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How to prompt writing with the Blitz-Exposé

Some prepare their texts meticulously before they even write the first word. Others simply start writing and develop their thoughts as they write. In this article, we will explain how your students can find a balance between these approaches by introducing them to the benefits of an exposé.

When writing texts, two basic methods can be distinguished: On the one hand, one can approach writing in a planned, systematic, and structured manner. Composing complex scientific texts for university usually requires prior planning and structuring. On the other hand, one can also fill a blank page spontaneously and associatively to let ideas arise in the flow of writing, elaborate them or develop them further. This can be especially helpful, for example, if you are not sure exactly how to proceed – in other words, cannot see the forest for the trees.

Both approaches to writing have their justification as well as advantages and disadvantages; depending on one’s personal way of working, both can be used specifically during the writing process to reach the goal, the finished text.

In a nutshell: What is a Blitz-Exposé?

The writing exercise Blitz-Exposé, which supports students in the conceptualization of their text projects, is characterized by integrating the two approaches mentioned above; this is what makes it especially effective: The exercise aims to write the first outline of a short exposé, but to write more or less spontaneously, to get the text down on paper straightforwardly and as quickly as possible. Both the starting points and the purpose of a writing project, such as a term paper or thesis, are reviewed and defined as well. In addition, students learn about the benefits of a written project outline, which helps them plan writing projects during their studies.

Even for you as a teacher, there are certain advantages of letting your students write an exposé for study-related papers: Students who have written an exposé are well prepared for office hours in which the feasibility of a project is clarified or the first outline of a text project is discussed. Further, an exposé is always useful for identifying a project’s focus or potential weak points early on.

You can provide the following step-by-step instructions to your students; download them here as a PDF file.

Step by step: Blitz-Exposé

An exposé is a written project outline that helps to plan and prepare your term paper/project paper/thesis in a targeted and considerate manner. The writing exercise Blitz-Exposé allows you to write such a plan spontaneously, as quickly as possible, and in complete sentences. Since you are writing only for yourself, it is (for once) not a matter of linguistic correctness or stylistically appropriate wording. Rather, it is about reflecting associatively on various key questions and recording your answers in writing.

Depending on your preference, the exercise can be done either by handwriting or on a computer. However, ensure to change your writing medium occasionally. Thus, if you usually only write with your keyboard, take the exercise as an opportunity to pick up pen and paper to provide a little variety in your daily writing routine.

The exercise is supposed to take no longer than 20 minutes, so it is best to set yourself a timer – and get going! Just start writing. If possible, write your text in one go without taking your pen off the paper or revising your wording. Answer the following guiding questions. If you cannot answer one of the questions, consider an alternative question if necessary or move on to the next question:

  • What is the topic of your paper? What do you want to examine?
  • What is your research question? What do you want to find out or demonstrate?
  • Which aspects are of particular interest/relevance? What scientific problem is your work related to?
  • What is your goal in doing so? What is the purpose of your paper?
  • What data and materials do you want to examine?
  • What is your approach? What methods would be suitable – and why?
  • Which tools do you need?
  • What does your time schedule look like? Have you set intermediate goals for yourself? Is there a deadline?

After the time is up, read calmly through what you have written. If you are still unsure or unable to find an answer at one point or another, you now know what you still need to ponder and clarify. You can use your finished Blitz-Exposé as a reflection tool for your further steps and the concrete preparation of your writing project – no matter whether it is a term paper, a project paper, or a thesis. In addition, you can elaborate further on your spontaneous draft and make it the starting point for a productive discussion of your project with your supervisor.

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  • Andreas Bissels

    Andreas Bissels is responsible for the writing center of the competence workshop at the University of Applied Scienes Cologne. As a writing consultant, he accompanies students and doctoral candidates in writing texts, offers writing workshops and organizes writing events. For teachers, he is the interdisciplinary contact person for questions related to didactic writing.

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