Get An 'A' On Your Next Paper

By Features Editor

We asked college students to share their strategies for writing "A" papers. Here's what they said:

"I always start several weeks in advance (and yes, I am the anomaly in that sense) because I feel that allowing ideas to percolate usually yields the best papers. Then I begin to write a rough outline (I’m not someone who feels that it is necessary to write one of those uber-intense outlines that are essentially the paper itself). Then I just start writing. I often skip the introduction because that can be the hardest part of the paper, and then I come back to it after I’m done with the main body of work. I beat procrastination simply because I’ve had too many experiences of staying up late into the night before a paper is due and inevitably my grades suffer! I learn from my mistakes!"

- Libby Propp, Wellesley College

"The best advice I can give is to get out of your room! I implemented a rule, because I fall victim to procrastination way more often that I would like. The rule is to go to the library, a study room, the computer lab downstairs, anywhere but your room. My room is for relaxing, and that's why I can't get anything done there. It's the place that I sleep and socialize, so it's no wonder that all I ever want to do in there is sleep and talk to my roommate. I always get so much more done outside of my room because I don't have the distraction of a TV, or a roommate, or the food downstairs. I concentrate better because the library is a place to study. There are resources if I need them, and there is always tons of room to spread out and work. But the best part of working there is the Espresso Royale that's built into the library!"

- Taylor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Beating procrastination? I don’t. For me, a looming deadline gives me the adrenaline I need to get my papers done and I usually do my best work under pressure. If research is involved, I start a little earlier, otherwise I start writing just a few days before the deadline—whatever is realistic based on the required length and my other assignments. I know lots of people who can’t work like this though, so I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. It’s helpful to find a good, quiet place on campus as a paper-writing spot. I made the mistake freshman year of trying to work in my dorm room, and everything took twice as long. I’ve also learned that being on top of assigned readings makes a big difference when sitting down to write the term paper. Understanding the class reading and looking through past lecture notes can save a lot of research time."

- Hannah, Princeton University

Janet Alexander, an organizational studies/media studies major at Pitzer College, sits down with sociology professor Phil Zuckerman to find out how he grades papers.

Mike Dalton, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign broadcast journalism major, asks professor of rhetoric John Rubins what makes a good paper stand out from the rest.