How to Write a College Paper
School essays usually develop one’s ability to present their own ideas and to argue in favor of them. In this sense, it is easy to write a school essay than a college paper, because you are only required to have the skill to present your ideas consistently and logically. A college paper, however, should be written within the relevant academic context. As a college student, you have to write in a more reliable manner, more neutrally, and also to employ language which sounds “scientific.” Of course, sometimes it happens that your high-school teacher instructs you to write an essay in academic style (for example, history), but it still isn’t the same. Writing a paper for college requires more preparation and planning from you. Let’s now see what you need to do, step by step.
How to write a college paper – 10 key steps
Step 1: Clarify the topic and what is required from you
A college paper could be focused on plenty of topics in various areas. Every academic subject has its own rules, methodology and terminology. Hence, you need to speak with your instructor regarding your task. It is important to ask about the following: topic, scope, length of the college paper, reference style, and deadline.
Step 2: Reflect on the topic and try to elaborate your initial thesis
This is the starting point that should lead you through the writing process. Write a short outline which will include the following data:
- thesis (in complete form),
- introduction (one sentence),
- argument 1,
- argument 2,
- argument 3,
- counter-argument (not necessary),
- conclusion (one sentence),
- a list of authors or titles referred to. This list of authors will help you to focus your efforts on particular theorists who will provide you with the required information.
Step 3: Gather the information
You need to have access to the most important sources. Do not use Wikipedia or other online encyclopedias as “sources”; internet forums are also not academic sources. You should rather turn to specific databases (ask your department librarian about them). If you could choose between an e-book and a paper book, choose the former since it will be easier for you to copy quotes from it.
Step 4: Refine the information
This is the procedure which will help you select the most relevant information. Pay attention only to these details which will support your thesis, or will help you form the appropriate thesis.
Step 5: Now you can modify your college paper outline
At least the thesis should have some changes. You may choose other arguments in support of it, or to keep the same ones.
Remember: modifying the outline after you have started writing the college paper is not recommended. This may ensue in logical contradictions or lack of clarity.
Step 6: Structure of the college essay
You should decide on the length of the college essay, and to divide it into parts accordingly. The introduction should be no more than two paragraphs, and the conclusion no more than three.
Step 7: Always start from the introduction
Write the parts of the college paper consecutively. Some students, for instance, start from the main part, which is a serious flaw.
Step 8: Follow your outline
Insert quotes within the paragraphs in order to support your arguments. The quotes have to be short or of average size (ten lines will be enough), and be relevant to the ideas expressed in the paragraphs in question.
Step 9: Revise your college essay
Pay particular attention to logical and grammar mistakes. Delete what you think is not needed; add the information which will make your thesis clearer.
Step 10: Attach a list of sources
The sources should be listed according to the academic standard (APA, MLA, Chicago, or other).
Plenty of students in their first year do not know how to write a college paper. You should not be scared, although the requirements are higher than in school. The experience will teach you how to improve your academic writing.
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