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4.8: Common Problems

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    This chapter is brought to you by Sybil Priebe and edited pieces of this Wikibook62.

    By following the approach of essay writing outlined in this book, you can avoid a whole range of very common essay problems:

    • Unstructured: If an essay is unstructured, it becomes difficult to read. If you want to get your point across, or tell a story well, you don’t want to alienate a reader with sentences and paragraphs that aren’t connected to one another. Sometimes, this can be solved by simply breaking up what you want to say into paragraphs that cover one topic at a time.
    • Rambling: The problem of rambling is often just a symptom of the above problem: lack of structure. By thinking in a structured way, tendencies to ramble are reduced. Once you know what you’re going to say, and in what order you’re going to say it, it’s much easier to stay on track.
    • Not relevant: If your instructor requires you to conduct research on X topic and you hand in a paper about your dog, it’s not relevant. Perhaps you can bring up your dog if your research topic is researching the best pets for families with children.

    Usually, the most common problem is students failing to answer the question or fulfilling the paper/project’s goal. By paying attention in class, to your instructor, and to the paper/project’s handout, that problem will be resolved. Writing in a planned and structured way, the remainder is addressed, too. By following the outlined approach to essay writing, your answers will be focused on the questions presented.

    Asking for and Getting Help

    • If you are having trouble getting started on a paper/project, try reading the samples offered by your instructor – or in this book. They might jump start ideas for your own paper/project.
    • Once you have a draft down on paper, if you can’t attend peer review in class – or your instructor doesn’t include that in the process of that particular paper/project – feel free to use the brains around you or the tutors at the college tutoring center. Seek out people to read your material.
    • When researching, head to your local library (if your college doesn’t have one). Ask the librarian to help you, if you feel comfortable enough; they might appreciate a break from their duties to help out, and they are knowledgeable of their space.
    • For advice on writing style, there are a great number of books available. Again, check your bookshop or library. Some books focus on the choice of the right word, others on different aspects of style. Note that different books give different stylistic advice.
    • If you’re unsure about plagiarism, or worried about your writing skills, the best way to get help is approaching your tutor or supervisor. They will be familiar with most of the conventions, and equally important, be able to guide you to more specialized assistance should this be necessary. In terms of plagiarism, there are a number of useful Internet sites, including
    • If you aren’t a native English speaker, you might want to consider buying a grammar handbook. The choice of grammar books is vast, and you should pick one you feel comfortable with. The same goes for dictionaries, if you’re not a native speaker; in addition, look around for books focusing on English as a foreign language. And, by the way, we’re aware that the English language is a goofy language… just the slang alone is hard to keep up with.

    Assignments or Questions to Consider

    (Insert ideas from students or teacher here.)

    62 “Writing Better University Essays/Common essay problems.” Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project. 9 Apr 2015, 08:11 UTC. 11 May 2016, 16:20 . Licensed CC-BYSA.

    This page titled 4.8: Common Problems is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe, Ronda Marman, & Dana Anderson (North Dakota University System) .

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