MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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ACADEX: MIT Center for Academic Excellence

Effective Writing: Overcoming Obstacles

Most people who face obstacles when writing find themselves procrastinating when they can't see their way past a problem. The topics below cover the most common things that causes for procrastination.

1. Difficulty with selecting a topic or an approach to a paper

This is a frequent cause of eventual frustration and procrastination and, surprisingly enough, it is one that can be addressed by simply asking your professors, recitation instructors, TA's, and advisors for assistance. Remember that the syllabus for the class will alert you to the fact that a paper or papers will be due in the class. If you don't understand what is expected of you or if you are not sure what steps to take in picking a topic, a conversation with one of the abovementioned people will do wonders for you.

If you remain unsure, a conversation with staff in the Writing & Communication Center can be helpful.

2. Difficulty being satisfied with what you write or a frequent tendency to throw away or erase work you have done

Many MIT students are perfectionists and have trouble being satisfied with their work. While it is natural for MIT students to want things to be perfect, you take action like having someone look at your work and give you advice. People pick from the following people to look for this kind of help: a friend or family member, your advisor, or a staff member in the Writing & Communication Center.

If you use this type of help, make sure you only ask for advice and that the work you submit is your own work. If this obstacle persists, the Student Support Services Dean can help you to figure out why it's happening.

3. Grammatical or structural obstacles

Talk with your professors, recitation instructors and TA's about obstacles you face with grammar or structure. For advice on how to rectify the problems you are facing, make an appointment with someone in the Writing & Communication Center.

A good book that can help you with grammatical issues is THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, by Strunk and White. There are many others on the market that also address these issues.

There are other obstacles writers face, such as being overworked or over committed to other activities, but the three mentioned above are the most common expressed by students.

You may find the assistance you need by by contacting office or individuals who can assist you. As with all aspects of the MIT academic experience, don't hesitate to seek help when needed.