7 Simple Steps for Writing Great Papers

7 Simple Steps for Writing Great Papers

Writing an academic paper may be a challenging, and sometimes frustrating endeavor. Knowing a few tricks  to use along the way may make things a little easier.

Follow the steps listed below to ease the challenge of writing an academic paper.

Step One: Comprehend the assignment.

Read through project instructions and guidelines closely. Ask questions, define terms, and consider the intent and scope of the project. Make sure you fully understand the assignment before moving forward.  

Step Two: Collect the information.

Find as many sources primary and secondary as possible. If the project calls for the use of a specific number of resources, plan your collecting accordingly.  

Step Three: Conduct thorough research.

Reading and studying material is a mental and physical activity. It requires thought, consideration, reflection, and physical participation such as taking notes, looking up difficult words, paraphrasing challenging sentences, or free-writing.

Conduct your research at a desk or table; have a pencil, a highlighter, bookmarkers, and a notebook on hand. Take note of important details, data, and other pieces of information and highlight intriguing and important passages.

When you encounter complex information book-mark pages you want to re-read and tag challenging passages. Work with challenging information by paraphrasing and free-writing.

Reading and studying is about more than identifying words and meanings—it’s about comprehending information, understanding the author’s ideas, and identifying your own interpretations. Once you’ve actively read and studied your materials, review your notes, identify which ideas and insights seem most important, and begin to brainstorm ideas.

Step Four: Identify the central argument.

Conduct analysis, identify key information, draw pictures, free-write, discuss your project with others, define unfamiliar sentences, and passages, and do whatever you can to better understand your materials and what you want to say about them. Once you have an idea of what you want to say about your materials, use heuristics, techniques for active learning, to explore and map out specific ideas.

Step Five: Write an outline.

Identify some of your central ideas and begin to organize them on a piece of paper. Use this step to consider ways to best organize your information and ideas. Keep your initial outline short and simple—use it to simply capture your main ideas and map a potential structure for them.  

Step Six: Create several drafts.

Leave plenty of time to write multiple drafts of your paper. Let your first draft be sloppy and free. Use your subsequent drafts to better organize and deliver your information.

Plan on writing at least three drafts of your paper before drafting a final one.  


Step Seven: Thoroughly edit your paper.

Check for misspellings, incorrect word usage, faulty grammar, vague or unclear sentences, passages, or sections, and general structure and appearance. Leave plenty of time for this step—a poorly edited paper is an incomplete paper.  

Begin your academic papers well in advance of their submission date to help ensure you have time to fully engage in the writing process and create your highest quality work. 


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Annie Rose Stathes holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Political Science, from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is currently an instructor of writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado 

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