Writing Papers 101

November 8, 2017

As an English major, the majority of my academic life consists of writing paper after paper. I have narrowed my writing process down to a few simple steps that work best for me. A lot of effort goes into research and analysis, especially if you’re required to do outside research for the paper. Many prompts for English papers consist of analytical work about a certain topic regarding the current reading, but sometimes the professor requires you to use a few different outside sources. I recently got my prompt for my final paper in my Chaucer class, which is a 10 page critical analysis paper that requires four outside sources as research.


Photo: Hannah Olinger on Unsplash  


Although it’s not due for about a month, I always try to start working on longer papers a little earlier. When you’re writing a 5-6 page paper, there isn’t as much research that goes into writing it, so I usually give myself a week to write those shorter ones. However, for a 10 page paper, I usually go through a longer process of preparation before I actually start to write. The first thing I typically do is come up with a thesis, or at least a general idea that I can run by my professor before I start researching. I would definitely recommend running a topic idea by your professor before you start to do anything.


After you get your topic approved, you should start creating a rough outline of what you might want to cover throughout your paper. I say “rough” outline because your paper is going to change throughout the course of your writing process, especially when you start adding in your research from outside sources. Once that rough outline is done, then you can start researching. For an English paper, I would start by pulling quotes from the text that support my analysis, and then I would use those quotes as a guide when I’m looking through my outside sources. You want your outside research to complement your analysis and your quotes. One major problem with researching nowadays is that it’s hard to know which online sources are actually reputable. Your professor or your school’s librarian would definitely be helpful in this part of your research. Generally, you can tell by the layout of the website, and you can also compare the information to other websites to see if they match. Also, try to use actual books from the library, as those sources are absolutely accurate.


After you’ve researched your topic and taken notes, you can start creating a fuller outline, including your thesis, topic sentences, evidence, and analysis. Get the core parts of your paper fully written out, and then you can go in and start adding all the fluff of the paper. When you start going back and creating full paragraphs, you will already have an idea of what you want to say in each part of the paper, so you won’t have that overwhelming “writer’s block” feeling. As long as you pace yourself when writing a longer paper, you won’t have to stress over it.


My name is Emma Berry, I'm 20 years old and I am a junior at the College of the Holy Cross. I'm an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. I also joined the Pre-Business program, as I hope to get a job in the publishing field after I graduate. I basically run on iced coffee and when I have free time I love to just read or watch Netflix (and Game of Thrones). ​


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