The college survival series: 4. How to write a great paper

March 23, 2016

When you get to college, you often have to write essays or papers about certain subjects - sometimes these can even replace an exam as a final assessment so it is important to know how to approach them so you can write an amazing paper that will get you the highest grade possible! 

These assignments usually require a lot of research and you need to be very methodical about your work. It's easy to get lost in all the information you're reading and not know how to transform it into a structured summary or critical analysis of your own. 

Here are a few tips on how to write a good paper:

1. Cover Page

First of all, you need a cover page at the beginning of your paper - it should feature the title of your essay or subject of your paper, the author's name and the date in which you finish writing. You should also include the name of your University and your course, as well as the class that it refers to and the teacher's name. 
A cover page shows the basic information of your paper but it also gives a sense of professionalism to your paper. And let's face it, it looks nice!

2. Index

The second page of your paper, right after the cover page, should always be an index page. This one is pretty simple - just make a list of the different titles in which your text is divided and a reference to the page numbers where you can find those titles.

3. Abstract

Some papers, usually the more formal ones, require that you write an abstract, summarizing the object of your research and what your main thesis is.

This would usually come on the next page, after your index.

4. Introduction

When you start the actual writing, you should have an introduction. 

This is where you should explain what you're going to be talking about and what the general interest/relevance of the topic is. You might also have to write a bit about the historical or contextual background of your subject, to start off your paper.

 5. Body

The body of your text or your essay is where you develop on the subject of your paper and where most of your research is applied.

Structure this section into different topics - this allows you to make a clear division between the different aspects you might have to consider while developing the subject and it makes the reading easier to follow.

 6. Conclusion

Conclude with a summary of your thoughts on the matter based on what you've collected and presented. 

Don't include new ideas but you might want to finish with some unanswered questions for the reader to think about or to know that they are unsolved.

7. Bibliography

At the end, you should include a list of all the books, articles and sources you used in your research (remember to list them alphabetically).

There are a few specific tips when it comes to bibliography:
  • Make sure you get a lot of sources when you're doing your research (this shows how hard you worked on your research and that you read various opinions on the subject).
  • A good way to find bibliography is to get the books from the most relevant authors on the subject matter and then go to the bibliography that they refer to in their own footnotes to complement your research.
  • Remember to always record where you get your articles and online sources so you can refer to any websites on the bibliography. 
  • The ultimate golden tip is: when you start writing or planning what you will write, note down where you got an idea, sentence or expression to avoid plagiarism. This also makes it easier to find references when you have to do the footnotes.
  • Bonus tip: Make sure you learn how to write footnotes properly - this can easily be found online and it shows great care and professionalism in your writing.

8. Annexes

You should use this section to any annexes you feel might enrich your paper. 

Adding an annex section is a great way to add further information that didn't fit in your actual paper, since this section doesn't go into the page count. 

However, use it only if you feel like it is important to add some relevant or illustrative information, such as a table or chart confirming something you wrote about in your paper. 

9. Add finishing touches and send or hand in the paper

When you finish, make sure you print it out and re-read everything - this allows you to find any formatting errors that might occur when the document is printed out or any spelling errors or typos.

Then, if you send your paper by email, do send it on time and not at 11:59pm if it's due until midnight. Sending your papers early always gives a good impression.

I hope you find these tips helpful!

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