papers" can be the death of an academic experience.
Most written products by students are poorly written, have a life
cycle that lasts as long as it takes to grade and return, and
alienate both the writer and reader. Part of this problem is
how we use writing. Frequently, writing is as a means to and end
rather than an end in itself. Good writing is good writing because
it is an end in itself.
College writing suffers because students fail in three areas:
audience, purpose, genre. The problems with audience and purpose
come from the artificiality of the environment. It is hard when the
person reading the paper is one's professor. Similarly it is hard to
have a purpose when the paper will be graded. The environment is
artificial, which requires complicity from both students and
professors. I have skipped genre because that follows from a genuine
writing situation and is likely the one thing we can really teach
through four years at college, in large part through exposure to
different forms of reading.
Note reading, not writing. Different forms of reading introduce us
to different ways of writing, different techniques to engage an
audience, and different ways to present an argument.
Were you to write a paper for me, I would need to know first its
audience. Are you writing a paper for an academic journal? If so,
you will need an rigorous academic apparatus -- the citations,
references and sense of response to prior writings. Will you be
writing for the Wall Street Journal? If so, you will need to beat
the free market drum; even their book reviews can be spoiled by
their fierce advocacy. Were you writing for the New Yorker magazine,
you would have have a different approach, with a much greater
emphasis on writing craft.
You need to have a clearly articulated outlet for your planned
writing. Were you writing for a website, you would likewise have a
different audience; Slate has a more centrist perspective; Drudge
throws bombs. Web writing is often more truncated than magazine or
long form writing. Shorter sentences. Often more colloquial.
When you submit your essays, you will have a cover sheet that asks
you to specify audience, purpose, and genre. To answer these
questions, you should find clear descriptors.
For example, I often have international students in my class. For
those students, the audience could be peers who have not had
experience in United States.
Similarly for purpose, sticking with the international theme, it
might be to explain the difference between privacy in a home culture
and privacy in the United States.
To answer the genre question, you should think of where you might
read this. Again, sticking with the international theme, it could be
for a brochure to assist potential students from the home country
deal with culture shock.
To summarize, my writing example is a brochure written for
non-native students explaining perspectives on privacy in the United