During your years at college, your professors will require you to write dozens of papers ranging from 1-7 pages at least. Many students I, myself included tend to overthink how to write a paper, now this is a problem, because when we overthink that leads to writer’s block and we continue to put off the paper to the last second which causes a lot of stress, more then there should be with writing. I propose a simple yet effective way to write a college level paper, that will hopefully get an A, and greatly decrease the stress of writing.
Step 1: Pick the main question— Sometimes the main question is already decided by your professor if so you can skip to the second step, but if there is a list of questions it is in your best interest not to choose the easiest question because it generally is the hardest to write on. It is in your best interest to pick the question that sounds the most interesting to you regardless on the difficulty level. If you are sincerely fascinated by the topic you will be more inclined to learn about the topic, unlike if it’s something that bores you out of your mind. Now if you must come up with your own question it can be extremely difficult. It would be a good idea to study the reading assigned to the class, the topics discussed in the lectures, and make the question on something that interests you as well as something you don’t have the answer to yet.
Step 2: Make a Schedule—It is best to begin the paper early, because it will increasingly lessen the amount of stress you will endure while writing the paper. One way to write the schedule is to add 3 days to the total number of pages is required for the assignment so if it is a 5-page paper spend 8 days on it. A schedule that I use is 1-2 days of research, 1 page per day, and 1 day for editing. That is if I have that much time for that sometimes I have to simplify those days considering sometimes I only have 4 days (if I’m lucky) to write a paper, but one day to research is still a good idea, then divide the essay’s length over the remaining days.
Step 3: Find Sources— When writing a paper, sources are very important. If the topic was only discussed briefly or not at all in class, it becomes much more difficult to find sources to help write the paper. A few ways to find sources is to either google search the topic, ask your professor, or go to the library and find books on this topic.
Step 4: Read and take notes—This step will take several hours, so make sure you set enough time in your schedule aside for this. When you are reading the sources, it is imperative that you understand your sources, because this is what will help you write the paper. If you have very few resources you should read all of them; however, if you have you have a huge amount of resources it would help save time if you read academic book reviews, which should help narrow your resources. When you begin to read your resources, it would be smart to take notes on the main points of the books and when you are done summarize the main points of the books.
Step 5: Draft the outline— When drafting an outline, there are many ways to do so. Depending on the type of paper I am writing I have two ways I prefer to write the outline. The first outline is best for discussing a topic before a conclusion. The paper is like a discussion you are changing. Present a topic, having mastery over the points discussed, and answering any questions or problems that the reader may have. This essay’s body is between a introduction and conclusion. At the beginning of the outline write “Introduction- introduce topic.” When you write the introduction, it is important to make sure everything is relevant to the reader. It helps keep your paper interesting and engaging. Next, write the thesis statement- this is the summary of what you will defend, or the topic you will discuss throughout the paper, be specific but don’t summarize the essay entirely. Next plan the essay’s body divide your paper into points that will build on each other starting with the broadest moving more specific as you go, then end with the conclusion. A way to write that in the outline would be “conclusion- closing thoughts.” After writing the rest of the paper, it will be clear what closing thoughts are necessary. The second outline works best if you are answering specific questions. A way to write this would be to divide the main question into smaller questions needing to be answered, divide it into step-by-step questions ending with a conclusion. Even if there isn’t a specific question for the paper, it is easier to write it since each section focuses primarily on discussing something that points back to your thesis statement.
Step 6: Write the essay— This is the hardest step in the process of writing the paper; however, with a good outline it is easier. Here are four tips to make it easier. First look at previous feedback, if you have written a paper already for this professor, look at their suggestions on improving your future writing. It is in your best interest to use their advice for the paper; however, if you have not written for them yet the other two tips will hopefully help. Secondly, really get into the subject you are writing on, sincerely ask the question to yourself of what you are writing on and write your paper clear and thorough. Third, remain clear in the paper. Don’t overshoot the grand and fall into the grandiose; simple but beautiful writing is the way to go. Lastly, don’t over-quote your resources, a way to avoid this is to write from memory not having the book or article right next to you as you write. However, when you quote it is best to use the prior and post sentences to get context for the quote.
Step 7: Edit the paper— After you have finished writing the paper it is best to put it away for the night then work on it the next day, you will have a crisp eye and a clear mind. A good way to edit is to print the paper and read it through carefully taking it one sentence at a time checking for spelling, grammatical, punctuation, and usage errors. It may also help to have a friend, family member, or tutor check the paper also to make sure all the errors have been caught.
Congratulations! You have finished writing a college level paper, I hope you found these steps helpful and easy to follow.