Writing does not always come easy for some of us, and the thought of handing in your first university essay, proposal, etc. can be very frightening. Prior to joining the CMU community, I had taken an AP English class that I felt had given me a decent grasp on essay writing. However, as classes began to pick up and I received syllabi, a stomach-wrenching realization came over me as I failed to recognize most of the academic writing styles in which I would have to write future essays. I felt a little embarrassed to ask for help and thought I would have to resort to the all-knowing gurus known to our generation by the names of Google and YouTube.

After a couple of long, stressful days of unsuccessfully learning the art of citing in Chicago and APA, I came across the course offered by CMU called Academic Writing Lab. The academic writing lab is a class designed to teach students to be more efficient writers so that they can be more confident and improve their quality of writing. Wesley Toews, the instructor for this course, describes the lab as a place for exploration and a context for identifying and developing the skills needed to prepare these written assignments to the standards expected at CMU. The course does not provide any credit hours, but by taking it I was able to reinforce my previous knowledge on grammar and essay writing.

It is a required first year course and provides students with knowledge on resource use and how to translate resources into coherent ideas. Objectives of the writing lab include learning how to find and use resources for research assignments and construction of effective research questions and thesis statements. During this course students will also become very familiar with Hacker’s manual, a book that has saved my assignments more times that I would care to admit.

The most important thing when starting out with essay writing is to find a voice with which you’re comfortable. You need to find a persona that is very much like you, but slightly caricatured.
–Anne Fadiman

The Academic Writing Lab allowed me to feel comfortable and confident whenever I write an essay and, most importantly, allowed me to find a voice that expressed my ideas in a written form.

Cesar Flores is one of CMU’s Student Ambassadors