I am UIC: Tips on starting an academic essay

female student working on laptop

No matter your major, you will be required to write some form of an essay during your college career. The papers I have written these past few years have become some of my most meaningful memorabilia from college. Unlike a test score that is forgotten as soon as the semester ends, a paper is something tangible that you can keep as a token of your accomplishments. Part of what makes writing a paper so rewarding is the amount of effort spent in its development. Oftentimes, the most difficult part of developing any piece of the writing is starting it. Here are some tips that I have gathered throughout the years for overcoming that hurdle.

  • You don’t have to start a paper at the beginning. Oftentimes, when writing a literary analysis, a particular quote or detail in the text stands out as a great source for further analysis. Before spending time developing a thesis statement, I write down my thoughts on that quote, starting with more specific commentary, then broadening the scope of my analysis. This helps shape the trajectory of the paper without consciously setting out to do so.
  • If there isn’t a detail that immediately grabs your attention, return to the original sources and review passages that you’ve marked throughout the semester. Make a list of details that relate to the assigned topic and include a few sentences of description for each. You’ll find by doing this that certain details begin to group together, laying the groundwork for potential body paragraphs in your essay.
  • Write any chance you get. Don’t think that you should avoid starting your paper until you have three solid hours to dedicate to it. Every sentence is progress, and you’ll find that rearranging sentences to form a coherent paragraph is a lot easier than writing a paragraph from scratch.
  • Try not to dwell too much on the difficulties of starting a paper. The sooner you get those first few sentences on the page, the sooner you’ll stop worrying about how to start your paper and instead start focusing on how to finish it.

Hoda Fakhari is a senior studying biochemistry and English with a concentration in media, rhetoric and cultural studies. She is interested in making connections between subject areas that appear uncomplimentary in order to arrive at more diverse and relevant ways of understanding people and society.

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