Writing college term papers and essays can be difficult. Even the best students can find themselves paralyzed by a blank page. These 8 tips should make putting words on a page much less intimidating.
1. Timing is everything - leave yourself plenty of time for writing, editing and rewriting. Aim for having your essay done one day, or one week, whichever is appropriate, in advance; then you can not only run it through a spelling and grammar checker, but you can ask someone else to read it. This is to make sure that it makes sense to someone with no knowledge of the subject.
2. Choosing the right topic or approach to an assigned topic - find something you know well and love. Be sure you understand the assignment; if not, ask questions until you are sure you do.
3. Make your writing unique - let your "why" shine through. Communicate why you chose to write about this topic, why you love this topic, and why what you have to say is important - not in so many words, but put your passion into your writing.
4. Write for the widest audience possible. If you are writing to your professor only because he requires it, this will show in your writing style. Imagine a real-world audience that is wanting to hear what you have to say, and write for them.
This audience might be employees reading a training manual, a foundation's board of directors reading a grant proposal, newspaper or journal subscribers, and so on. This will give your writing purpose, focus and clarity.
5. Learn how to find and use the academic search engines such as the Academic Index, Ebsco Host, Virtual LLC, or the Wilson Web. Your librarian should be able to help you do this.
6. Plan what you are going to write before you type the first word. Say it as briefly and clearly as you can: the purpose of your paper and how you plan to substantiate your claims. Then flesh it out. Writing more words isn't necessarily better, so write only what is necessary to get your point across.
7. Break your paper into reasonable-length pieces. Keep your paragraphs short and use subheadings.
8. Don't plagiarize; when in doubt, cite your source. Ask your professor if he has a preferred citation method you should use. Otherwise, use in-text citations if your essay is relatively short, and use footnotes in longer papers.
If you are using the internet, know your sources well. There is a lot of rumor, opinion and plagiarism on the web. If you are writing your own ideas or what is common knowledge, you don't need to cite, but you do if you are paraphrasing.
Reading sample essays and papers is advised in order to better understand the concepts of theme, approach and writing style, but copying an entire essay and submitting it as your own is plagiarism. Not only will you not be learning necessary writing skills, but most professors know how to check for cheaters. It's never worth the risk.
Armed with these tips, any college student should be able to shake off writing paralysis and submit that masterpiece essay or term paper.