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Writing College Papers: Step 5

This guide helps students write effective college papers, essay exams, and paragraphs. It was produced in fulfillment of a Designs for Learning grant at Anne Arundel Community College by Professor Paul Gabriel-Tucci and Professor Janice Lathrop.

Help Is Available

Anne Arundel Community College offers free writing help to students who are enrolled in classes, through The Writing Center and through Smarthinking.com.

Need help citing your sources correctly?  Check the site at the Owl at Purdue or the AACC Citation Guide for help.

These sources will not write your papers for you or proofread your work, but they do offer invaluable assistance.

Writing a Multi-Page Paper?

Writing an Essay Exam?

Research Assistance

More ways to get help:

Outline Your Paper

Once you think that you have done enough research and reading to begin writing, you will want to create an outline of your paper, for yourself.

A good outline will help you to keep on-track when you begin to write the paper.  It will also help you see how your ideas connect to each other in the paper.

To create an outline, first create a sentence that represents the paper’s main point.  

Next, create one sentence for each of the paper’s supporting paragraphs.  

You can add notes to your outline, such as reminders about facts that you want to include in the supporting paragraphs.  Remember, this is your outline, for your benefit.  If adding notes helps you, do so.

Check to see that each of the supporting paragraphs really does support the main point of your paper.  If not, you may wish to reconsider either how you worded the paper’s main point or what are the supporting paragraphs’ main points.

More About Your Outline

Remember that the main point of your paper, often called the thesis, is your educated opinion, the result of your careful reading and research.

That main point (thesis) should be a precisely worded sentence.  It is usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph.  (Note that it is often a good idea to skip writing the introduction until later.  Instead, for an outline, the main point is the most important sentence.)

Remember too that all of the paper’s central paragraphs must work to prove this main point (thesis). 

Advice on creating a paper’s main point, including examples.

Tips on creating a sentence to represent each supporting paragraph.

Double check each of your supporting paragraphs to make sure each one has a main point.

Make sure that each paragraph’s main point supports the paper’s main point.  Doing so will help your paper be strong, clear and unified.

As the most important sentence in the paragraph, the main point of your paragraph should be worded as exactly as possible.  It should be a complete sentence.

Advice on creating a paragraph's main point, including examples.

Writing a Paragraph or Short Answer

Read or reread the Assignment to make sure you are actually doing what you are asked to do.  

Make sure that your short answer or paragraph responds appropriately to the Assignment. 

For example, if your short answer or paragraph is the answer to a question, does your work actually answer the question that is asked?  Look for key words in the Assignment: are you being asked to compare and contrast?  To define?  To describe?  Something else?

After you compose your short answer or paragraph, reread your work. 

  • Is your answer clear and well supported? 
  • Is it well organized? 
  • Does your Assignment require you to document your sources?

Library photo courtesy of Barry Halkin Photography