A Guide to Writing Strong Papers

By September 10, 2021News

No matter how well you understand your course material, it’s difficult to achieve good grades unless you can write strong papers. This is much more complicated than answering a question with a right or wrong answer: you need to make sure you express yourself well, cover all the necessary information, and add citations in the right format. Eventually, you’ll develop your own tactics for tackling papers, but it helps to have some starting points to put you on the right track.

Know What the Question Is Asking

Before you can start writing, you need to be sure you understand what the paper should be about. Highlighting key words or writing a few notes about what you’ll need to cover can help. You should also identify what the question is asking you to do. For instance, “discuss” isn’t the same as “analyze,” and both are quite different from “demonstrate.”

If you’re unsure about what you’re supposed to be doing, ask your professor. While professors can’t tell you how to write a paper, they can make sure you’re on the right track before you start and ensure you don’t submit something completely wrong.

Put in the Research Before You Start Writing

You’ll find it much easier to write your paper if you have all the information you need from the start. It’s difficult to make progress when you’re researching as you write.

However, make sure you do limit the amount of time you spend on research. This is particularly a risk if the topic interests you, as you may start exploring more ideas than you need for the paper. Alternatively, you may spend too much time on research if you’re not looking forward to writing the paper and you want to procrastinate. Stop researching when you have all the basic information — you can always do more research later to fill in any gaps.

Avoid Superfluous Information

As long as you’re within the word count and you’ve covered everything the question asks, there’s no need to add any more details. Trying to impress your professor with your extensive knowledge won’t improve your grade — you’re only assessed on the topic you’re supposed to be writing about. Plus, there’s a risk you’ll explain something incorrectly if you haven’t studied it in class.

Keep Things Simple

Unless you’re a creative writing major, your papers simply need to be well written. This is no place to get experimental, neither in your language nor in the structure of the paper. Your professors may even be able to give you a template for the paper to give you an idea of what the final result should look like.

Edit Only Once You’re Finished

As you write, you may often feel that there’s a better way to word your sentences. However, you’ll go much slower if you aim for perfection straight away. Unless you immediately know how to improve a sentence, leave what you’ve written untouched until you’ve finished. Then, you can edit the entire paper at once without breaking your flow.

The same goes for places that need a statistic, quote, or quick fact that you don’t have on hand. Simply mark the spot and fill in the gap at the end.

Read Your Paper Aloud

It’s easier to notice typos, errors, and places where you could improve your paper if you read aloud. Even better, read your paper to someone who can tell you if any parts are confusing. For term papers and other important assignments, it may even be possible to receive feedback from your professor before you hand in the paper for grading.

Being constantly interrupted ruins your train of thought and makes it much more difficult to finish your paper. For this reason, it’s important to have somewhere you can focus on writing without distractions. A great alternative to Durham College residence is off-campus housing like Foundry 1805. You can write papers in your room or head to one of the onsite study rooms. Apply now to ensure you’re able to rent the floor plan you want.


Author rachel_grier@outlook.com

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