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How to Write an Essay

College Survival

Writing an essay or even just a paper for any class can be a challenge, a lot of times it’s hard to just figure out where to start. Here’s my guide on how to achieve a grade ‘A’ essay.

1. Mindset

This is a very important step. When you say, “I suck, I can’t do this,” that will show in your essay. I know it’s hard sometimes to just take a deep breath and believe in yourself, especially if writing isn’t your strongest subject or maybe the topic of the essay isn’t your cup of tea. So before you start any part of the essay take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I can do this, I got this.” Start with a positive mindset and the rest will follow.

2. Research your topic.

Start by thoroughly researching your topic. My first semester of college my writing professor gave an awesome idea of how to conduct research. Materials needed: 3 inch by 5 inch flashcards and 4 inch by 6 inch flashcards. On the smaller flashcard write down the name of the website, author, title, and all that other stuff needed depending on the format you are using (e.g. MLA, Chicago, etc). At the bottom of each smaller flashcard write a letter in a circle on the right bottom corner. On the bigger flashcard write the corresponding letter on the top left corner, the author’s name on the top right, and the spot where the information came from bottom left. On these bigger flashcards write quotes of things that stand out to you, or paraphrase them. If you are writing a quote do NOT forget to put it in quotation marks “ “.

You also want to make sure that your sources are credible. An easier way to do this is by using websites such as Google Scholar or Los Rios One Search.

3. Freewrite

You can make an outline first and then free write or vice versa. Freewriting is when you get a moment to just spill every thought in your mind. Just start writing or typing anything that comes to your mind. This helps to just get you ready to write. If you started with talking about your dog just try to move into the topic of your essay, unless your essay is about your dog then you’re a step ahead.

4. Make an outline.

In this step, you make an outline. You’ve collected your data and have an idea of what you want to write about.

You can start with a simple outline and then add more information to your outline and make it more detailed.

You can also insert your flashcards in what part of the essay you want them.

Write the letter on your flashcard next to the paragraph you want to add it to or place the flashcard next to the paragraph you want it in.

5. Proofread—Add/Remove Details

In this step reread your essay and more than once. The first time you read it highlight the sentences you’re not sure of if there is any. These sentences may be off-topic or not strong enough evidence, but don’t erase it right away, think about it for a second. Also, with a different color, highlight the sentences that were just added. Then go back and reread it a couple times before un-highlighting and erasing. Once everything is in place reread it again, and finalize what you want to keep and what you’re tossing.

6. Check for grammar/spelling mistakes.

This step for me is a little trickier, I have trouble finding my grammar mistakes. However, the previous rereading step helps find most or at least some of those mistakes. To help with this step you can ask a friend or classmate to proofread it for you. What I always do with my essays is use a website to help me find those hidden grammatical mistakes. The website I most often use is Grammarly, but I’m sure there’s more out there so you can look around.

7. Cite your sources.

This step is extremely important because you don’t want to work so hard and end up with an ‘F’ on your paper because you forgot to cite your sources. Also, it’s straight up unfair and wrong to claim somebody else’s work as your own. An awesome website I use to help me cite my sources is easybib.

8. See a tutor.

Lastly, it is ok to need help, if you’re still struggling and just need some extra support you can find a tutor.

9. Reassess and Analyze

This is a step that we are all guilty of skipping at times. Once you receive your paper back and whatever the grade is, always look through it find your strong points and those that need improvement.

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