How to Write a Good College Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write a Good College Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Enrolling in college is only half the battle because you will have to cope with different issues to stay on track and continue studying. Young people often complain about extreme workloads in their academic institutions. They have to stay overnight to meet all the deadlines and complete numerous assignments. Besides, all your efforts will not be counted if you fail to write high-quality papers. Nobody cares whether you were working on the assignment for the whole weekend or writing it two hours before class. That's why every student who wants to stand out from peers with high grades should know how to write a paper for college. You may think that it is an extremely challenging task, but if you learn fundamentals and find out certain tips and tricks, you will easily meet this challenge. When you don't know where to start because an assignment seems overwhelming, break it up into parts, and take one step at a time.

Possible Types of College Papers

Student life is diverse and multifaceted, whether it is about extra-curricular activities or assignments professors provide their learners with. When it comes to writing a college paper, a student should know the specifics of all the types. So, even though the core of most essays will be similar, it is crucial to consider the differences. Otherwise, you will hardly get an A-grade if it is unclear what type of paper you have been working on. Let's look at the most common types of assignments you may get while studying in college. 

Argumentative Essay

As you might have guessed, this type of essay is connected with presenting an argument to the audience and providing them with some robust proof on why they should share your point of view.  

Research Essay

It is one of the most common types of essays, so we will focus on it in more detail later. In brief, it is about undertaking an in-depth study of the topic through numerous trustworthy sources. It has many things in common with the next type on the list.

Expository Essay

Working on such a paper, you don't take any position but explore the topic with the help of data and facts. It is worth imagining that your readers know nothing about it, so you should reveal the essence of the question using valid information sources.

Contrast Essay

When you get such an assignment, you take two things and analyze them from opposite perspectives to reveal their differences and affinities. In other words, you need to compare the objects.

Reflective Essay

Unlike most essay types mentioned on the list, this one doesn't require strict observance of the format. Instead, you can write the paper in the first person to share your ideas and experiences about the subject. 

Book Review

This type of essay is about taking a critical look at the book provided or any other literature work, so assessment and summary are inevitable parts of this paper. 

How to Write a College Paper?

Many first-year students have no idea how to do a research paper or any other essay requiring strict compliance with rules. Usually, the hardest part is getting oneself together and starting writing because an empty sheet of paper seems like an insuperable obstacle. It is when procrastination can take the upper hand and distract from homework. You may have a strong desire to scroll down Instagram news feed or watch another video on YouTube, but it would be more useful to resist temptation and focus on the guide. The very first thing you should do is to define the type of paper you are dealing with. If you haven't been provided with a topic, you will have to do it yourself. For instance, if it is about writing a research paper, make sure you can find enough credible sources to complete the task. 

Choose the Right Topic

It is a responsible step that you should take seriously since it can make a big difference and affect your writing experience. If you choose the first subject you run into on the web, you may fail to meet your deadline. The topic will define your writing and influence your approach. Anyway, work on a paper will take some time, so make sure you will have a great time writing. Thus, it should be interesting enough for you not to treat this assignment as a punishment. Leave it for later when you are deprived of a chance to choose a topic you want to write about. Your interest will serve as a driving force, so it will be easier to develop an advanced hook. 

Start with the Research

When you decide on the topic, it is worth doing at least a little research right away to understand whether you can find enough information about it. Besides, you will notice certain trends and what you should devote more attention to. All these patterns may turn into some sort of guideline. 

Narrow Down Information Found

Bear in mind that a successful topic is one which core can fit into one argument or statement. Thus, when you begin to work on your assignment, whether you choose a topic yourself or are provided by a professor, reflect on more narrow themes within the broad statement. In other words, discover your niche and focus on it completely. How to write a good research paper? Narrow things down to a reasonable extent. Otherwise, your paper will contain general information, and it will hardly help you win any points.  

Craft a Worthy Thesis Statement

Any essay cannot do without a well-tailored thesis statement, so it is worth paying special attention to this moment. Depending on the type of paper you are writing, it can be an argument or statement. It is a crucial part that represents your response to the research question and defines the whole structure of your essay. Therefore, you should narrow it down and refine it until you've achieved something quite specific. It should be about two sentences at the most, so tailor it to the required extent, not losing the essence. 

Make a Good Outline

Some teachers ask their students to provide an outline even before they begin to write their research papers. Even if your professor doesn't demand it, you should still create it so as not to miss anything important. A good outline is a trick on how to make a research paper qualitatively since it provides you with a grasp of all the steps you have to take to write an essay. It will save your time and help keep a focus on key aspects. If some interesting pieces of information are beyond your outline, turn a blind eye to them. A traditional research paper structure involves the following moments:

  • introduction;
  • first body paragraph;
  • second body paragraph;
  • third body paragraph;
  • conclusion. 

We will look at each point in detail further, so you will know for sure how to properly write a research paper. Besides, bear in mind that if your professor provides you with a specific guideline, you should follow it even if it differs from traditional options.   

Create the First Draft

When you reach this stage, it will mean that you have successfully passed halfway. It is high time to start working on your first draft, involving all the citations, and creating a reference page. Come up with a proper title since it is the first thing your readers see, and as you know, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. You should involve some keywords that reveal the essence of your topic, and after that, proceed to write all main parts of your paper. Working with various sources, make sure you use proper citation and mention all the books and articles you have used for writing your paper on the reference list. Don't postpone that for later since the likelihood of missing something goes up. You don't want to be blamed for plagiarism, do you?

Edit and Proofread It Thoughtfully

In most cases, the first draft is not enough to hand in your paper if you are interested in a high grade. You should smooth all the transitions to make the paragraphs flow and look holistic. Look critically at the structure and order all the pieces of information provided. Make sure all your ideas are well-tailored, and you have shared powerful evidence to support your statement. Editing is no less important than writing itself. If you want to become a straight-A student, you should check your paper for the following things:

  • sentence fragments;
  • dangling modifiers;
  • spelling and grammar mistakes;
  • punctuation;
  • improper and unexplained acronyms.

When your paper is over, it is worth putting it aside for some time because your perception gets blurred when you work on the text for a long time. Thus, it becomes easier to make mistakes. Some specialists recommend starting proofreading from the last sentence, moving step by step to the first one. How to write a research paper if you are a rookie? Follow the guide and ask a trustworthy and intelligent person, for example, a friend or a parent, to read your paper and share their opinion. 

Key Tricks on How to Write an English Research Paper Outline

We've already mentioned the importance of a proper outline, but it is worth going deep down on the issue. It is your main helper when it comes to research papers since it is easy to lose your way and mess things up, forgetting about your thesis statement. When you have a paper outline in front of your eyes, you know what information you should look for and what things can be left unattended. Unnecessary details can make your paper look clogged, and it will hardly add you additional scores. You should make your essay 'tasty' and appeal to your readers, so they will not get bored after reading the first few sentences. A well-crafted outline will help meet this challenge. 

Introduction Paragraph

The further destiny and success of your paper will depend on the quality of this part. If a reader doesn't find it interesting, they will hardly want to keep up reading. A spoiled first impression may affect the general perception of your essay, so you can get a low grade. How to write a research report alluring?

  1. Make the first sentence catchy and appealing to the audience.
  2. Introduce the subject and share some basic information.
  3. Provide your thesis statement in the last line.

Bear in mind that it is worth avoiding cliches when trying to come up with something catchy. It can be hard to do since you come across such things here and there, but overused phrases will do you an ill turn. If you have tough times writing an introduction, focus only on the thesis statement and proceed to write the body paragraphs, so you will get back to this part a bit later. 

Body Paragraphs

The volume of this part will depend on your paper size and the topic itself. Nonetheless, you should provide at least three arguments or evidence to support your thesis statement. Each of them should have a paragraph and a similar structure. First, you should provide general data and then add some details to narrow the topic down, so the evidence provided will support your point. It is when citations can come to the rescue. You should engage your sources in the general context to achieve the desired result and show your reader that you understand the subject discussed.

  1. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence, sharing the point you are going to make.
  2. Provide robust evidence and reliable sources to support your statement.
  3. Come up with a transition sentence. 

A well-developed transition sentence will smooth sharp edges and help your body paragraphs look powerful and cohesive. When it comes to doing research and involving various sources in the main part of the paper, you can use two different styles. The first one, induction, is about using facts, while the second one, deduction, is about resorting to reasoning.

Conclusion Paragraph

A proper conclusion is like a cherry on the pie, so it is not worth neglecting it. You should nail this aspect and prove once again that you've devoted enough time to write a decent paper. Considering the fact that you should summarize all the pieces of information you've provided above, it is worth paraphrasing the key points, polishing them. You shouldn't introduce any new ideas since you've said enough about the subject. However, you should highlight the importance of the topic for modern people. 

  1. Reproduce your thesis statement in different words.
  2. Sum up all your arguments and relate them to a bigger context.

This paragraph should leave a pleasant aftertaste and provide food for thought. 

Use Only Trustworthy Sources

Proper research is key to success and getting an A-grade paper. Sometimes teachers set a minimum limit in the number of sources students must use in their papers. However, it is up to you to decide how to write your essay and how many articles to use in most cases. As already mentioned above, you should do little research even before deciding on the final version of the topic so as not to find yourself in a trap. You can expand the scope of sources suitable for writing a decent paper. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone and try some new ways of searching. Reliable and credible sources are a must when it comes to writing essays. Avoid websites that allow ordinary people to change information, for instance, Wikipedia. Using a book, make sure it was created by an intelligent person and expert in the field. Pay special attention to primary sources:

  • reports;
  • interviews;
  • state documents;
  • credible newspapers and magazines;
  • journal articles with research results.

Most of these sources are available online nowadays, so it will not be a big deal to turn to them. However, if you lack some important information, you can resort to an old-school way of searching and go to the library or ask your teacher about suitable places. They may give you a clue.

How to Write a Decent Paper Title

Even though they say that it's not worth judging a book by its cover, we pay attention to a title when we come across something new. If a paper title is not catchy enough, it may seem boring from the very beginning, so you shouldn't turn a blind eye to this aspect. However, let it be among the last things you do with a paper. Working on content for some time and examining the question from different perspectives will help you meet this challenge easier. Your paper title should be fascinating, original, and have something to do with your thesis statement. Nobody says that it is one of the simplest things out there, but it will help hook readers' attention even before examining the paper. If you feel in the dead-end, resort to brainstorming. Write down all the options that pop up in your mind to see which one suits you best. 

College Paper Writing Tips

Many students remember their first essay even years after graduation because it was one of the most complicated and overwhelming assignments. When you are a newcomer, every trifle may seem a challenge, so it is important to get oneself together and just start moving step by step towards the goal. Some tips and trips will help you sound more confident and get high grades for your effort. Thus, when you start writing your college paper, pay attention to the next time-tested tips and tricks:

  1. Write your paper in the third person unless it's a narrative, for example, a reflective essay. A first-person voice sounds casual and decreases your expertise level.
  2. Avoid using colloquialisms and acronyms without necessity.
  3. Keep your thesis statement in mind when writing your essay since every point you provide should relate to it. The whole paper is devoted to supporting the main idea.
  4. Don't skip proofreading and editing your paper. Make sure you have smoothed all the transitions and make all the paragraphs look holistic.
  5. Listen to the feedback and always work on your drawbacks. It is the only possible way to develop.
  6. Carefully examine requirements and instructions. If you don't meet the demands provided, you will hardly get a high grade for your paper.
  7. Take your time to do proper research and put your thoughts in order. When you are in a hurry to do everything as soon as possible, you are more likely to miss some important details. 
  8. Run-on sentences complicate the perception of the text, so you should better avoid them. 
  9. Stick to the same style of spelling. It is a bad idea to switch between American and British spelling throughout the essay.
  10. Make notes of all sources you've used for your paper and follow the citation rules.
  11. Make your text flow smoothly. A college paper is more than just an assignment. It is a tool for communication between you and your teacher (audience), so you should have advanced writing skills to find a common language. 
  12. Keep the outline in front of your eyes not to miss key steps or overdo it with something else.
  13. Use synonyms to eliminate repetition and make your paper sound more credible. 
  14. Don't put pressure on yourself but allocate enough time for writing the paper. You shouldn't forget about breaks and drinking water while writing. Dehydration negatively affects mental activity.
  15. Develop a reward system to motivate yourself.

Cite All Sources

If you don't want to find yourself in trouble and be blamed for plagiarism, you should take citations seriously and include all sources used in a reference list. Even though most students face such a task in high school, they should bear in mind that things are more complicated in college. Therefore, it is worth paying special attention to all in-text citations depending on the paper's style. Besides, it will not be superfluous to find out more information about plagiarism, its forms, and its consequences. For instance, if you paraphrase someone's thought, changing some words, you can be blamed for cheating if you don't mention the source.