Writing an Exceptional Paper in College

January 4, 2012 Category: College Tips

In high school, writing papers gave many students trouble.  In college, that task does not get any easier and depending on the class they can be a major part of your grade.  Knowing how to budget your time and using a few paper writing techniques, this task can improve your paper writing grades.  If you continue reading, it is because you would like to learn a few paper writing techniques that have helped college students get better grades.  Just a word of warning, it will take a little extra time and effort on your part.

It is always good to know who your audience is and in this case it is your professor.  Depending on the class you might consider catering to him.  Now, professors grade without bias, but if you have a liberal teacher and the topic is government programs you might take on a positive outlook on welfare.  This does not mean you cannot take an opposite stance, but use well written back up making for a very persuasive essay.  Also, knowing your professor’s style preference would be something good to learn right away.  Some professors like seeing “big” words and well developed sentence structure, yet others may like it when you keep things simple and not try sounding like a politician.

Plan plenty of time for writing your paper.  When I say plan, I mean just that.  Schedule times to work on your paper because with your hectic college schedule that can be difficult.  This is something you will have to learn and condition yourself to make a practical schedule and stick to it.  Professors know if you spent time on writing or if it was thrown together at the last minute.  Looking at the due date plan time for brainstorming, research, rough drafts, proofreading , and insert a little extra time for any unexpected delays.

Brainstorming:  With all your information in front of you (research, class and reading notes, your own ideas), review it all and begin brainstorming.  Once you have an idea of what you are going to write about, develop those ideas.  At this point, create your own system on how to write it down.  You can develop an outline, or write down words or phrases using bullets that eventually become paragraphs.  Or you may want to jump right into starting your rough draft.

Rough Drafts:  Yes, rough drafts, plural.  After the first one, you will want to revise it, further developing your ideas and reworking words and sentences to best express what you are trying to say.  Reading it aloud may help you at this point of the process, making sure your points, theories or suggestions are clear and understandable.  Also, it helps to revise a hard copy of your paper.  Staring at a computer screen can tire your eyes and you may miss things and may stifle new ideas.

After you have finished revising, write another draft.  Do this at least once, but if you have the time consider doing it a couple of times.  It is time consuming, but your paper’s quality will show.  Do not be redundant.  Be concise and do not use unnecessary sentences or paragraphs.

Take breaks between your drafts.  Taking some time off, away from your paper, can help you refocus and new ideas may come to you.

Proof Reading:  When you have finished your second or third final draft, proof read your paper for grammar, spelling, run-on sentences . . .etc. . . Along with yourself, you may want to have someone else proof read it for you also.  A classmate may be the most helpful since they are familiar with the class’ material and may give you better feedback.

Consider visiting you professor at his office hours and getting his advice on your paper.  Take notes on what his feedback is and be sure to apply it to your paper.

Final Draft:  You can now write your final revision of that paper.  And even if it is your “final,” you can still leave it alone a day or a few hours and revise it one last time; there is always room for improvement!

This may seem like a lot of work, but developing good paper writing skills takes practice.  What is difficult now, will become second nature with time.

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