1. Understand Your Purpose
  • Read any instructions that have been provided.
  • Pay attention to any suggestions or guidelines given by your professor in class.
  • Clarify instructions for the paper with your instructor.
  • Be sure you understand, not only the purpose of the writing assignment, but also the expectations in terms of length, accepted style for citing sources, and any requirements regarding the topic.
2. Start Early
  • Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm ideas for a topic.
  • Give yourself enough time for research - in the library, on the web, in your textbook or in individual interviews.
  • Also, remember that if you leave the printing until last minute, the printer could crash in the middle of your job - do not do that to yourself.
3. Develop Your Thesis Statement
  • This sentence clarifies the purpose of your research - write it as an opinion statement about your topic.
  • Getting this developed early on will help focus your research efforts.
4. Start Researching
  • Be sure to keep good notes on the material you are using, so that you can easily and accurately cite your sources.
5. Draft an Outline of Your Paper
  • This helps you organize the information you have collected so far.
  • It also lets you see how ideas fit together, and helps you to identify gaps that need to be filled in with more research.
  • Ultimately, because this step involves thinking critically about your topic, writing an outline helps you to understand your topic better.
6. Writing Your First Draft
  • At this stage, it is important to start writing.
  • What’s not as important is getting it prefect.
  • Remember, this is your very rough draft.
  • Judgments and criticism about your writing at this point only stifle your creativity.
7. Take a Break
  • You need to let your paper sit for a day or two before you start to revise it.
8. Edit, Revise and Polish
  • You should go through several drafts between your first rough draft and your final copy (remember to take breaks between revisions). 

Use the following criteria to help you move from rough to final copy:
  • The thesis statement is clear.

  • The paper addresses/supports the thesis statement.

  • The paper follows the thesis statement, and does not go off on a tangent.

  • The main body of the paper is a series of paragraphs building support for the thesis statement.

  • Paragraphs in the paper’s main body are in order of increasing importance
  • Make the strongest point last. However, the paper should start with a relatively strong point.

  • Ideas should flow smoothly from one to another and make appropriate use of transition phrases (e.g. furthermore, as such, therefore, in contrast).

  • Ideas and arguments are presented in a clear, straightforward way - avoid the unnecessary use of jargon.

  • The conclusion restates the thesis statement and points out the implications and importance of the points made in the paper.

  • All sources are appropriately cited.

  • There are no spelling or grammatical errors.
Source: Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.
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