12 writing tips from Bates students and teachers | News


For a first-year Bates student, the transition from high school to college-level writing can be daunting.

You approach new genres, you look at the evidence more critically. And you learn that at Bates, good writing and good thinking go hand in hand.

“Colleges are places where knowledge is created,” says Daniel Sanford, director of Writing At Bates and the Academic Resource Commons (ARC), programs that provide resources for every step of the writing process, in any discipline.

“When you learn to write and think within this framework, you discover how to participate in the creation of knowledge. “

Claire Sickinger ’19 from Simsbury, Connecticut, Peer Writing and Speaking Assistant for Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Nathan Faries’ “Defining Difference: How China and the United States Think about Racial Diversity”, discusses ‘a class essay with Zhao Li ’21 from Guangzhou, China, in ARC. (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

It can be a steep learning curve, but Bates’ new writers are supported along the way. Most students take a first year seminar, where teachers teach writing alongside the subject. They walk students through each step of the writing process and offer intensive feedback.

As the fall semester enters its second half and students ponder their final seminar papers, we asked Bates student teachers and tutors how new college writers can make their writing clear and compelling, and what common mistakes to avoid. Here is what they told us.

1. Before you start writing, know the assignment

One of the most avoidable mistakes Associate Professor of Politics Leslie Hill sees is not following directions. “Some students will write at the task they think they know, which may be familiar from high school – but the college professor may ask for something different, in terms of content as well as level of thinking.”

2. Know your audience – and yourself

Don’t feel like you have to take on the role of the expert, says religious studies professor Cynthia Baker. “First-year college writers often seem to feel like they need to portray themselves as “experts” in their essays instead of portraying themselves as knowledgeable and capable conversation partners, “she says.

Religious Studies professor Cynthia Baker teaches the first year “The Nature of Spirituality” seminar. Here, in the 2015 iteration of the course, she shows her students a Rosh Hashanah tradition on Mount David. (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

When students adopt the “expert” voice, Baker says, they sometimes feel that citing a lot of sources means they are not well informed.

“It is much more often the case that professors look for students to demonstrate a solid grasp of course materials and concepts by showing that they can synthesize ideas from a range of course readings and apply them to a particular problem, ”she says. “It requires positioning yourself in an essay as a knowledgeable talker who thoughtfully and competently draws on a wide variety of other people’s ideas through many quotes and quotes, rather than as an expert.” solo. ”

3. Pay attention to gender

Biochemistry major Kenyata Venson ’18 from Memphis meets with Bridget Fullerton, Associate Editorial Director at Writing at Bates, to discuss her major thesis on the comparison of synthesized drugs to herbal remedies for the treatment of glaucoma. (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

“Technical writing is very different from essay writing in that there is no fuzziness – readers just want what you did in the study,” says technical writing assistant Ruth. van Kampen ’19 from Brunswick. “It’s new for a lot of students.

As TWA, van Kampen helps biology students, often in their second year, write.

4. Don’t lose the argument

Claudia Krasnow ’18 from Bedford, NY, works with Madelyn Heart ’18 from Winchester, Mass., On a paper for a Spanish class. Writing tutors work with other student tutors in the Academic Resource Commons (ARC) of the Ladd Library. (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

Tutor Mariam Hayrapetyan ’19 from Valley Village, Calif., Recommends this exercise: Write the prompt in your own words and as you write make sure that each paragraph contributes in some way to the prompt.

Bring it to the sentence level as well. “Something that can improve clarity is making sure that everything in each paragraph relates to the topic sentence and that each topic sentence relates to the thesis,” says Writing Tutor Kiyona Mizuno ’18 from San Francisco. . “It will help keep the writing focused and organized. I find the description can be a useful strategy.

5. Keep it simple

Zeke Smith ’19 from Weybridge, UK, writing and peer speaking assistant for the Dennis Browne Russian Course on Contemporary European Cinema, works with Henri Emmet ’21 from New York. (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

Don’t try to appear impressive, advises Mizuno. “A common trend that I have noticed is repetitive, overly long sentences or trying to combine too many ideas. I would encourage students to try not to beat around the bush and to avoid forming long and complicated sentences to fill the word count – ideas can quickly become confusing and confusing if the sentences get too wordy.

Zeke Smith ’19 from Weybridge, UK, who as a peer writing and speaking assistant helps first year seminary students write and proofread their papers, often accompanies students in this review exercise: “I have them proofread their draft with an emphasis on which words can be cut out and which sentences can be written more concisely.” Sometimes finding the right adjective or verb can replace an entire description.

6. Skip the lingo

Chinese major Olivia Stockly ’18 from Cumberland Center, Maine, and biochemistry major Ken Hale ’19 from Cleveland, Ohio, are preparing for a physics lab at the Academic Resource Commons. (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

“It’s very easy to use a lot of insider lingo, and editors should be aware of this when trying to articulate their points,” says TWA Jackie Welch ’18 of Falmouth, Maine. “They should write as if the reader is familiar with their field, but not necessarily with their particular discipline in that field. ”

7. Cut the clichés

“Not many people use ‘plethora’ correctly, and when they do, it’s a bit precious,” if not downright pretentious, says professor of French and French studies Kirk Read. “I would say that we experience a plethora of plethora in my world, ie excessive use of this word! “

Hill adds, “Nothing that comes after the phrase ‘throughout history’ is true.”

8. Revise, revise, revise

Associate Professor of Politics Leslie Hill speaks during a 2016 panel on the recent presidential election. This year, she is teaching a first year seminar entitled “Race, Justice, and American Politics in the 21st Century”. (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

“I’ve often advised students to use an afterthought or just go through a draft and highlight their topic sentences,” Hill says. “It’ll tell you what’s out there on paper, and you can decide whether that’s what you meant or not.”

9. Don’t do the last one.

Best-selling author and union columnist Amy Dickinson discusses her work and teaches students how to tell their own stories at a session of “Family Stories,” Kirk Read’s freshman seminar, on October 27th. (Theophil Syslo / Bates College)

“Leave something for the end of your article,” Read says. “To conclude without summarizing. Save something for the end, so that we appreciate your point and you have proven it somehow.

10. Save your paper, then listen to it

Reading a draft of an article aloud can help you spot errors and sidestep a fixation on grammar. “I try to tell the students not to worry too much about the grammar and the mechanics of everything, but I’m conflicted about that,” Read says. “I want clean writers – so read your writing aloud. Save it and reproduce it for yourself to see if it makes sense.

11. Read on!

Wenjing “Wen” Zheng ’21 from Wuhan, China gets her copy of “Foreigners Tend to Tell Me Things” signed by the book’s author, Amy Dickinson, at a freshman seminary class on October 27 . (Theophil Syslo / Bates College).

“Read a lot of good writing – and read it as a writer,” explains Cynthia Baker. “That is, think of yourself as a writer and study what the pros do. When you find the course readings compelling, pay attention to how the writers make their content clear and compelling. What strategies do they use? How do they formulate their arguments and ideas? Label these strategies, experiment with them yourself, and put them in your writer’s toolbox to extract and use in your own writing.

12. And write!

Paige Rabb ’20 from Stamford, Connecticut, takes notes at a meeting of her 2016 freshman seminar, “The Natural History of Maine’s Neighborhoods and Woods.” (Phyllis Graber Jensen / Bates College)

“It might help to think of writing in any form – journaling, noting, ruminating, polishing – as a daily practice,” Read explains. “Something that you turn to regularly and with pleasure. Something that might even center you or help sort you out like yoga, workout, meditation. For many successful writers, this is a regular practice – and a joy. “


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