College of Staten Island
 The City University of New York
CSI Students

  Harry Thorne,
  WAC Coordinator
  Office: Building 2S Rm 227
  Email WAC

Writing Across the Curriculum/
Writing in the Disciplines
for Students

 Start with a Quick Thesis to Get Things
 Rolling (Your Intro Can Come Later)

Don’t feel like you have to start with writing the intro of your paper. Most of your professors start by jotting down a thesis, and then move right on to writing the body of the paper. Introductions are just tough to write, especially before you’ve written the paper. Usually what happens when I make the mistake of trying to start with writing the intro is that I write all kinds of fluffy, useless garbage that I end up tossing out later. I suspect that it is because I’m still figuring out my ideas, and I want to hide my uncertainly and lack of a clear thesis under mounds of generalizations and piles of pointless junk. You should need to write the paper and really think about your evidence and analysis before knowing what you’re arguing—it is totally natural. Expect to revise your initial thesis based on what you discover while writing your paper.

It is important to really understand your assignment before even starting to plan your paper. One way is to describe the assignment in your own words. Once you feel confident that you understand the assignment, quickly describe what your paper will do by finishing a sentence that begins with “This is what my essay will do in response to this:” This brainstorming exercise can serve as a map for your paper that helps you get on—and stay on—the right road.

Text Box: If you jump into the section of your paper that you feel really good about, you can take advantage of the snowball effect.  If you jump into the section of your paper that you feel really good about, you can take advantage of the snowball effect. The snowball effect is when you have one successful thing happen to you—like passing an exam or banging out a really great section of a paper—and you feel so good about yourself that you do another thing along the same lines really well. These successes build on each other to the point that, after a bit, you’re just riding a wave of awesome and you end up doing things without a problem—like writing a tricky introduction—that would otherwise seem painful and hard. Give yourself an opportunity to get on a roll and just start with writing whatever comes most naturally.

Sometimes I look at writing like being locked in a very cold freezer. The moment you stop moving, the colder you get, and the less and less you want to move; it is a cycle. Now when you write, you can tell yourself something similar: I just have to keep writing. You can jump from section to section, type and write by hand, and write garbage first drafts just to get and stay on a roll with writing. For me and maybe you, starting with the intro feels like trying to run a sprint after spending the night half-frozen in the freezer—in many cases, it just isn’t going to happen and you’ll waste a lot of time trying.

Next: Organizing the Body of Your Paper ->