I remember myself as an undergrad when I used to complain about having to write 7- to 10-page papers, struggling to think how I could fill the pages to fulfilling the page requirement. The paper could be on any topic, even one that interested me; a topic that I really wanted to research or even one that had a lot of sources. Every once in a while I succeeded in fulfilling the requirements, after much thinking and trial and error.
However, that has changed. Now that I am in graduate school, that I have to learn to write better and integrate theory and methodology into my papers, I struggle with an additional problem: have I said enough or have I said too much (tangents)? I have had to write three papers this semester for my three graduate classes. The page requirements were 12 pages, 15 pages, and 16 pages. The twelve pager was not too bad; it was mostly based on an autohistoria and on using definitions we had written for the class during the semester.
The other two, though, were not as easy. For the 15-page essay, I struggled getting started, even though I already had a complete annotated bibliography with quotes and analysis that I wanted to use in answering the question of my essay. As for the 16-page essay, I had an outline with quotes and authors that would be used to for each of the sections.
In the end, nothing worked out the way I wanted. The bibliography did NOT make it easier to write the essay, at least not in the beginning. It took me a while to get inspired and to help me fulfill the requirements, I expanded the outline we had been given in class with my own headings and questions. In the end, I fulfilled the page requirement (and exceeded the minimum), but I felt I could have said more. For the second paper, I was completely inspired, but it was hard putting the information on paper and also, given the topic I chose, I wish I would have found more sources to cite. In the end, I hat to cut one of the sections as it was already around 17 or 18 pages.
This has certainly served as a learning experience. I have learned how to write longer essay, but am now faced with learning how to begin (or more like WHERE to begin). Introductions are difficult to write, so I guess I will focus on answer my thesis/research question first. Also, while the annotated bibliography was not as helpful as I thought, I still think that it was a good way for me to get my thought on paper and at least do mini-analysis of what the authors were saying. In the future, I think that instead of just doing an annotated bibliography (summarizing what was said in the article), I will try to related it to the research question and categorize each article in the beginning so that I can analyze them against each other.
I still do not know how I did, thought, but I hope that my papers were good enough. I might go back and correct them later on, expand them and see if there is anything I can do with them; but in the mean time, I am glad that the two longest are finished and that the shortest will be finished soon.
(C) Joel A Saldana Perez