A non-technical resource for writing a college paper.
Pick a topic that interests you.
This is not always possible, sometimes your professor assigns a very specific topic. Still, most professors will allow you enough creative freedom to add your own spin on a topic (assuming the research supports your claims).
When your professor does grant you full creative freedom on your essay topic, pick something that truly interests you, not just something you think you can get a reaction from.
Treat your essay like a story.
What keeps you watching your favorite Netflix shows? Is it the suspense? The drama? Treat your essay like you’re writing an episode of your favorite show; describe how the different elements interact as if they were characters.
For example: we all know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but why have your red blood cells dropped it faster than an ex?
Find ways to be interested.
Believe it or not, the way you feel about a topic can come through in the way you write. If you’re bored, your reader can tell. Even if the topic isn’t interesting to you, recognize that there are others who choose to study in this field.
It helps to find the merits of the topic, what do other people find interesting? Then focus on that when you’re writing.
Develop a stance on Oxford Commas.
The author urges you to use them, but the choice is ultimately yours. Whether you’re for them, against them, or believe the context matters, be consistent in your stance, opinion, and usage.
Draft like you speak.
It can be really easy to sink into the idea that your writing has to be elaborate and eloquent, but that’s a fast way to create confusing drafts. Treat your first draft like a conversation (with sources, as applicable).
If it’s not a word you would generally use in conversation, don’t try to use it in the draft – the only exception being if that term is part of your topic or is otherwise important jargon.
Read your college paper out loud.
Reading your essay out loud is a fast and easy way to determine the clarity of your paper. If a certain passage is awkward to say, that’s generally a clear sign that you need to rephrase.
Also, reading your paper out loud may make it easier for you to find typos because you’ll be more focused on the words on the page rather than the ideas they convey.
Use your resources.
Librarians can help you with your research, writing center specialists can help you edit your college paper. As long as you give yourself time to work on your papers, you don’t have to work alone.
Use Wikipedia (as a launch point).
Your professors may have given you the “Wikipedia speech” more times than you can count. We aren’t telling you to use Wikipedia as a source, rather, use it as a tool to find other sources.
Just like your papers, Wikipedia articles contain sources at the bottom of the page; this can be a great place to start researching your topic when the library databases seem daunting. Just remember, this is a launch point, you will likely need to do more of your own research as the story of your essay unfolds.
IW students: Still struggling to write your college paper? Don’t stress, reach out to the writing support center in the OASIS for help!