Term Paper Advice from Your Friendly Neighborhood English Major
Term Paper Advice from Your Friendly Neighborhood English Major

Term Paper Advice from Your Friendly Neighborhood English Major

Five tips for improving your writing and turning in an “A”-worthy paper.
July 8, 2016
10 mins read

It’s no secret that I’m a grammar geek who fawns over sentence structure and punctuation. I live for the English language, but I know that not everyone is as fervent about my specialty as I am.

Some people excel at math or science or history — everybody has their niche, and just because someone doesn’t write like Virginia Woolf doesn’t mean they lack intellectual merit.

I know a girl who obsesses over numbers like they were her children. She’s a freak for fractions and drools over equations. And yet, that same little math genius can’t string two words together when it comes to typing out a term paper.

An English assignment that takes her two months to accomplish, I can probably do half asleep the morning it’s due — and still end up with a whole letter grade higher than her. If you’re like her, consider that the best piece of advice might be to ask for help on a grade writing service.

I’m not trying to belittle my friend’s brainpower. Like I said, everybody has their own skill set, and it can be really challenging to push yourself to do anything out of your comfort zone, let alone do it well.

In addition, not everyone is privy to the same kind of education. I know that my fiancé, for example, moved around a lot as a child and was never fortunate enough to have good English teachers. So to this day, he avoids the subject at all costs, because he just doesn’t have a knack for it and suffers from poor prior training.

Nonetheless, it can be frustrating to be the girl that students flock to before a due date with the hope that I will rescue their papers from certain failure. Okay, I know, a little melodramatic, but it can be grueling work to spend hours combing through a research paper fixing every little mistake to find the diamond in the rough.

And in my years of experience, that’s what I’ve finally determined — every essay, no matter how poorly written, has great potential to get an A. The key is, it’s not always about how well your write — it’s about how well you plan and construct.

So, here are a few hard and fast rules to help you compose a kickass paper that you’ll feel so confident about, you won’t feel the need to chase down an English tutor to pick through your pages like a monkey grooming a fellow primate.

1. Planning Is Everything

Getting your groundwork laid out is the most crucial part of executing a coherent, logical assignment.

Sit down and brainstorm. Ask yourself questions: What am I trying to say with this paper and how do I want to say it? What kind of information do I want to use to support my main points? Then you’ll want to create a thesis (your main argument). This one sentence will be the core of your paper.

Everything in your essay will ultimately just flesh out your central idea. Occasionally, I find it helpful to devise my thesis statement last. That way, after I’ve mapped out all that I want to convey, I can devise a sentence that incorporates each point that I just wrote. This method is more big picture.

After you’ve spit out every idea your brain conjures up, make a blueprint. Remember how your teachers in high school forced you to do an outline before you started your research paper? Well, as annoying as that was, it really is the best way to build the structure of your argument. But don’t think that you have to be so formal with your outline.

Personally, I like to list my main point, and then assign any and all quotes that could be used to support said point in a logical, progressive manner. It’s important to always be mindful of how you’re going to further your thesis.

2. Tackle the Beast in Sections

The best way to make sure you’re conveying all of your ideas thoroughly and giving them the proper attention is to focus on one area at a time (sometimes even paragraph by paragraph). Thankfully with your outline, you can easily see each section of your paper. This part of the writing process becomes very systematic for me. I usually try to pick a quote from my framework and build a paragraph around it.

Figure out what the quote is saying and use that synthesis to write an introductory statement, lead into the quote, and then explain the quote. Follow up with a concluding sentence tie all the information together, and there you have a successful paragraph. You can pretty much use this method for the entirety of your paper.

3. Write the Body First

Some of your professors might advise otherwise, but I personally like to come up with my introductory and concluding paragraphs after I’ve already written the rest of the paper.

Sometimes it’s easier to flesh out all of your ideas first and then work backwards from there. You may find that your introductory statements are stronger because you’ll know exactly what you’re introducing. Same thing goes for the conclusion — you’ll be better able to wrap up your assignment when you have everything else laid out in front of you.

4. Allow Time to Edit

It can be tempting to type out a hot mess of a research essay in the wee hours of the night before it’s due. But if you want to ensure a better quality paper, give yourself some time (at least a day before your turn in your assignment) to read over your finished product and clean up any parts that could drag down your percentage points.

When you go back and look at your work as a whole, you’ll get a chance to see where there could be potential gaps in your ideas, repetition of words or grammatical errors. All of these things could add up and hurt your grade in the long run if left unchanged.

Additionally, reading your words aloud can help you locate your shortcomings. Hearing how the sentences sound and flow together can force you to acknowledge what your mind may not have been able to recognize while you were constructing the various sections of your assignment.

Another idea is to have an editor check your paper for any errors that you might have missed. It is always a good idea to have a fresh pair of eyes go over your work.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Adhering to the aforementioned steps will make you a better, more conscientious student — and it will make the writing process much easier and quicker with each passing paper. Eventually, you may not need to spend so much time brainstorming or compiling such an extensive outline.

Your brain will become hardwired to think more logically, helping you transition from one step to the next more smoothly — a very useful skill for life in general. Hmm, it’s as if that was the main purpose of the research paper all along (other than to torture you, of course).

So remember, you don’t have to be a Hemingway to get an A. It’s really just about organization, expanding upon your ideas, and paying attention to details. And by the time you graduate, you’ll be writing essays like you were an English major.

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