The Study Dude – Writing Essays for Dummies

Study Tips from a Semi-anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to write acclaimed essays that garner millions, make speeches that go down into the annal of history, and make that winning PowerPoint that takes your future company public.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

What better way for the Study Dude to enlighten a book weary readership on how to write essays than to reference the Writing Essays for Dummies guide by Mary Page and Dr. Carrie Winstanley. This is one dummies guide I would highly recommend (and I’ve otherwise come to deplore dummy guides).

The Stages from Planning to Drafting Your Essay
There was one system I read about for writing essays that hit the nail on the head for me. When I was an undergraduate, I would narrow my topic, do ample research, and take quotes and place them either on cue cards or in an outline in Word. From there, I would group the cue cards and outlined quotes together under logical headings and would often string the quotes together with introductory phrases or sentences.

However, I’ve since come to learn that paraphrasing is the ultimate way to go, and you should try limiting your direct quotes to only a small portion of your page.

Yet, Page and Winstanley (2009) introduce guidelines for writing your essay:
– Assess the nature of the assignment. Examine both the keywords and the action words (the verbs) that are part of the parcel of the assigned topic.
– Update your calendar. Mark in everything related to your due dates plus your leisure activities in a calendar. Make sure that you spend roughly 80% of your time reading and researching your essay and the remaining 20% writing and editing.
– Do the research. Highlight every little relevant tidbit in articles, books, or other media that you find. Note which parts are most relevant and which are least relevant. Keep a bibliography of all the articles you read, ideally on cue cards or on your computer system.
– Map out your essay. Use index cards, coloured highlighters, mind maps, or a PC outline program (such as the one you can find in Word) to get your notes together.
– Write. If you happen to be so lucky to have an intelligent friend who is not versed on your subject, pretend you are writing for him or her as your audience.
– Write more. Use headings and subheadings to structure your paper that you later delete.
– Edit. Use a printed version of your essay for making edits. Make edits and return to your computer to insert them in their appropriate places.
– Polish. Make sure that your paper is free of spelling, grammatical, and structural errors. Polish that puppy.

Write at Every Opportunity
When I left graduate studies, I stopped writing altogether. However, I later became smitten with the idea of writing book reviews on Amazon, often writing a one- to two-page write-up based on extensive notes I would take from each book. That experience became a causal factor in my ending up writing for The Voice Magazine, writing an e-book for eventual publication on Amazon, and possibly making a podcast. It’s not only a reality that the more you write, the better writer you will become; It’s also a reality that the more you write, the more opportunities will arise.

Page and Winstanley (2009) have some positive encouragement to get you honing the writing craft today:

– Write at any and every opportunity you have available. Always make time for writing projects.
– Wherever you go, cart with you a pen and notepad for jotting down ideas, poems, or anything in the written word format that inspires you.
– Journal daily. Write about your day, your goals, your dreams, or your day’s successes. Write in a journal every day, twice a day if possible.
– “Whatever you do, tell yourself ?I’m a writer?” (p. 25).

Study Environments
Whenever I came across an essay that had a set structural requirement, I got excited. Thinking that my great performance in math classes made me a more logical thinker, structure seemed second nature. But the reality is, you don’t need to be a logical, linear thinker to structure effectively. You can be a creative thinker or an outside-the-box thinker (who tend to gravitate toward mind maps for implementing structure). Yet, here are some guidelines for structured essay that may help you up your grade in your next assignment:

I’ve encountered a lot of conflicting views on what constitutes as an effective study environment. Some people say to have non-distracting barren walls. Others say a Feng Shui environment will make you more apt to want to study.

I do know that people who are taking graphic design courses should stay clear from a lot of colourful images, as the colours on the walls can drastically alter on-screen colour perception.

Perhaps if you are studying to become an accountant, you may opt for barren walls and organizers to boot, but if you are like Mary Page and Dr. Carrie Winstanley (2009), you will want a place to study that makes you calm and happy:

– If you have writer’s block, go to an enjoyable place to mix things up, such as a park or a coffee shop. Even your bed or kitchen are places you chould consider working in.
– Keep a clean, tidy desk, unless you get energized by a mass of papers and objects surrounding you.
– Do things to relax you, such as burn aromatherapy, ensure adequate sleep, listen to enjoyable music, and post relaxing and beautiful photos or images around your working space. If you would love to study on the beach, replicate that environment in your study area by posting pictures of Hawaii and other tropical places around your room. If your thing is snowboarding, post images of snowboarders sailing off of the snow-capped Himalayas. don’t make it dull. Make your study space your escape.
– Turn off cell phone.
– Have all of your necessary items within arm’s length.
– Guzzle back the water, only drinking tea and coffee in moderation (if at all).
– Eat lots of healthy snacks, such as berries and nuts. (don’t forget to chow down on spinach at every opportunity.)

At an aromatherapy shop called Saje, you can find many study friendly formulas. I really enjoy the Ylang Ylang sedative for calming nervousness and impatience. Whatever scent you decide to buy, make sure it is one you love to smell, as that is an indicator that your body is deficient of whatever the scent provides.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

Page, Mary, & Winstanley, Carrie. (2009). Writing Essays for Dummies. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons.

One of the mainstays of The Voice Magazine is trying to provide students with advice and resources to help them succeed in their courses. This installment of the Study Dude was chosen because it gives a solid primer that anybody can use for practically any course at all.

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