradicted yourself in one section by saying something
different in another section. You may not notice you've done
that until you read the entire paper through at least once. If
you make changes, re-read it. The bigger the changes, the more
important it's going to be to re-read it.
You are going to be so sick and tired of re-reading and editing
your work that you can't wait to get it done! And hopefully that
will motivate you to do just that. You've put all this hard work
into your essay, it's time for someone else to read it and learn
as much as you have in writing it. If you stick to it, and pour
your heart, passion and soul into your topic; you'll have one
great paper to share!
Created: 03/03/2012 Updated: 03/07/2012
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