Portfolio: Reflection #5 (Research Essay)

The course: Advanced Composition

This course was mostly review for me, as I  studied academic writing several years ago during my undergraduate education. However, I did find it helpful to revisit academic writing in a different and more mature context. It allowed me to consider how to incorporate clarity, plain language, and concision into academic essays.

The course required us to share our first drafts with peers for review. I find peer reviews incredibly helpful. When I am writing, I often get a kind of tunnel vision, and hearing another person’s perspective alerts me to the parts of my paper I have glossed over. The experience of reviewing another writer’s work can also be a fantastic learning opportunity. It forces you to examine what works and what doesn’t work in a piece of writing, and the discoveries you make often apply to your own work as well.

My biggest challenge with academic writing tends to be spending too much time on research and not leaving myself enough time for writing and revision. I really have to force myself to set up a specific deadline for completing research. Otherwise, I will find ways to keep researching until a few hours before the deadline for the final paper, which is certainly not enough time to produce a polished, coherent essay.

The assignment

For this assignment, we could choose to research any subject we wanted. I knew that digital poetry was interesting to me, but I wasn’t sure which aspect of digital poetry would be most suitable to write about. Through my original research, I discovered hypertext poetry, which I was excited to explore.

With projects as complex as academic essays, I find it easiest to work methodically in stages. After collecting my research, I categorize and summarize my findings to shape my thesis. I then group related content together and build an outline of my draft. During the drafting stage, I often use headings and subheadings to keep my thoughts organized. Once I have reworked the text, I remove the headings and focus on in-text transitions.

I like to revise in waves and take breaks between the waves. For one revision, I will concentrate on transitions between sentences and paragraphs. For another, I might check that my citations are correctly formatted. If I’m really stuck during the revising stage, I try reading the text out loud, reading line-by-line from the bottom up, or asking someone else to read and provide feedback.

When revisiting my essay for revisions, I decided that my earlier thesis was not focused or interesting enough to justify the essay. I conducted additional research and eventually arrived at a narrower thesis. What this meant, though, was that I had to throw away nearly all of my original draft and start fresh. It was time-consuming and often frustrating, but I was able to create a more interesting and innovative essay.

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