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Writing Process: An Introduction: High School Writing vs. College Writing

A brief overview of the writing process, plus some strategies you could use during each stage. Differences between college and high school writing standards and expectations.

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Some interesting information

Always use a thesaurus

She manipulated the garment in a cogitative mode.
‘Hmm,’ she vocalised. ‘This attire is verifiably marvellous. What is it constituted from?’
‘From the most meritorious velveteen,’ defined her interlocutor, simpering coincidentally.
‘Is it?’ iterated the party of the first part. ‘That’s felicitous.’
‘Additionally, this specified object has the property of being subdivided in terms of its defining mercantile characteristic, and can be taken possession of for the diminutive quantity of merely a half-dozen currency units,’ the retail employee informed.
‘Exoneration?’ supplicated the protagonist appropriately. The commercial tertiary sector worker eyeballed her perspicaciously.
‘I said it’s five ninety-nine. Do you want it or not?’

High School Vs. College Writing

High School Writing vs. College Writing (from Temple University Writing Center)

First year college students nearly always struggle with the transition from high school writing to college writing. Often, this struggle occurs because college professors have different expectations regarding structure and argument than are usually found in high schools. College writing differs most significantly from high school writing in the following ways:

In high school, you may have been taught to construct five paragraph essays and other short forms of writing. College writing sometimes uses the five-paragraph essay as a starting point, but often pushes students to break out of the limits imposed by such a rigid structure. This introduction-three-supporting-points-conclusion strategy simply isn't practical for all assignments. If you feel comfortable with the five-paragraph format, use it to start out with, but be prepared to explore alternative strategies if and when necessary.

In high school, you may have learned to include a thesis statement in your papers, usually somewhere near the end of the first paragraph. Most college writing also depends on thesis statements, but they may look very different from the statements you are used to seeing and writing. A typical high school thesis statement might look like this: In this paper, I will discuss Abigail Williams' motive in The Crucible. A typical college thesis, on the other hand, might look more like this: In The Crucible, Abigail Williams denounces Elizabeth Proctor and other women from her village in an attempt to win John Proctor for herself. As you can see, the sample college thesis statement sets up a specific argument and takes a position on that argument. In addition, it gives the reader some warning regarding the kind of evidence to expect in the remainder of the paper. Readers will expect, at minimum, information about the relationship between Abigail and John, between Elizabeth and John, and between Abigail and Elizabeth. 

A research paper in high school might have involved collecting information from Yahoo! or Google and re-presenting that information in a book-report format: research for research's sake. College research papers are nearly always argument-based: you collect evidence in order to make a point, not just to prove that you found five sources. Moreover, college papers require a different level of source material. While the Internet can be a great research tool, college students need to learn the difference between unreliable "free web" sources and more reliable "fee web" sources. Anything the library pays for through subscription service is generally an acceptable research source. Books and peer-reviewed journals are even better. 

Though it varies by professor, most college papers are typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins all around. They are usually in 12-point font, either Times New Roman or Arial. Unless professors specifically ask for one, papers are usually submitted without a cover page; similarly, college papers rarely include plastic binders and other types of folders. Graphics, such as charts or clipart, are sometimes permitted, but they should be professional looking and do not count as page space.

Subject books

These books are available at the Canisius College Library:

  • The easy essay handbook : a writing guide for today's students / Jane E. Lee, Lindy A. Ferguson    PE1413 .L37 2004
  • The good writing guide for education students / Dominic Wyse  P211 .W97 2006
  • The Essential Guide : research writing across the disciplines / James D. Lester, Sr., James D. Lester, Jr  LB2369 .L47 2008
  • The Allyn & Bacon guide to writing / John D. Ramage, John C. Bean, June Johnson  PE1408 .R18 2006
  • On writing well : the classic guide to writing nonfiction / William Zinsser   PE1429 .Z5 2006
  • College writing : a personal approach to academic writing / Toby Fulwiler  PE1408 .F8 2002
  • On paper : a course in college writing / H. Wendell Smith  PE1408 .S594
  • Rhetoric for survival; aids to successful college writing  PE1408 .D63
  • Writing, a college handbook / James A.W. Heffernan, John E. Lincoln  PE1408 .H438 1994
  • Effective writing for the college curriculum / [edited by] Robert Atwan, William Vesterman  PE1417 .E36 1987
  • The Oxford guide to writing : a rhetoric and handbook for college students / Thomas S. Kan  PE1408 .K2728 1983

Reference Librarians

Reference Librarians
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