The Writing Center


The Writing Center can help you at all stages of composing—from planning to editing and everywhere in between. Here is a list of stages that might help you write article synopses, something college students in upper-level courses are frequently asked to do.

Step 1: Brainstorm Selectively (write for at least 1 hour on what follows)

  • What question did the author(s) want answered?
  • What method did the author(s) use to get the findings?
  • If you could read the perfect study on this issue, what would it look like?
  • Compare this study to your "perfect" one; any weaknesses/flaws?
  • What are the strengths of this study?
  • Relate the strength to the need of in the economic community.
  • Have you had any experience with this area of study—any hunches about the quality or value of this study?
  • Consider your role: you are a college student evaluating information for your professor; you are no longer a high school student giving information. What benefits do you get from taking this new role?

Step 2: Incubate

Take some time off to rest—or incubate as creativity theorists call it. Your thoughts will gel in the time you take away from the project. You should have a much clearer focus if you get at least 1 night’s rest away from a big project. Planning is very cognitive; for a big paper, planning and incubation time are crucial.

Step 3: Think about Structure

Reports in any field move from the most important and most general to the least important and least general. The opening paragraph, called either Introduction or Question, relates

  • full name of author(s), title in quotation marks, journal title italicized, year in parentheses
  • a general statement about the question the author(s) explored
  • your focus about the quality of the article, which may require articulating what a "good" study of this kind does (i.e. listing a set number of qualities you wanted to see).

The next segment, that of Method, goes into greater detail that supports your focus. If you talk about strengths, demonstrate them. If you point out flaws, show how you see them. Your knowledge of theories, procedures, established practices in types of research (e.g. number of subjects for a valid study) are all important here.

A Conclusion segment is going to strengthen the claim you made in the first paragraph. How serious is the article’s strength or weakness? What difference does that make to the academic economic community along with the overall economic community?

Step 4: Style

If you allow yourself to write a draft (e.g. give yourself enough time to do so), you can crunch that draft into a smaller document (e.g. 1 page) if you want to. You might also check sentence variety and vocabulary. Reading is more pleasant if sentences have a great variety: short and long, inverted and normal. Vocabulary can be built over a number of years by committing to two things. Allow yourself to use your reading vocabulary to write—not your speaking vocabulary. The reading vocabulary is highly developed—you recognize all kinds of words you never use in writing. Start using the reading vocabulary first in private places like notebooks and journals. You’ll find you start using an excellent vocabulary and need to learn to trust that words that pop into your head will be used in the right context. The second activity that will increase your vocabulary is reading an excellent newspaper or magazine—pick something you are interested in or read articles that cover an area you are familiar with so that you can bypass the meaning and study the vocabulary and sentence structure. These two tasks take about 2-3 years to really kick in, but when they do, you will be very happy with the results.

Step 5: Grammar Clean Up

Read your draft out loud. Have a friend read it. Bring it to the Writing Center at any stage. Don’t let grammatical worries prevent you from drafting quickly however. Just write, and reshape it later. Michelangelo once said that perfection is made of details—attending to grammatical snafus is essential to professional writing.