This post is all about how to write a college paper in 10 easy steps to get an A+ every time.
Are you struggling to write your college papers? Do you have a big paper coming up for finals this semester than you have to absolutely get an A on? Well, I’m here to help!
I’ve written tons of papers throughout my four years in college. I’ve also had a lot of experience doing peer reviews and having my papers reviewed by professors and peers from the writing studio at my college.
So without further ado, here are my top tips on how to write your best college paper yet!
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How to Write a College Paper in 10 Easy Steps
1. Create your outline
The first and most important thing you need to remember when writing a college paper is to create your outline first. This will help you structure your paper and your thoughts, and it’ll also make writing your paper much easier. This is a basic format for a paper:
Depending on the type of essay/paper you’re writing, it will be structured differently. You may have several body paragraphs but you should always have an introduction and a conclusion.
Protip #1: If you’re given a title/prompt/question for your college paper, add it to the header of your document and make sure you’re answering the question/following the prompt!!
2. Start filling in your outline by free writing
Free writing is a protip one of my English professors taught me a long time ago. Basically, before you actually start writing your paper, write down or type up all your ideas for your paper within your outline without worrying about spelling and grammar etc (bullet form is best).
This helps you focus on just getting all your ideas out first to overcome writer’s block. Here’s an example of what I mean:
Notice I wrote “Thingy the English prof taught me (google the actual name)” – that was intentional. I did it to prove a point – it’s okay to be informal when jotting down your ideas. No one is going to see it. It helps you get your ideas out quickly without worrying about being grammatically correct (that’s the last step).
3. Do your research
Now, you begin doing formal research. Keep in mind you’re still working on your outline. We’ll get to the actual paper later.
- If you’re writing a research paper – use Google Scholar for academic sources, your school’s library, or search Google for articles and studies on your topic.
- If you’re writing an analysis of a book/book report – read the book and note pages with information you want to use. Write down or type up any lines or paragraphs you want to use prior to starting your writing. (This will make it easier to reference later when writing your paper)
- If you’re writing a regular college paper on any topic – you may not have to do too much research but if applicable, find academic sources on your topic to strengthen your points.
All the research you gathered should be entered as bullet points in your outline. This helps you stay organized for the writing process. You should also include their citations!!!! Which brings me to my next point –
4. Cite your sources as soon as you add them to your outline!
Don’t worry if you aren’t sure how to properly cite them at first. What’s important is you should still include a rough citation at the end of your research so you don’t forget to cite it later! Here’s an example of how I vaguely cite my sources before I actually refine them.
Notice how I make my “citations” bold and changed the font color to red. You want to make it stand out from the normal text so you remember to properly cite it later.
Protip #2: Use EasyBib to save all of your citations as you go and easily export them in a Word document format. That way all you have to worry about is adding your in-text citations.
5. Start writing your paper!
This is the order in which you should write your paper:
You should with the body first because that’s where most of your information is going to be. The conclusion should be second because it’ll be easier to summarize everything you wrote in the body. The introduction should be last because it is the most important part of your paper!
The introduction gives the reader a preview of what to expect in your paper. Therefore, it’s best to write it after you already know what’ll be in your paper. You can try to write it first, but chances are it may not reflect your main points very well because you could change some things. Also, it’s very hard to start with your introduction – you’ll only waste precious time and end up having to refine it later!
Tips for writing your college paper/essay
- FOLLOW YOUR OUTLINE!
- Determine how many paragraphs you need to have in the body, based on the different topics in your outline. Remember, each paragraph should only have one main idea. Don’t try to fit too much in a paragraph!
- Format your paper before you begin writing if you have a page limit. Typically, most professors require Times New Roman font, size 12, double spaced.
- Protip #3: If you’re limited to three pages, for example, format the paper this way first so you can see how much you have to write/how much you’ve written so you don’t go over the limit and have to cut down on your masterpiece.
Protip #4: Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, and punctuality yet!
- If you’re like me, sometimes you’ll struggle to figure out how to structure a sentence or what word to use every now and then. If you try to get it right the first time, you’ll waste too much time.
- Write your sentence weird the first time, or put in a word you’re not sure of but make a comment in the margin or add a note in parenthesis to come back and change it later. You’ll save more time that way and get your ideas out while they’re flowing!
6. Write your conclusion
Now that you’ve written the biggest part of your paper it’s time to summarize it. Here’s a simple rule of thumb I follow:
- Opening statement about paper topic/prompt/question
- Summary of the main idea in each paragraph
- Concluding statement of your argument/stance on the topic
Remember: Don’t go into too much detail in your summaries; that’s what your body paragraphs are for. You also don’t want to include any citations/new information in your conclusion!
7. Write your introduction
Your introduction is like a sneak peek into what your college essay or paper is going to be about. This part is actually hard because if you don’t write a good introduction, you could lose your reader’s interest before they’ve even read your paper! Here’s what I recommend:
- Start with a memorable/catchy sentence
- Briefly introduce your stance/argument
- List the topics you’re going to discuss (these are the main ideas in each of your body paragraphs). List them in the order you talk about them in the body of your paper.
8. Revise for structure
Phew! The worst is out of the way. Now, you can begin revising! But I don’t mean for spelling and grammar just yet.
Spelling and grammar are relatively easy to correct since programs like Microsoft Word, Google Docs or Grammarly include spellcheck that automatically fixes errors for you.
This first review is to examine the structure and flow of your writing.
For this review, read over your paper once to make sure your writing flows seamlessly and has smooth transitions between paragraphs. I know it may be a little hard to ignore grammar and spelling here but try. Don’t worry, it’s the next step. Here are a few things you want to look out for:
- Ensure you have transition words for the first sentence of each paragraph (eg. firstly, however, furthermore)
- Ensure each paragraph ends by summarizing the main idea in that paragraph and relates it to the thesis/prompt. (eg. because of the reasons outlined, xyz should happen)
- Ensure the first sentence of every paragraph contains the main idea that is discussed in that paragraph. (eg. First, xyz should happen because it’s …. [then explain why])
9. Revise for grammar with Grammarly
This is the easiest and most crucial part of writing your college paper. Avoid spelling and grammatical errors at all costs. It can cost you points off your masterpiece + make you lose credibility as a writer!
I’d strongly recommend using Grammarly to check your writing for errors. Not only does it check for spelling and grammar errors, but it also suggests word choices for overused words, highlights passive voice, and much more (in addition to the basic features that Microsoft Word does).
Grammarly is my secret weapon behind everything I write; from papers to blog posts. It has a chrome extension that enables you to perform spellcheck on everything you type, especially when sending emails.
The best part? It’s free!! Thank me later.
10. Read over your college paper one last time
Now that you’ve written your paper and fixed any grammatical errors with Grammarly, give it one last read to make sure everything’s good. Be very critical of your writing in the process.
It’s okay to make a few minor changes here and there if you think it’ll improve the quality of your paper. Just remember to perform spellcheck again when you’re done.
Best tools for writing your college paper
This is it, guys. This is the ultimate tool for writing your college papers (and writing anything in general)!
Here’s a preview of how Grammarly works:
Grammarly fixes problems like punctuation, fluency, conciseness, clarity, plagiarism, and more!
You can start out for free here!
If you’re writing an essay or paper that requires academic sources, I’d highly recommend using Easybib to organize your citations and bibliography. Simply paste the links to your sources on Easybib and it automatically fills in the relevant information (that you can edit as well) and saves your source. When you’re done, you can easily export them all and your bibliography/works cited page is pretty much done.
All this can be done using the free version (which I use)! With the paid option, it’ll also automatically generate your in-text citations so you don’t worry about doing those yourself and getting them wrong.
A lot of you probably already do this but if you don’t – you’ll thank me later.
How many times have you struggled to find the right word to use when writing your college essay? Or maybe you used the same word like 300 times already so you want a substitute? Thesaurus.com is your friend!!!
Every time I’m writing a paper I always have Thesaurus.com open in a separate tab because of this. It’s a life saver!
This post showed you how to write a college paper to get an A+ every time!
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