How to Develop and Write Any College Paper

Whether you’re writing a narrative about the time you skipped class in fourth grade, a research paper about women entrepreneurs in The Epic of Gilgamesh, or a profile paper on your pet skunk Stinky, the process involved in writing any college paper is basically the same set of steps, just to varying degrees of difficulty and expected time investment. Here are the most basic steps to get your started.

Brainstorm for topics

Whatever the type of paper you’ve been assigned, chances are you instructor didn’t just straight up give you a topic. He may have given you a general subject, but the rest is on you. Don’t procrastinate -- take the time to find an interesting topic.

  • Start by writing down a list of things that you think would be interesting to read about, let alone write about.
  • Ask a friend to go over the list with you. Having another set of eyes may help you decide which topics are worth pursuing or may have more to write about than others.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your initial list, then perform an Internet search. Do not do this first! The amount of information available to you can be overwhelming, to say the least. The more specific you can be in your search, the more effective the results you will receive.

Outline your paper

Depending on what kind of paper you’re writing, you may have been required to do anywhere from very light to extensive research for your paper. Do most of your research before you begin writing, but don’t rule out the possibility of continuing to add facts and information as you write. Between those two steps, though, you must outline your paper.

  • If you don’t have any direction when you start writing, your paper will reflect that. Decide how you will organize your paper and follow that outline.
  • Outline your paper in a way that makes logical sense and flows well. Group like things together (for example, in a compare and contrast paper, you would want to group comparisons with comparisons and contrasts with contrasts instead of jumping between one and the other, which is messy).

Write it, and have it reviewed

Then, of course, write the paper. Follow the outline you’ve made. Once you’ve written one draft, put it down for at least fifteen minutes, and up to two days if you have the time.

  • Have someone else read it and offer feedback. There may be inconsistencies or organizational errors you might miss just by being so close to the project.
  • Take notes of their feedback and incorporate what you think makes sense to do so.
  • After you’ve rewritten your paper, have someone else read through it again. Repeat until you are satisfied (or run out of time before it’s due).

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