Don’t be caught making this mistake in higher education! I find this problem to be more reflective of our time of life than of our study habits, we’ve lived it, we’ve learned it, and we tend to scan the directions rather than READING them. But even more, we refuse to ASK the instructor who is probably several years younger for specific directions. If you’re reading this for information and this is your first run through the educational system, you probably have even less inclination to READ and ASK. Don’t make this mistake.
1. READ the syllabus and any specific details your professor gives you prior to writing your paper. In fact, I recommend reading it through before you start doing the research, as details therein will save you time.
2. ASK your professor about any details you don’t understand or may need clarified. Email is an amazing tool in most educational circles. Your professors are a life line to completing your education, use them.
As important as those details are, the writing tips I’m giving you, below are absolutely imperative. Don’t screw these up, because your teacher, professor, instructor, reads enough papers to recognize the missing pieces, the pieces you ignore, and the bits you are just too lazy to use, and your grade will reflect these details.
Active verbs – when writing a paper, remember that using to-be verbs implies that a fact exists. Beyond the classic passive insinuation of facts, when used in every statement of the paper, to-be verbs denounce other possibilities and deny corresponding research. Eliminate to-be verbs in preference to more active verbs and increase your voice as well as action in the document.
Action verbs move your reader through the paper in a more informational, relevant, and directly connective process, rewarding the author with a better grade. When the reader gains much from your paper, without losing themselves looking for missing citations, irregular wording, and ineffective fact statements, they appreciate your writer voice.
Write tight – excessive use of ‘sight words’ is unnecessary. While they may benefit you as an entire word in your paper where words count, the redundancy of reading the same words over and over again throughout a paper can distract from the quality of the paper you’re writing. If you rely on superfluous words for word count instead of applying quality and content, your paper will lack purpose and influence. Tighten up your content by eliminating those unnecessary words.
Third person – educational, research, and most other documents require writing in third person. Removing yourself and your audience from the paper results in a high-quality, citable document that can be published long after the grading process is completed. Third person documents become influential and useful as published materials, white papers, and even marketable as informative documents on a broader scale in many genre.
Citations matter – how you cite your paper matters as much as that you cite your paper. Not every paragraph of a document needs a citation, and many will be so totally covered in your voice and concept that citing them would be redundant, but if you use specific data or facts from a resource, be sure to cite those and reference them in a list of references or bibliography. Unless your paper is more than 10 pages, referencing the same citation more than twice is redundant, even if you’re using different context from the reference. Your paper will be far more interesting if you add research materials and increase cite references.
Once again – the Syllabus – before you turn in your paper, check the syllabus for more details, specific instructions, and valuable information about the final draft of your paper. Don’t miss the details, they’re important.
Bonus – in most cases, write like you talk. Unless otherwise expected, using contractions, adding some vivid details, and including powerful wording in your document is expected. Don’t write boring papers, your instructor will HATE you while grading them. Do add fun, original thought and concepts to your papers where possible, because these increase the value of your document to others.