8 Tips for Writing Good College Papers

Writing papers were hard enough in high school, and it doesn’t get any easier in college! Depending on the class, sometimes a huge chunk of your grade will come from term papers. These are general strategies that have worked for many people.

Read on if you would like to get A’s on all of your college papers!

1. Your first paper will be an experiment on what kind of things that your professor looks for in a paper.

Sometimes, you know how to cater to your reader (in this case your professor) so that he or she will give you a good grade. For instance, a liberal teacher would be more likely to give a better grade to a student that wrote how the government should develop more welfare programs and help single mothers. It is important to be observant of what kind of styles and techniques will win over your teacher’s heart. The faster you find these tactics, the better! Utilize them to your advantage! However, according to the example, do keep in mind that if you do feel strongly that the government should focus less on aid and you can argue your point clearly, your teacher will give you credit for writing a persuasive essay well because they are not suppose to be biased. Other examples of styles that some professors may like are the use of big words, fancy sentence structure, and sometimes it could be the complete opposite! (Also known as the K.I.S.S. method = Keep It Simple Stupid!)

2. Plan plenty of time for your paper.

Finding time to work on it will be difficult with your busy college schedule, but you will have to condition yourself to make a schedule, AND THEN STICK TO IT. Professors have been reading papers, writing papers themselves, and grading papers their whole lives. They will know if you started working on it the night before or if you just spent an hour or two on it. Look at the due date then calculate how much time you will need for brainstorming, rough drafts, research (if needed), proofreading, etc. Leave some extra breathing room at the end too so that if an emergency comes up, you won’t fall too behind schedule!

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3. Lay out all of the necessary information in front of you, whether it is research, class notes, or your own ideas.

Quickly read or skim through everything you have and begin brainstorming. After you have some idea of what and how you’re going to write your paper, try to push even further and develop these or other new ideas. This is where people come up with their own methods. Some will create outlines and bullet-point their ideas into sections, which will eventually become paragraphs. Others just like to dive right into it and start their rough draft. Do whatever is more comfortable for you and which one you think will benefit you more.

4. After you finish your first rough draft, REVISE it, NOT PROOFREAD.

Proofreading should be one of the very last steps. For now, you are just developing your ideas and working with the words to try to convey what you are trying to say. One effective strategy you can use is to read your paper out loud. Pretend like you are reading your essay as a speech in front of your class. Are your theories or suggestions clear? Are they comprehendible? And if you typed out your essay, make sure to print it out and edit it as a tangible hard copy. Mark it all over with a bright red pen! Straining your eyes at a computer is very distracting and actually can stifle new ideas.

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5. Write a MINIMUM of at least one revision, two is even better! Three? More power to you!

The more revisions you write, the more your effort will shine through. Be sure to be concise and streamline out any unnecessary sentences and/or paragraphs. Good writers know how to say things well with the least amount of words as possible. Remember that your professor probably has to grade a hundred or more papers. He or she will appreciate your short thoroughness!

6. Write as many revisions as you can, as time permits.

Take breaks in between each. It is amazing how different your writing can sound to you after not seeing it for a few hours or a few days. After at the least, one or two drafts, proofread it for grammar, spelling, run-on sentences, etc. It is wise to have your roommate, friend, or even better a classmate (because he or she will understand the material and be on the same page as you) to read it also. Reread it yourself, read it out loud, read it to your plant, read it in the park, just spend a lot of time with it! Or at least as much as you can!

7. When you have almost a final draft and you’re pretty happy with what you see, visit your professor during his or her office hours.

Here, you are killing two birds with one stone. Not only are you getting good insight by the person that will potentially be grading your paper, but you are getting to know the person behind the teacher. Studies show that students who visit their professors’ office hours do much better in the class and receive the highest grades. Jot down whatever notes and tips your professor gives you and then apply them to your paper.

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Now, you can do your final revision and smooth out every sharp corner of your essay to make sure it is A+ material! Make sure to save an extra copy on your computer or a flash drive and now you can sit back and relax. If you have time, leave your final essay alone for a couple of hours or a couple of days. There is ALWAYS room for you to continue improving your paper.

Now, practically many of us cannot follow this extremely time-consuming schedule. We’ve got three or more other classes to worry about, and a social life! Writing good papers begins with habit and practice. You must force yourself at first, but once it becomes like a routine, the comes easy. The faster you become at developing your ideas, being able to proofread as your write or make fewer mistakes, the easier this will all become! Good luck! 🙂