Oh no! I have a paper due soon, time to panic right? Actually no, it doesn’t have to be. Writing a great college essay (or high school) really comes down to following a few simple rules in structure and organization. Yes, your ideas are the most important, but you will find that using proper structure, and having knowledge of the proper way to set up your ideas, will actually help facilitate the flow of them. All an essay really comes down to is stating your main ideas that the paper will discuss, then exploring each of those in detail (or as my cousin so eloquently once stated, “How well you can bullshit, and portray it in writing”). Either way, let’s take a closer look at exactly what needs to be done to accomplish this correctly.
First of all you need to have the idea for you paper, which is usually called your thesis statement. A thesis statement is really just a scary term that basically means the points you will be talking about in your paper. You can come up with these ideas any way you like; brainstorming is usually a good way to start. For example, if I were to write a paper explaining why Joe Montana was a great football player, I would just need to think of ideas to support that argument. Making a list of them would be a good start.
1. He was an accurate passer
2. He won four Super bowls
3. He played well under pressure
Now that you have your points, all you need to do is organize them into a sentence that sounds more sophisticated than it really is. Yes, sadly writing a great paper involves a little playing with words to make things sound prettier than they really are; but you will see what I mean. Now that we have our three points, a simple thesis statement could read, “Joe Montana was a great football player because he was an accurate passer, won four Super bowls, and played well under pressure”. Now that is a fine statement, and shows the reader exactly what they need to know, we just need to jazz it up a bit to sound a little more sophisticated and enjoyable to read. This can be accomplished by just changing around a few words, and the way in which we present the ideas; like this: “Joe Montana was a phenomenal football player. This was demonstrated in the accuracy of his passes, the amount of Super bowls he has won, and the way he always held his cool under pressure”. Same exact information, just presented a little differently. As you can see, the idea and three explanations were split into two sentences, a few words were exchanged, and a few added. Most College papers involve proving some kind of point, setting up your idea by stating it, then saying something like, “this is demonstrated by blah, blah, and blah”. Feel free to play around with the wording and such as much as you like. As long as you have your idea and (usually) 3 points clearly defined, it will be impossible to get lost.
Now that we know how to create a proper thesis, let’s look at the way the body paragraphs (paragraphs explaining the points in your thesis) should be set up. Most essays need to follow this basic formula. Once you learn it, and learn it well, you will be able to tackle any kind of paper you want. State your main idea, state a specific example within that idea, find a quote from a source that supports it, explain your quote, and repeat. Using our example about Joe Montana, I would simply restate his ability to pass accurately, find an example of a game where he completed a high percentage of his passes, then find a quote from an announcer from that game, or a quote from a book that commented on his accuracy, then simply explain how that quote proves your point. It might be easier to look at it from a literature example, since in most college papers you are using books, lets look at it from that perspective. Make a point from your thesis, look back to you book or other sources and find a quote that supports your point, then explain the quote and how it helps prove your point. That’s the big secret, that’s it. Make a point, find a quote, explain quote. Do that once or ten times for each paragraph (depending on your paper length) and you are set up for success. For some reason, a lot of students get lost in all of the information they are going through and the points they want to make, and it all becomes overwhelming. If that happens, all you need to do is get back to basics, follow this simple formula, and you are set up for success.
The last part of any paper is the conclusion, which is really quite simple. All you need to do is go back over your paper, review your most important points, all of the things you want the reader to take away from reading it, and restate it in a final paragraph. That’s it, you’re done!
Writing a paper can be a daunting task; believe me I know, I’ve written plenty. Just remember that no matter how long it is, two pages or fifty, that you just need to follow a basic formula, and you will be okay. First organize your main points and form a thesis statement. Then take each main point, and find quotes and evidence that support it. Next, explain what they mean and how they support it for each paragraph. Last, write your conclusion summarizing all your main points. That’s basically it. So next time you have a paper due, don’t get overwhelmed. Just break it down one step at a time, stay focused, stay cool, and remember this formula for success (how to stay focused writing a paper you ask? Well that’s a topic for an entirely different article which I’m not focused enough to write at the moment. Or maybe that means I shouldn’t be writing that article at all if I can’t stay focused myself. Or maybe…erhmm…Just kidding, have a great day! (Can I end an article with have a great day?).