by Renad Hamouda
While essay writing is not rocket science, creating a beautifully crafted essay does necessitate strong idea generation and preparation skills. Such skills are built through constant practice. Lucky for us college students, lack of practice is not a critical concern, especially those of us in the humanities and social sciences.
The concern for many of us may not lie in our ability to write, or lack of practice, but rather in idea generation and essay preparation. We may not know where or how to start an essay, struggle to narrow down our essay topic, and have difficulty organizing our ideas cohesively.
Thankfully for us on April 6, 2021, our very own AUS Writing Center held a workshop explaining how to generate and prepare essay ideas effectively and efficiently. This workshop was hosted by the writing center tutors Fathima Moyikkal and Yusra Hassen. It is relevant and necessary as many of us often struggle to navigate through the writing process.
The first step of idea generation is brainstorming. Fathima discussed some tips and techniques for effective brainstorming:
● Set an end goal during each brainstorming session and possibly even a time limit
● Write down all of your ideas
● Read, read, and read …
● Visualize all of your ideas by drawing a mind map
● Find a location where you can think comfortably and without distractions
● When in need do not be afraid to ask others for help
● Consider what you want readers to understand from your paper
● Take a break to let your ideas settle and come back to your paper with fresh eyes
In this segment of the workshop, Yusra addressed the first step of essay preparation: the outline. She talked about the basic structure of an outline and discussed what students should include. Yusra then emphasized that the structure of an essay outline is not fixed: it may vary based on the topic, course, or even discipline.
Specifically, she spoke about what is included in an introduction, a body paragraph, a refutation/counter-argument, and a conclusion.
Fatima then ended this section by showing a model essay outline. When presenting the model outline, she noted that while you may use numerous sources in an outline, typically the most important ones are included.
Finally, Fathima and Yusra ended the workshop with a lighthearted activity where attendees were able to interact and apply the knowledge they had learned.