Expert Tips on Editing and Proofreading College Essays

First, take a deep breath. The hardest part is over! Now it’s time for the next step: editing and proofreading your paper. We’ll go over what you should and shouldn’t do during this process, and the benefits of having someone else look over your work. Be sure to consult our essay editing checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything or made easily avoidable errors that could result in lost marks.

The Importance of Peer Editing

Don’t just run your paper through your word processor’s spell check function and call it a day. Spell check will show you the grammatical and spelling errors, which are very important, but it’s not going to check your paper for flow, argument strength, and overall effectiveness. Editing means a lot more than simply checking your paper for grammar and spelling errors. It means going through and making sure that your paper does exactly what it’s supposed to be doing – gets your point across and leaves a message with your reader.

A fresh set of eyes on your paper can make a big difference when it comes to editing. Sure, your essay sounds good to you, but you’re the one who wrote it. Of course it sounds good to you!

Losing marks for editing is one of the most avoidable situations for your assignment. A big portion of the rubric will always show a space for editing and proofreading. If you skip the peer editing step, or any editing steps in general, you could get a lower mark than you feel you deserve, all because of something that could have been fixed if you took the time to get someone else to read over your paper.

Give your paper to a friend, classmate, or even your roommate. They don’t have to be in the same class as you, and in fact, it’s better if they aren’t. Without classroom knowledge, your friend can step in and take on the role of your reader with an open mind, and they’ll be able to tell you if they understood everything you’re trying to say. It’s all about getting a completely new perspective on your paper to see how it flows, if it’s easy to read, and if everything makes sense to someone who isn’t that familiar with your topic.

Using a Professional Editing Service

When a paper is worth a big portion of your final grade, and the stakes are really high, it can be a big advantage to break out the big guns and work with a professional essay editing service. Having a friend or peer look over your paper is a major help, but sometimes it takes a professional to look for small errors or tiny details that could be tweaked to make your paper better overall.

A company that provides professional editing services has a team of highly experienced academic writers who are going to look over your paper for you. These writers have gone through years of schooling and education and have likely written hundreds of papers in their lifetime. They’re also well versed in a variety of different subjects – so they really know their stuff. As a result, they are very familiar with all of the most common errors people make, what professors are looking for, and which areas have room for improvement.

If your paper is worth a major portion of your mark, it’s worth it to enlist professional help. Consider this for your big assignments, thesis projects, and even your cover letters or resumes.

Essay Editing Checklist

Here is a detailed checklist of all of the more superficial things you should be looking for as you go through and read over your essay during the proofreading and editing process.

  • Grammar
    • Punctuation:
      • Commas in correct places
      • Apostrophes used properly
    • Sentence Structure
      • Run-on sentences are eliminated
      • Proper use of words (such as the correct use of their)
    • Quotations
      • Direct quotations have quotation marks in the right spot
      • Periods are outside of brackets
      • Periods are inside quotation marks
  • Spelling
    • Proper spelling, capital letters, and titles for all proper nouns
    • Paper is free from spelling errors overall (spell-check has been run)
  • Structure
    • Each paragraph is indented
    • Filler words are avoided or used sparingly
    • The paragraphs are written in an order that makes sense and helps direct the reader through the paper
    • The title makes sense and communicates the topic
    • The thesis statement is easily identified and the body paragraphs follow this order
  • Tone
    • The tone is professional, formal, and academic
    • Contractions are avoided unless necessary

Categorized as Blog Posts

Expert Tips on Researching for College Essays

Once you have broken down the essay question (what is being asked of you), and you have formulated a draft of the introduction, you will need to do research to complete the body and supporting arguments.

While most people will need to do some preliminary research to develop a draft of the introduction, the real research comes once you know where you are going.

We are lucky because in today’s internet era, we have the tools we need to literally research anything. The internet is a tool that must be used carefully and properly, but if we do that, it is an invaluable resource for essay writers.

Many teachers tell their students that the internet is not a reliable source for academic research, but that is simply not true, it is just important that the internet be used properly. There are countless websites on the internet which are not reliable, but many that are, and the key is to understand the difference.

Simply stated, research is only academically legitimate (meaning appropriate for use in an academic essay) if it comes from an academic publisher, often in the form of a peer-reviewed book or journal.

Teachers do not want you to simply go into Google and type in a question, and then use the first site you find. Generally, if you go to Google and get directed to a page, it should only be regarded as being legitimate if it is published by a recognized academic institution.

But there are many other ways to use Google to get a head start on research. Because I write custom essays every day, I always come across subjects that I know nothing, or very little about. That means the first step I have to take is to learn about the topic, and I turn to Google for this. For example, I would go to Google and type in “boycotts and sanctions in political science”. Google will give me countless pages that will give an overview of the topic, and from there I will have an understanding of how to proceed.

One website that is invaluable is Wikipedia; this is a site that should never be listed on an essay’s bibliography or reference list because it is not a legitimate source (it could have errors), but it is a great place to start to get introduced to a subject. By reading Wikipedia or some other site from Google, the writer can then plan where to find legitimate sources. For that reason, I suggest you start your research on sites like Google and Wikipedia, but that is only the start…

You will need to go deeper to find legitimate academic sources to use, and this is not as hard as many people think it is. Once you have a basic understanding of the topic, you can then do one of three things: 1) Go to you online journal database and do a search there; 2) Go to Google Books and do a search there; 3) Go to your local or school library and do a search there. Because you will have already done a preliminary search of the topic online, you will have a good sense of what key words to use.

I like to go into my online journal database and just do a general search to see what articles come up. Make sure you click “peer-reviewed only” and then you can be sure that whatever articles come up are going to be academically appropriate. Peer-reviewed articles are often very specific but they can be very useful if you find the right ones. They also look really good on a bibliography or reference list because it shows the teacher that you have done adequate research.

The second resource that I love to use is Google Books. This is such a great resource because you can search inside books, using only keywords. For example, you can go into Google books, type in the keywords “boycotts and sanctions in politics” and it will give you access to academic books, and the pecific pages that the information is mentioned on. I cannot understate the value of this; make sure to try this as you will be surprised how well it works. The teacher will think that you did extensive library research going through book after book, but really you just put a few terms into Google and got the results you were looking for. The best part is that you will have all the page numbers for where the information was found, this makes you look like a skilled researcher.

The final option is the library. In today’s internet age, we need to use the library less and less because we can find more and more online, but the reality is that sometimes, we need to go to the library and flip through real books. Do not worry though, because if you actually do this, you will have a huge competitive advantage over the other students who try and find all the research online – because sometimes, the best information is buried in the books.

When you go into the library, have an idea of the topic, and where the information might be “hiding”, as this will guide you as you search the database. Get a few call numbers, and then go to the section that appears the most from your search. The best way to find relevant books is to just poke around the section, flip through the table of contents from the many books, and pick the ones that seem to be the most helpful. Remember, the computer database will not always show the books you need, so be sure to browse the shelf because finding the right books can make all the difference.

When it comes to researching, there are a few more tricks that I have learned. Some of the hardest essays can be those that require careful analysis of a primary source, and some of those sources are very hard to read. For example, a philosophy essay might require the writer to analyse a popular piece of work by an old philosopher, such as John Locke’s “An Essay on Human Understanding”. For the average student, this can be a difficult task because these century-old primary texts are complicated and hard to navigate.

Therefore, when an essay says to use only “primary texts” it does not mean that you actually have to do that, it just means that you need to pretend that is what you did. There are many ways of doing this. Perhaps you can go the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (a great resource). That website will explain, in simple terms, exactly what Locke’s argument was in that piece of work, and when you understand what Locke said in his work, you can pretend that you actually read the whole piece.

Of course you will list only the primary source on the bibliography, but you will know that you got all the information you needed from a website on the internet. Just be sure to put the information in your own words and you will be fine.

This is a strategy I like to call “faking it” because you are pretending you did more work than you actually did, but because you took advantage of the work done by experts, it will actually make you look better. This is a strategy that will help any essay writer write a quality piece on a topic they do not know well. As long as you do it carefully and properly (learn from the work and analysis others have done, but make it appear as though you came to those conclusions yourself). This is something that I often have to do with book or movie reviews.

While I to like read or watch the book or movie in question, sometimes time does not allow for it – sometimes a student will need a book review of a 500 page book done in 12 hours, clearly I do not have time to read the book, but that does not mean I cannot do a quality review of it. Most books have already been reviewed by others, and therefore, you can read the reviews that others have done to get a sense of how that book can be analysed.

I recommend trying to find as many reviews of a particular book or film as possible, read the best ones you can find, take notes about what is said in them, and there you go, you are ready to write a top-quality book or movie review. Just be sure not to copy the words of someone else directly – just take their ideas and put them in your own words, you will sound like an expert.

A final issue that I will touch on is number of sources. Sometimes an essay will require that 10+ sources be used, but unfortunately you have completed the essay using only 8. Do not worry though, because using the strategies that I have already mentioned, you can easily find a few more sources to top off your bibliography.

My favourite strategy is to go to Google Books – find a section or your essay that could use a new reference, take some key words out of that paragraph, put them into Google Books, and voila, you have your ninth and tenth reference from a legitimate academic book, complete with page number and all the necessary bibliographic information.

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Essential Tips on Structuring College Essays

The Introduction: Setting the Framework for your Essay

The introduction to your essay is one of the most critical parts because it lays out the path that it will follow, and this is important because it guides the reader – it tells them what the essay is about, what the research question it will address, how it will address that research question, and ultimately, what will be argued (the thesis statement).

A common mistake is to say too much in the introduction; the key is to be concise and to the point – do not waste words in the introduction, use them wisely and effectively. What I like to do is start the introduction with a lure; get the reader interested in the subject with that first sentence. Then, lead into the research question, and state clearly what the essay will do, and what it will argue.

I like to be direct in my essays, I literally say, “This essay will… and from this it will be clear that…” By wording it in this way, I am being very clear and concise, and the reader knows exactly what to expect. Every teacher is different, and some might prefer you not use the words “in this essay…”, if that is the case, then amend the words slightly, but make sure to be just as concise.

Here is the introduction from the first essay (“the use of sanctions”) to give an example of how a clear and concise introduction can be laid out:

Boycotts and sanctions have long been used as important instruments of international politics [here I am luring the reader]. In some cases, individual countries impose them against another country while in other cases, an effort is made to build a multilateral consensus. Numerous examples of these boycotts and sanctions can be given: the broad-based boycott of apartheid in South Africa, the US embargo against Cuba, the UN imposed economic embargo against Iraq, and the call by Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel [here I am giving a little bit of information about the subject – what boycotts and sanctions are in the context of international relations]. What are the principles underlying the use of boycotts and why are they seen as appropriate in some circumstances and not in others [here I am outlining the research question]? This essay will address these questions by looking at the UN imposed economic sanctions against Iraq, and how it was that these sanctions were a tool of American diplomacy [here I am explaining what will happen in this essay]. From this it will be clear that, even though imposing economic sanctions on a country might be done because of good intentions, they do not work the way they are supposed to, because in most cases, as was the case in Iraq, the sanctions do not harm the people they are supposed to help, instead they just hurt the poor and vulnerable [this is the thesis statement – it states what will be argued throughout the essay].

Just like the other parts of the essay need to be broken down, so too does the introduction.

By breaking down the introduction into parts, it is much easier to make it concise and clear for the reader. The goal is to have the reader know exactly what lays ahead for them in the rest of the essay, and by following this model, this can be achieved. Introductions like this can be developed with all essay questions, so just remember to break down the question, as that will give insight into how to structure the introduction.

It is common to make the thesis statement the last sentence of the introduction, although this is not a firm rule. When crafting the thesis statement, it is very important to be clear and concise: state exactly what will be argued and do it in a way that leaves no doubt about your intentions.

When I write an essay, I like to write a preliminary thesis statement to help guide me through the research and writing process, but it is best to revisit the thesis statement once you have completed the essay, since it is at that time that you know how the essay turned out, and you might need to alter the thesis statement slightly to make it “tighter”, that is, to make it clear and concise.

The Body of the Essay

While this might seem like the most important part of the essay (and it is), if you follow the tips that I have already given you, this part will seem fairly straightforward because you are just putting into action what you have already learned.

Once you have followed the previous steps, it is important to make a tentative outline of the essay. Do this by breaking down the different aspects of the essay that you need to touch on, and create a series of supporting paragraphs.

Generally stated, each supporting paragraph should give one main idea that works to support the thesis. The key here is to not try and put too much information in a single paragraph.

You want to be sure to fully develop and fully support every new idea or point that you introduce. The simplest way to do this is to start every paragraph with a topic sentence, then use the middle of the paragraph to support that topic sentence, and then conclude the paragraph with a concluding sentence. Just like an essay, every paragraph within an essay should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

It is important to use transitions appropriately in the body of the essay which means effectively linking paragraphs through transitional phrases and words.

These are little words that indicate to the reader how the different ideas used relate to each other – you want to show the reader that the different paragraphs connect to each other. In other words, you want to continually guide the reader, you need to assume that they do not know anything about the subject, and therefore they are relying on you to guide them from paragraph to paragraph.

That is all I will say about the body of the essay because if you follow the other tips that I have given you, this part will almost write itself. If you have good research to work with, the body will almost take care of itself.

Don’t Forget the Conclusion

You have made it this far, all you need to do now is finish it off. The conclusion is not meant to say anything that you have not already said, the point of it is just to sum up the contents of the essay, and restate the thesis – you want to reaffirm the argument that was made in the paper.

Tell the reader one more time what you set out to prove, and then restate the thesis, but do it in slightly different words. It is useful to have a “closing strategy”.

This can entail using a relevant quote, an important fact, or comments about the future direction of the topic. The purpose here is to leave the reader feeling good about what they just read – make it so they feel as though they have not wasted their time.

The References

This is a tedious, yet necessary part of the process. There are many different referencing styles, the most popular being APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard.

While the styles vary, the contents of them are the same. You will generally need to know where the information you used came from, including page numbers. As you are writing your essay, or doing your preliminary notes, just be sure to note where you got the information from, and then the reference list/bibliography, as well as in-text citations/footnotes will be easy.

Simply take that information, and use the links on our website to learn the “formula” for doing it right. Be careful to focus on the details, but otherwise do not stress about this part. As long as you remember where you got the information (mark it down as you go along), you will be fine.

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Essential Tips on Essay Writing from Top Experts

People think that all essays are the same and therefore they should all be approached in the same way. While it is true that these tips and tricks can help with all essays, it is important that any writer be aware of the type of essay they are writing before they write it.

The first question you must ask is: what subject is this essay for? There are lots of subjects being taught in any given university, and each subject requires a different approach when it comes to formulating a quality essay.

These subjects include, but are not limited to: Political Science, Philosophy, History, Business, Nursing, Anthropology, Sociology, Marketing, etc… Every discipline has a different purpose, and therefore when you write an essay in a specific discipline, it is vital to keep in mind the purpose of that discipline.

For example, Political Science is the study of political processes and governments, and therefore a Political Science essay should give a better understanding of those issues. Sociology is the study of society and micro- and macro-social processes within it, therefore a Sociology essay should analyse these issues.

In other words, every discipline has a different purpose, and as a writer, it is important to begin the essay writing process with this in mind so that you can plan appropriately.

The next important issue is what type of writing assignment it is: is it an essay/term paper, a case study, a book review, a literature review, etc…?

An essay usually comes in the form of a question, likely the teacher has given you a question, and you are expected to answer that question in essay form – while making a strong argument. If you are writing an essay, then you know that the purpose of that is to make an argument relating to the question you have been given – it is a pretty straightforward task.

There are other types of assignments which differ from essays though, and it is important to know what the differences are. We commonly get requests for book reviews/reports, and these are somewhat different than essays because the purpose is different – in the case of a book review/report, the purpose is not to answer a question per se, but to analyse a book.

In assignments like essays, term papers, and book reports, it is important to take a stand – that means, to have a thesis statement, and to argue in support of it throughout.

There are other types of assignments that do not require this same argumentative approach. For example, we get many requests for literature reviews, and for the writer it is necessary to know the difference between a literature review and an argumentative

The purpose of a literature review is different; the point of it is to give the reader an overview of the research and literature that exists in a specific area. The task for the writer then is to assemble and present an overview of the existing literature and research in an effective and concise manner; the task is not to editorialize or argue. For this reason, a literature review does not require a thesis statement.

There are other types of assignments too, such as case studies and article summaries. Once again, the purpose is different, and therefore these various assignments cannot be approached in the same way as a standard essay. I could go on and on about the different types of assignments, but the key here is just to be aware of what you are writing to ensure that you are doing it with the correct purpose in mind.

Breaking Down the Essay Question

Many people do not realize how important this is, and that is why they become so lost in the process of trying to write an essay. In my years as an essay writer, I have come to learn the importance of being able to break down an essay question to figure out exactly what is being
asked of the writer. When you know exactly what you are being asked to accomplish, you will know how to approach the research process, and how to structure the writing.

Most essay questions are very specific in terms of what they ask, and the trick is to figure out what it is that is being asked. I suggest you make a list. Here is an example of an essay question that I got in one of my undergraduate political science classes:

What are the principles underlying the use of boycotts and why are they seen as appropriate in some circumstances and not in others? Answer this question by addressing the UN imposed economic sanctions against Iraq, and if these sanctions were used as a tool of American diplomacy.

This question might seem difficult, but in fact it is very straightforward. Let us make a list of what is being asked:

  1. What are the principles underlying the use of boycotts?
  2. Why are they (the boycotts) seen as appropriate in some circumstances and not in others?
  3. Use examples from the UN imposed sanctions against Iraq (in the 1990s and early 2000s).
  4. Were these sanctions used as a tool of American diplomacy?

By creating a list like this, you have literally created the outline for your essay, and now it can be completed in manageable parts. You can basically use these four points as topic sentences for your body/supporting paragraphs, and your essay will flow very well, with each part leading into the next part.

Here is another example. This is from a philosophy essay that I was assigned in my undergraduate studies:

Consciousness is a process of the body that makes the mind-body problem difficult to settle. There are many accounts that have resorted to reductionist principles to attempt to explain the workings of the conscious, but these according to Nagel are flawed. With reference to Nagel’s theory of consciousness and perception, is it impossible for us to know what it is like to be someone else other than ourselves?

Once again, we need to break apart this question:

  1. The first two sentences put the question into context, but they tell us some very important things that we will need to know: the essay is dealing with the philosophical concept of consciousness, many philosophers have weighed in on this issue, but this essay question will focus in particular on the account presented by Nagel.
  2. With the context laid out for us (part 1 tells us that we need to research Nagel and his theory), we then just need to determine what it is that Nagel is arguing, and how his argument compares to others who have also weighed in on the issue (why does he think the others are flawed?).

It can be seen again that by breaking the question up into manageable parts, the essay question becomes much easier to handle and to approach because we now know exactly what is
being asked of us.

This is important because quality essays do not waste words; it is important to always stay on topic and make an argument in the most concise way possible. By understanding exactly what is being asked in the essay question, it is much easier to be concise and focused throughout. Every essay question is different, but I have yet to come across one that cannot be broken down in this way. Remember to just make a list of what you are being asked to do, and then use that list to figure out how to approach the research, and how to structure the essay.

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Breakdown of 3 Common Citation Methods Used in College Essays

In this next part , we’re going to give you a breakdown of the 3 most common citation methods: MLA, APA, and Chicago Style (notes and bibliography). We’re going to also show you some examples for some of the most common types of sources you’ll likely use in your paper.


  • What should I do if my source doesn’t have an author?
    • Sometimes a source won’t have an author, like a website or an industry publication. If that’s the case, start your Works Cited entry with the title. A general rule of thumb for in-text citations is to use whatever comes first in the Works Cited entry. For example, if you’ve cited a website without an author, the Works Cited entry will begin with “Title.” You can use a shortened version of the title as long as it still makes sense and clearly indicates which source it is.
  • My source doesn’t have page numbers. How do I cite this in my text?
    • If the source doesn’t have any page numbers, you can use paragraph numbers for in-text citations, so it would look like this: (Smith par. 3). You may need to count them yourself. Alternatively, if the article is written in a news-style and doesn’t have very distinct paragraphs, you can cite it using the author’s last name and a shortened title, like this: (Smith, “Global Warming”).
  • I can’t find a date on my Internet source. How do I cite this?
    • If your source doesn’t have a date and you can’t seem to locate one through Internet research, write “n.d.” to indicate that a publication date is not available.
  • What if my authors have the same last name?
    • List them as you normally would in the Works Cited page. The alphabetical order will be determined by the author’s first initial instead. For your in-text citations, all you need to do is just add the author’s first initial before their last name, like this: (L. Smith 33).
  • What do I do if I have to cite two works by the same author?
    • This might happen from time to time, especially if you’re writing a literary essay or using an author who is well published within a specific field. In this case, list the author’s last name, a shortened title in quotations like this: (Litman, “Global Warming,” 33).

MLA Title Page and Numbering

Papers that are written in MLA format do not require a title page. Instead, at the beginning of your paper, include your first and last name, your professor’s name, the class name, and the date, each on a
separate line in the top left-hand corner. On the next line, write your title and center it. Don’t bold or italicize the title. Your introductory paragraph will begin on the next line under the title.

Page numbers will go in the top right of each page. It should be formatted with your last name, so your first page will look like this: “Last Name 1.” You can make this update when you add in page numbers using your word processor.


  • What should I do if my source doesn’t have an author?
    • If your source doesn’t have an author, for example a website, you can use the title of the article in your in-text citation. It would look like this: (“Title,” Year, Page Number). In very uncommon circumstances, an author may be listed as Anonymous. If you encounter this, use Anonymous as you would the author’s name.
  • My source doesn’t have page numbers. How do I cite this?
    • Whenever you can’t find page numbers, use paragraph numbers instead (you may need to count them yourself). If that’s not really an option either, you can just simplify the in-text citation to include the name and year, like this: (Last Name, Year).
  • I can’t find a date on my Internet source. How do I cite this?
    • Any time you can’t find a date on your source, you can use the abbreviation “n.d.” This goes for both your in-text citations and your References page.
  • What if two of my authors have the same last name?
    • If you are using sources from two different authors who happen to have the same last name, just add their initial to the in-text citations to differentiate. So, it would look like this: (L. Smith, 2018, p. 21) and (H. Smith, 2003, p. 33).
  • What do I do if I have to cite two works by the same author?
    • Since APA requires the date of the publication within the in-text citation, the year will differentiate for you. Therefore, you only need to identify the publication if you’re using multiple publications from the same author from the same year. In that case, use a lower case letter beside the year in the order they appear in the References page. For example, 2018a would refer to the first entry in the References page, while 2018b would be for the next.

APA Title Page and Numbering

APA formatting requires the use of a title page. On the title page, place your paper title on the upper part of the page, centered and capitalized like a regular title. Approximately two lines down from the
title, list your name, your institution name, your course name, your instructor’s name, and the due date in that order, each on its own line.

The page numbers for APA papers are a little bit different because the title page is different than the other pages. There should be a page number at the top right corner of every page, known as a “running head.” On the first page, the title page, your heading should read “Running head: FULL TITLE OF YOUR PAPER” in the left corner, and the page number in the right. Every page after this should include a shortened version of the title, in all caps, on the left and the page number on the right.

Sometimes your APA paper will require an abstract. Most APA papers that require this are professional publications, dissertations, or master’s thesis papers. For your typical undergraduate APA paper, you probably won’t need to write one. However, if your instructions specifically ask for one, begin on the first page after your title page. Type “Abstract” centered in bold at the top of the page. Begin the abstract on the next line, without indenting. On the next line after your abstract paragraph, write out your keywords on an indented line.

Chicago Style FAQs

  • What should I do if my source doesn’t have an author?
    • In this instance, you would just start the bibliography entry with the title of the source and continue from there. The title of the source would then become the start of each footnote as well.
  • My source doesn’t have page numbers. How do I cite this?
    • If your source is an online source that doesn’t have page numbers, you don’t need to include that information and can stick with the last name and shortened article title. Your first footnote will feature the URL of the link.

Chicago Style Title Page and Numbering

A Chicago Style title page is similar to an MLA style title page in terms of formatting. The title of your to format, capitalized properly, is centered in the upper middle section of the page. A few lines down, your name, course name, and the paper due date are listed in that order on their own lines. They should be double-spaced. Page numbers go in the top right corner.

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Essential Best Practices for Citing and Formatting College Essays

Once you’ve located and found your sources and are ready to use the information for your arguments, you need to know how to properly cite and format that information. This step is extremely important
because you always need to make sure you’re giving credit wherever necessary. Formatting is so important that you could even fail your paper if you don’t do it properly.

This part can be tricky, so this will guide you through the process of finding good evidence, using it in your paper, and citing it properly according to the required formatting style.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined as the act of taking someone else’s idea, work, or discovery and passing it off as your own. This is a pretty big trigger word when it comes to universities and colleges. It is considered a
form of academic dishonesty. Getting caught plagiarizing could get you a failing grade, put on academic probation, and even expelled.

So how do you avoid plagiarism in your paper? It’s not as difficult as it sounds. The key is to make sure you’re citing all of your sources properly and giving credit wherever credit is due. Any time you use an idea that belongs to someone else, you must make sure that you indicate this was not your original idea. This goes for both direct quotations and paraphrasing.

Quotations vs. Paraphrasing

There are two main ways that you can incorporate evidence in your paper: direct quotations and paraphrasing.

A direct quotation is the act of taking the author’s exact words and putting them in your paper, surrounded by quotation marks and properly cited. When you paraphrase, you take the author’s quote and rewrite it in your own words. Now, paraphrasing doesn’t mean you can steal credit for someone else’s ideas. You still need to cite your sources even when you paraphrase, especially when discussing an author’s original point of view.

So how do you know when you should use a direct quotation and when you should paraphrase? This will depend on the type of paper you’re writing and the specific evidence you’re using. If you’re writing a literary analysis, for example, you’ll want to use mostly direct quotations from the text so you can provide a detailed examination. For a research paper, you will likely rely on paraphrasing to keep your
essay flowing smoothly. Anytime you write over five exact words in a row from a source, you need to make a direct quotation and cite it properly.

Ultimately, the less direct quotations you use, the better. This shows your professor you really understand the source material and your topic, and can reiterate your supporting arguments in your own words. Whenever you can restate something it shows that you can understand and explain it thoroughly. Sometimes a professor will specifically request that you do not use direct quotations, so make sure you pay attention to your paper instructions.

Formatting Your In-Text Quotations

No matter what citation style you’re using, you’ll have to make sure your quotes are properly cited and formatted when used within the text of your paper. Follow the basic rules:

  • If you use the author’s name in the sentence, it doesn’t need to be included in the in-text citation. Here’s an example: “William Smith argues that social interactions are the true dividing factor in elementary schools (45).”
  • The punctuation always goes after the citation parentheses.
  • You don’t need to use in-text citations for information that is considered to be common knowledge.
  • For poetry or play quotations longer than one line but shorter than three lines, use a slash (/) to separate breaks between lines.

Longer quotations need to be formatted differently. This is a common situation when writing literary analysis papers or quoting from Shakespeare, but applies anytime you’re using a longer quote.

If the lines you’re quoting are longer than three lines or sentences, you’ll need to break up your paragraph and centre it. These go as block quotes, with the citation placed after the last word of the quote. Don’t indent this block quote. You will continue your paragraph on the next line.

Formatting the Bibliography

Depending on the type of citation style your professor has requested, you’ll need to pay close attention to your formatting when listing your sources at the end of your paper.

All bibliographies need to be organized in alphabetical order with an indent for each additional line of the same citation. It should start on a new page, even if the last page of your paper only has a couple of lines, and each entry should have at least one corresponding citation within the paper.

It’s important to note that the bibliography page does not count toward your total page count. That means you can’t stuff your paper with a bunch of sources and use them all to add an extra few pages to
your paper to meet the count.

For academic sources with multiple authors, the authors should be listed in the bibliographical entry in the order they appear in the source. They are listed this way based on which author has led the research study or contributed the majority of the information. For example, if the journal is written by Edward Salamander, Marsha Ronan, and Alexander Abbett, your entry would begin with Salamander and be shortened to “Salamander et al.” in your in-text citation because Salamander is the most prominent contributor. Don’t rearrange this in alphabetical order.

Make sure you maintain the same spacing in your bibliography as you do in the rest of your paper. For example, if your paper instructions require double spacing, make sure your bibliography entries are also

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6 Types of Essays You’ll Get in College Part 2

Research Papers

A research paper is similar to an expository essay because you’re taking a neutral or objective approach to a specific topic. It could be about anything, from a specific event in history to a person, place, literary work, or object. You are going to be taking an in-depth look at that specific topic and presenting facts about it to give your audience an explanation.

As the title suggests, a research paper relies on a lot of research. You need to find a variety of credible sources with reliable information you can use in your explanation. Primary sources can be very helpful for research papers, especially if you’re focusing on a historic topic.

Ultimately, you want to show your audience why it’s important that they know about this topic and why it’s significant for their learning. If it’s a historical event, what impact did this event have on history and why are we still talking about it now? Likewise, if you’re talking about a person, why is it relevant to know who this person was or is?

If you’re assigned a big research paper in class or as your thesis or dissertation, you may also be required to complete a research proposal and possibly an annotated bibliography beforehand. This is a great step to take even if you aren’t required to do so because it gives you a clear idea of the topic you’re going to use and how you will formulate a thesis statement. Narrowing down a thesis statement for a research paper can be pretty tough, but we’ll talk more about that in the coming chapters. Since you could write a research essay on a wide variety of topics, there are plenty of things to choose
from. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Aerial warfare in World War II
  • The Women’s Rights Movement
  • Leonardo DaVinci, the Renaissance Man
  • Climate Change and how it works
  • The evolution of modern hip-hop music
  • The invention of modern democracy
  • Burial rituals in Ancient Egypt
  • Medical advancements in the field of genetics
  • Advertising in the 19th century
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Cultural food practices

Analytical Essays/Literary Analysis Essays

In an analytical essay, you are making an argument or a claim about your topic and then supporting those claims with evidence. While it sounds like an argumentative essay, it’s a little bit different because
you’re still presenting it neutrally instead of persuading the reader to take a side.

Usually, an analytical essay is written about another text, such as a movie, book, journal article, television show, piece of artwork, or poem, but it could also apply to an idea or concept. The point is to
dig beyond the surface of what you’re reading or seeing to figure out what it all really means. When the analytical essay is done based on another piece of writing, it’s usually referred to as a literary analysis.

When writing a literary analysis, you need to remember that this is not a summary. You need to do more than just reiterate what the author has written and make deeper connections to the source material.

Find a theme to focus on and analyze how the author has presented that theme throughout the work.

For example, you could write a literary analysis focusing on the theme of nature versus nurture in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Here are some more examples of topics you could use for an analytical essay:

  • The ticking sound in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart
  • Racial divisions in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Negative stereotypes in classic Disney movies
  • Family relationships in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
  • The impact of divorce on young children and the family structure
  • Double standards in media imagery
  • Graffiti as more than just street vandalism
  • Crime in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction
  • Romeo’s impulsive nature in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
  • Women’s roles in Victorian literature

Cause and Effect Essays

Also known as reason and result essays, a cause and effect essay explains the reasons why something happens, and the outcomes that occur when it happens. Naturally, you need to be writing about logical topics that are actually directly related with the evidence to back up your ideas. You can’t just write about theoretical ideas that don’t have any real proof.

There are generally two ways to approach a cause and effect essay: the focus-on-effects method, where you provide a more in-depth analysis of the effects or outcomes of the topic, or the focus-on-causes method, where the analysis focuses on the causes. Whichever method you choose, you still need to establish a clear relationship between the two.

The research you find will explain or provide evidence as to why those effects occur and how you came to your conclusions. For example, if you are claiming that global warming is threatening the polar bear population in the Arctic, you need to provide concrete proof that global warming exists and that the polar bear population is decreasing. Don’t just assume that your reader knows these things already. Here are some basic examples of cause and effect essay topics:

  • Smoking cigarettes leads to lung cancer
  • The causes and effects of overpopulation
  • Implementing healthy school policies will help reduce childhood obesity
  • The opioid crisis leads to larger social consequences
  • Positive impacts from introducing computer-based learning methods in the classroom
  • Teaching young children digital literacy skills can increase their personal safety
  • Negative body image from media misconceptions can lead to eating disorders in young women
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7 Steps to Writing a Great College Essay Part 2

Pathos, Logos, and Ethos: Using Rhetoric to Win an Argument

Argumentative essays in particular need to be effective at convincing your audience to agree with yourstance or perspective. That’s where rhetoric comes in. Rhetoric is the art of using persuasive techniques to appeal to your specific audience.

Think about a politician making a speech. If that politician is campaigning to a working-class audience, they’re probably going to talk about raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, lowering the cost of living, or lowering taxes. These are all topics that appeal to this particular audience because working class populations tend to be in the lower to middle class financial bracket, so talking about better economic security appeals to them.

In order to properly use rhetoric, you need to know who your audience is and what they care about. This is how you can present arguments and supporting evidence that hits your point home and convinces them to believe your perspective. There are three main types of tools you can use to create a persuasive argument:

  • Pathos: Emotional appeal (evoking an emotional response)
  • Logos: Logical appeal (facts, statistics, examples)
  • Ethos: Ethical appeal (credibility, trust, authority)

Depending on the specific topic and subject you’re writing about, you’ll want to use one or all of these elements in your argument. For example, if you’re writing a scientific paper, you’ll want to rely on statistics and data for logical, factual arguments. If you’re writing a paper about a controversial human rights issue, you’ll probably want to use a combination of pathos and ethos to appeal to reason and emotion or to promote sympathy about your subject.

Structure and Flow

While marking your paper, your professor is going to look at the way your paper flows and how it’s structured to maintain that flow throughout the entire piece. You can make sure that your paper flows by using effective topic and transition sentences and organizing your paragraphs in a logical way.

For example, if you’re writing a historical research paper, you’ll want to organize your paragraphs chronologically in the order that they happened. When making an argument, you want to put your second strongest point first, your weakest point in the middle, and your strongest point at the end to leave your readers with a strong finish.

Writing an essay outline will help you keep on top of structure and flow. No one wants to read a paper that’s mismatched and jumps back and forth between subjects or arguments. If your reader can’t really
follow what you’re saying, you’re going to lose their interest very quickly. Keep all of your points together and make sure the evidence is in the right place.

Effective Transitions

One of the key elements you’ll need to use to make sure your paper flows properly and effectively is through effective transitions at the beginning of each paragraph. Your reader wants to know why one
thing is leading to another, and you want to make connections to each of your points to help your paper flow. Here are some good transition words to use:

  • In addition to/additionally
  • Subsequently
  • Another
  • Furthermore
  • Previously
  • Moreover
  • Firstly
  • Secondly
  • Lastly
  • Consequently
  • As a result

Bringing it Home with The Conclusion

In the conclusion, you’ll wrap up and summarize your arguments. This paragraph should be structured the opposite way your introduction is: start narrow, and then broaden out your ideas and summaries.

Begin by restating your thesis in different words than you used in your introduction paragraph. Keep the order of the arguments, but rephrase them in a new way. Then, go on to summarize your arguments. Include the main points from each of your body paragraphs and a brief overarching idea about each one.

Don’t ramble on and just rehash everything you said in your body paragraphs. Pick the most important things you said and put them into context.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to make a broader connection in your conclusion. Talk about why this topic matters, why we are talking about it today, or how it connects to the other material in the course you’re taking. The point is to make a lasting impression on your audience and give them something they can keep thinking about after they’re done reading.

Do not introduce new information in your conclusion. You should only be discussing the ideas and arguments you’ve already presented. If you really feel that this new information is relevant and important, consider putting it in a body paragraph.

Creating a Good Title

Your essay is going to need a good, catchy title. It helps to leave this part until the end, when you’ve done all the research and the writing and examined key concepts, keywords, or theories.

Once all of the writing is done, you have a final idea of what it’s really all about and you can use this to think of something that would really stand out from the rest. Perhaps you came across something in your research that made you rethink your entire perspective. Maybe you learned a new keyword that you’d never heard before. Even if you have a working title at first, you’re likely going to find something better by the time you’re done writing.

Think about your essay sitting in a pile on your professor’s desk. Which title is really going to stand out from your classmates’ papers and make your professor want to read it first? The one with a generic
statement about their thesis, or the one that presents an interesting idea? Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your title. It still has to be academic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with it.

Ultimately, your title should be something original, unique, and catchy, but it should also relate directly to your thesis. This sounds complicated, but it’s a very important element of your essay. It’s the first thing someone is going to see, even before your catchy introduction.

If you think about it in terms of a job interview, your first impression at the interview is your introduction, but your title is the resume that
got you noticed in the first place. If you’re having trouble coming up with a good title, it helps to write out a list of options to choose from.

Sometimes the more you write a title out, the stronger your ideas become. If you still can’t decide, give your list to a classmate or a friend and see which one they like the best. Ask them which title would make them want to keep reading. Here are some more helpful tips for developing a good title for your essay:

  • Take your thesis and see if you can narrow it down into three or four words.
  • Write using the active voice.
  • Keep it concise. The longer and more complicated your title is, the more boring it’s going to become.
  • Make sure it’s accurate and relevant to the content of your essay.
  • Don’t stray from the truth just to grab someone’s attention. Lying is wrong.
  • If all else fails, do a quick Google search to see other titles people have used. But don’t steal them. This is for inspiration purposes only.
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3 Types of Sources Used in College Essays and How to Find Them

When it comes to writing an academic essay, sources are going to be key. Now that you’ve learned what goes into writing a good essay, it’s time to put together your evidence and make strong statements that will get you that A+ paper. In this chapter, we’ll help you figure out exactly how to use primary and secondary sources, where to find them, and how to make sure your evidence is credible.

We’re going to begin by breaking down the different types of sources you’re likely going to be using and where you can find them.

Primary Sources

A primary source is a document or text written during the time an event took place, usually by someone who witnessed or participated in the event.

These sources are more commonly used in subjects such as history, the humanities, social sciences, and the arts, but could also be valuable in a variety of other topics. Common types of primary sources may include:

  • Letters
  • Journal entries
  • Autobiographies
  • Manuscripts
  • Political documents, such as the United States Constitution
  • Speeches
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Archived newspaper articles

Primary sources can be really tricky to find if you’re not sure where to look. If you’re willing to venture outside and go see them in person, museums, government buildings, and libraries are full of excellent primary sources.

However, not everyone has time to go and dig through piles of archives or papers dating back decades or even centuries. That’s where the Internet comes in.

Since many primary sources are considered part of the creative commons or open source networks, you can usually locate them on the Internet with a quick Google search or through your library database. Websites such as The Internet History Sourcebooks Project, Project Gutenberg, and government archives have pretty big collections to choose from, organized by time period or subject.

Secondary Sources

The most common type of source you’re probably going to use are secondary sources.

These types of sources are usually written by historians, experts, researchers, or industry professionals that provides an analysis or an interpretation of data or events. They are normally written for other experts in the field to present research or a new perspective on a topic, and rely on research or evidence from other sources.

Almost all secondary sources include a bibliography at the end. Some secondary sources are based on primary sources. For example, many scientific research papers are based on findings from primary source material. A few common types of secondary sources could be:

  • Academic journal articles
  • Books
  • Thesis papers or dissertations
  • Reviews or critiques
  • Biographies
  • Magazine or trade publication articles

For the majority of your papers, your secondary sources are going to be either books or academic journals. Some specialized papers might require that you look in more niche publications or research areas, but it’s a safe bet that using secondary scholarly sources are going to be your bread and butter.

Peer-Reviewed Sources

You’re going to see the words “peer-reviewed” come up a lot in your essay instructions, assignment details, and many other places. Professors often require you to use only peer-reviewed sources in your papers because they are more credible and reliable as evidence. In some cases, these are also referred to as “refereed” sources.

Peer-reviewed sources are sources, usually published in books or academic journals, that have been reviewed and fact-checked by a team of people before publication. Most of the time, the people who
are doing the fact-checking are other experts within that field.

Additionally, the fact-checkers or reviewers don’t usually have any connection to the authors, so they provide a more objective perspective. This adds to the credibility of the article.

To identify if an article you want to use is peer-reviewed, check the publication. If it doesn’t tell you in the description, most of the time a publication will state this information on its website.

It’s safe to say that most academic journals are peer-reviewed, but this isn’t always the case. Opinion papers, editorials, letters to the editor, magazine articles, and reviews are not usually peer-reviewed and sometimes aren’t allowed as a source in your paper. Most university online library databases include a search filter option where you can request peer-reviewed results only, so make sure you check for this while searching for sources.

How to Find Good Source Material

It’s easy to end up in a bottomless pit of source material, digging through list after list of database search results. This can get very frustrating very quickly. When you find yourself approaching this point of desperation, here are some things you can do to get back on track.

Use the Internet (carefully). You can use websites like Wikipedia to get some decent background information about your subject, but you absolutely cannot use them as sources for your paper. These sources can be edited by anyone, and are not fact-checked, so you can’t trust that the information is going to be accurate or credible. However, there are tons of great online databases and search engines
that can help you find credible, academic sources to use. Your school library website is a great place to start.

Refine your search. Narrow down your keywords to specific topics. When looking through academic journals for sources, it’s hard to find general information because most journals are written about a very specific branch of a topic. For example, you won’t be able to find a generic academic journal with an overview of the Civil Rights Movement, but you can find sources about specific elements such as the use of protest songs during the movement, how the Civil Rights Act was developed, and so on.

For generic information about an event or topic, books are your best bet. Since books are much longer than journal articles, and take a lot more time to write and publish, they have tons of room for a broad
range of information. Many books are written by people who have dedicated their lives to studying those subjects, so they have a lot to say about them. However, be careful when using certain types of books, as books aren’t always peer-reviewed, and many of them tend to lean heavily toward that person’s opinion or perspective. As a result, they can be biased.

When in doubt, talk to a librarian. Their job is to know where to find information, and they are happy to help you. It doesn’t hurt to strike up a conversation at your school’s library, and chances are someone else has done the same research as you in a previous class.

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7 Steps to Writing a Great College Essay Part 1

Just when you thought you were done with all of the scary parts of writing your essay, now comes the big step: writing.

Don’t be scared! If you followed through on what we’ve taught you so far, you will already have a narrowed-down topic, a solid thesis statement, and a structured essay outline ready to go. When all of those things come together, the writing part can actually be fun – as long as you’re not pulling an all-nighter cramming it all in hours before the deadline, that is.

This is going to help guide you through the writing process, from the beginning to the end of your essay. We’re going to break down each section of the essay and give you some helpful information that will take your writing skills to the next level. Along the way, we’ll give you our best tips and tricks from the top writers on our team that they put into practice on a regular basis.

Writing an Introduction That Hooks Your Reader

Let’s start where your essay begins: the introduction. An introduction is an important part of your essay. It’s the first impression your essay makes on the reader, and just like in real life, you don’t always get a second chance to make a good impression. Make sure you do it well the first time.

So how do you make a good first impression on your reader? Your introduction should be catchy enough to grab their attention, with enough information to tell them what you’re saying and why it matters. Essentially, you’re convincing them to keep reading.

No matter what type of paper you’re writing, your introduction should always begin with a hook. The first line of the introduction is the ultimate first impression, so you want to use something that will catch
your reader’s attention and make it impossible for them to put your paper down. Avoid using clichés, dictionary definitions, or quotes. All of these are overrated and, quite frankly, lazy writing. Your professor has likely already seen enough essays beginning with these things for one lifetime, and it will make it appear as though you haven’t put any thought into your paper.

The same goes for sweeping phrases such as “Throughout history,…” or “In today’s society…” You want to write something original, and using an overrated phrase is just going to result in an eye-roll, boredom, or both.

Now, in some cases, there are exceptions. For example, you could get away with using a quote if it’s from one of the authors you’re going to quote in your paper, or if it explains a theory that’s going to guide the rest of your paper. But be careful when doing this, as there’s a fine line you shouldn’t cross. So, what should you use as your hook, then? Here are some great ideas:

  • A startling or surprising statistic
  • A relevant anecdote, narrative, or story
  • A controversial statement or misconception about your topic
  • A thought-provoking question
  • A theoretical scenario
  • An observation that brings something new to the table

Once you’ve settled on a catchy hook, it’s time to fit the rest of your introduction together. This will depend on what type of paper you’re writing. On many occasions, including some background context or a plot summary makes sense to give your reader the information they need to understand your arguments.

Sometimes it can be helpful to write your introduction after you’ve finished writing the essay. When you’ve already written all of your arguments and major points, it’s a lot easier to understand what
information needs to be included in the introduction. This also gives you a fresh idea about your topic and could lead to more inspiration. Here are some more quick tips for writing your essay introduction:

  • Only include relevant information to the arguments you’re going to make.
  • Keep it to the point and save the deep dive for your body paragraphs.
  • The length should be relative to your paper. If you’re writing a five page paper, your introduction should only be half a page. For larger papers, such as a 20 page essay, it’s acceptable to write one or two pages for your introduction.
  • Start broad, and then narrow down until you reach your thesis statement.
  • Write with the assumption that your reader doesn’t really know a lot about your topic.

Building Solid Body Paragraphs

Your body paragraphs are where your supporting arguments will live. Each supporting argument should be in its own paragraph, with its own topic sentence at the beginning that introduces the argument
you’re going to be making.

In each body paragraph, you want to follow the structure you used in your essay. Start broad, and then narrow down with evidence to support your points.

When including supporting information and evidence, there are two main techniques that you can use: induction and deduction. Induction relies on specific facts, details or data to support a general argument.

Deduction begins with a general premise and narrows it down to a specific conclusion. Another way to look at it is this: induction is based on facts and logic, while deduction is based on reasoning.

Arguments that use deduction are more debatable because they tend to rely on assumptions instead of factual connections.

Here’s an example of these techniques in action. Let’s say you are writing an essay about Shakespeare’s Macbeth and trying to argue that he is not a good leader. If you are using the induction technique, you would indicate how many people died while he was in power and how many people turned against him.

These are both facts that prove he is not a good leader. On the other hand, if you are using deduction, you would point out that good leaders do not kill kings and that they show remorse when they do something wrong. Therefore, with deduction, you could reason that because Macbeth does not embody those characteristics, he is not a good leader.

Still feeling a little lost? Here’s a very, very basic example. You are adopting a golden retriever named Fluffy. Using deduction, you would make the general assumption that all dogs make wonderful pets, and because Fluffy is a dog, he will make a good pet, too. This argument relies on the idea that everyone agrees that dogs are good pets, which is not necessarily true. On the other hand, with induction, you could say that golden retrievers have a low bite rate compared to other breeds, so Fluffy would be a safer dog to own than a Pitbull. This is a harder argument to debate.

Choose your arguments wisely and make sure you’re backing them up with reliable evidence where appropriate and relevant. Make sure you contextualize your sources and indicate clearly why you are
using that particular piece of evidence. Use as many quotations or citations as you need, but always be sure to explain everything you cite.

At the end of your body paragraphs, be sure to include a transition statement that leads into the next paragraph. This helps with the overall flow of your paper. Some best practices for writing good body paragraphs:

  • Never end a body paragraph with a citation.
  • When using statistics, facts, or data, be sure to elaborate.
  • Use at least one citation in each body paragraph.
  • Remember the acronym PIE: point, illustration, explanation. Each time you bring up a point, provide an illustration and an explanation.
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