Term Paper Time, Part 2
Step 3. Make an outline
Even with the major points organized by color, outlining a term paper can be hard. It requires us to organize and prioritize—difficult skills for ADDers. Talking the paper over with someone, or even thinking out loud to yourself, sometimes helps the pieces fall into place.
Another strategy is to use your dominant learning style. If you're a visual learner, draw pictures to represent each main point and each secondary point, and move them around on a table to see which order makes sense. (You can do the same with your note-filled index cards.) If you think best by feeling things (kinesthetic learning), make a model with clay or use the pieces of a board game to represent each of your ideas. Auditory learners can dictate ideas into a digital recorder, download the data into a computer, and move ideas around as needed.
If you continue to have problems with organization, consult your professor and share what you've done so far. He can provide direction and insight.
Step 4. Ready, set, write
If your outline is orderly and comprehensive, you'll just have to fill in the blanks. Don't worry yet about whether your writing is graceful or grammatically correct—just let the ink flow.
Your introductory paragraph should include a thesis statement. This is a sentence that offers a reason for the paper and sets up a road map for the reader. Include transitions as you move from one paragraph to the next, and cite your references as you go along.
Step 5. Get me rewrite!
Rewriting is one of the biggest challenges for ADDers. We usually wait until the last minute to write a paper, leaving little time for revision. But our first effort is never our best, and the difference between a first and second draft can be a full grade or more.
The trick is to build rewriting into your schedule. If you lack the discipline to start writing early, set up a meeting with your teacher to discuss the paper. This will force you to complete a first draft, and provide an opportunity for feedback.
Once the draft is written, step away from the paper. Reward yourself with a night out with friends. Time away is refreshing, and it invites new ideas and insights. Keep a recorder or notepad handy to capture new ideas.
In your second draft, concentrate on both content and details. Your paper should be Clear, Concise, and Clean. Read it aloud and ask yourself:
- Clear: Are my points understandable? Do all of my examples make sense?
- Concise: Am I wordy or repetitive? What can I cut out?
- Clean: Are there grammar or spelling errors, or typos to clean up? Are the margins, line spacing, font, and page length correct?
Make your changes, and double-check your research notes. Have you missed any important points? Have you referenced all materials? Now recruit a second pair of eyes—a tutor, professor, librarian, or someone from the college writing center—to go over it. Even the best writers need help critiquing their own work.
If the paper isn't yet due, put it aside. When you come back to it, give it a final polish, checking once more for errors, formatting, consistency, and clarity. Then turn it in, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.