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Gary Bortolotti, Biology Faculty

Getting Started

Do you have any advice for a student who is having a hard time getting started with an essay?

It's a really tough thing getting over that initial... that inertia, to get started. And I have that problem as well. When I'm writing scientific papers, you know, you can collect all the data and collect all the literature and then sitting down, putting the first words on paper [is] very difficult. And, frankly, I think that's a key. Putting something down on paper is, I think, the first step. What I like to do, and I think is really helpful, is to make a series of outlines. And at least then you're actually typing or writing something. And, I think if you feel like you're getting started and you feel like you have a page, and there's stuff on it, it may be lousy, but at least it started the process. I think that's the most important thing. So, what I like to do is start with a very general outline. If it's a proposal, I would maybe put, you know: introduction, objective 1, objective 2, methods, or something. And then, from that, increase the level of details, go to another outline, where I put details within that. Gradually, you build up a written document.