By Jacob Lundquist
Writing a paper can be one of the most arduous, forgettable tasks ever. The weeks-long task is extremely easy to postpone, neglect, and overlook in favor of other work. Here are some tips to help you through the writing process, start to finish.
1 Choose a topic that you find interesting.
Writing about your interests not only makes your research process more engaging, but will make your final product—the essay—more exciting to read.
2. Collect information, quotes, arguments, statistics, and anything else required for your paper.
If you have time, read responses to the arguments that you’re quoting, in order to understand the differing sides to the topic.
3. Schedule your writing.
Find out how long you have to make the final version, and plan accordingly. I like to write 2-3 pages per day, though you can of course do more or less depending on your time limit.
4. Create a working bibliography page.
This should be a list of all the sources you find that are relevant to your essay or your interests. Keeping this list will help you stay organized and decide what sources are and are not useful to you.
I cannot stress how important pre-writing is in crafting an amazing final draft. Many people skip pre-writing because it’s not as exciting or glamorous as pumping out a 15-page paper during an all-nighter, but it’s far more effective and will practically guarantee a good grade.
6. Don’t get stuck on the introduction!
A lot of people have trouble writing their introduction, and this can stump you entirely. If this happens, just start writing body paragraphs until you get a sense for your argument.
7. Check your style manual for citation and formatting concerns.
Every format style has a manual, whether MLA or Chicago or APA, that will tell you how to properly quote, paraphrase, cite, and footnote anything and everything you need.
8. Stay organized.
Keep all of your information in documents under specific headers. Similarly, keep your documents accessible and in folders with descriptive titles. For my projects, I use Dropbox to guarantee that my work is autosaved and available on any computer.
9. Finalize your bibliography.
Using your style manual and a site like the Citation Machine, create your final bibliography or works cited page.
10. Run your work through a plagiarism checker.
Check that you haven’t accidentally lifted anything without directly quoting or citing it, according to your style manual.
11. Check for repetition and purple prose.
Repetition is annoying to read and can make your writing seem low-quality; purple prose is too elaborate, often in a way that makes reading the paper unnecessarily difficult or time-consuming. Clear, concise, straightforward prose is generally best.
12. Wait a few days, then edit.
Best practice writing involves producing the writing, then waiting a few days before editing, in order to give yourself a little bit of distance from the essay. This way, you catch mistakes way easier.
Writing an essay, especially a long one, is a time-consuming project that people often neglect until the very last moment. If you want to avoid the bad grade that will inevitably accompany your all-nighter, follow these tips!