College Paper Writing Tips: A Step-by-Step Guide

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college paper writing tips

Writing a college essay is boring work. In fact, if you ask students what they most love about college, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who puts writing college papers at the top of the list. You will, however, find a large number who put it near the top of their list of things they like least about college. Why is that?

Well, there is the obvious: Essays are tedious to write, time-consuming to research, and result in regurgitating to your instructor what you already learned through your course readings or lectures. More often than not, college essays exist simply to provide accountability, not to foster actual learning. And students can tell the difference. 

But there are also major stumbling blocks that can limit how well college students do when they write essays and therefore affect their attitudes. First, many students come to college without the prerequisite writing skills to deliver college-level academic essays.

In fact, at many schools, a majority of incoming students are required to complete an introductory or remedial college writing course because they do not have the writing skills to successfully deliver college-level essays. Students who come from international communities may similarly lack the language skills to write lengthy essays.

And, of course, there is the elephant in the room: Thanks to the pandemic and the shift to more online learning, as well as the rise of accessibility concerns that limit assignment options, students have never had so many college papers to write.

The average student writes three per course, and there are twenty million college students, taking an average of around three courses per term. That’s about 180 million essays written every semester. Who has time for that?

So, what can you do to make sure you get a good start on your essay? In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through the most effective way to write a great college essay.

#1. Read the assignment and the rubric. 

The first thing that you need to do when writing a college essay is to read the assignment and the rubric. It may seem like an obvious step, but the number one reason students do poorly on essays is that they miss requirements laid out in the assignment or the rubric.

Be sure to read the assignment carefully and make sure that you understand the question and all of the requirements. If there are any parts that you don’t understand, be sure to ask your instructor for clarification to make sure that you are writing the right essay on the right topic.

Similarly, review the grading rubric. The grading rubric is basically a roadmap telling you exactly what your instructor will be looking for when grading your essay. By following the rubric, you can make sure that the instructor has no excuse for taking off points.

#2. Research your topic. 

Before you start college paper writing, you need to research your topic, typically in your college’s library. Don’t limit your research only to what you can find in a Google search. A Google search is often going to return less rigorous and scholarly sources than you can find in your library.

Use your college’s databases to find sources that have been peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed sources are those that are reviewed by scholars and published in academic journals. By using scholarly sources when possible, it will make your paper stronger and more effective.

#3. Develop a thesis statement. 

When you have researched your college essay topic, you will need to develop an idea about what you plan to write about. You should use your research to generate an original idea that you will demonstrate or prove. The thesis statement is the guiding principle of your essay and needs to indicate what you will conclude about your topic.

#4. Outline your college essay. 

The last prewriting step before you start writing is to create an outline using your thesis statement and your research. The outline can be as complex or as simple as you want, but the more detail you put into the outline at this stage, the stronger your overall paper will be.

Think of it as a roadmap for writing your college paper. By planning each paragraph now, you can avoid costly tangents that go nowhere and ensure that everything you write builds toward your conclusion, saving you time and effort during the writing stage.

#5. Write the paper! 

Using your outline, you can then begin the writing process, fleshing out your outline and delivering a powerful paper that meets or exceeds all of your instructor’s requirements. The outline will guide you point by point through the writing process. But don’t forget to take the time to revise and edit your college paper when you’re done. Mechanics count!

If you find that you get stuck at any point in the essay writing process, college paper writing services similar to SmartWritingService can help immediately. A reputable online writing company can connect you with professional writers who can deliver an essay fast. Using an essay writing service is a legitimate way to help improve your college writing skills.

Indeed, having a model essay to review can be an effective tool to help discover new ways to approach your topic or to learn how professional writers incorporate and cite sources and use research to build arguments. When deployed correctly, according to your college or university’s academic policies, professionally written college papers can be an important tool for enhancing your writing.