Every college student writes papers and assignments. What is surprising though is how poorly written some college papers can be. I am a writing fellow at the University of Iowa, where we boast our writing program as being number one in the country. After reading, reviewing, and editing many papers on many different topics, I have noticed some common mistakes students make when writing a paper.
I’ve put together a quick list of tips to avoid these errors and write the perfect paper:
When I first learned how to outline a paper, I thought it was an enormous waste of my time and that I didn’t need to make outline because I could think my paper through while writing it out. Well, after writing my thesis, a paper that required more work than anything I’ve ever had to do before, I learned the true value in an outline. I got to the second half of my thesis paper and found it extremely difficult to know where the paper was going. Outlining all my ideas gave me the opportunity to see what would work well and what would not. Take the extra hour or so to make the outline. This will allow you to clearly layout your thoughts and keep organized. It’s a lot easier to move thoughts on an outline around than it is to re-write a whole section of your paper!
2. Read It Out Loud
I know this sounds silly, but reading your paper aloud to yourself is by far the easiest and most simple way to find errors in your writing. Things like inappropriate commas and run-on sentences are overwhelmingly common in papers, from the junior high level all the way up to the graduating college seniors. By reading it out loud, you can hear all these simple mistakes.
3. Writing Centers and Tutors
Your college writing center is an obvious way to improve your writing. After surveying students on multiple campuses, I learned that most students avoid the writing center for a few reasons: they don’t want to hear bad things about their writing, they don’t want to take the time to make or attend the appointment, or they may not even know about it. I understand the busy schedule of a college student. However, the writing center is designed to help you, so make time. Plus, you already pay for this service in your tuition. So, you should use what you’re paying for!
I am shocked every time I read college-level papers. It’s okay for some students to not be natural writers – but they should be taking full advantage of every resource possible to improve their skills, that’s part of what college is about.