This ‘how to do whatever you want to do with your writing’ (like winning competitions and publishing articles in law journals) post on this blog is from my friend Mathews P. George, a reticent genius who happens to be my classmate and good friend. He has made it a habit to win every writing competition he writes for – from contract drafting, essay competition to legislative research – he has won them all. He earns a good sum from all these winnings too. What is surprising is the ease with which he does it. For him, it is all about being clear with the basics. He has also written in law journals et al, so he knows what he is talking about. After much persuasion, he agreed to share some of his secrets on a first taste of law – which is again, phenomenally well written. If you want him to keep writing on this space, please leave a comment below telling him you want him to write again! I need that support from my readers 🙂
How to write essays / articles/ research papers?
“Failures are stepping stones to success” – One is expected to learn from his mistakes and strive towards success. One can also learn from others’ mistakes and never repeat it in his / her life. In this post, I intend to discuss some tips / strategies which I have devised over a course of time. I hope this post will help you not to commit the mistakes that I had committed while writing for essay competitions and articles that I wanted to publish.
Choosing a topic:
Identifying a topic of your interest is very important. DO NOT randomly choose any topic. Choose a topic only after conducting the basic research. This research should inter alia try to address factors such as a scope for creativity, originality, relevance etc. I shall explain it with the help of an example. Consider choosing a topic “Jawahar Rozgar Yojna”. It was a developmental programme initiated by Government of India which has now been scrapped. It is irrelevant and leaves little scope for creativity and originality unless one presents an incisive analysis of empirical data and draws linkages with the extant developmental programmes. Are you really up for that?
Drawing up a schedule:
One should always be conscious of the time and the work at hand. Else, it will turn out to be a futile effort. Draw a schedule leaving ample scope for research, analysis, writing, proof-reading, discussion with batchmates / experts etc. One has to look at oneself and frame the schedule. Some are quick in writing. Some are not. In essence, by drawing a schedule and sticking to it, one should be able to overcome the proclivity towards “teenage procrastination”. This term refers to the tendency to procrastinate one’s tasks till the very end which will, most likely, adversely affect one’s output.
Research should always progress from the very basic level to the advanced level and not vice versa. Be very clear on your basics. Suppose you have decided to write about General anti-avoidance rule under the proposed Direct Taxes Code Bill. Your research should ideally start off from Wikipedia research and basic books on tax law. If you are not acquainted with the subject, feel free to consult your faculty. If your basics are not clear, your arguments are bound to be flawed.
Research skills become very important when one progresses to the advanced level. Learn to use Westlaw / Manupatra smartly. If you are well-acquainted with the research tips / syntax provided in their websites, you will end up achieving your objectives at a lesser time.
One should also look out for articles which coherently put forward arguments. DO not randomly read all the articles. You will end up wasting your time. Have a glance before embarking on reading any article. If you find them to be incoherent and illogical, discard them at once.
Always, try to give your own analysis on the topic. If you are not well-acquainted with the topic, consult an expert to make sure that your argument is tenable. Quite often, when one frames an argument, one fails to see the counter argument. In order to avoid this, try to come up with as many counter arguments as possible. Try to blunt these counter arguments. This will help one to tighten his / her arguments.
When you sit down to write, try to make your write-up as simple as possible. One’s argument should be simple and direct. The reader, after reading your write-up, should not be forced to ponder around for your argument. It should be clear to him from your writing. After writing it, ask yourself – is the argument clear from what you have written? and then read it again looking for an answer to that question. It is safer to make it clear at the very beginning of your essay about its scope and objectives.
The essay should be well-structured. There should be logic and coherence inflow of both ideas and language. Both are equally important. Try to build up your argument step by step. For instance, try not to jump to step 4 from step 1. Make full use of online dictionaries if you don’t have the physical copy. Further, try to use the apt word for each situation. And it is equally important to be grammatically correct. As you progress, try to visualise the structure of your essay. Self-evaluate the flow of ideas and language. This will help you to correct mistakes as you progress.
It is also important to keep the target readership in mind. For instance, it will be counter-productive to write about gene patents when writing for a law review aimed at reaching out to the litigating lawyers. Writing a post for a blog is different from that of writing an essay / article. A post in a blog should be simple and succinct. On the other hand, an essay can elaborate and elucidate. When I wrote my first post for a blog, I wrote it as an essay. Expectedly, it drew genuine criticisms.
Try to proof-read it as a second person, as a reader. Make sure that the argument is clear. Don’t try to proof-read at one-go. When you read at one go, you tend to overlook the errors. Therefore, evaluate your essay over a period of time. You will be able to figure out more mistakes / incoherencies. If feasible, try to seek the help of your friend / expert for evaluation.
Make sure that the formatting is in consonance with the guidelines prescribed by the competition / law review. If you are not well-acquainted with them, leave ample time for it in your schedule. Quite often, last minute glitches spoil one’s efforts. Never let it happen. Else, you will be thoroughly disappointed.
Never forget :
Never forget the fact that you are expressing your personality through your write up. The reader will be seeing you through your write-up. Therefore, try to put in your best. If the piece is good, you will receive accolades. If not, the criticisms will be harsh. However, don’t be intimidated by criticisms. Try to learn from them. This is the learning period in our life. This is the time when one can afford to commit mistakes and learn from them at a lesser transaction cost!!