Figuring out what to write: When you DO have a prompt
Read the essay prompt once through to get the general idea.
Read the prompt again while armed with a highlighter or colored pen. Mark the parts of the prompt that look important. Look for both content directions (compare two novels, identify a significant theme) and formatting directions (must be 5 pages in length double spaced).
In the space provided below, or on another sheet of paper, please summarize the prompt. What is the prompt asking you to do?
What are some formatting directions the prompt gives you?
And just for good measure, where and when is the paper due?
Now that you have a clearer idea of what the prompt is asking you to do, go back to your texts, scan your lecture notes or any handouts your professor gave you looking for material, quotes, or anything that would help you answer the questions that the prompt poses.
List a few page numbers that seem to address each part of the prompt. Start writing some notes about how these quotes address the prompt.
Now you’re off to a great start!
As you write your paper, keep returning back to your version of the prompt and your actual prompt in order to make sure that you are answering every aspect of the prompt.
Jennifer Nishizaki (adapted from Valine Moreno, “Huh? Deconstructing and Attacking an Essay Prompt,” Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley, ©2006 UC Regents) Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley ©2009 UC Regents