Econ 479

The Art of Writing, the Science of Economics

The Seven-Day Cycle

We are typically on a seven-day cycle in this course: you receive an assignment from me, seven days later you turn it in, seven days later I return it to you, seven days later you return a revision, seven days later I return that revision to you, seven days later you receive a new assignment.

Here is how I suggest you manage your time during that first seven-day cycle.

Day 1: You receive the assignment. Read the assignment. Do you understand what you’re being asked to do? If not, ask now.

Day 2: Do nothing. That is, do your other coursework. Allow the assignment to rattle around in your brain, colliding with other facts and opinions you have stored there.

Day 3: Collect thoughts and information. Remember the rule of three that I told you in our first meeting: your arguments gain strength if you can come up with three reasons to support the position you’re taking. (If I were arguing against corn ethanol, for example, I might say [1] Corn production would be better used for animal feed, [2] Sugarcane, used in near-energy-independent Brazil, is a more efficient source of bioethanol, and [3] It is inherently inefficient to spend more energy producing energy than the energy is worth, which is the case in converting corn biomass to fuel.)

So, on Day 3, decide on the position you’re going to take, come up with three reasons to support it, and find documentation for those three reasons.

Day 4: Write a first draft. You’ve done a surprising amount of the heavy lifting already. The writing should come easily, at least relative to other methods.

Day 5: Do nothing. Let the draft sit. Let it get cold after the white heat of composition.

Day 6: Read the first draft aloud, or, better, have someone read it to you while you follow along onscreen or with a printed copy. Make note of places where you stumble. Those are places that need work. Write a second draft, taking pains to address those problem areas. Read it aloud again. Are there any places where you stumble? Fix them.

Day 7: Read your work over one last time. Does it read fluently? If the answer is yes, send it to me. If the answer is no, give it one more shot. Then send it to me—as always, no later than 5:00 PM.

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Written by gregorymcnamee

February 15, 2008 at 3:43 pm

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