Think of crafting the perfect college paper like preparing a gourmet meal: it is carefully constructed, not just thrown together the night before. The pieces of the paper are written just right and assembled in order to form the whole. If your professor can sort out the good, bad, and ugly of papers, you want to follow these tips to avoid the bad and ugly!
1. Get a head start
Have you been assigned a paper to complete in a week or two? Your professor is assuming that it will take you that entire time to think about what you would like to write about, do the necessary research, perhaps write a draft, then actually write your finished product.
2. Understand the assignment
In college, you will have to write many different types of papers that can range from analytic papers, research papers, papers that draw from your own experiences, or papers that ask you to take a stance on an issue. When you are given the paper assignment, ensure that you are fully aware what exactly the professor is asking of you. Are you unsure? Take a look at the syllabus, focus on the verbs in the paper assignment (for example: compare and contrast, defend, evaluate, summarize, etc). If you are still having trouble understanding, don't be afraid to approach your professor and ask whether it's after class or during office hours.
3. Answer the exact question asked
Typically, your professor has posed a question that he or she would like answered in your paper. It is best practice to not stray to far from answering that particular question or construct your own. Make sure that you are taking the time to answer the question they are asking and not the question you think they should ask.
4. Have a single, unifying point
A hallmark of an excellent paper is that is has a single point that not only provides structure and flow to the rest of the paper but it also unifies it as a whole. Pick a single argument/point that you are going to take a stance on and do your best to not stray from single unifying point.
5. Make sure it flows
Now that you have figured out what will be your single point of your paper, you will need to organize your supporting arguments that supplement your main point. Carefully consider the supporting points you are going to make to provide for a flow that makes the most sense for the reader/grader.
6. Fill the pages
Is there a certain minimum or maximum page length? Make sure that you have written enough to fill the pages to the extent that best suits the assignment. If your paper falls to short of the page requirement, try probing an issue a bit more by offering another example or illustration as what it may demonstrate. This also helps sometimes to vault your paper from a B to an A because of that extra detail and length.
7. Don't over-do it with quotes
While having quotes might be an essential part of your paper to help support your main point and arguments, make sure that you do not over-do it! Using brief citations helps the professor pull out ways in which you understood that particular part and how it can be used to support your argument. You can articulate your explanation in your own words what the author might be saying or meaning.
After you have completed your paper and you think you're about ready to turn it in for a final grade, be sure to give it a good once over of proofreading! Don't diminish your hard work by not checking your spelling errors or sentences that might be grammatically incorrect. Take the few minutes to double check your writing to ensure that it is clear of these common mistakes!