Nail That Paper

Learn to Write A+ Academic Papers

Archive for the category “Planning”

Outline and thesis generators

Are you struggling to write a thesis for your paper?  Confused about how to construct an effective outline?  Here are three websites that will help you do the job.

Thesis builder/outline generator

On this website, you can generate either a thesis statement or a paper outline. The outline, for a 5 paragraph essay, is especially helpful; It not only plugs in your main points, it also gives you tips and guidance for the rest of the paragraphs.  You can extend this into a longer essay by printing the guidelines and applying them to the rest of your body paragraphs. Just plug in your main opinion, 2 supporting arguments, and one opposing argument, press the button for either the thesis or outline generator, and whallah!   

University of Phoenix thesis builder 

This is very similar to the above thesis builder, but it gives you an example before you actually plug in your own ideas.  Also, it lacks the outline generation component.  If you need a bit more guidance in coming up with your argument and supporting ideas, visit this site.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Outline Maker

This outline generator is awesome.  Type in your thesis statement and up to 4 subtopics, with up to 3 pieces of supporting evidence for each subtopic. Then, press the button for your very own outline.  Part of why this site is so helpful is because it guides you through the outline creation process in a very accessible way (the different parts of the outline are color-coded for visual learners) and helps you to see how to generate a successful outline.

When you are done using this, you will be more than ready to begin writing your paper!

Paper planning and writing for visual/spatial learners

©Copyright Silverman, L.K. (2002). Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner

Yesterday’s blog focused on paper planning for mathematical learners, and today I am going to tackle the task of paper planning and writing in a more visual, spatial manner.

Visual/spatial learners are artists, architects, and great parallel parkers.  They can easily see how objects relate to one another in space.  They may think in pictures rather than words, which can make it difficult to write papers effectively.  They tend to learn things all at once, instead of in a sequential manner.  Instead of using typical methods, they prefer to come up with their own answers to problems.  These students learn best by grasping relationships between ideas.

So, what are the implications for how visual learners can best approach the paper writing process?


1. Plan visually.

Most people are taught to plan their writing by creating an outline.  However, visual learners may benefit from laying their ideas out in a more spatial manner. Instead of writing in a list format, why not create an idea map for your paper? Below are two documents to help visual/spatial learners plan their papers in a different way.  The first is a template, the second an example of how to fill in the template.

Paper Planning for Spatial Learners – Template

Paper Planning for Spatial Learners – Template, Color coded

Paper Planning for Spatial Learners – Example

2. Visualize while you read.

This is a skill that most readers do naturally, but when reading high level, academic texts, it is easy to stop visualizing.  Try to see the concepts or ideas in your mind.  Maybe even sketch a picture of your thoughts.  This can help you ground yourself and understand your reading.

3. If you are unfamiliar with a topic, gain some background knowledge by watching educational videos or looking at books with pictures.

A key component to gaining deep understanding is connecting to background knowledge.  If you don’t know enough about a topic, first fill your background knowledge bucket by watching a video on YouTube or finding some other visual way to become acquainted with your topic.  A great paper shows that its writer is an expert on the topic.

Information on visual/spatial learners gathered from:

The Gifted Development Center

Visual/Spatial Learners

2 Questions to Ask Yourself When Reading Assignments

Knowing how to write “A” quality papers may seem like navigating a complicated labyrinth at times,  but really, all the clues you need to be successful can usually be found in your assignment.

When reading a paper assignment, look for the answers to two key questions:

1. What is my professor trying to find out about me as a student by assigning this paper?

You professor assigned this paper for one purpose: to learn about you as a student.  Think about the context of the paper – what are the key learnings you have been focusing on in class?  Look at your syllabus for the main objectives of the course.  Is this paper assigned primarily to test your abilities as a writer?  Or is the greater purpose to determine if you understand course material?  What is the material you need to prove you’ve mastered?

Did your professor give you a rubric?  If so, use it!  By following all of the requirements on the rubric, you are practically guaranteed to get a good grade.

If all else fails, you can even ask your professor, “What are you trying to learn about me as a student from this paper?” He or she will probably be impressed and hopefully tell you exactly what you need to aim for in your paper.

The key to getting an A on your paper is giving your professor what he or she wants.

2. How long will it take me to write this paper?

In order to determine the amount of time you will need to spend writing your paper, look at the required length of the paper.  How many sources will you need?  How in depth do you need to go into your subject matter?

Once you have a clear idea of the length of time you will need to write the paper, immediately schedule times for writing it into your calendar.  While knowing what your professor is looking for will point you in the right direction, planning ahead and giving yourself enough time will ensure that you are able to reach your destination of an A quality paper.

In summary, if you know exactly what your professor wants in an A paper, and you give yourself enough time to write it, you are much more likely to succeed in getting a high grade on your paper.

3 Research Habits That Will Save You Time

1.Read the abstract first.

If you are looking for scholarly articles on a topic, don’t read the articles until you’ve looked over the abstract and made sure that this article fits in with your intended subtopics.  Don’t fall into the trap of using any article as a resource just because it vaguely relates to your topic.  You will waste time that could be better spent reading the right articles.

2. Type quotes as you go.

If you find a quote that you think you can use in your paper, type it into your outline under the appropriate subtopic. Make sure to note the author and page number.  By the time you get to the writing stage of your paper, you will already have relevant quotes ready to go.  You won’t have to waste time going back and finding them. This will also help you solidify your thesis statement.

3. Site your sources as you find them.

I remember getting to the end of papers in high school and having to go back through all of my sources and create a works cited page.  By that point, I was so done with my paper that it felt tortuous to do this last step.  Don’t make it your last step – do this as you go.  Whenever you realize you will use a certain source in your paper, immediately add it to your works cited page.  That way, when you are done writing and revising your paper, you won’t have to worry about it.

For extensive guides on citing in APA and MLA styles, follow the links below:

Purdue OWL APA

Purdue OWL MLA

Paper Procrastination

We’ve all experienced it: On the first day of class, we notice a paper assignment  on the syllabus.  It isn’t due for a month, so we ignore the assignment for a few weeks.  Then the professor starts talking about the paper in class, reminding us to do it.  We promise ourselves we’ll sit down and work on it over the weekend, but then friends invite us out to lunch, or to play Frisbee in the park, and we push it back further.

Finally, it is a week away from the due date, and we have to sit down and start writing.  But then anxiety about starting the paper shows up. The strong among us push through it, choose a topic, outline the paper, and just start writing.  But others of us push the paper off even more, waiting until the night before the paper is due to sit down and get it done.  By then, it’s too  late to do a great job, or to learn much from writing the paper.  An assignment that could have taught us something ends up being a stressful, nerve-wracking experience.

Why do people procrastinate on papers?

1. They don’t know where to begin a complex project like writing a paper, so they don’t begin at all.

2. Paper writing is often seen as an unpleasant task, so many students choose to do other things until they absolutely have to start writing their papers.

3. Many people lack motivation – they don’t see the inherent reason for writing the paper, other than being told to do so, so they avoid writing it.

4. Paper writing requires discipline, and it can be difficult to stay on task when distractions creep up.

Everyone procrastinates, but doing so causes students to perform poorly on papers, lose sleep, and stress out. What are some strategies for pushing through the procrastination to increase our success?

1. As soon as you get an assignment, read it thoroughly.  Figure out how long it will take you to finish the paper from start to finish, and schedule some times on your calendar for planning, writing and editing.  Make sure to write down the time of day you will sit down and work on your paper.  Studies have shown that people who write down a specific time to accomplish tasks are much more likely to do them.

2. Find a place to write where you will enjoy it and not be distracted.  Personally, I love going to coffee shops to work on papers.  Drinking a frothy latte and sinking into a comfy chair helps me enjoy the process, and there aren’t as many distractions as there are at home.  I actually like the noise.  However, you may need to go to a quiet place, like the library.  Figure out what works for you.

3. Use this website and others like it to become more familiar with the steps of writing a great paper.  When you are more familiar with the process, you won’t be as intimidated to begin writing your paper.  Then, break down the process into manageable tasks.  Decide to choose your topic and do some initial research one day, prepare an outline another day, and so on.  Don’t try to tackle your entire paper at once.

4. To increase your motivation, choose a topic that is meaningful for you.  What do you want to learn more about?  Don’t think about the paper as something you need to get done for your professor, rather, see it as a learning opportunity for yourself.  Writing papers is one of the great opportunities in college to learn about something you’re curious about.  View it as a great excuse to spend time investigating an interesting topic.

5. Ask a friend from your class to write with you.  Or hire a tutor to sit down with you and guide you through the writing process. Just as I am much more likely to go jogging with a partner, you are more likely to sit down and work if you have someone to write with you.

Are you a procrastinator?  Why do you think you do it?  Do you have any additional tips on how to stop procrastinating? Share them in the comments section.


5 Secrets to Getting a Great Grade on Your Paper

1. Know your professor.

Your professor assigned this paper because he or she wants to know something about you as a learner.  Look over your syllabus.  What are the main objectives for your course? Talk to your professor.  Ask her what she is looking for in your paper.  The best way of acing a paper is giving your audience – in this case, your professor – what she wants.

2. Read the assignment thoroughly.

Many students look over writing assignments for paper length and font size, but don’t take the time to notice the content requirements.  Make sure to read your assignment a few times so that you know exactly what you need to do.  This will help you determine what your professor wants, get some ideas about your topic, and also figure out the amount of time you need to get the paper done.

3. Choose a focused topic.

Make sure that the topic you choose is specific and that your thesis statement is concise.  Many students think choosing that a broader topic will make it easier to find lots of things to write about. However, the broader your topic, the more difficulty you will have in narrowing down your subtopics and making a clear, concise thesis statement.  For example, if you are in a U.S. History course, instead of writing about the 1960s, write about political music in the 1960s.  Better yet, write about the Bob Dylan and how he influenced the politics of the time.

4. Organize your ideas first.

Once you have a focused topic, do a little research and come up with a few subtopics.  Then break those down into smaller subtopics.  Create an outline for yourself before you begin writing.  This will help you stay on track with your writing, and will reduce the time you need to spend later on editing and revising your paper.

5. Give yourself enough time.

This is probably the most important thing you can do to get a good grade on your paper!  As soon as you know how long your paper needs to be, calculate the amount of time it will take you to complete each step of the paper writing process.  Don’t forget to factor in time to try out a few different topics, research, create an outline, find great quotes, edit and revise, and do citations.  Schedule paper writing time into your calendar.  The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you will be, and the more likely you are to ace your paper!

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