1.) ADJUST YOUR MINDSET
Writing a paper is not a punishment. It is a rare opportunity to have someone seriously and carefully consider your ideas. The writer Henry James once said, “Good stories happen to those who know how to tell them.” Consider every paper assignment to be a great opportunity to learn how to tell your stories. Think of the paper as a chance to find and develop your unique voice.
2.) CREATE A DETAILED OUTLINE
It may seem like more work up front, but it will reduce the amount of work you put in later. A good outline guides you through the writing process. It keeps you organized, helps ensure proper coherency (your flow of ideas), and can even deter writer’s block. Organize your paper by major components and then again by categories and subcategories. Bonus tip: writing out of order can help keep your thoughts straight. It’s often easier to write the introduction and conclusion last once you know all the points you’ve covered.
3.) USE YOUR OWN WORDS
Don’t plagiarize! You know the honor code, and the repercussions are not worth it. Say it in your own words, cite your sources for their ideas, and use quotes when you use an author’s exact words. You do not have to cite common knowledge or your own ideas. If you need help properly citing, the Purdue OWL is a great online resource to consult.
4.) USE PROPER GRAMMAR
Pay special attention to the following common grammar mistakes: commas, verb tenses, adjectives vs. adverbs, homophones (e.g. there, their, they’re), rare or uncommon punctuation, subject-verb agreement, proper noun capitalization and only proper nouns, and verb tense consistency. If you’d like to read more about each of these grammar mistakes, visit writingforward.com.
5.) PROOFREAD, AND PROOFREAD AGAIN
Now is your chance to polish up your paper. Take a break after writing before you dive into proofreading. Don’t trust the spellchecker – it doesn’t find most grammatical errors. Read your paper out loud. If you tend to make certain mistakes, use the search function on your computer to search for them specifically. If you are unsure about APA formatting, consult the Purdue OWL or invest in a style guide. Bonus tip: Use an internet program to have your paper read to you.
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