Writing is an inevitable part of college; you simply can’t avoid it. You’ll have research papers, english papers, in-class essays, term papers…the list goes on. But, even if you feel that the writing process is actually quite close to physical pain, there are plenty of strategies you can employ to make the process easier and even quicker in the end.
Writing Tip #1 – Know what is expected
Your professor might have mentioned a few tips about your upcoming paper in class last week, or maybe he/she gave you a hand out with some instruction. Make sure to take these helpful tidbits to heart, and make a note of what is said. Chances are, there is a lot more information on the paper than just what is said in class close to the impeding dealing, however. Look in you syllabus- it might have a section detailing papers and assignments, look on the course website for further explanation or guidelines, talk to someone you may know that took the same course last semester, and if you still feel the need for more info and clarification, go talk to the professor during office hours. That’s what they’re for, after all. Getting your hands on as much information on the paper as possible will help you tremendously. Knowing what is expected can reduce a lot of stress and make the whole writing process much easier.
Writing Tip #2 – Organize
You might be sick of hearing about how “you really should get more organized”, but regardless of how annoying it sounds, organization will save you time and many headaches in the long run. The same goes for writing papers- you have to get your sources, information, guidelines, and thoughts organized if you are hoping to get a concise, organized paper as an end result. Start by making an outline of your paper, based upon all the requirements given. This will give you a rough idea of what will fill up your paper, and where everything will go. In your outline, organize all your sources into the appropriate sections. It might be a good idea to print off your outline and use it as a reference as you write your paper- it will help keep you organized and on track.
Writing Tip #3 – Don’t Cram
The typical college schedule doesn’t usually leave you with a lot of down time. Assignments, exams, and papers seem to sneak up with little warning and you probably often find yourself staying up late to finish that six page essay or research paper for class the next morning. However, knowing when papers are due well in advance can give you a big advantage. A good strategy to avoiding last minute papers is to mark down all (or at least big) assignments in an organizer or on a desk calendar. On the first day of class, when you receive your syllabus, find the section that outlines the class material and assignments (most of the time all required papers and assignments along with due dates will be listed) and mark all the dates down right away. This way, you’ll know ahead of time when papers are coming up, and therefore you will have time to prepare.
Writing Tip #4 – Brainstorm Now, Revise Later
Each individual has their own style of the revision process. Some people like to revise as they go, some revise after they have finished a section, and some revise after the entire paper is done. However, if you are having a hard time getting started and are worried about coming up with content for the paper, you may want to toss the revision process completely out the window (for now) and concentrate completely on brainstorming. Get all your ideas out, even if they aren’t organized (you can always use your handy outline later to get things back in shape). This way, you will (hopefully) get past the initial step and will have plenty of content and ideas to work with. Now is the time to bring back revision: go through your paper and start to edit, organize, add, and delete where necessary.
Writing Tip #5 – Get Examples
If (after organizing, brainstorming, and looking over guidelines) you are still having trouble getting started and formulating your paper, you can always go hunting for similar and relevant works to spark your imagination and jumpstart your writing. If you are working on a research paper about cellular respiration, go to google.com and search for a college paper on that, or a similar, topic. There are plenty out there, and they can be good inspiration. Be careful not to use it as an “outline” however- you might be surprised how quickly it can turn into copying (aka plagiarism).
If your campus offers any sort of writing instruction or tutoring to it’s students, it would be highly advisable to take advantage of such resources. Having a fresh set of eyes go over your paper can help catch little grammar mistakes and organizational faults. Remember that, most of the time, professors are willing to go over rough drafts or at least answer questions about papers during office hours. Make sure to utilize all your options, ask questions, and give yourself enough time. Covering these basics can greatly improve your writing experience and, most likely, your GPA.