Write With a Plan

A student sits in the library looking at a laptop

The end of the semester is just days away. Final exams loom, but the real stressors for many students are the end-of-term papers.

“Writing is one of the most complex and difficult things you engage in,” says Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences Nedra Reynolds, a professor of writing and rhetoric. “Procrastination—we know it happens. You’ve put it off. Now, what do you do?”

Visiting URI’s Writing Center is a good start. Located in Roosevelt Hall in room 009, the Center is staffed with students trained to assist peers in planning and writing papers. Peer tutors are trained in analytical thinking and also possess the patience and compassion necessary to help a fellow student develop a paper at any point in the process, says Heather Johnson, director of Writing Across URI and a professor in the Harrington School of Communication and Media’s Writing and Rhetoric Department

Appointments are advised, though students may drop in and be helped if a tutor is free, says Heather Price, director of the Writing Center. Students should bring their laptops, assignments, ideas, and any questions or problems they have. Sessions are one-on-one and last 25 or 50 minutes. Center hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. The Center will be open through Dec. 18 with extended hours for exam week:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 12: 1-8 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 13: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 14: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 17, and Tuesday, Dec. 18: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 19: 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Students may register online at uri.mywconline.com. There they can also select the tutor of their choice. The tutors advise on creative writing, lab reports, research projects, personal statements, and speeches, too, Price said. 

They do not edit or correct papers, per se; though they will advise on MLA and APA formatting. “It is a collaborative process,” Price said. “They’re addressing higher order concerns such as is there an argument there? Is there a thesis? Does the paper have a structure?”

While waiting for an appointment or if going it alone, when approaching a writing assignment, students should follow these tips:

  • Read the assignment. Several times. Check SAKAI; review the syllabus. Know what the paper is worth in terms of a percentage of the final grade.
  • Jot down ideas. Address every part of the assignment. Email ideas or thesis statements to professors.
  • Divide the paper into manageable pieces. Don’t try to write it all at once.
  • Print the first draft and read it out loud. Mistakes become clear when spoken.
  • Get a writing buddy and work together. Review each others’ work. “Writers need readers,” Reynolds says.
  • Be clear and concise. Don’t write to hit a word count or page limit. Repetition is not support for an argument. Use fewer words when fewer words will do. The point is to make an argument, to provide information in support of that argument, and to synthesize that information.
  • Edit and rewrite. One and done is not enough. A first draft of a paper is just that: a first draft. “Nobody works that way in the real world. I would never send the first version of a student recommendation I wrote,” Johnson says.
  • After writing a draft, step away from it. The brain will continue working even while away from it.