There are two types of paper writers: those who have their paper written and revised a week before the due date and those who finish typing the last word ten minutes before the paper is due. There is not a right or wrong way to plan and write a paper; however, getting a head start may help alleviate some of the stress of an upcoming assignment.
- Do your research: Jumping into writing a paper can prove to be nerve-wracking. Therefore, before worrying about the introduction or organization of the paper, it is necessary to gather all the information you want to use. Printing sources to mark on may be beneficial, although some people choose not to. In addition, selecting more sources than required is not a problem. In fact, having too many sources can be rewarding because it allows you to be pickier about the kind of information that supports your paper. For example, you may stumble upon three great sources that all contain the same information. In that case, you could choose just one source, the most credible, to use for your paper and cite it on the bibliography/works cited page. Having multiple sources that say the same thing is unnecessary and redundant, unless each one makes different points to reach a common goal, but having one strong source adds depth and credibility to a paper that other sources may not provide.
- Annotate and pinpoint information to use: The next step is to read the articles selected thoroughly. Highlighting or taking notes on important information may be helpful, as it helps you keep track of the information you may want to incorporate into your own paper. Also, consider writing down how you would like to use the information in your paper. Taking note of your plan during the annotation step helps later in the writing process when deciding how to shift from topic to topic in the paper.
The style of annotation may vary from paper to paper. For example, for an informative or argumentative paper, highlighting factual information may be most helpful, while for an analysis, it may be more helpful to highlight certain word choice or style choices the author made.
- Outline: After highlighting or taking notes on the sources and deciding which information to use, making an outline may help keep you on track while writing your paper. An outline can be mental, a list, post-it notes, or a chart. Some techniques work better for one person, while other techniques work better for another person, so there is no limit on options. The important goal of an outline, though, is to make sure there is a solid, but flexible plan for how you want the paper to progress. Devising a logical progression will aid with making smoother transitions throughout the paper!
- Revise: Revision is key to making a paper look freshly polished and appealing to the audience and the professor! Slowly reading the paper aloud to yourself is recommended. Be sure to read every word carefully and listen to what you wrote. By reading the paper aloud, the reading is slowed down, which makes it easier to catch mistakes that would be overlooked if reading silently. While spell-check is a great invention, it only evaluates spelling, and does not take into account how well the correctly-spelled word fits into the sentence. For example, there is a huge difference between “skeptic” and “septic”. Through a quick-reading, a small typo can be easily overlooked, but slowly reading aloud makes it more likely that small, but significant errors will be caught. Plus, reading through the paper a final time forms the perfect opportunity to spice up the language in an essay to make it more appealing to the senses.
written by Jaclyn H.