My Essay Writing Tips
If you are new to this method of cooperative study you need to first join an existing student study group or create a new group with some friends
The Study Group
Team up with friends who are reliable, reasonably bright and diligent but avoid people who are excessively social. A relaxing social life at college is good but your study group meetings are work-focused and not intended for social activity.
Each major assignment will need two group meetings. The 1st meeting will examine the essay or report topic and the group members will agree how to spread the background research reading among the members. At the 2nd meeting you'll discuss your research notes and work together to prepare a common draft essay outline.
The ideal size for a your study group is 3-4 members in total. Fewer than 3 members will not spread the background reading enough and a larger study group will fragment into smaller sub-groups during group discussion. My experience is that a study group with 4 members works reasonable well but small group meetings can get quite heated at times. You'll need to manage the tendency to two-person chatter.
For this stage of the meeting your aim is to use a brainstorm to do homework for me and other people in group. Brainstorming in a small group has limitations but you can still use the brainstorming method to generate some synergy and achieve the goal of an essay outline.
A brainstorm can easily degenerate into a shouting match so you need to follow the standard brainstorm rules. The main difference you'll notice is that instead of having a recorder and a facilitator you will all be writing down the ideas as they occur.
Take turns to contribute ideas one at a time remembering that the aim is to get lots of points to use in the essay outline. Follow the standard rules that you would use for a normal brainstorm session:
It's very important that you personalize your essay. Use the work of the study group as the starting point but you must now work on that by adding ideas from your own study and analysis. The study group has probably produced an excellent essay outline but this is just a template. You need to revamp the outline and add ideas you found during your reading research. You may decide to delete several template points that you don't agree with and add new points to develop
Creating drafts now is very useful for me because I do my programming project and I need drafts. This is an easy task because all the preparatory work has been done. It's simply a matter of pulling the ideas together and filling out your essay outline with a few details.
This may be a new idea for some students but the draft essay is best written at one sitting. I suggest you turn off your cell phone, lock the door, sit at a desk and try to complete the writing from start to finish in one go. This will help your thoughts to flow easily from point to point and will add cohesion to your work. Ignore spelling and grammar errors at this stage.
Once you have the basic essay formed you'll need to tidy up the citations, or add some if there are none. I think of citations (references) as being similar to underground mining roof-props which support the weight of a tunnel roof during underground mining operations. In that sense your essay citations do the same for you. They need to be strong and placed only where they will effectively support your essay.
With this in mind you'll realize that citations written by recognized researchers will work best for your purpose. The citations you use are the authority that you are citing as evidence to support what you saying in your essay
Whilst academic citations will add strength to your essay they should be used sparingly. Think of them as being 'just in time' and use them only where they are needed.
Too many citations will smother your own ideas, but if your citations are weak and sparse your tutor will assume, probably correctly, that you didn't complete the required research reading!
Use standard citation format which will probably be either the American Psychological Assoc. (APA) or the Modern Languages Assoc. (MLA). If you need help with these check out Purdue and Waikato universities which both have free APA citation guides. If you need MLA do an Internet search for help
The last point to make here is that you must reduce the risk of accidental plagiarism. To assist this aim I suggest that you don't share any part of your personalized essay text with your friends. If you make any statement that from another writer you must provide a reference to that source for the reader. Students need to be aware that plagiarism is a serious matter in academia!