Best Tips for a Perfect College Paper

writing an essay at college

Main topics in this article concern how to write a good paper, how to write a school paper, college paper writing tips, tips for writing essays, tips for college writing, writing tips for college students.

Perfect Writing

Writing a great paper is a very useful skill in adult life. In a student life, this is like a Batman’s super-power that will take you high to the world of awesome grades and recognition among your classmates! Your teachers will remember your name and spell it correctly, you will attract the attention of potential employers and will have a chance for a good salary. You can participate in conferences, apply for scholarships or grants – all this is inextricably linked with writing skills. The better you do it, the higher the chances of success you will have. Here at BooksRun, we decided to offer some academic help on how to approach college essays or any other piece of work that requires academic writing. Preparing an overview of a specific subject, analysing a selected topic, finding the most convincing arguments, expressing your thoughts in a logical manner requires a thorough understanding of the essay pro – forma. 

Check this video by Rosie, a student in Archaeology and Anthropology at Oxford University, who shares her personal lifehacks as well as the way she gets taught at this world-class institution on how to write a good paper!

Below we prepared a glowing checklist of certain criteria that you should meet when writing a paper at college, an application essay or a motivational letter to make it a success: 

  • Rule Number 1: check the requirements and expectations of your professors in terms of assignment writing. Make sure that you are following them! How many words are you expected to write? What specific sources do you need to refer to and quote? You can choose a topic or there is a specific prompt? You need to know the answers to these questions before you start putting your ideas on paper! 
  • Rule Number 2: when you get to understand the requirements of the college paper you have to write, you should proceed to think about good arguments. What are you writing about? What are you trying to prove with this paper? Why is this given or chosen topic even important? Do not try to simply fill in that 3000-word count – on the contrary, demonstrate your thoughtful and thoroughly researched position when in a well-articulated manner you follow all the necessary steps to come to a conclusion.
  • Rule Number 3: now it is the time to back up your arguments! Any good paper has a thesis statement strongly supported by suitable arguments. So how do you get to prove your point of view? Show evidence of what you are writing about! And this means you are citing sources! For an academic paper, you need to find primary academic resources in the form of research journals, newspapers, books etc. For more evidence, you can also use secondary resources like magazines, interviews, documentaries etc. So you need to know the type of college paper you are required to submit to make sure you choose the right evidence for it. Also, you need to know how many resources you have to use to support your argument  — some professors require a minimum number of sources. Check your writing prompt! If you are using any primary sources or academic publications, you need to cite them properly. Make sure you have a volume of the Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Handbook next to you, depending on the citation style required by your college.
  • Rule Number 4: take care of your syntax and spelling! This means you have to proofread your draft several times and ideally ask someone else to read it with a fresh pair of eyes! Typos will not lead you to great results! Poor spelling can kill the overall feeling of your work. You should never rely on autocorrect programs and spelling checkers to pick up all your mistakes. Do your homework properly! You will need help of reference books and grammar guides to place all your citations and footnotes in the correct style and don’t mess with that Oxford comma.
  • Rule Number 5: plagiarism is not cool! Learn how to paraphrase the idea to turn it into your own sentence. Do not be a copycat! Any school will not tolerate copying someone else’s work and it will be considered a violation of the academic code of your school. Most schools have installed plagiarism checkers so do not be surprised to be caught out if you do it! Honestly, it is not worth it – do the work and get rewarded for it!
  • Rule Number 6: avoid using words you do not understand! It is always good to show off with some catchy phrases and smart words but be wary of doing this for the work that will be graded! If you use a word or a phrase incorrectly, it will discredit the idea and the argument that you are trying to express. Professors are not stupid and they will get it straight away: they will end up thinking that you are copying someone else’s work or you are not using your own ideas which will definitely impact your final grade!
  • Rule Number 7:  avoid using these wordsfirst, second, third etc. — for a transition between the sentences. It is OK to use First to start the sentence but you should not continue all the following steps with second, third or … fifth! It just makes your text basic and primitive. It will save you points if you avoid additionally, accurately or simultaneously since most of the essays do contain them. Keep your language clean and sophisticated! 
  • Rule Number 8:  do not rely on your first draft! Always proofread it and revise! It is the time when the real hard work starts. The best way to do it is to read it out loud to yourself to catch major errors and really get to grips with your arguments! You can also insert your words into Google Translate and press the sound button for the system to read it back to you. You can get a new perspective when you hear from the side the ideas you have already thought about.
  • Rule Number 9:  do not be afraid to ask for help! Every great writer has a great editor! Do not be shy to ask for proofreading your written paper or questioning your arguments. It is always good to see whether a person who is not familiar with the topic, can understand the general ideas you have laid out there. 
  • Rule Number 10:  aim for a good overall impression of your academic paper! You need to make a good conclusion that logically summarises your main arguments expressed in the paper. It is your chance to convince your reader, i.e. your college professor who will grade you! So do not overestimate the power of a good conclusion!

More General Essay Writing Tips

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  • Planning: It is never a bad idea to plan ahead what you are going to write in your essay. Research well the topic, plan your arguments and write down a plan! In such a way you will see how logically you can arrive at the final point – your conclusion! 
  • Heading: choose an appropriate college paper heading it should be crisp and substantial at the same time!
  • Relevant information: when conducting research, make sure you do not use outdated information.
  • Essay Structure: aim at least for a traditional five-paragraph structure (advanced academic papers can require specific adjustments):
  • Introduction: here you should present your position, give a general overview of the issue. An effective introduction should grab the reader’s attention immediately encouraging them to read further. Such effective “hooks” can include relevant quotes or unusual statistics. It should leave no doubt to the reader which position you occupy from the very beginning of your written work. Another useful tip is to provide an outline of what you are going to cover in the main body of your paper – this cements the interest as well as gives a clearer understanding of the topic. Avoid using the passive voice in your introductory paragraph to make your statements more powerful and appealing.
  • 3 Body Paragraphs: in this part, you have to detail the sources that give evidence to your arguments. In the Body 1 paragraph, you should write your strongest argument. The first sentence of this paragraph should be the topic sentence that directly relates to the examples that you listed in the introduction. Afterwards, you write the follow up on this topic by explaining to the reader why the cited example is relevant. Make sure that the ideas in these paragraphs are neatly tied together and the main idea can be followed through.
  • Conclusion: coming to the end of your essay, you should be using it as a way to prove your case to the reader one more time. Effective conclusions have certain transitions indicating that it is the last part of your work: this includes such words as “in conclusion”, “in the end” after which you restate your thesis statement.
  • Variety: To achieve the impression of an academic paper, you should aim at varying the complexity of phrases, words and sentences that you use in your college paper. Try not to use the same words over and over again! Another important thing is to avoid the dull structure in the sentence “subject + verb+ direct object”. Structure variety is one of the main hallmarks of effective writing that will make your college paper shine!
  • Practice: Success comes with regular practice which is why you should exercise by writing short extracts on a given topic. You will start to get at ease with the language, you will feel the structure of the sentence and it will be easier to improvise for you. Therese writing sample essays on various topics might be not masterpieces but at the same time, you will start to get better as you go along. You will learn how to express your thoughts in a concise and logical way which is one of the main indicators of a great college paper!