First things first, you have to select the topic on which you want to write. If your lucky, or maybe not lucky, the topic is potentially selected for you. It’s hard to gather thoughts into full sentences when you sit down in front of the paper. So write out a rough outline. Just hammer out the basic ideas of what you want to say and the basic thought process you are going to follow. This step doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something that outlines the basics and is quick and to the point. This is the place for bullet points! This is also the point at which the research is done. When you have the basic headings for your paper, do some research. Make sure you are citing your sources! Thats an easy step to forget and then you have to go back and re-track down where you got all your information! Not fun! Get some sources, get some information, and complete the research at this point in the process. It will make for faster writing later. No good writing comes out on the first try so the next step is to crack out a rough draft. This is by no means perfect. This is where there are major errors and large corrections to make. This is the step where the backspace key goes unused. If you can get out a basic rough draft it will be much easier to edit and make the rough draft perfect.
Have you ever heard the saying “read, revise, repeat?” This is the point in the process where you are now at. It really doesn’t matter how good your original draft is, you will be potentially reading and revising 50 to 100 more times. This is how work is perfected! Read the paper aloud. Try to listen for any parts of the paper that sound jaded or like its work to read. You want everything to flow nicely. This is where you expand more on things you have outlined in your rough draft and melt everything together to make sense. The end of this process is spell checking. Microsoft word has a very convenient spell check but it doesn’t always catch everything. Have someone else spell check and read your paper, sometimes when you have looked at something a bunch of times you miss the little things! A fresh perspective can often times open up your eyes to new things in the paper.
Lastly, write out your citations. You should have been keeping a list of your references as you were doing your research. This is the time that you should write out your references and add them at the end of your paper.
A Few Helpful Tips
What style does your professor want the paper? Typically, todays colleges use APA style. However, it greatly depends on your field of study. Make sure that you ask and find out what style the paper needs to be in. Towards the end of the steps in the process of writing a good paper, throw in the step of double checking that you have followed all the rules of the writing style that your teacher wants.
Formulate a thesis. Make sure that you have a main point being met or question that the paper is answering. This will help you stay focused on the main idea of the paper and help keep it from bouncing across too many topics or getting confusing. Also, create a few little points for the paragraphs to answer. This helps everything flow from one idea to the next. If you create these main points in the first few steps of organizing ideas, then it makes the writing process much less overwhelming.
When in doubt, practice, practice, practice. There is no way to get better at something without practicing. Successful writing takes practice!
Although these are the basic steps to creating a successful paper, just like when reading a recipe, things can be contoured to fit your personal writing style or taste! No pun intended!