I am basically done my third year of university, but I spent a few days this week working on one last paper. I really don’t love writing papers and I’m gonna be honest, this post is just a way for me to stop working on it for a little bit. Either way, I figured that since I’ve written so many papers in my three years and am so looking forward to writing more in my next and final year, I’d share some tips for anyone who struggles with paper writing. I do realise, though, that a lot of my readers are out of school and/or are probably better writers anyway, so feel free to share this post with someone in need or share your own tips!
- Start in advance. Unless you know for a fact that you’re one of those people who is successful at writing essays the night before, plan ahead and do it in advance. One of the worst feelings in the world is not having enough time and feeling helpless and rushed.
- Have a plan before you write. Build and stick with a thesis and then plan points based on that. Knowing what you’ll be writing about will make the process easier and you won’t have to keep stopping to think about it.
- Transition words like ‘however’, ‘furthermore’ and ‘similarly’ not only make you seem smart and are liked by teachers/profs, but they help your paper flow. Just don’t use them too much.
- Add citations in at the end. Don’t stop your writing flow by having to pause and insert a formatted citation. Instead, go back and add them in afterwards. But if you’re worried you won’t remember where they go, use placeholders, as shown.
The cool blogger once said that she “never wants to write a research paper ever again,” (CITE HERE). She meant it.
- Set progress goals. If you’re like me, it’s not hard to get distracted, so I set goals. Finish this paragraph and then you can scroll Twitter. Paragraph goals are the best to set because all your thoughts are complete and you’re not struggling to remember what you were thinking before. One time, I got distracted mid-sentence and when I came back to it, I had no idea what I meant to say and deleted it.
- When in doubt, always cite. I’ve never plagiarized but I have had a few incidents where I’ve lost marks for not citing properly or as much as I should, so I’ve learned to just shove in all the citations I can. Unless given explicit instructions from your teacher/prof that say different, it’s a good rule to follow, especially at my school, where plagiarism is on the same level as murder (I’m almost not joking).
- Learn a citation format by heart. There are a bunch of citation generators, but those are a waste of time and aren’t always correct. It’s so easy to do basic citations. Most of my profs don’t care what format we use but I like APA (shown below), and while I do have to sometimes look up how to cite other things I don’t use as often, like YouTube videos or something, I’m a pro when it comes to articles. No matter which one you’re partial to, knowing one and being able to use it confidently and consistently is key.
Last Name, First Initial. (YEAR). Article Title. Publication title. Volume#(Issue#). Retrieved from: websitelink.com
- Before you submit, go over your essay at a later date with a fresh mind. When I write, I hit save and close as soon as I’m done and will reread and edit later. I can catch more mistakes with a fresh perspective. This is useful for blog posts too.
- If you’re doing a research paper and you have a lot of material/articles to use, it’s handy to organize them before you write. Open a Word doc and paste the title, author, url and then write a few key points out so you know which article is which and why you’re going to use it in your essay. One paper I wrote last year involved a ton of research and my final draft had about 20 sources, and my Word doc helped me organize them in ways that having all 20+ tabs open at once couldn’t.
- If you’re under the word count, go through your paper again and ask yourself how can I explain this more or what more can I say on this subject? Adding another sentence or two can add 10-30 words depending on sentence length, and adding more information/clarity only helps your paper. I find that the best place to add more sentences is at the end of paragraphs. Similarly, if you’re over the word count (but yeah, right, who ever is?) then go through and ask, what is repetitive or what can I reword to cut down?
Go forth and write! I know essay/paper writing is not fun at all, but in my experience, they just need like seven solid hours of work, and then you’re done, so sit down, get in The Zone and do it. I hope these tips help. Going from basic, citation-less hamburger essays in high school to complex, in-depth papers in university was a hard transition and I wish I had tips like these to help me.
That’s all for now!