Writing for students: how to be resourceful with resources

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Part of writing a top-notch essay is being able to make the most of the tools available to you.

It can be tempting to just read the essential texts and then waffle on like…well, like me actually.

Don’t fall into that trap…

There are so many little things you can use to make writing that bit easier that you’d be a fool to just write ‘blind’.

So let’s take a look at some of these resources shall we? Yes, let’s.

The library

You know that big building with the books in it? No, not Waterstones, I’m talking about the library.

There’s a reason it’s there, and it’s not just as a place you can go and eat your lunch on a rainy Tuesday in November.

I’m talking books people; books galore. Read them, imbibe them, inhale their musty greatness. When you’re stuck for a starting point for an essay, this is the place to go – it practically spawns creativity.

Speak to the librarians, figure out the categorisation and above all, read. I can’t really put this any other way except to say, you’ll miss the campus library when you leave uni: public ones just aren’t the same (that’s if you ever go to one, which quite frankly unless you’re a geek like me, you won’t.)

Online journals

Don’t get tricked into paying for journals online, unless you really have to. There’s almost always a way around. Often, the university will give you access to various journal platforms (J-Store for example) for free.

Even if they don’t, plenty of online resources like the holy Wikipedia will link to specific pages or explanations of pages.

Only pay as a last resort because often if a journal isn’t free for you to access in some way, you can do without it.

Good old Google

My best friend… no, my life-partner (if human-website marriages were legal, we’d have lots of little mini-Googles running about by now); Google is to university essays what beer is to pubs – they’d probably still exist, but just wouldn’t be quite right.

Make the most of this wonderful invention (other search engines are available but why would you even bother?) but don’t just limit it to a casual search; the sort you’ve been using since the days when there were only 150 Pokemon (alright, 151 if you must include Mew).

Google’s advanced search operators are frankly, fantastic. If you’re looking for very specific results, make use of the “intitle:”, “inurl:” and “intext:” tags followed by the specific word or phrase you want or if you’re looking for related pages use, funnily enough, “related:” and do the same.

These make a simple Google search more effective than yoghurt companies would have us believe their products are for unblocking bowels.

Tutors and lecturers

small__7384753714These are people whose job it is to tell you things about things and yet so many students are afraid to go beyond attending lectures and seminars; myself included for the majority of my first two years.

They’re not going to ridicule you for sending through questions in emails (at least you’d hope not) or grabbing them for a quick chat after their sessions, so if you’re stuck on something, by all means engage with them.

Make a habit of it early on and it will be second nature by second year.

Smart peers

You know the ones: those smug types who seem to be able to comprehensively express their understanding of everything without so much as blink of their bespectacled eyes  (they always have glasses in my ruthlessly stereotyping imagination).

Talk to these people. Make use of the fact they know their stuff and get them to explain it to you. Some might find this an unwelcome imposition but many will relish the opportunity to reel off their sizeable knowledge.

You can always repay them when the time comes that you understand something better than them. Or you could just buy them a pint. Best do that actually.

Here endeth the lesson for this week. Next time I’ll be looking at all the things you can do to impress your tutors with your writing.

Until then, I’ve been me and you’ve been you. Keep it real, students.

Jackson Rawlings on HowToWriteBetter.net

Jackson Rawlings


Go say hi and link up with Jackson on Twitter – he’s (@jacksonhraw) … and on Google Plus, too…

And while you’re here, don’t forget to stop by Suze’s Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and
to give to friends and family – from
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photo credit: thedarkfrnd via photopin cc