College of Staten Island
 The City University of New York
 
  

   Hildegard Hoeller,
   WAC/WID coordinator
   Office: Building 2S Rm 130
   Phone: 718.982.4138
   Fax: 718.982.3643

   Email WAC/WID


Writing Across the Curriculum/
Writing in the Disciplines
for Students

 Reflect on Past Experience When
 Writing Essays

One of the most useful things you can do before starting to work on an essay is to think about what worked and didn’t work when you wrote essays in the past. The things you can consider range from your work habits to how you came up with an argument to grammar issues you struggled with.

For example, when I’m starting a new project, I can think back and create a bunch of warning signs for myself based on where I’ve screwed up on essays in the past. I remember how my arguments tend to be kind of one-dimensional and they need more supporting parts. I also know that when I’m thinking really hard about my argument, my writing tends to be horrible. Since I know this, I can just accept that as I’m drafting and not stress out about it too much, but then leave lots of time at the end of writing to edit my words and make it sound like I’m human, and not a half-formed robot who hasn’t mastered writing yet.

I consider the good things that I did, too, and think about how I can do those again. I may be really happy with how quickly and easily I wrote my last essay, and decide that I want to stick to the writing schedule I used then to try to get the same results. I may have tried out a new brainstorming technique that gave me some awesome ideas that I want to try again. I could have found a cool way to search for sources using a database or Google, and decide that I want to do that again for this project.
Text Box: Make sure to think about past essays before diving into any project because you have lots of resources for how to write a successful paper right in your own memory.
Thinking about our past experiences before starting to write gives us a road map to writing a good essay. Make sure to think about past essays before diving into any project because you have lots of resources for how to write a successful paper right in your own memory.

You may want to reflect on writing resources that you’ve used on past assignments. For example, you may recall using a webpage that provides a quick guide to MLA style that helped you produce a polished bibliography and a section in a writing guide that helped you avoid comma splices in your last paper and decide to use those again. You can keep a list of your favorite resources in order to remember to use them in future papers. I’ve often found that I forget about even the most amazing resources unless I use them every week—a list helps keep track of everything.

Next: How to Think About Your Audience ->