Start the Semester Off on the Write Foot

Alexandra Pierson, Theater & Books Editor

Whether it’s Writing the Essay, Cultural Foundations or any other text-based course you are taking this semester, most students will inevitably have to write multitudinous essays. Though reading and writing are not everyone’s favorite pastimes, these classes can still be enjoyable. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your writing courses:

  1. Like any college course, you get out what you put into Writing the Essay. You will be expected to do your fair share of reading, and close reading is an invaluable skill to have. Close reading can be as simple as reading with a pencil in hand, underlining important passages, making notes in the margins and jotting down questions to ask in class. Sometimes, the amount of reading can feel daunting. On those days, just read through the assignment once. Don’t stop to reread unclear paragraphs — circle them and move on. You can revisit these sections later and ask questions on difficult passages in class. (Bonus: it’s a little-known fact that picking your hardest section of reading as a topic makes writing an essay way easier.)
  2. At some point during the semester, you will be asked to visit a museum and reflect on a piece of art, or at least look one up on the internet. Not everyone is an art expert, but you can still write like one! Analyzing a piece of art is similar to the way you analyze a piece of writing. Look for the tone, style and purpose of the piece. You may need to do some research beyond the little plaque next to the painting. Even if the artwork is not your taste, you can still find something to say about it. (Key hint: cultural context is important.)
  3. Essays can, and should, be creative. They are as much an expression of the writer’s personality as they are of his or her knowledge. Do you love Beyoncé? Find a connection between her music and your reading assignment. Are you a fan of Netflix originals, modern art or politics? Chances are something you read will relate to your interests. Professors like to see that you’re thinking outside the box and making modern connections. But before you copy and paste all the lyrics from Hamilton into your essay, make sure you have the logos to back up your pathos!
  4. The last and most important tip I can give you to survive Writing the Essay is to use your resources. Volunteer your essays to be workshopped. Your classmates’ feedback can be crucial, and our professors are there to help you. Though it can be intimidating to talk to them, they are your best resource. If you have questions, professors will be more than happy to sit down with you and clarify concepts. Most professors will gladly look at a draft and make comments, as long as you give it to them well in advance of the deadline. Get in touch with a subject librarian in Bobst to help you refine your research. If you need a second opinion on your draft, visit the Writing Center at 411 Lafayette, 4th floor. NYU gives you the tools you need to succeed — whether you use them is up to you.

A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, August 28 print edition. Email Alli Pierson at [email protected].