When writing a paper, preparation is key to a great grade. This includes preparing your resources, references, and materials that will be included in your paper. I have worked on countless papers weeks in advance a little at a time and in the end, I have gotten above a 95 on all of them! For larger papers (5+ pages) you will want to start working on them at least 3 weeks in advance depending on how familiar you are with the topic and what resources you have available to you.
I can promise you that if you follow these steps, the time you spend working on your assignment will be more successful and your writing will improve. I personally developed and use these steps when writing a paper to decrease my workload and academic stress level. Starting papers that are not due for several weeks will make you feel like you are accomplishing your work and will also help you avoid those all-nighters.
This is all based on my experience as a college student, but high school students (especially those in AP, Honors, or Dull Enrollment courses) should try this!
Steps for Preparing & Writing Your Paper:
1. Create a Word Document
EASY RIGHT? All you need to do is create an empty document and begin entering basic information (like your name and the title) based on the style you are asked to use for the assignment (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc). Don’t forget your page numbers too! This step only takes 10 minutes at the most (and that’s only if your internet is slow!). Doing this step will allow you to start writing immediately after researching and learning more about your topic.
2. Research Your Topic
Depending on your class, professor, and assignment, you may be asked to provide a minimum amount of references to include in your paper. These references may offer exceptional quotes or more information that will make your paper look better and stand out among those your classmates submit.
I recommend you go to your school library and get about twice as many books as required. You want to get more for these reasons: (1) you may end up not liking one of the sources you chose & (2) your professor will be really impressed if you used more references than required.
Yes, you will need to read… After researching your topic and finding good sources, it is important that you READ those books you checked out. My advice for this step is one that will save you hours of work. Instead of getting overwhelmed and thinking you need to read an entire book – go to the table of contents – and look for chapters that specifically relate to your topic. You can also skim through these chapters to find sections that are even more related to your assignment. This step not only gives you the opportunity to actually learn about what you will be writing on, but it also gives you the chance to find quotes to use for your paper!
4. Build Your Body!
This step requires you go back to the Word document you have already created. You will now can start preparing section headers based on your topic (and subtopics). This will help organize your thoughts and make your paper have a cleaner look. You can also prepare the introduction for your paper. These will both help to shape what your paper will look like.
This is an easy step that may need adjustment later, based on where your paper is going, but can still be beneficial is sorting your thoughts before writing. Double check your assignment requirements or ask your professor to make sure section headers are acceptable (some professors do not like them).
5. Add Your References!
Since you have already gathered your references (books, articles, etc.) earlier, this step should just mean you get out your materials and copy the information onto your Works Cited page based on the format you are using (MLA, APA, etc.). Professors can be very particular about how you cite your references, so make sure they are accurate!
6. Input What You Have Learned!
I cannot specify completely of what you need to do now. This is because I do not know what assignment topic you may be working on right now. However, I can tell you that if you have read a good bit, and followed the steps above, you are ready to type out what you have learned about your topic. My advice to you is that you make sure your writing is unbiased and as formal as the assignment/professor requires you to be, this will add to the quality of your paper.
7. PROOF READ!
PROOF READ_PROOF READ_PROOF READ! I cannot stress this enough. Take this from someone who is terrible at grammar – you need to proof read. I would also suggest that you have others proof read your paper if possible. Parents, friends, classmates, teachers, tutors, SOMEONE! It might take a little convincing, but it is worth it if it means your grade could go from a B to an A! Grammar counts on assignments, and you do not want that yo be the reason your paper did not get an A!
That was a lot of information. Please work at your own pace, but take my advice when I say you should prepare. It saves you more time and energy than you would think. Best of luck!