In high school, students would be assigned papers up to three or four pages in length with a couple of weeks to complete them. They would be required to hand in an outline, first draft, and final draft to their classroom teacher. Once in college, however, students are given a syllabus at the beginning of the term with every assignment that will be due throughout the class. Students will have up to a month or more to complete papers, but they will usually be longer than papers in high school, often up to 8 or 10 pages. Depending on the student’s study habits, having such a long time to complete an assignment can either make life easier or harder, but there are some ways students can manage their time well and write a fantastic college term paper.
- Time management
One of the biggest issues with these extra long papers is that students may not yet know how to manage their time accurately. Trying to write a one or two-page paper the night before might work out, but an 8 or 10-page paper takes weeks to research and draft. College professors will not be helping students manage their time, so it’s important they create their timeline for when they need to finish their outline, a thesis statement, rough draft, and final draft. Time management can make it or break it for college students in this respect and can make a huge difference in their overall GPA.
- The right thesis
Many students pick a thesis that seems like it will work out great, but once they start writing they develop a different opinion or discover new research. Many college students will change their thesis statement once they start writing their paper and may even end up with a better argument overall. However, this may take a lot of extra time and may prompt college students to do more research than they originally thought. In addition to this extra time and dedication, students may need to redraft part of their paper or even start from scratch. An appropriate and refined thesis statement can turn an OK paper into an excellent one.
- Creating an excellent rough draft
Students writing longer papers will need to work on it at different times. Although this will save their sanity, it may create a rough draft that is a little bit choppy or that doesn’t make perfect sense when read from beginning to end. This is why it’s so important for students to get the opinion of someone from their study group, a tutor, or a trusted classmate. When somebody else proofreads a first draft, they can point out issues that made the paper confusing or statements that may not yet be supported. Although this is a lot of work, once students have a great rough draft, the bulk of their paper is completed.
- Editing for content
Once students have a good first draft, they need to start editing for content. Students can start by asking themselves the following questions. Is there a thesis statement or argument supported throughout the paper? Do their body paragraphs veer off in a different direction that makes the paper confusing? Does one idea transfer easily to another idea without the reader having to stop and think what’s going on? Is outside information supported by source material? After students have corrected any major content errors, they can move on to their final edit.
- Editing for readability
Every college student should give their term paper a final proofread to check for anything else that needs to be changed. At this point students are looking for grammar issues, misspelled words, confusing punctuation or anything else that makes it difficult for their professor to understand what’s going on in the paper. Students should only edit for readability once they have an excellent first draft and have made any necessary content changes to avoid editing more times than is necessary.
Robyn Scott is a private English tutor at TutorNerd. She attended the University of California, Irvine as an undergraduate and the University of Southampton in England as a graduate student. She has worked with students from the United States, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and Africa.