How to write a paper

Knowing how to write a paper is one of the most essential skills a student can have. No matter how knowledgeable you are about a subject, if you can’t express your thoughts clearly in a good essay, then you simply won’t make the grade. Learning how to excel in academic writing can quickly place you at the top of the class. Here’s how to master the art of the term paper, standard report, or college paper.


Do start with a thesis

A good thesis is the central focus of your essay. Everything else in the paper will serve to support this one statement. Therefore, writing the thesis first can help you organize your thoughts and make composing the rest of the essay much easier. Your thesis should include a statement of belief as well as the main supporting details of your argument.

Do conduct research

The vast majority of high school reports and college papers require that you conduct a certain amount of research. Information gleaned from credible sources of information such as academic databases, can help you make a strong case for your thesis and make your paper a compelling one.

Do make an outline

Once you’ve written your thesis statement, the next step is to create an outline. Ideally, the outline should include each of your supporting points in the order that you will address them, along with any relevant research you plan to cite in order to add credibility to each point. Making an outline will not only help you clarify your thoughts, but it will have the added advantage of keeping you on topic as you draft your report.

Do follow a format

Although there are exceptions to the rule, most good essays follow a general format. While you may not be required to adhere to the guidelines of a standard, 5-paragraph essay, you will likely need an introduction, body, and conclusion. In addition, be sure that each of your body paragraphs addresses just one topic on your outline. When you finish writing about one topic, go on to the next paragraph.

Do revise and proofread

The first draft of your essay or term paper is just that—a first draft. Even the most talented and proficient writers make mistakes. That’s why it’s always wise to take a second, third, or even fourth look at your paper before submitting it for grading. Take the time to revise your paper first, looking for any weak points in the essay or gaps in logic that may confuse your reader. Once you are satisfied that you have made a logical and convincing argument, you can then begin the proofreading phase. As you proofread, look for any errors in spelling or grammar that may distract your audience or undermine your credibility.


Do not ignore your instructor’s directions

Although there are universal guidelines for how to write a paper, different instructors have different opinions as to what constitutes a good essay. If your instructor provides you with information regarding the format, content, or documentation style (i.e. MLA, APA, etc.) of your paper either verbally or in writing, be sure to pay close attention to them. Use them as a starting point and refer to them often as you write to ensure that you’re on the right track. Once you’re finished with your first draft, consult these instructions once more to make sure that you’ve met all of the requirements. Rest assured that your teacher will be looking for these elements as he or she evaluates your paper.

Do not be nervous

Many students experience anxiety about writing. They may feel that they lack the necessary skills or that someone else will be critical about what they’ve written. Unfortunately, this anxiety often inhibits students from producing their best academic writing. Practice some relaxation techniques such as exercise or deep breathing, before you begin writing each day. Remember that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Let go of your fears and just write—there will be time for revision later.

Do not procrastinate

Procrastination is a writer’s worst enemy. If you wait until the last minute to begin your paper, you’ll feel rushed, and your writing will suffer as a result. Begin planning the paper as soon as you receive the assignment and then make a schedule for completion. Leave yourself a little extra time just in case something else comes up or the assignment proves to be more difficult than you anticipated.

Do not rely on your own opinion

Any writer will tell you that a fresh perspective is always a welcome one. Since you’ve devoted a lot of thought and time to your paper, you may not have the objectivity to evaluate it effectively. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to ask a classmate, teacher, or parent to read your paper and offer feedback. You’ll likely find another person’s viewpoint to be immensely helpful as you revise and proofread your draft.

Do not settle for less than your best

If you hurry through the writing process just to get it done so that you do something else you’d rather be doing, then you can’t reasonably expect a good result. Remember that your writing is a reflection of both your subject matter knowledge and the degree of care you put into your academic work. Before you submit your paper, make sure that you are satisfied that you’ve done your very best.

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Once you unlock the secrets of how to write a paper, the benefits will last you a lifetime! Not only will your academic standing increase by leaps and bounds as you begin to express your ideas more clearly, but you’ll also possess the skills necessary to wow your future employers and accomplish your professional goals.

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Rick KamalStudy and Life Skills Expert

Award-winning study and life skills expert Rick Kamal is a leading authority on learning effectiveness for middle school, high school and college students. As president of EduNova, he worked with 33 top university education experts and many succ...

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