How To Write An Impressive College Paper

how to write a college paper

Writing a college-level paper can be very intimidating. As a college student, you are going to have to get used to it as you’ll have to write many throughout your college career. College essays don’t have to be hard. Here are 10 steps on how to write an impressive college paper that will be sure to earn you a great grade.

Let’s jump in.

1. Identify The Purpose Of The Paper

Every college paper has a purpose. There is a reason your professor has required you to write it. Once you understand what you’re being asked to write, it becomes easier to compose your essay. Typically, the purpose is going to be one of the following: expository, narrative, persuasive, argumentative, or descriptive. Each of these styles will give a different perspective on the subject.

Writing a paper helps a student learn an array of skills. Everything from organization and critical thinking to research and evaluation. When a student sits down to write they are forced to put their thoughts into words. This requires a level of articulation that college students need to learn. These essential skills and of course learning the subject matter are why papers and essays are often mandatory for a class.

If you don’t understand the assignment or if you have any questions, ask your professor or other classmates. Do not start the paper unless you are sure of what you are writing about.

2. Research

Researching can take on many forms depending on the topic of the paper. You must find reliable sources. It’s okay to do a quick search of the topic to get familiar with it but you are going to need to find some solid sources. Take all of the information you learn from your research and use it to get more in-depth on the subject and find trusted data.

Gather as much information as you can. You’d rather have too much than not enough. Use a variety of sources, books, scholarly journals, magazine articles, periodicals, websites, and newspapers.

Your professor will most likely require you to cite your work—we will get into that a little more later. However, this is where good sources of information will meet the cited requirements of your paper. Your professor will be looking at your sources to ensure they are trustworthy.

Wikipedia is not going to cut it. Every paper that I was required to write in college stated that Wikipedia could not be used as a cited source. But it can be a great starting point for research. Keep track of your sources so you can include them in the bibliography.

3. Create A Thesis

Now that you’ve done the research, you can formulate a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a short concise statement that lets the reader know exactly what you are trying to explain or prove in the paper. Basically, it’s what your paper is about. Super easy right? I know, easier said than done.

Here’s an example. If you are writing a paper on social media presence for businesses. You would not simply write, social media presence for businesses. That’s much too vague. You need to dial in the topic.

Something like this, managing a brand and being able to promote and market it successfully is vital to the prosperity of a company’s business. With so many platforms existing today it can be overwhelming to choose which ones to use. Deciding to have a social presence must be well thought out.

A thesis statement does not have to be a single sentence. It can be two or even three depending on the length and depth of the paper you are writing. What is important is it is as clear and concise as possible.

Make your statement strong. Never use statements like, In my paper, I will explain why or I believe businesses should…  because a thesis is not about you it’s about a specific point or topic.

4. Create An Outline

Creating an outline when you are writing a college paper is a great idea and it isn’t very complicated. It is simply how you are going to structure your paper. In the outline, you are organizing your research. Creating an outline will also help you organize your thoughts. Keep it simple. Something like this.


  • Write the introduction
  • Support the introduction with a citation or a quote (this will make it strong)
  • Add the thesis statement

Body Paragraph 1

  • Write a sentence that connects to the first point of the thesis statement
  • Support the sentence with information or an explanation or a quote
  • Support the 2nd sentence with an explanation or quote
  • Support 3rd sentence with an explanation or quote

Body Paragraph 2

  • Write a sentence that connects the second point of the thesis statement
  • Support the sentence with information or an explanation or a quote
  • Support the 2nd sentence with an explanation or quote
  • Support 3rd sentence with an explanation or quote

Body Paragraph 3

  • Repeat as many times as you need


  • Restate the thesis in a new way to wrap things up
  • Support the thesis statement with a sentence
  • Support the 1st sentence with a 2nd sentence
How to write a college paper

5. Write Your First Draft

Start drafting your paper. It doesn’t need to be perfect; you will revise it later. The goal is to get your thoughts out. Use the outline as a guide. Try and write in your own voice. This will create tone and flow. Also, cite your sources as you write, this is crucial to protect yourself from plagiarism.

When writing a paper, consider how familiar your audience is with the topic. Most papers that I was required to write during college were under the assumption that anyone should be able to read the paper and understand it. Don’t assume that your reader will have previous knowledge, write as if they don’t. This will ensure that your essay is complete.

6. Introduction

The introduction is the first paragraph of your paper, so why are we writing it now? It’s easier to write the introduction after you have written your thesis and done your research. You now know what you are going to write about.

The goal of the introduction is to introduce the topic of your paper to the reader. State your topic clearly. Try and grab your reader’s attention. You want to generate interest so they will keep reading.

You will put your thesis statement in the introduction. Remember, your thesis statement tells your reader the specific purpose of the paper. Therefore, you want this in your introduction.

7. Conclusion

The conclusion summarizes the main points of the paper. Start your conclusion by rephrasing your thesis statement. You want to remind your reader of the point of your paper. Try and tie your introduction with your conclusion to bring everything full circle.

8. Revise And Edit

This is where you are going to fine-tune your paper into a final draft. Reread what you have written and make any necessary changes. Reorganize sentences or paragraphs to clarify or strengthen the paper. If you need to do a little more research to support a specific point now is the time.

Check for spelling and grammar. Poor grammar makes you look uneducated and lazy, like you didn’t care enough to proofread and edit your mistakes. If you’re looking for tips and tricks, Grammar And Punctuation For College Students is a great source.

Read your paper aloud. When you read aloud it forces you to read every word, you’ll catch errors and be able to hear the flow.

9. Bibliography Or Works Cited

College papers are required to identify the sources that were used, typically you will have either a bibliography or works cited. A bibliography is a list of the sources you used to get the information in your paper, including cited sources and any other resources that you read during your research. While works cited is a list of the sources that you cited within the text of your paper, whether it be a direct quote or mentioning the information in your own words.

There are several common citation styles. The two that are used most in college are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). The main differences between the two are MLA uses the author’s last name and the page number as a reference. APA uses the author’s last name and the year of publication.

Be sure to know what format your professor wants, MLA or APA, and bibliography or works cited. Personally, I was required to write papers in both formats and most of my papers only required works cited. In certain classes, I had classmates that were marked down by an entire letter grade because their sources were not properly cited. Some professors take their bibliographies or works cited very seriously. Do not treat this section of your paper as an afterthought.

I do recommend that you ask your professor if your works cited are included in the total page count. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Be sure as you don’t want to get marked down for not having the right page count.

10. Have Someone Look Over Your Paper

If it’s allowed and there is time, I ALWAYS recommend running your paper by your professor. I had a professor that allowed me to bring in my papers before they were due for review during office hours. I received in-person feedback which was priceless.

This is just one of the many reasons, Why Your College Professors Are Important.

If your professor isn’t available or won’t look at it, stop into your library and see if someone at the writing center can glance over it. A second set of eyes will catch any lingering mistakes. Often having someone read your paper, regardless of whether they are familiar with the topic, will give you insight into how well you stated and supported your thesis statement. If a family member, friend, or classmate reads your paper ask for honest feedback and take it constructively to improve your paper.

Now that you know how to write an impressive college paper learn how to give An Impressive Class Presentation.