Writing can be quite a daunting task. However, it’s something that everyone has to do. No matter what you’re studying or what field you want to go into, you have to have decent writing skills.

As I just mentioned, writing can be daunting, but today I will show you that there are some quick and easy resources and tips that you can use to get better.

Practice, practice, practice!

Just like anything else, writing takes practice. Something that helped me get better at writing was using an outline. I would write what my thesis statement/research question was, state my controls and claims, and then I would write bullet points about what I wanted to write about. I did this for every essay I wrote in my senior year of high school all the way through my first year at UMBC, and this allowed me to play with essay structures and find out what I liked, what I didn’t like, what worked, and what didn’t work. Now when I’m writing an essay, I know exactly what needs to go where.

Review is necessary

Peer review, or just review in general, is a key part of good writing. Nine times out of ten, the first draft of an essay you write will have some mistakes; a spelling error, incorrect structure, an issue with the flow of the paragraph, or whatever else it may be. Reading your essays out loud allows you to hear what you’ve written, because when reading something you’ve written in your head, you may have omitted those mistakes I previously mentioned without even knowing. Also, having a peer review your essay for you is a great way to get some revisions and feedback from someone who didn’t write the paper. This can give you more perspective and also see any mistakes that you may have never realized you had made in your writing. 

The OWL is always there to help you

One great, all-encompassing resource you can use for almost anything writing-related is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). The OWL has all kinds of resources that you can pick from at any time you need it. They have pages going over paragraph structures, researching, plagiarism, writing citations, you name it! The OWL also has resources for writing-related anxiety, so that would be a great place to look if that is something you struggle with.

No plagiarism over here!

On the topic of citations, Citation Machine is a great tool to use if you struggle with making citations on your own. Citation Machine is a website that allows you to input the source information and it will spit out a citation for you. It does every style of citation you can think of! Using this tool is a quick and easy way to make sure you are giving credit to any sources you use and aren’t breaking any plagiarism rules.

Use UMBC’s very own Writing Advisor

An on-campus resource that is available for all graduate students is the Graduate Student Association (GSA)’s Writing Advisor. The Writing Advisor, Maria Cole, is a Ph.D. student in The School of Public Policy and is also a public health researcher. She can help you get started on a project, help you turn your outline into a polished paper, and just provide help and feedback for any questions or concerns you may have about your writing. The best part about this is that meeting with her is completely free! Maria Cole is a great resource for anyone who needs help with writing, and you can learn more about her and how to schedule an appointment with her on the GSA website.

While writing can be scary and difficult, these tips and resources should be able to help you conquer your writing fears and take your essays to the next level. If you are having trouble starting your essay or writing project, Writing Advisor Maria Cole is a great, free resource to use while enrolled at UMBC. Believe in yourselves, use your resources, and you can do this, Retrievers!

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