I have mentioned before that I am an honors student, this is largely due to my passion for education. Another passion of mine is to help others succeed academically, and I feel like I have a lot of helpful hints to offer. Many people dread being assigned a paper because they feel overwhelmed, they dislike writing, or they don’t know where to begin. If you identify with any of those things this is the blog post for you! As an English Major I have discovered some simple secrets to writing better papers more easily. It wasn’t always this way, it was a skill I had to develop with time and practice. Below is my guide to writing a great paper easily!
1. Start early
This is the key to a successful paper. There’s a reason that your instructors are constantly harping on the value of getting a jump on your projects: because it’s true! Statistically speaking you are going to do better if you start sooner and finish early than if you wait until the last minute.
Not to worry! Starting your paper is easier than you may think. Start by mulling over the topic for at least week and gather thoughts (maybe as you consider your argument jot down a few sparse ideas on your phone in the direction that you want to take your paper).
“Wait? So your telling me that you want me to actually put thought into this paper?”
Yes that’s exactly what I’m saying! The best way to start a paper is by thinking not by writing. I meditate on every paper I write for at least a week before putting anything on paper.
2. Break it down
Pro tip: consider including a paragraph that details the opposing side’s argument then make another paragraph smashing said ideas into a thousand pieces with your solid reasoning!!!
3. OUTLINE OUTLINE OUTLINE!!!
This tip is really an extension of the second tip. Make a brief outline (about one page long or a little more depending on the length of your paper) detailing each idea with a minimal inclusion of arguments or main thoughts. It should not be detailed just enough to make a basic map for your paper showing you where you start, where the twists and turns will be, and where it will conclude.
4. Deadly Deadlines
Statistics show that students do better with deadlines. Make it a point to create a deadline for each part of the editing process of your paper. In other words “on Tuesday I will think about my paper and the topic, on Friday I will organize my thoughts into an outline, on Monday I will write my first rough draft, then editing on Wednesday, after that I’ll submit it for my professor to look over before it’s due on Friday.”
If you make the paper a collection of small tasks to complete it is a more fulfilling process because you get to check things off your “to do” list. It makes a large task feel small and manageable.
The main thing to remember from this tip is to create a deadline that allows you to finish your paper AT LEAST two days before the actual due date!!!
5. Intro and Conclusion Trick
I learned this trick in grade school and it has never failed me yet. Sometimes the hardest part of writing a paper can be the intro and conclusion. Unfortunately they are some of the most important parts of the paper. They are what draws in the reader and the final and lasting idea that they will leave with when they put your paper down. My simple trick for writing a great intro and conclusion is this:
Make you intro very broad at first and as you go make it more and more specific until you reach the last sentence in your paragraph which should be your thesis. This creates an arrow that points directly at your main ideas.
When writing your conclusion you should mirror your introduction. Start with your thesis and then move the scope of your ideas outward until you finish with your broadest point. A favorite trick of mine is to make the last few sentences relate to how the topic effects the world. This leaves a lasting impression that your readers can apply to a wider range of ideas!
6. Research Tools
Google Scholar –
If that doesn’t work, try your good, old-fashioned library to find sources.
7. Don’t Stress About Citation; Get It Right the First Time!
The online resources don’t end there! Citation can be a real hassle especially if you are unsure of what you’re doing or even if you’re just a little rusty. These websites are my go to sources for citations!
Perdue Owl –
Google scholar will also cite works in a variety of citation styles!
8. This Goes Without Saying
(Cite this source later)
It is a sure way to fail, besides why steal someone else’s ideas when you have an amazing opportunity to espouse your own amazing ideas to a captive audience. Your professor has to read your paper so let your unique perspective on the world shine instead of stealing someone else’s overused, starchy perspective. You might change the world!
9. Ask, Seriously Ask
Ask someone else to read over your work at least one time before submitting your paper. They will be able to point out your weakest ideas, the stuff that isn’t clear, and help you hone your paper. Getting someone else’s perspective on your ideas is a great way to get an A. My personal favorite is to ask my professor to look over my paper before I submit it to them. Not every professor will be willing to do this but they might surprise you. Who better to critique your paper than the person you are writing it for? They will provide clearer insight on their expectations for your paper. Think of it as a way to get a do that do over on your paper before you ever receive a final grade on it. If you are too shy, or your professor is unwilling to look over your work don’t worry ask a fellow classmate if they can look over your paper (they are the next best thing to your professor since they’re in the same class as you). If all else fails, seek out help from your college’s Assistive Technology lab or their tutoring lab. Many schools provide these services for free and have employees who will read your paper and help you craft it into a masterpiece. Seek out all the resources that are available to you, they can be a huge asset to throughout your academic career!
10. Use a Formula
Comparison and Contrast
This is one of my go to papers. First I notenall the similarities between two or more ideas, then I note the difference between the two. Typically, I create a paragraph for every similarity and a paragraph for every difference.
According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an analysis is “the separation and identification of the parts of a whole.” Meaning “dissect” the topic, for all of you biology people. If you are going to create an analysis make sure that you clearly identify the who, what, when, where, why, how, and controversy (if applicable) of the topic. Make a paragraph out of each of these things (modify as needed for page count and instructors preferences). Make sure when you analyze the topic you DO NOT blatantly superimpose your direct thoughts into the paper, lead the reader to their conclusion using properly cited supporting evidence.
I hope that this aides you in all your future paper writing endeavors! Since this is an abstract instructional tutorial that doesn’t deal with creating a physical object I will leave you glamour shots of a paper that I made a 100% on last semester instead!