Instagram Combined Shape quotation Created with Sketch. 69

Getting Started: Keys to College Writing

Video Preview of the Getting Started Writing Guides

Descriptions of Writing Guides

View Analytic writing Guide (PDF)

This guide walks you through analytic writing. When you analyze, you evaluate each piece to find out what they express and what larger theme they represent. Your teacher will always point you to analyze specific things in the text, not just summarize. The keys to writing an analytical essay are to provide your thoughts, your comments, etc. on the work in response to the question being asked in your teacher’s assignment.

Sometimes summarizing and analyzing can seem like they both have the same goal but analyzing goes a step further: it focuses on your detailed thoughts about the meaning and logic of a piece you read, rather than just what it said. Check out this guide to understand how college writing takes a step up from summarizing and reacting to analyzing.

View Clear Sentences Guide (PDF)

This guide shows you key tricks to write sentences so your meaning comes through clearly. The subject of a sentence is the doer, and the verb is their action: together, they are the center of your sentence, and your reader wants to see them plain as day. Place your doer and their action in the beginning of a sentence, and close to each other, for clarity purposes.

Once you learn tips like this from this guide, your writing will flow so much better. This guide also looks at passive voice, which we sometimes use to emphasize the action over the actor.

View Comma Guide (PDF)

College teachers really tune in to your punctuation to guide their reading of your sentences, so get it right so they can focus on your idea. Our handy guide clarifies punctuation for you. When you know just a little more about how to use punctuation well, you will clarify the meaning of your writing. You can also prevent fragmented sentences and run-on sentences.

When you’re almost finished with your assignment, you can read it over one more time to confirm your punctuation matches with your exact meaning. Have a look at our comma guide to help you do that.

View Paragraphs Guide (PDF)

Paragraphs seem so simple, but for college writing you should take a new look at them. This guide gives you an easy way to make your paragraphs focused and well-connected to each other.

In making sure your essay is concise, create an organizer or plan to ensure you know how to map out your points. You’ll have more than a five-paragraph layout in college. The first step would be to refer back to the prompt/question asked. As you answer the prompt, your paragraphs will become more connected. Paragraphs are a tool for guiding your reader carefully through your points. Our paragraph guide makes it all clear for you.

View Paraphrasing Guide (PDF)

When using a source in your essay, there are three ways to go about it: quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Quoting is direct words; paraphrasing is restating specific material in your own words; summarizing is restating broad material in your own words. Then you also must mention the author (and page number, if there is one) to show the source.

Your teachers appreciate paraphrasing, because it requires the most understanding from you, as it is an in-depth analysis of a specific section. You really study the material in order to describe it to your readers without plagiarizing. So your paraphrases show your understanding of the source to your teacher.

When paraphrasing, remember never to change the meaning of the original text you are paraphrasing and never copy what the text says just by changing little words here and there. You really need to. If you take three or more exact words into your paraphrase, just keep them in quotation marks. And name your source to give full credit every single time. Learn more here.

View Thesis Statements Guide (PDF)

This clear guide shows you how to think about your thesis statement. Your thesis is your claim, the point of your paper: it has the spotlight. A thesis is essential to writing a paper because it displays your claim as well as your reasons for it, not to mention it shows the reader where your essay is going. In other words, your thesis is a promise to yourself and the reader that what is about to be discussed is supported with credible examples and sources.

Starting your essay, you must focus on your thesis statement, which will change as your essay progresses. If an idea for your thesis doesn’t come to you, start writing your essay and go back to it later; it’s better not to sit around and wait for ideas to come. Keep working on making your thesis match your ideas, as both grow together through your writing. By your final draft, your thesis will be strong, and it will fit the points in your body section. Read this guide to really grasp the art of the thesis.

View Writing Process Guide (PDF)

Your first draft is not the one you will hand in; most papers take at least three different drafts before they are a wonderful read. To find your strongest points and make them stronger, you’ll brainstorm, plan and make outlines, draft, rewrite, and check it over, hopefully with input from good readers.

Once you change things up, you will see how all the dots begin to connect. Finally, in editing and proofreading, you and a peer will read it with fresh eyes to catch something you missed. Writing is not a one step and done.

Keep checking the assignment even while you’re writing, to redirect your thoughts down the right path. It can also help to read your essay out loud, to put emotion into your words. And if you don’t have any idea what to do, ask a friend or teacher! Your teacher would always rather explain things again than read the wrong kind of essay later. Stay with it, and reach out to the Writers’ Block community of writers to help you through the tough spots. Check out this Writing Process guide for students, by students.