Nail That Paper

Learn to Write A+ Academic Papers

Archive for the tag “Paper writing”

Say it, then write it

As a writing tutor, I find that a lot of what I do is listen.  When my clients ask me to read their writing and give them pointers, I read their words out loud to them.  Then I ask them questions about what they wanted to say.  Many times, they are able to articulate their points much more effectively out loud than they could on paper.  Using their spoken words, we revise and add to their papers.

When attempting to write papers , I think a lot of students freak out.  They know what they want to express, but when it comes down to writing the words, they freeze.  That’s why it’s helpful to first say it, then write it.  If you have someone who is willing to sit with you and discuss your writing, wonderful. If not, just say your thoughts out loud, record them on your phone or computer, and then write down exactly what you said.  This will help you get unblocked and also will aid you in writing more coherent sentences.

Try it, then comment below.  What did you think of the experience?  Did it help your writing?

Why the ellipsis is your friend…

Have you ever been listening to someone tell a story, and you know there is a point to it, you know it’s coming, but it seems to take forever for the storyteller to get to the point?  Don’t you just wish that you could cut out some of the middle to get to the important parts?  Well, you can!  In your papers, that is.  You can, and you should.

Sometimes, when writing a paper, you will come across a great quote that supports the point you are trying to make in your paper.  The beginning really relates to your point, and the end drives it home as well.  But the middle deviates to another topic.  What do you do? You throw an ellipsis (…) into the middle, and magically have a perfect quote to use.  Just write the beginning of the quote, and in place of all of the throwaway words in the middle, write … Then, continue the quote with the ending you’d like to use.  You can also take out 2 or 3 useless sections by inserting an ellipsis into each section.

Yeah, you may be thinking, but if I include the middle of the quote, it will make my paper longer.  Sure it will, and all of that pointless stuff in the middle made your friend’s story longer, too, but it also turned it into a less than pleasant tale to sit through. Remember, you want your professor to enjoy reading your paper, not just be happy with the length.


3 grammar websites you will love

Grammar consists of the nitty-gritty rules on how to write well.  Most of us don’t even know all of the rules, let alone remember to follow them on a consistent basis.  Yet, learning about fun things like how to use a semicolon correctly or how to break a sentence down into its parts can dramatically improve our writing.  Below, find 3 grammar websites that actually make following the rules fun.

The Write Practice Grammar Guide

Written by Liz Bureman, a fellow Denverite, this grammar guide will help you out with questions like when to use affect vs. effect, how to use an ellipses (…) correctly, and when to end a sentence with a preposition.  Each article is short, to the point, and enjoyable to read.

Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl’s tagline is “Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.”  That should give you an indication of the tone of the website.  Here, you can find topics such as when to use a comma versus a colon, a National Grammar Day Tale of Love, and word choice posts too numerous to count.  Each article is also available in audio format, for all of you auditory learners out there.

Daily Writing Tips

If you love grammar, you will love this website.  Every single day, they publish a new grammar tip or idea.  You can also look back into the archives for more ideas or to brush up on different grammar topics.  It even includes quizzes on different grammar topics, if you have that much time on your hands.

There you have them – my favorite grammar websites.  Go ahead, try them out.  Just don’t tell anyone. And if you still want someone to proofread your paper, email me.

4 paper writing ideas for extroverts and interpersonal learners

This week, I have been focusing my blog posts on writing papers for the different learning styles.  Today I will be focusing on interpersonal learners – those who learn best by conversation and relating to others.  What are the implications for how they should write papers?

Even though paper writing is thought of as a solitary activity, it doesn’t need to be.  The following are some ideas for social learners to get the most out of their paper writing assignments.

1. Get together with a friend to first discuss your writing and then write.  Ask each other questions like:

“What are you focusing on in your paper?”

“What is your thesis statement?”

“Do these subtopics make sense within this paper?”

2. Read the assignment with other students from your class and get multiple opinions on what your professor is looking for in the paper.  Someone else may have noticed something you missed.

3. Throughout the week or so during which you are working on the assignment, discuss the paper topic with others.  You never know what ideas a friend or family member might contribute.

4. Hire a tutor.  If you want someone to discuss your writing with you in depth, consider hiring a writing tutor.  He or she will be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss ideas and ways to improve your writing.

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

The Multiple Intelligences: A New Way of Looking at Paper Writing

Where Do You See Yourself in this Wheel?

What are the multiple intelligences? Howard Gardner coined the term in 1983 to refer to the different ways that people learn.  The multiple intelligences are:

1. Linguistic

Those who are linguistic learners love reading and writing.  They are adept with words and may also be good at learning new languages.

Linguistic learners probably love writing papers, because it gives them a chance to express themselves in words.

2. Mathematical/Logical

This intelligence has to do with abstract thinking skills.  Those who are mathematical/logical thinkers can easily connect the dots and come up with new ideas.

This intelligence also comes in handy when writing papers, because a large part of the thinking that goes into paper writing is connecting ideas to come up with a cohesive thesis.

3. Spatial

Spatial thinkers are good at putting puzzles together.  They can see how objects relate to one another.  For example, spatial thinkers are great parallel parkers. (Whereas I usually think I am way closer to the other cars than I actually am!) They also tend to be artists or other professionals with a visual focus.

How does spatial intelligence relate to paper writing?  In traditional paper writing, it doesn’t seem to apply.  However, spatial thinkers can tailor their paper writing experience to their strengths.  Instead of writing outlines, they can choose to make an idea map, where each concept connects visually to the next.

4. Bodily/kinesthetic

Bodily/kinesthetic learners are adept with using their bodies. Athletes and dancers have a high bodily/kinesthetic experience.  They are able to focus on a physical goal and hone their bodily responses to meet that goal.  They also tend to like moving their bodies when they learn, and physical learning experiences can help them internalize concepts.

Bodily/kinesthetic learners may struggle with paper writing, because it is such a sedentary activity.  However, why not infuse some of the process with physical activity?  Instead of sitting still while reading research articles, why not work out and read at the same time?  It may be helpful to visualize paper writing skills and connect them with physical goals as well.  Kicking a soccer ball into a goal, hitting a baseball, or making a slam-dunk is akin to writing a clear, focused thesis statement.

5. Musical

As you might guess, those with musical intelligence have a good pitch and a sense of rhythm.  Musical thinkers tend to also be good with language, which can come in handy with paper writing.

I would also argue that a well-written paper has its own internal rhythm.  The sentences flow well together, alternating between longer, more complex ones, and shorter, succinct ones.  If you are a musical thinker, write and read your paper over with an ear for flow.  Does your paper sound like a well composed piece of music, or is it more like a series of disjointed sounds?  Use your musical strength to revise and enhance your paper.

6. Interpersonal

Those with interpersonal intelligence relate well to others.  They can understand other people and what they need to be successful. They are also empathetic and are able to motivate others.  Those with this intelligence learn best by working with others and discussing their ideas.

If you are a highly interpersonal learner, get together with other students and write your papers side by side.  Leave time for discussing the ideas in your paper.  Many people think that they need to be secluded to write papers, and they struggle to stay focused.  That is because some people need to discuss their ideas with others in order to fully understand the concepts.  If that sounds like you, make paper writing into a social event.  Instead of sitting down alone to write your outline, jot down ideas while discussing them with your peers.

7. Intrapersonal

Intrapersonal learners have a deep understanding of themselves.  They tend to be very introspective and understand their strengths and weaknesses and what they need to be successful.

If you are an intrapersonal learner, use introspection to your advantage.  Think about your strengths and weaknesses in regard to paper writing.  In which areas do you need more help?  Plan your paper writing accordingly.

8. Naturalistic

Those with naturalistic intelligence feel deeply connected to nature.  They are able to understand the natural patterns in the world and are great gardeners and naturalists. They love animals and other living things.

If this sounds like you, try to come up with topics about nature for your papers.  If that doesn’t work, why not write your paper outside, in a park?  Fill your home with growing things and see if it helps you to stay energized.


Most people are a mixture of many of the intelligences.  For example, I excel at paper writing, because I am a linguistic, mathematical/logical, and intrapersonal learner.  However, I could never be an artist or an athlete, because my ability to relate objects in space and to make physical goals are nil.  However, I love painting abstract watercolors and doing yoga, because they are highly intrepersonal activities.

What are your strongest intelligences?  Take this test to find out where your strengths lie. How can you use them to help you in the paper writing process?

How not to use the word “they” in a paper

Of all of the grammar mistakes I’ve seen my students make, using the word “they” incorrectly is the most common.

When you are writing an academic paper, NEVER follow a singular subject in the beginning of a sentence with the word “they” in the second part of the sentence.  Here are a few examples of how NOT to use the word “they”:

1. When a student doesn’t understand an assignment, they might just need to hear it in a different way.

2. When a person becomes a victim of sexual assault, they can access many resources.

3. If a goalie wants to effectively block a shot, they should put complete focus on the ball.

Why are these sentences wrong?  

The beginning of the sentence refers to a singular subject.  In the second part of the sentence, the writer refers to that one person as “they”.

Why do students love to do this?  

In many essays and papers, it is considered incorrect to assume one gender or another for a subject.  For example, in the third sentence, the goalie could be a male or a female.  The word “they” could refer to either gender, thus avoiding any sexist stereotyping.  However, “they” is also grammatically incorrect.

How can you correct this mistake?

One method is replacing “they” with “he or she”. This sounds a but awkward at times, but avoids gender stereotyping while maintaining a grammatically correct sentence structure.

In many papers, it seems like we have to repeat “he or she” over and over, making the writing seem a but clumsy or choppy.  In that case, it is just as correct to change the singular subject to a plural one:

If goalies want to effectively block shots, they should put complete focus on the ball.

By changing the subject to a plural word, “goalies,” and modifying the rest of the sentence, the writer can avoid using “he or she” and also have a correctly worded sentence.

If you are editing your paper for grammatical errors, notice how you used the word “they.”  Make sure that anytime you wrote it, you were referring to a plural subject.  If not, use the above hints to change your paper.

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

What Can Your Research Paper Do For You?

The Top Ten Benefits You Get From Writing a Research Paper:

1. You get to choose a topic and learn about that topic.

2. Writing research papers can help you figure out your true interests and know which direction to move in your education and in your life.

3. The more you write, the better you get at writing, and knowing how to express yourself well is always a good thing.

4. This is your opportunity to show your professor how much you have learned in class.

5. You can show off your amazing new knowledge on dates or to your friends.

6. Once you are out of school, learning about new things can go from being a requirement to a hobby, so enjoy it while you can.

7. As you move toward writing a thesis, your brain makes new connections, therefore making you just a tiny bit smarter.

8. You never know when your writing or new knowledge will help you in other classes, or in future jobs.

9. A great research paper can really boost your grade, and, unlike on exams, you are in control of the quality of your work.

10. They are a great excuse to put off unpleasant tasks, like cleaning your room.

Post Navigation