Everything You Need to Write an A Paper in College

When I started writing this post I second guessed if I'm the type of person who should be giving out advice on how to write a great essay. Just yesterday I spent the entire day, sunrise to sunset, writing a project proposal that ended at 24 pages and one empty pizza box. If I was a bad student I wouldn't write this post, but I'm not. Lazy student? Sure, sometimes.

Posts that tell you to not leave it till the last minute are only giving you information you don't want to hear, and that you've probably been told a dozen times. Whether you're starting this paper early or the night before it's due, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a good grade.

As someone who has managed to get an A on every paper I've turned in, in graduate school at least, here are my tips to writing an A grade paper no matter the topic, length or time restraints.

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Don't risk losing it

I cant count the number of times my computer has suddenly shut down or crashed, only for me to lose my entire paper and my mind. Avoid all this drama and wasted time by writing your paper on a document in Google Drive. Plus, this way you can work on your paper no matter where you are, and there's no risk of losing bits and pieces along the way.

Make it read well

If you aren't a naturally gifted writer, using an app like Hemingway Editor or Grammarly will ensure that you don't lose points because your sentence structures don't make sense. This is also a great tool for those professors you have that like to dock points because of a simple spelling mistake.

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Google Scholar

Chances are if you're writing a college paper you're being asked to cite sources. Avoid getting desperate and turning to Wikipedia by using sources you find on Google Scholar. You can ensure all the references you cite will be college appropriate, plus it's as easy to find sources as any other Google search.

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Know how to cite

I'm totally guilty of messing up the citation format at the end of my paper, which is why I started using websites like Citation Machine to do the work for me. For most sources all I have to do is type in the name of the book or paste the weblink, and from there Citation Machine handles the rest.

Learn the format

Two years into my graduate program and I still see classmates losing points on their paper as early as the cover page! Yeah, the page that only asks for a title and page number. Find out if your professor prefers APA or MLA, and from there, make sure you aren't missing any crucial pieces like headers, in text citations or page margins.

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Focus on the body

The essay body that is. Don't fall into the trap that you need to write your introduction first and conclusion last, especially when you're not even sure what you'll be talking about yet. My advice is to jump right into writing the first topic paragraph, then go back and define your thesis based on that. It sounds so backwards but trust me, it will save you the time of figuring out what the heck to say in your introduction.

Follow the rubric

If your professor is kind enough to give you a rubric, follow it like it's a step by step guide. The easier way to get full points is to make sure you answer every single question and address every issue. Rubrics also often tell you what specific formatting options they will be grading on, such as citations, page numbering and font size. Rubrics that go more in depth are a life saver, because they literally give you a step by step guide on not only how to organize your paper, but what to talk about.

Do you have any tools you use when writing papers? If so, share them in the comments below!

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