Article Writing Tips

Article Writing Tips

By: admin
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Editorial timelines and instructions

  • The number of articles you choose to write per month depends on how many hours you would like to contribute.
  • Schedule for article publication date and deadline will be discussed at the monthly editorial meeting. 
  • If your ideas for article topics were different from the ones discussed at the editorial meeting OR if you have new topics that you would like to write on, update other community writers on the OLC discussion group before you start writing to avoid duplicate topics.
  • Once you have created your post, including a catchy title, email the article to the community manager (optional: any photos you took at an event, workshop, etc.) to include in your publication.
    • You will receive feedback via email. Once you have updated the post's content with any feedback, email the article back to the OLC volunteer coordinator and your post will get published according to the editorial schedule.
    • If your article has a couple grammatical errors, they will usually be edited by the volunteer coordinator. However, you should always proofread your articles before AND after the coordinator informs you of the changes s/he makes to your articles.

General Tips

  • Article submissions should be academic, work, volunteer or WIL related tips, articles, events, services or opportunities specific to the interest/needs of SFU current students, alumni, staff and/or employers.
  • Writing should be focused, informative, easy to understand and conversational, yet professional.
  • Paragraphs should be short and concise.
  • Share your expertise, interests, ideas and passion. Blogs attract people because they are written by people.
  • Make connections to the reader – why is the information important to them? What can they do with this information? What actions can they take?

Specific Tips

  • Generally, each article should be around 500-800 words. However, if your article is longer, you may consider breaking up your article into several pieces to make it into a series.
  • Use descriptive, snappy headlines that reveal and sell your point of the post and give the maximum amount of information with the least amount of words. The title alone has to draw the readers in – sometimes (e.g. in emails) they will only see the title, so if the title isn't catchy they won't click through. 
  • Start off with an interesting or thought-provoking paragraph to draw people in.
  • Use bullets/ numbers and subheadings to provide structure and guidance for scanners who may want to jump to the section of their interests
  • Include the number of tips in the title (e.g. Top 5 ways to get involved over the summer)
  • Link to other sites and relevant articles posted in the past
  • Give examples for the tip being a good one (from personal experience or those of someone else are both fine)
  • End your article with some sort of conclusion or call to action – what should readers do now or go for more information? I.e. attend a workshop or contact staff?
  • Ensure the article links back to OLC mission – to support students with networking, learning and information sharing related to personal, academic and professional skill development.

What WIL you write about?
OLC covers virtually every aspect of a student's university life, including academic, career, volunteer and work-related topics. This means that there is significant flexibility in terms of what you can research and write about. Browse through the article archives for topics that you might be interested in.

You can choose any areas of your interest, brainstorm potential article topics and discuss them with the team of writers at the editorial meeting. If you don't have any preferences, we will always do some brainstorming (and, look at requests made by students or staff, if there is any) at the editorial meeting, which will help you figure out what you can write about.

If you are planning to interview and profile a student or alumnus, below are some sample questions we asked in the past. However, note that these are just references to help you get started. We always welcome new, creative ideas to make our articles more interesting and relevant to our readers.

Profile of a student/alumni
OLC often highlights students and alumni in the form of a success story/profile article.

For example, when profiling a co-op student, you may want to ask them to answer these questions:

  • Name and major
  • When did you join the Co-op program?
  • What work Integrated Learning (WIL) resources helped you get your Co-op position(s)?
  • Where did you work for your Co-op term(s)?
  • What were your favorite parts of your position[s]?
  • What was the most rewarding part of your Co-op experience?
  • Would you recommend Co-op to other students?
  • What's next for you?

When profiling alumni, you may want to ask them questions related to their Co-op experiences (if they participated in the program), personal and career planning and advice on how students can successfully start a career in the industry the alumni work in. Some questions include:

  • Basic information
  • Name 
  • Current position
  • Academic career (when they started and graduated from SFU)
  • Major

Co-op background (if applicable)

  • How many co-op terms did you complete?
  • What were some of your most memorable experiences, and why?
  • Do you feel that participating in the co-op program gave you a competitive advantage when entering the workforce?
  • Do you feel that co-op played an important part in where you are today?
  • If you had the opportunity to live your undergraduate career over again, would you choose to do anything different?

Personal and Career Planning

  • Besides co-op, what other steps did you take to prepare for your career?
  • Do you do any volunteer work or join any professional associations/clubs?
  • Did you have any mentors during or since university?
  • What advice do you have for undergraduates about how to succeed in such a competitive job market? 
  • What advice do you have for students about to launch their careers?

Highlighting an event/workshop
Perhaps there is a WIL or community event that you are planning to attend, this will be a great opportunity to highlight it and make it into an article. Some useful tips when reporting on an event or workshop:

  • Be sure to include more than just place/date/time
  • What is the context for the event?
  • Who is putting in on? What do they do?
  • Why is this event important to students?
  • What did you learn from attending the event?

If the event organizers or participants have some time before or after the event (or during the networking session), you may want to ask them for some quotes regarding the event or workshop (i.e. ask the workshop facilitator to provide the "top 5" tips students can take away from the interview workshop).

Requesting quotes or more information from contacts
If you do not know the contact personally, use email to introduce yourself:

My name is [name] and I'm a writer with SFU Online Learning Community (http://www.sfu.ca/olc). I'm doing a story on [topic] and I was hoping I could get some information from you. I've found quite a bit of information on your website, but I'd love to get a quote from someone at [org/group name]. A complete sentence answer to any one of the following would be a great start!
[Insert questions you want to ask here – use the Types of entries above for question ideas.]

If you'd like to learn more about SFU Online Learning Community and the services they can provide you, visit http://www.sfu.ca/olc or contact olchost@sfu.ca.

Thank you,
[name]

Posted on September 29, 2011