Tips on Writing a Good Paper

Papers are one of the most consistent parts of a college life, and depending on your major, it can seem like all you end up doing is writing papers. Personally, as an English major with minors in History and Psychology, I’ve spent plenty of time on papers, so I figured that I might as well share some of the things I’ve learned over the past few years.

1. Don’t procrastinate

I know this seems obvious, but it’s so important that it needs to be said. Good writing in any form takes time, especially if you need to do research. Get started as early as possible: whether it’s reading or just starting to take notes on pulling your ideas together.

2. Find the organization strategy that works best for you

I personally work best if I just start writing and get all of my body out there–and then I save my introduction and conclusion for last. Other people seem to benefit from outlining first before they start writing. Regardless, figure out what strategy works best for you. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either!

3. Set a bunch of smaller goals

Some papers can seem intimidating just because of their length. Big projects like your Senior Seminar can reach up to twenty-five pages as a minimum requirement! Don’t let things like that intimidate you. Set up smaller goals leading up to the due date and tackle them one at a time. I wrote my senior seminar paper in smaller page chunks to start. In the end, I was able to finish it simply by working on it a little bit a few times a week.

4. Just start writing!

Similar to avoiding procrastination, but not quite. Don’t be afraid about how good your paper is going to be. Most first drafts are terrible, but they help the ideas flow. It doesn’t need to be perfect! Write to make your ideas clear, leave notes along the way where you feel like your ideas are lacking and get a start on reaching whatever your page count needs to be.

5. Ask your professor to look over it

One of the benefits of finishing a draft early is that is gives you plenty of time to refine your work. If you finish a paper early enough, ask if your professor if they’re willing to check if it matches up to their standards. Getting input from the person that will be handing you your grade can make sure you’re headed in the right track. Most professors are busy, so be sure to respect their time and ask in advance!

6. Revise and repeat

Revision is what makes writing good, and what can separate a good paper from a bad one. This includes more than just grammar and spelling! Making sure your ideas are presented clearly and that your paragraphs flow into each other is also vital. Give yourself at least a day from initially writing your paper and looking it over yourself so that you can find mistakes better. If you have gotten input from your professor, be sure to use it! And if you’re not confident in your skills to assess your paper on your own, having other people look over it for you can also be helpful. Sometimes it takes more than one person to find mistakes. Afterwards, keep checking your paper until you’re satisfied with it and turn it in!

And there you have it! These are the guidelines I’ve built for myself, and they’ve helped over the years. i hope that they can help you guys out, too!

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