A Note to Students: 5 Simple Keys to Help You Do Well in Your Course

Read the syllabus thoroughly. Allow the first week for examining each component of the class syllabus. Familiarize yourself with the requirements of the course, particularly the writing assignments.  How many pages does the professor require for the larger, final paper? How many reference sources does the professor require? Does the instructor provide the option for you to develop your own theme for the paper? Based upon answers to these questions, develop a to-do list and be sure that you regularly read the syllabus.

Begin the research process of your topic early in the semester. Think about what you like, the themes and concepts that interest you. Do you like multiculturalism? Think about time periods that interest you. Many works in literature courses span over 100 years. Do you like the 19th century? Do contemporary ideas, notions, and methods interest you? Understand this very early in the semester. Do not wait until the last month of the semester to come up with an idea.  As soon as you become aware of a writing assignment, immediately begin jotting down ideas about how you might approach the assignment.

Listen intently. This is so simple, but very important. Many of your ideas for writing papers will come naturally if you listen to the lecture. Listen for connections the instructor makes between works and ideas. Listen for tone. Understand themes. Develop a graph, a table of works for each column and the corresponding themes that apply to each work.

Make your job easy for the final paper. If you research at least two titles per week, you will have the sources you need to incorporate into your paper. In other words, although you may not know the direction of your essay so early in the semester, you can research the scholarship on a work.  Each time your professor lectures on a work and on an author, by the end of the week, begin researching the author. Develop a call number listing of reference sources. You may not use every source on the list, but it is important to have the listing ready for when you will need any or all of the sources. Just an hour at the computer accessing the school’s library website each week will help you to work on your task management and time management skills. This method will help you organize your information, think about the ideas expressed within each reference source, and develop an approach to the final paper.

Have your paper written at least one month before the due date. It does not have to be perfect. Just get something down on paper. Develop a paragraph or two. Think about a quote, how it might fit into the potential scheme of your essay. No matter what, do something.  Procrastination is not a habit. It is your enemy. It steals time; so during the month before the paper is due, revise.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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