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Succeeding with Writing Assignments

A general guide for writing a paper in any course


Writing the first draft is easier if you have a good outline and just fill in the details.

Here are some drafting tips:

  1. Leave the introduction until last
    • write out your working thesis or central idea.
  2. Organizing paragraphs  
    • What is the key point of each paragraph?
    • Ask yourself questions about how you are organizing your key points - what is the logical order appropriate for supporting your central idea and addressing the assignment's purpose?
  3. Writing body paragraphs - what is the purpose of each paragraph?
    • Body paragraph structure:
      • The1st or 2nd sentence is usually the key point/topic supporting the thesis or central idea of the paper. 
      • The middle sentences (sentences 4-8) provide relevant information to explain and elaborate on your key point. The middle sentences usually contain statistics, data, examples, and other evidence to support the paragraph's key point.
      • The final sentence is usually a concise summary of the key point that reinforces the link to the thesis or central idea of the paper and, ideally, links to the next paragraph and key point supporting your thesis or central idea.
  4. Writing conclusions - what is the purpose of the conclusion?
    • There are several ways to conclude a paper
      • close with a logical conclusion
      • provide a summary closing
      • make a recommendation
      • create a call to action
      • identify further areas of study
  5. Writing introductions - what is the purpose of the introduction paragraph(s)?
    • Introductions reflect the structure of the paper. A 3-page essay will have a different introduction than a 15-page research paper which might have an introductory section consisting of a few paragraphs.
    • Introduce what you are going to discuss in the paper to your reader,
    • communicate the paper's central idea to your reader
    • get the reader's interest by sharing a statistic, anecdote, question, example, or quote that makes the reader want to read more about your topic.
  6. Using sources in college writing is expected. Practice incorporating sources into your writing by using a mixture of sources.
    • Direct quotes - using exact words from the source without making changes
    • Paraphrases - when you rephrase information into your own words while keeping the essential idea of the source
    • Summary - when you sum up a long piece of work in your own words, focusing on the author's main points.​​
  7. After you get a first draft written
    • go back over it and add additional information to each paragraph as needed;
    • check the wording and word flow;
    • make sure you are addressing the writing assignment;
    • compile your bibliography and reference list

 We use this instructional writing rubric as a training tool for tutors providing feedback on student writing. You can use it to help you focus on sections of your paper. Following are additional resources that may help you with aspects of writing your paper. If you get stuck, set up an appointment with a writing tutor who can help you talk through your ideas.  Writing Websites Using sources effectively

Purdue Writing Lab (OWL)

USC Libraries - Paragraph Development

UAGC Writing Center


Professor, Learning Resources

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Kristine Korey-Smith
Library 209