The fact that you’re reading this shows you probably have a paper deadline coming up sooner than you’d like. You may be stuck in either the introduction or the conclusion—hopefully in the latter, but probably in the former. Do not panic though: as long as you have the topic and a general sense of direction, you are good to go. By following these five tips, your thoughts will start to churn, and you’ll create an awesome paper. Ready to start writing? Read on.
1. Understand the Task
You can’t write a good paper on a vague idea. You must fully understand what’s expected of you, so you can choose the right angle and make it comprehensible. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher or professor for further explanation or your colleagues/friends on what their perspective is.
- For example, if you’re asked to write about the reasons for the Cold War, asking your history teacher what she expects can shed some light. She might mention the role of societal biases or economic forces behind it, in which case you can dig further research those areas.
You might even want to ask your professor if there are model papers she can share. Getting a full understanding of what success looks like will be a guiding light for you throughout the process.
2. Take Regular Breaks and Play Some Games
If the entire process is tiring and you feel like all your creativity is dried up, don’t push it. Go play a game. Try a game like solitaire, which is not addicting and won’t take up too much time.
Games can be a fantastic stress reliever, which is a leading cause of writer’s block. If you actively manage stress levels, you’ll manage stress, avoid creative ruts, and see new ideas flow effortlessly.
3. Leave the Title Last
Along with the title, you can also leave the conclusion and introduction as your last steps. Those are there to introduce and complete what you’re writing, but if you can’t decide on the direction of your writing just yet, trying to complete these sections from the outset will only confuse you more.
You might take one approach and start writing the introduction, only to realize midway through that there’s another idea more interesting, or another angle you want to explore. Then the entire introduction has to be altered, and you’ve wasted precious time.
Ditto with the title. Even great writers, regardless of their experience, still get stuck with trying to figure out a title at the beginning. Instead, stay focused on your argument or thesis first.
4. Create a Simple Structure and Outline
Always create an outline before writing your paper. Laying out your ideas before you start can help you realize what you know and what you don’t quite understand yet. From there, you can research to fill in the blanks until you create a complete outline. At that point you can begin writing.
Keep it as simple as possible. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel and create something extraordinary out of the outline itself. Keep that creativity and originality for presenting your arguments in the actual paper. That’s the real core of your paper.
5. Reread and Proofread
Don’t write something and then submit it without rereading several times. Read it twice after you are done to look for any mistakes, and then leave it for a few hours or overnight and read it again in the morning. Reading your paper with fresh eyes will enable you to detect any parts that don’t don’t make sense, sound good, or need changing.
Last, don’t leave the proofreading just to yourself. Run the paper by your friend, teacher, or professor before handing it in. It’s even better to also do this at the outline stage. They’ll bring in a fresh perspective, and notice potential gaps that you can address.
All in all, writing a good paper is easy as long as you have a clean outline, understand the assignment, and can perform in-depth research. These five simple tips will guide you through the process. The rest is a matter of organizing yourself and being thorough in proofreading once you’re done.
—This guest post is from Neal Taparia, who has been building tools to help writers since 2001. He’s a card game fan, and also runs the site Solitaired.com.