It’s that time of year once again. The end of the semester is almost here, and students across New York State are stressing out about finals in all their classes. As we know, many students are required to write a final paper/report instead of taking a test. But composing a paper can be just as stressful. How many pages, sources, or topics are required for a good final paper? Well, the process doesn’t have to be too stressful if you plan, schedule, and execute accordingly. By following these simple steps, you can write better, more productive papers and cut down on your stress levels while doing so.
Okay, so sometimes your topic is assigned for you and you don’t have a lot of choice. But for many final papers, the topic is a little bit flexible. So when you can, try to point your paper in a direction that matters to you. Not only will make the work less painful, it can also make your paper better! And you don’t have to just take it from me. Take it from Newbery Award-winning author Jerry Spinelli. “Write what you care about,” He said, “If you do that, you stand the best chance of doing your best writing.”
The most important part of any good paper is your thesis. According to many experts, your thesis should be narrow and arguable. Your entire paper should be focused on proving your thesis argument. So you should be asking yourself, “What’s the point?” Do each of your body paragraphs work towards proving your thesis? If not why are they there? The more focused your paper is, the more effective your argument will be.
Trust me, we all know how easy it is to find literally anything else to do when there’s work to be done. But if you want your final papers to be amazing, you really shouldn’t put them off until the last minute. It might help to break-up the work a bit. Set yourself a few deadlines. Have your research done by X, your first draft done by Y, and your final revisions by Z. And if you still find yourself procrastinating, you may want to check out some tips on how to manage your time effectively.
Sometimes when you’re stuck on your paper, there is no better solution than to talk to someone. And there may be no better people to talk to than trained professionals who are there to help. Tools like campus writing centers and professors’ office hours are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to utilize them. And, as with anything, you’ll get more out of it if you know exactly what you’re looking for. If you go in with a specific question you are likely to get more out of the help. As Back2College writer Emily Schiller says, “Showing up empty-handed saying ‘I don’t know what to write about,’ gives the professor nothing to work with. It also gives a very poor impression.” Be sure to tell your professor what you’ve thought of so far, and what it is you may need from them.
Although proofreading is an important step in revision, it is not the whole thing. In fact, according to Empire State College, “Writing is only half the job of writing.” When you look at your first finished draft you’ll probably find lots of ideas that could be better organized. Revision is the time to streamline your paper. You should take out things that aren’t necessary, and add things you’ve realized you need. Remember to stay focused on your thesis and your final draft will turn out great!
Kay is a student assistant with the SUNY Office of New Media. She is a University at Albany undergraduate working towards a double major in English and East Asian studies with a double minor in communications and film.