As the semester wraps up and finals quickly approach, so are the deadlines for end of the semester papers and research projects. You may have already turned in other written assignment, but you may still be hesitant about how to best tackle a longer paper or project. No fear, the following is a list of suggestions for making the writing process less stressful and more rewarding.
Don’t wait until the last minute. I know for most students this sounds impossible, but I promise it is not that difficult. You don’t need to have your paper finished a week in advance. This tip simply means to take some time to think out your topic before you start writing. While you're riding the bus or walking back to your dorm after class, take some time to reflect on what themes have been covered in the course and how they relate to the assignment. Even if you don’t have time to sit down and type until the night before the paper is due, organizing your thoughts prior to the last minute will make developing your paper much easier.
Get other people to read what you write. After working on a paper for an extended time, it becomes increasingly difficult to spot simple mistakes. Let one of your peers read over your paper to check for these types of errors and they will be much more likely to spot them. In some cases, also try having someone from outside of your field of study read over your writing. They will be able to pick up on issues of clarity and making sure that what your writing is understandable to others.
Pay attention to your professor. Professors each have a special pet peeve when it comes to the writing of their students. Whether it’s an English professor who harps on transitions or a Biology professor who hates commas, listen to what your professor is asking for and then give it to them. At this point in the semester you have probably had a written assignment returned to you, complete with a grade and some comments from the professor. Read those comments and don’t make the same mistakes in your next paper.
If you can use fewer words, do. Using the words “really,” “very,” and “actually” repeatedly may make your paper reach its ten pages, but they won’t get you an A. Not only do these words not add any meaning to your paper, they distract your professor from the point you are trying to make. Also, this is not the first paper your professor has graded. They can see right through any shortcut attempts you make to hit that page count without adding worthwhile content.
Cite. Cite. Cite. Every teacher since the fourth grade has more than likely drilled this into your head. Using information without citing the source is a form of plagiarism. At the University of Kentucky, plagiarizing is not taken lightly, with possible punishments being an “E” in the course, suspension, or even expulsion from the University. Luckily, there are numerous resources available to you for citation assistance. The Purdue Online Writing Lab, or OWL has information on all aspects of paper writing, but is especially good for citation information and keys to formatting your papers in the appropriate style. There are also many sites that will help you create the listings for your works cited or bibliography pages. My personal favorite is KnightCite.
Still struggling? For extra help with tackling your next paper, visit The Writing Center located on the 5th floor of William T. Young Library. You can schedule an appointment through their website, http://wrd.as.uky.edu/writing-center.