Below are a few examples of less effective compared to more effective writing goals:
Ineffective Writing Goal: My writing goal is to get an A on my paper because I lost points for organization on my last assignment.
Although this goal has admirable intentions, it poses a series of potential obstacles. First, it is not focused on writing. The student has focused on a problem instead of concentrating on developing specific, achievable writing skills. There are also factors related to grading that are beyond the student’s control. For example, if the student has not written an academic, graduate level paper in several years, it would only be natural for the student to miss points related to organization and idea development. That is perfectly understandable. The important thing to remember is to focus on the needed skills as opposed to the problem at hand.
More Effective Writing Goal: I lost points on a recent assignment because of my paper’s organization. My writing goal is to apply the Writing Center’s MEAL plan to my next assignment and practice developing paragraphs with one, main idea.
In this revised writing goal, the student has identified not only a specific writing skill on which to focus but also a supporting resource—that is, the Writing Center’s MEAL plan—to achieve this goal. The student has also set a reasonable timeline for this goal by concentrating on the application of a single skill to a specific, upcoming assignment. Finally, the student has not placed undue pressure to achieve this goal after one project; instead, the student has smartly suggested that the goal is to practice effective paragraph structure.
Vague or Broad Writing Goal: I want to become a better writer.
Again, the student’s intentions here are genuinely positive. We, at the Writing Center, are always in favor of enhancing your writing skills no matter where you are in the writing process. However, in this case, the student has not narrowed their focus enough to identify what aspects of writing they hope to address. Without this concentration, it can be hard to know where to start. To this point, the student would likely benefit from establishing a step-by-step goals plan that works toward this larger objective of becoming a better writer.
More Effective Writing Goal: I want to focus on how to incorporate and cite evidence appropriately in order to become a more effective scholarly writer. I will achieve this goal by reviewing the Writing Center’s “Paraphrasing Source Material” webinar and then setting up a paper review appointment to check my revisions.
This revision is a clear step in the right direction. The student has now identified a specific set of skills on which to focus as well as established a reasonable plan for achieving this goal. Each step is within the student’s control and can be achieved in a timely manner. Most importantly, the student has not forgotten about the larger goal of becoming a better writer. The student simply has broken this process down into more manageable, step-by-step pieces. In fact, once this goal has been achieved, the student can set another smaller goal to continue their progress to becoming an effective scholarly writer.