Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to Plan Your Final Projects

I don't know about you but I'm feeling 22 the end of the semester is nearing at a rapid pace and I've just begun to start thinking about my final assignments. A lot of my classes have final papers and projects over traditional final exams, each of them different in their own way (beyond the fact that they're for different classes, #DUH) and requiring a different type of planning and a lot of my attention. In order for anything to seem less daunting to me, I like to break it up into different parts or sections. Projects are certainly no exception to my compartmentalizing rule, so I figured I'd share the most basic breakdown of how I plan my bigger projects.

1. Brainstorm

It doesn't matter if you have an assigned prompt or topic (though, it's even more important if you don't). Think about what you want to talk about in your final project, whether it's a 2,000 word paper on a writing piece you studied in class or an online interactive portfolio. What points do you want to touch on? What do you know you have to include? Think of why you're choosing your talking points or your topics.

If you have the freedom to fully choose your destiny when it comes to choosing a project topic, actually spend time thinking about it. Don't choose something based on how easy it is (though, it is a perk when a topic you're interested in is super easy...). Choose something you wouldn't mind researching or spending extensive amounts of time writing. Choose something that is stimulating and interesting. With that topic, decide what angle you want to take and, again, why are you choosing that topic?

2. Outline

This is where the answer to all of the questions you asked yourself come into play. I'm not going to lie, I outline multiple times during a project. I can't help it. I like lists and I like being organized. I use the rubric to help create the skeleton outline and the after, I fill it in with information that has to do with what I want to talk about and what I find important about my topic. My outlines differ with projects as well. I'll give an example of my paper outlines as well as an example of how I outline bigger projects. I also have this handy post I made a couple of years ago as a guide to writing a good college paper, so you can check that out too!

Here is a more updated version of how I outline papers. This one is for a shorter paper I have to write for my Spanish literature class. The smaller papers are 1,000 words, so for the final assignment of 2,000 words, I would certainly add a few more points. The rubric also changes for that final paper, so I would make sure to edit my original rubric to add in the different points that I'm supposed to touch on during the paper.

1. Introduction:
* General plot of the play
* Who wrote the play
* Brief interpretation of the theme
* Include the main idea and focus of paper
2. About the author
3. About the time period and literary movement
        * Socio-political and cultural context
4. Brief summary of the play
5. Title, settings, characters
* Does the title bear any meaning? Is it literal or not?
* Where is this set? Is it real?
* Who are the main characters? What happens to them? Are they complex?
6. Writing style
* Vocabulary
* Language
* Rhetorical figures
7. Classification of the play
* Drama? Tragedy?
8. Theme
9. Comparisons to other works we have studied
10. Conclusion
* Closing remarks
* Restate main theme
* Restate the play’s importance in history
That's a pretty basic outline for a paper that I tend to follow. As for other projects, here is an example of a recent Media Kit outline I made. I left all of the sections blank, but this is how easy an outline can be and yet it kept me organized the entire time. Some background on the project: we had to choose six things from a list that we wanted to put into a Media Kit about a business in Cleveland. First, I chose the six things I wanted to include and then I went from there. Any of the extra information is from my textbook for the class!

1. Biography2. Website/blog3. Fact sheet4. Newsletter5. Media advisory6. Social media 
For the fact sheet: * Name * Products/services * Average revenue        * Employees        * Names/biographies of executives        * Markets it serves 
For the media advisory: * One-line headline * Paragraph outlining the story * Answers to some of the five W's * Who to contact with more information
3. Drafts

This is the part that I always want to skip, but drafts are what save my life most of the time. Proofreading is no joke. Very rarely are you going to be able to finish a big final project, look at it and go "okay, that's perfect. I definitely got an A." It's just not going to happen. There are too many components in a final project (in lieu of a final exam) to finish all of its separate parts and declare it finished. When you think you've finished your project, go back through your original assignment and rubric and carefully look through your project once, twice, even three times to make sure that everything is there. Then, go through and reread everything. If it's something online, check to make sure that all of your links lead to the right place. Make sure your works cited page is correct, names, dates, any information that you're not 100% sure about. Check your spelling and grammar multiple times and truly make sure that you've said everything you needed to about your topic.

4. Final edits

When you think you've perfected your drafts, take one last look at it just to fine tune it. Final edits are the most stressful and most glorious thing in the whole world. They're the last step before submitting, which is both terrifying and incredible because then you're free from the grasps of that class. Make sure you're proud of your work and that you've answered all of the questions and prompts that you needed to. Pat yourself on the back, treat yourself to something special and just be proud of yourself that you completed, hopefully with plenty of time to relax.

Do you have any big final projects coming up for your classes?

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