Writing papers may well be the opportunity for you to learn more about the subject you are studying than any other aspect of a course. It is worth doing well. You not only learn more, you also think more deeply about a topic when you have to put words on paper. Finally good grades depend on good papers.
Opinion is a fine thing, but in a college paper your opinions are only worthwhile if they are backed up by facts and arguments. You must collect information, and, since many topics will be new to you, it is worthwhile looking at the work and opinions of more than one author. You should certainly look at your textbook but also at other authors. Your professors will always be willing to give suggestions.
It is no use to just read a book and then write. You must record what you read so that you can review it before and during the writing of the paper. There are a number of ways to do this:
- You can mark the book
- You can use 3"x5" index cards
- Finally you can try to summarize a chapter on letter or legal paper
After you have read as much as you need, DO NOT just start to write. Think about what you have read, mull over it on a walk, or discuss it with friends. The professor already knows about what you are writing and is looking to see how well you have understood a topic. It is no use at all to just present your reading notes stuck between an introduction and a conclusion.
Sketch out on paper several ways of presenting your topic and your thoughts. You might think of doing this as a connected argument, or as a series of related headings organised in a way that makes sense of what you read. Another useful approach is to state, prove and defend a thesis. You must always write out a plan. It will help you to be clearer both in papers and in tests. It is in fact another way of thinking about your topic.
You cannot expect to just write out a paper and hand it in. Typo's alone will demand at least one re-type. So why not throw out the idea that what you write must be perfect first time? It is a good writing technique to just WRITE down your thoughts as they come into your head (always keeping an eye on your paper plan). Do not stop to edit or correct spelling and grammatical mistakes. WRITING and EDITING are different skills. Even though you may think what you are writing is bad or plain stupid, once you have got it down on paper you can go back and look at what you have written. At that stage you can begin to knock it into shape, correct spelling and grammar and improve your style.
Before you hand a paper in make sure it looks good - use the Stylesheet handed out separately. Eliminate spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure all your references are noted. Add a booklist. Type the paper cleanly.
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