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The mandatory writing courses at top schools generally have some structures that are forced adversarially on first year students, like the "lens" essay. They're not bad but the students have to shoehorn whatever they're writing into the specified format, regardless of what the writing ends up needing to be.

One of the best ways to really 'get it' is to make outlines of things that are already written, to learn how it flows from one topic to another and back, and if it actually works. You can also reverse outline things you've already written and get a good idea of what's happening or missing and how it could change.

This is a decent resource, if a bit unorganized: http://harvardwritingcenter.wordpress.com/

"Lens essay" is worth a web search, if you're curious.

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