What does it mean to write a great college paper? Most importantly, a college-level paper should convey your knowledge in a clear, cohesive, and concise manner.
At its bare essentials, an academic essay needs to make an argument, support any claims, and lead the reader to an inevitable conclusion based on facts presented. Writing a successful college paper is a skill you can learn and here are some tips to help you hone that skill.
1. Clear, Concise Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement should convey your topic and your stance in a single sentence. After doing your research, this may feel impossible. It can help to consider how you would explain it quickly to someone outside of your industry. Imagine a family member asking you about your paper over dinner. Within your thesis statement, your opinion should be clear. A strong thesis statement is a summation of an argument. The nuance will come later in the rest of your a paper.
2. Support Your Thesis Statement
For your argument to have merit, you need to support with solid secondary sources. Wikipedia is a great place to find citations for secondary sources, but is not a credible source on its own. Depending on the topic, you may want to look for reviews or research articles. Scholarly articles from industry journals, such as The Journal of Hotel and Business Management, are a great option. Additionally, journal articles include extensive citations where you can find original research or more in-depth discussion of a topic.
3. Create an Outline
A great paper flows from paragraph to the next in a logical sequence. It's much easier to do this if you create an outline to serve as a map for your writing. Additionally, once you get started writing, you may inadvertently end up on a tangent. Comparing your written draft to your outline can help you see where you need to tighten things up and get back on track.
4. Write a First Draft
The first draft should never be the final draft. Give yourself enough time to complete a first draft and come back to it later. It's difficult to see errors, inconsistencies, and even typos when you are first writing something. Come back with fresh eyes a day or two later, however, and you'll be able to see opportunities for improvement more clearly.
5. Write the Introduction Last
The first paragraph of a college paper is often the hardest to write. If you write it last, when your arguments and evidence have all been laid our before you, the whole paper will feel more cohesive. Another option is to give yourself permission to throw away your introduction and rewrite it at the end.
The most difficult part of writing a college paper is to start writing. Sometimes, all you need to get the ideas flowing is to just start typing. You can always go back and edit or delete later. Just start writing.