Senior Suggestions: Top notch tips for writing woes

rena_WEBWith finals approaching, some students are trying to figure out what time and place would be best to study, but what about those students who have final papers? How do you write a good final paper? The following steps are the ones I have learned through classes here to write at least a B paper.

First and foremost, I read the assignment. If a teacher has provided guidelines or other requirements, I try making an outline of the paper with them. This way, I won’t forget anything important. Sometimes, I highlight any key points and keep items such as length and criteria for sources in mind.

The next step is to have an idea of what to research or analyze. I try to come up with a working thesis so I know what points I intend to make. Then, I head straight to the Rider databases to find what sources will best fit by reading the abstracts of scholarly articles. Each source that matches gets added to a folder to download or print later. If I can’t find what I am looking for, I will turn to Google Scholar. I don’t use a regular Google search because I want to be sure I am using reputable sources.

After finding the research materials, now I have to read. Printing articles might be useful if I feel physically taking notes would benefit me. However, in the interest of saving paper, I usually make a note sheet on a blank Word document. I start by citing the article, and then I type a bulleted list of direct quotes with page citations underneath. This way, all the relevant information is in one, easily accessible, copy-and-pastable location. While making these notes, I try to organize articles in the order I think my paper will flow, creating another kind of outline for the paper. This outline matches the guidelines provided in the rubric or instructions as well.

Now it’s much easier to start the paper. First, I look back to the working thesis I made in the beginning and fix any parts to make it more specific and related to the evidence I have found. A clear thesis makes a mini outline of the paper as well. I put the thesis at the top of another blank document, or the outline I made from the professor’s guidelines. For me, I find it easiest to go through the notes and start writing from there. I take each point and write as much as I can to prove my argument using both my own analysis and the evidence I found to support it.

After writing the body and conclusion, I usually go back and read the introduction to make sure I have described all needed points, and that the introduction and conclusion are unified. Then I read through to make sure the paper flows well and move any points that need to be moved, reword sentences or add more details where necessary. Then I read through again to find any grammatical errors. Then the night before it’s due, I read through one last time to make sure I am happy with it.

These tips are not something I do in one night. I take a day or two to find research and read through articles while making notes. Then I take as many days as I need to write (usually three or four days) and then in the two days before the paper is due, I read through to make sure everything is good and follows the criteria needed and is grammatically sound. So far, these tips have worked for me.

If you need help at any stage in the writing process, even help with brainstorming and developing a thesis, the Writing Center has tutors that can help. If anything, when starting a paper, please start at least a week before it’s due. A lot of stress comes from trying to do too much at once and spreading out the work can help alleviate that.

—Rena Carman

Senior communication studies major


Printed in the 11/30/16 issue.


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