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Writing a Paper: How to Set a Writing Goal

How to Set a Writing Goal

Strong written communication consistently ranks among employers’ top desired skills. It is a skill that transverses disciplines, as most professionals need to know how to communicate clearly in writing. Yet knowing where to start building your written communication skills can be challenging. We recommend starting with setting clear writing goals. The following resources will guide you in forming clear, actionable writing goals.

Getting Started

The first step in setting a writing goal is getting to know yourself as a writer. What are your strengths and improvement areas as a writer? What stresses you out about writing? What is your typical writing routine, and are there ways to improve that process? To answer these questions, you may consider the following steps:

  • Take stock of your writing experiences—past and present—and reflect on what you know about your writing abilities and learning style
  • Sketch out your existing writing practice (i.e., where, when, and how you write) and pinpoint distractions (e.g., social media, noisy workspace, lateness in the day)
  • Outline your ideal writing process (i.e., if everything in your writing process worked out perfectly with no distractions) and highlight potential skills or techniques to model
  • Learn from other writers and explore what practices they have employed to keep the writing process running smoothly  
  • Identify personal obstacles to your writing process—whether it be your own self-consciousness or the blank page—and assess ways to alleviate these pressures

Once you have this information, ask yourself: What did I learn about myself as a writer, what specific patterns or practices in my writing or writing process would I like to change, and what steps do I need to take in order to develop those skills? You can use your responses to start setting writing-specific goals. 

Drafting Writing-Specific Goals

At this point, you may be asking yourself: What is a writing-specific goal and how do I set one? Let's start with what a writing goal is.

A writing goal is an objective you set to build on and enhance a particular skill or set of skills that influence your writing. Writing goals, in this regard, are about identifying skills in your writing or patterns in your writing process that need growth and development. 

You may find that, based on what you learned about yourself as a writer in the “Getting Started” section, your writing goals are related to mastering APA citations and references or establishing a better method for organizing ideas or improving your knowledge of academic writing and its impact on tone. This list is a quick preview of possible goals; however, there are countless, other writing-specific goals to consider, including but not limited to clarity, cohesion, flow, analysis, synthesis, paraphrasing, and grammar skills. Each of these areas is an excellent basis for establishing a writing goal.

The next step is to use SMART Goal Criteria to ensure your goal can be realistically achieved. 

Using SMART Goals as a Guide

The SMART Goals Guide is an excellent tool for ensuring you set clear, manageable writing goals. It helps to establish that your writing goals are:

S–Specific: Is your goal focused and specific? Does it avoid generalizations and abstractions?

M–Measureable: Can you track your progress and completion? What indicators will you use?  

A–Achievable: Is this goal within your control? Do you have the necessary resources for success?

R–Relevant: How does this goal impact your skills set and where you want to be? 

T–Timely: Does this goal have a reasonable timeline and completion date?

The Academic Skills Center has an excellent resource that walks you through how to develop SMART goals. Keep it on hand as you draft and revise your writing goals. 

Working Toward Goals in Paper Reviews

Once you have established your writing goals, keep in mind that you don’t have to set out achieving those goals all on your own. We are here to support your goal progress and overall writing skill development. We encourage you to set up a paper review appointment and share those writing goals with our writing instructors. Together, we can discover more ways to support your path to writing goal success. Click here to learn more about our paper review appointments.

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