One of the hardest things you as a new college student face is the prospect of having to write a lengthy essay, paper, or research project. You might have gotten away with mediocre work in high school, but you're swimming in a new ocean now, and the expectations for your writing are going to be much high. Don't panic: here are some tips to help you produce better papers.
-- Contrary to popular opinion among some high school teachers, being grammatically correct in your writing is just as, if not more, important than its content. Why? When you exit your academic career and get out in the real world, you will be writing documents in a variety of settings for a variety of types of audiences. If you want to have any credibility at all in the market place, you'll have to know how to write grammatically correct sentences. Period.
For example, employers are always looking for reasons to DISCOUNT resumes when they're faced with a huge pile of them. One of the easiest ways for them to weed out the good from the bad is to throw out the ones with grammar mistakes.
Start now to develop good writing skills by taking a writing class: most colleges require at least one anyway. Get outside help if you need to: there are online sites that can help you with grammar, or enlist a genius English Major buddy to proofread your work and give you advice.
-- Watch out for those long, drawn-out, awkward sentences. New freshmen (and even some upperclassmen who haven't caught on yet) make the mistake of assuming that because they're in college, they have to sound "collegiate." The results are often disastrous: Profs are faced with grading writing filled with pompous words and inordinately long and disjointed sentences. Ugh. Keep it simple and readable.
The trick to getting this right is to proofread and revise often: with outside help if necessary. But if you can't understand a sentence you wrote, or if it just doesn't "sound" right when you read it out loud, work it over again.
-- Make sure you fulfill the assignment exactly as the professor requested. If it's a theme paper, stick to the theme! Don't be going off on unrelated tangents. If it's a research paper, you'll need to be well acquainted with proper citation techniques. The usual techniques asked for are MLA or APA: get a current how-to manual for these citation methods and keep it close by.
-- DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. With the advent of the internet, those who tried to squeak through school by "borrowing" the words of others in their writing can no longer do so with much success.
If a professor suspects he's heard something before, all he has to do is Google the phrase and he can instantly see if you're cheating. There are more sophisticated plagiarism safeguard programs as well, so it's just not worth the risk. Make sure you cite sources of information clearly, even if you are not quoting directly.
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