5 Ways to Succeed in Writing a College Term Paper
The term paper is one of the most dreaded, but most common, types of paper that a student will write in the course of a college career. With the rising emphasis on writing at every level of education, the number of term papers you’re likely to encounter as a student will only increase over the course of your higher education career.
Fortunately, though, there are some simple ways that you can help improve your chances of succeeding on any college term paper, no matter the topic. In this article, we’ll review five of these methods to help you succeed on your next term paper.
1 - Read and understand the assignment and the rubric
This might seem like essay writing 101, but it’s the most important step in succeeding with a college term paper. If you don’t get the assignment right, you won’t get a good grade. It’s that simple. So the first thing you need to do is carefully read all of the instructions for the assignment. Make sure you know exactly what the instructor is looking for, including all of the parameters of the assignment, such as the number and type of sources, the page count and word count, and even any restrictions on font, style, and formatting. The rubric, if one is provided, can actually serve as a checklist to help you make sure you hit all of the key points of the paper. The rubric is a guide to how you are going to be graded, so using the rubric to measure your work against that standard will give you a good idea of how you’re going to do. If you can say that you’ve addressed all of the points of the rubric, then you’re probably in a pretty good position to get the best grade you can.
2 - Outline before you write
Many students consider outlining to be a waste of time because it’s writing that they do that doesn’t end up in the finished product. As a result, it can seem a bit like busy work that makes it harder to get to the final copy. But that isn’t the case when it comes to outlining. Instead, writing even a simple outline can keep you on track, help you avoid unnecessary digressions, and ensure that your main points flow logically one to the next. Think of an outline like the skeleton of your college term paper and the final copy as the muscle, skin, and clothes you dress that skeleton in. The more effort you put into building a strong skeleton, the better the final essay will turn out. The process will save you time and effort in the long run because you’ll be able to write the final essay straight through without having to stop to consider your next point or to revise and move things around as you think of new points.
3 - Take frequent breaks
This might sound a little counter-intuitive, but studies have found that when you take frequent breaks during the writing process—say, one 5-minute break every 20-30 minutes, you’ll retain mental sharpness, avoid boredom, and approach your paper more creatively. Just be sure that your scheduled breaks aren’t too close together. It’s also true that when we change tasks, there is a refractory period before we can get back on track. You don’t want to spend all of your time catching up to where you were before you stopped!
4 - Proofread more than once
Nobody likes proofreading. Ask professional authors, and they’ll tell you that the process of revising and proofreading is one of the most tedious parts of life as a writer. (The worst is indexing a book—which you lucky students won’t have to do for a paper!) But proofreading is also exceptionally important. Consider the fact that typically, mechanics (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.) are worth up to a full letter grade on a paper. You don’t want to lose points for something so small and easily fixable. Proofread your paper after taking a break of a few hours or, ideally, overnight so you can have a fresh perspective on it. Since it can be hard for any writer to find his or her own mistakes, having a friend review it, too, can help make sure you catch lingering errors.
5 - Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This might be the hardest tip of all since most of us don’t like to admit when we need help in writing a college term paper online. However, professors, TAs, and college writing centers are all standing by to help students who are having trouble with anything from topic selection to research to writing to proofreading. Make use of the resources you have to get the best grade possible!