How to write a good college paper Feb 28, 2013
Many people know a good paper when they see one. Generally it's easy to read, it's transitions are exactly where they need to be, the author's line of reasoning is right on point (it makes sense!), and it has a conclusion that brings closure and satisfaction to the reader.
And though it may take a bit of time and concentrated effort, a good paper is by no means rocketscience. Many college students turn out great works all the time-with little or no experience. The key is knowing the components of a good paper and religiously implementing them each and every time.
Likewise, before identifying exactly what a good paper contains, it may help to first understand the notable differences between college writing and other forms of writing.
How are college papers different from other types of writing?
To answer this question, a great place to start is to first identify the main differences between what your professor expects from you, what your high school English
teacher wanted to see, and what your blog readers require.
Though professors differ with regards to paper preferences, in general most college papers
require (a) higher level of thinking and (b) evidence of an adequate amount of research (suitable to the requirements of the assignment)*. Which can differ in some respects to what is needed for the other forms of writing just mentioned.
*Keep in mind that this isn't to mean that every college paper needs an exorbitant amount of research. Often times when formulating your paper or essay, its not so much what you bring to the table but how you digest what's there that is important.
- (A) The higher level of thinking requirement can easily be compared to your old high school English teacher's assignments. Even though Mr. Johnson probably wanted you to think hard about what you wrote and analyze and evaluate the information you provided, it's likely that the level that he expected you to conduct your analysis on is much lower than what your professors will expect from you in your college writings.
*Helpful Note* Think book report vs. book review. In high school you may have been asked to construct a book report; which primarily is just a summary of a book. In college however, you'll likely be required to write a book review or critique instead; with these a summary only comprises a small portion and the rest is primarily critical analysis and evaluation.
- (B) The second difference; research efforts. This can be easily compared to blog or casual writing. In such instances even if a bit of research is required, its likely not to be coupled with some of the demands that come along with college-level writing.Some of them may include a literature review, a larger more representative sampling of information, proper citation of sources, and the possible rejection of information that is not obtained from reputable places such as scholarly journals or noteworthy books.
In addition to the two features mentioned here, there are many other components that need to be considered as well when crafting a college paper. Three more are discussed below.
5 features of a winning college paper
#1 Clear purpose and objective:
You may hear your professor say: So what's the point? And thats actually a really good one. Unclear and ambiguous outlines are simply not welcome! A great college paper works to achieve a clear and attainable goal and/or seek to satisfy a main objective or purpose. Not knowing your purpose in writing is a recipe for disaster-not to mention frustration and confusion. Know why you're writing before you start (general purposes are usually to inform, explain, or evaluate) and at least have some idea of your main objective as well.
#2 A well-crafted thesis statement:
If there is anything that you will hopefully gain from your college writing courses is how to construct a solid thesis statement. The thesis statement is the one statement that details what your paper is all about (it can sometimes be two-though you should really try to keep it to one). It is usually placed in the introduction of your paper but may wind up somewhere else if another location is more suitable
The basic principle of the thesis statement
is that the efficiency of your paper will be judged based on it. Whatever you state that you will prove, argue, or discuss in the thesis statement should be precisely what is accomplished in the body of the paper. And not having a thesis statement is not an option either. Thats basically code for: I don't know why I'm writing
#3 Strong and sustainable argument:
Think of your argument as the foundation of your paper. If you don't have one-you don't have a paper. The argument it's undoubtedly one of the most important features of proficient college writing. You're sure to be acknowledged for a good one and criticized for a bad one.
So what makes a good argument? A good argument comprises a few things, some include; (a) a clear stance on a particular issue (no wishy-washy statements) (b) a counterargument that reasonably looks at opposing or alternative views (c) a logical and consistent way of thinking (an organizational structure that makes sense to the reader).
*Though these all may not apply to every paper, every time, they are a good indication of an argument that's worth reading.
#4 Clear evidential support:
As mentioned earlier, adequate research is just a part of college writing. And any good paper will not only have reliable and reputable information but it will also provide data, examples, or illustrations that clearly connect to the point that is being made. Nothing spells 'bad paper' like evidence that provides a weak or irrelevant connection to a statement or claim. And good evidence doesn't always come easy though. Especially in cases where raw numbers are not applicable. Know that you may have to dig, search, and dig some more to really find the support that will sell your argument.
#5 A reasonable attempt to analyze, interpret, and evaluate:
Here is the 'higher level of thinking' part. Paraphrases are pretty easy. Summaries are even easier. But to take information that you've gathered, dissect it into smaller components (interpret), think really hard about it (examine), and then make a claim or judgment about it (evaluation) is no cakewalk!
But nonetheless all of these tasks show the stark difference between college-level or scholarly writings, and everything else. So to make sure your paper is on the winning side, the information that you bring to light should be properly analyzed in a way befitting a college student
. This includes identifying the most important parts, acknowledging and discussing the smaller ones, and coming up with your own unique statement or conclusion.
Overall this last point is definitely one that will find its way into all of your college papers. Professors love analysis. And so should you. Hopefully by giving your full attention to it, without neglecting the other key components of a good paper, your papers will always go the extra mile. back to all posts
By Martha Buckly
. Martha is a good freelance writer and loves sharing posts on different topics including tips and guidelines for articles and academic writing. Her professional experience helps to create interesting and useful material.