The end of the semester is quickly approaching, which means it’s time for final papers and final exams. I’ve already talked a bit about how to handle exams in my first post, so I thought I’d go over the basics of writing papers this time around.
The first thing I do is research and brainstorm. Once I have a basic idea of what the subject of the paper is, I start writing down potential topics to write about. Sometimes I’ll even draw out my ideas. At this point, I don’t worry about including too much or too little, because I can always change things up a bit. For research, I mostly the University of Maryland database and PubMed (like a good public health student!). If you’re not sure where to start with research, there are always people at Priddy Library to help you out.
After that, I make an outline. I used to skip this step and just start writing, but I found it so hard to organize all of the content. Now I look back at my brainstorming ideas and try to arrange them in an order that makes sense. From there, I keep researching and start to fill in the outline with details and supporting information. Once I have a solid outline and I think I’ve got enough research to finish my paper, I start the process of actually writing my paper. Basically, all I have to do at this point is turn outline bullets into sentences and add some opening phrases and transitional words.
Now comes the fun part… proofreading and editing! No matter how careful I am, I always make mistakes, so I know this is a step I can’t skip. I’ve noticed that taking the time to revise awkward sentences, change up some wording, and double check spelling and grammar really pays off in terms of the grade I get. I usually do a quick once over of a computer draft and then do major edits on a hard copy. Something about marking up a paper with red pen just feels so official.
Once I’ve gone over my paper a few times, and feel confident I’ve fixed as many mistakes as possible, I go ahead and print out a final copy and hand it in. There is no better feeling than turning in a final paper and knowing I am done with assignments for a class. Stay tuned for a future post about the nitty gritty details of research papers, like how I keep track of all of my research articles and managing in-text citations.