Serving students and faculty since 1971

For as long as I can remember I have never had a problem with my writing. I would always excel in my English classes growing up and I never felt like I had a problem with how I structured my papers or how I got my information.

When I hit my junior year at the University of Michigan: Flint I started to take upper-level history courses. I had been a history minor at the time and was not thinking it would become another Major. I thought I had it planned out and I knew what I was doing. It had hit me pretty hard with how different things were with different disciplines. In my lower level history classes, I went to a lecture and then took two exams, that was it. When it comes to these higher-level courses there is a lot more that goes into them, as with any higher-level course. Depending on the professor and what they feel needs to be added to the class, it will mostly come in the form of papers and long written assignments.

When the paper came to me at that point in the semester, I didn’t feel like I would have any problems. My initial thoughts on this were that I hadn’t had any problems writing papers in the past and something like this wouldn’t be so bad. During that semester I was taking two upper-level history courses, both of which had two papers. In the midst of trying to figure out how to cope, there was one that really stumped me, it was the one where my professor wanted me to look at a few selected fiction books and write a historical paper on them. It seemed like it would be any other literary analysis paper. I am originally an English major and had not done a paper like this in any other class besides English. I thought I would do pretty well. But when I got the dreaded “D” on the top of my paper I was confused. I thought I did exactly what the professor wanted me to do with this paper. To be fair to me, the assignment sheet had not been very detailed and it was kind of confusing, but that is beside the point.

I dived straight into the assignment like I would any other English Assignment. It was a novel and I thought he wanted us to analyze it and talk about it. However, he wanted us to read the novel and then talk about some aspects that we could see in it that came from the time period and how to applied to the bigger picture concepts we were talking about. I jumped into this assignment just assuming and not totally thinking it through. I did not think to ask my professor, my peers, or seek out some kind of help in order to help with my writing.

This was a new kind of branch to writing that I was not used to. I had jumped in and did not take in the sources I had around me and what I could do with those. In that light, I found myself taking advantage of those things. I made myself ask the professor questions to get a better comprehension of the assignment, I looked toward my peers for advice, and I even started going to the writing center for some guidance in Chicago writing style. It is so different from the MLA format I was used to writing in for papers and it takes a second to get used to writing this way.

The moral of the story is to remember your resources. Whether or not you think you know what you are doing, it is important to know that you have resources available to you you and you can use those to help you succeed. Even if it is just to get a grasp on the assignment or you need a lot of help these sources can really help benefit your writing. If you are feeling lost or you are experiencing writer’s block take the time to ask your professor, get feedback from your peers, or even make that writing center appointment. After I figured this out for myself I did better on these papers in my history classes, I made better connections with my professors, and I could talk easily with my peers.

These sources are still available even during this time. You can email your professors and peers and even make an e-tutoring appointment with the writing center. We are all struggling with trying to adapt, but we are here for each other and can try our best to make this situation better.