Chapter 8: Writing in University: It’s All About the Process!

Figure 8.1: You’d be surprised at how much writing you’ll do in university, and on the job. Learning to write quickly, and well, is a skill that can be developed over time.  Image: WOCinTechChat CC:BY 2.0

This chapter introduces you to the skills needed for post-secondary academic research and the fundamentals of post-secondary level writing. The skills needed for post-secondary level research and writing can differ quite a bit from secondary school. This chapter breaks down the basic steps for researching, drafting, editing, and proofreading a research essay, with plenty of examples and practice along the way.

Learning Objectives

  1. Navigate the prewriting process, including interpreting assignment prompts, narrowing a topic, generating search terms, finding information, distinguishing between scholarly and popular sources, distinguishing between primary and secondary sources, and outlining.
  2. Develop a drafting process, including composing a strong thesis statement; incorporating, contextualizing, and explaining evidence; and being persuasive.
  3. Apply editing processes that are attentive to content, logic, tone, accuracy, coherence, conciseness, exact language, and clarity.
  4. Navigate the proofreading process, attentive to typos, spelling, punctuation, grammar and format.
  5. Identify examples of writing-related academic misconduct, including plagiarism.
  6. List strategies for entering into a scholarly conversation, including the construction of reasonable arguments.

Many students come to the research and writing process with strong opinions and feelings about it. They tend to be divided on the topic of the writing process: either they find it a chore and dislike it or they find it satisfying and they enjoy it. Some enjoy parts of the process, but not other parts. For example, one person may dislike the drafting stage but love the research.

Many students dislike writing because the thought of a judgmental reader brings them anxiety.  “Writing Anxiety,” from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, contains helpful tips for confronting anxiety around writing.

Certainly, breaking into steps the complex task of writing an academic essay can reduce anxiety, as can understanding how you enter into a sometimes-intimidating scholarly “conversation” (George Mason University Library).

This chapter will detail the process of putting together your first post-secondary research essay, explaining the research, prewriting, drafting, editing, and proofreading activities involved. This chapter will also explain some of the context around why your professor wants to hear what you have to say on a subject, in essay form.

Read this chapter with your own essays in mind.


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