Natasha’s Nice and Easy Ten-Step Essay-Writing Procedure (suggestions welcome):
1. Enter library. Obtain enough books to make the people at the circulation desk laugh or grimace, depending on their mood. Try not to drop books in the parking lot.
2. Return home. Enter JSTOR. Obtain enough journal articles to keep the printer busy for several hours. Place them in your supply-teaching bag for lunchtime reading.
3. Read, read, read, read, read those books. Apply sliced-up post-it notes to any relevant paragraphs, jotting down key ideas and page numbers in case of adhesive failure.
4. Read, read, read, read, read those articles. Underline, circle, bracket, star, and colour-code as necessary.
5. Think. Ponder. Muse. Place books and articles in intelligent piles. Scribble a tentative thesis statement and outline in notebook.
6. Obtain a large quantity of index cards. Transfer contents of post-it notes and marked-up articles to index cards according to categorized subtopics for quick reference. Underline and highlight important points.
7. Spread index cards out on living room floor. Order and re-order until a workable outline emerges.
8. Synthesize ideas. Revise thesis statement as needed. Transfer index card headings and subheadings to typed outline.
9. Flesh out outline with subpoints and quotes from index cards.
This amends my undergraduate essay-writing procedure (Read. Take notes. Make outline. Write.), which, when applied to graduate essays, went something like this:
- Obtain too many books from the library.
- Try to get a few token journal articles online. Get annoyed. Give up.
- Take copious notes about every relevant page of every book. Get a second notebook if necessary. Take more notes. Rest hand.
- Underline, circle and highlight notes in notebook. Wonder what on earth to do with all this information. Panic.
- Try to come up with a thesis statement and outline. Flip back and forth through notebook a hundred times looking for important points. Panic.
- Start writing. Flip back and forth through notebook a hundred times looking for a particular quote. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Collapse.