posted January 18, 2019
Whether you are working on a research paper or responding to a question on an online discussion board, writing is an indispensable skill for students at any level. Taking on each portion of your assignment systematically will allow you to break the project down into smaller sections and help you feel more in control.
To help you get started on your next assignment, we’ve compiled nine quick writing tips for students.
1. Make sure you understand the assignment.
This might seem obvious, but some students are in such a hurry to get started that they don’t take the time to understand their assignment. Read the instructions thoroughly and ask the instructor any questions that you have before you start.
2. Create an outline.
For any writing assignment longer than a few paragraphs, organization is key. It can be easy to get distracted, so creating an outline can help you sort your thoughts. An outline doesn’t have to be long or thorough; it is simply a list of points that you want to cover in the order that you want to cover them. Taking the time to create an outline before you start writing can actually save time in the long run.
3. Keep your citation guide handy.
Your school likely requires you to follow specific rules when citing sources in your writing assignments. For example, students at Columbia Southern University use the CSU Citation Guide. Make sure you have a copy of whatever rules you’re required to follow handy before you start writing. Once you’re in a writing groove, you won’t want to interrupt your flow to look for your citation rules.
4. Work from a template.
Creating a template for your writing assignments can save time and effort, especially when factoring in formatting requirements for styles like APA. When you need to write a new paper, simply open your template, change the title and save it under a different name so you don’t lose the template file.
5. Write the content.
Using the outline, write out the content for each section. Write in a formal tone with complete sentences and paragraphs to organize your points, and use transitions between ideas. It may be helpful to write the introduction and conclusion last, as the process of writing out the middle sections may help you decide what to include in the beginning and end.
6. Make adjustments.
Everything in an assignment should support a main argument, but don’t fret if your argument isn’t clear at the beginning of the process. Sometimes you might have an idea or argument you want to make, but as you write about your topic, that argument changes. Don’t be afraid to pivot away from your initial idea.
7. Print and read your first draft out loud.
The version of the assignment that you turn in may be significantly different compared to your first draft, and that’s OK. Printing your first draft can help you spot additional ways to improve a paper that you didn’t see on a screen. Also, reading the assignment out loud can help you identify issues in tense, word usage and sentence structure. If a sentence doesn’t flow well when you read it out loud, that may also indicate that it’ll be hard for the reader.
8. Read the assignment one last time.
Once you’ve reviewed your first draft and made your initial edits, take a moment and review the assignment directions again. Does your draft cover all of the required points? Are you able to cut any unnecessary information? Re-reading the directions is a quick step to ensure what you turn in meets the professor’s’ expectations.
9. Reach out for help.
Many universities have teams of professional writers that help students with writing assignments. Maybe you have a question about a certain writing style, or maybe you want another set of eyes to look over your research paper before you turn it in. At CSU, our Success Center is available to help students before, during and after they turn in writing assignments.
To learn more, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Success.
Related: How to Improve Your Writing Skills Before You Head Back to College