Organizing a College Paper

Develop a plan of the structure and content of a college paper. This does not have to be substantial: just a few sentences to indicate thoughts, ideas and arguments and their progression.  If a college paper of a few thousand words has to be produced that analyses the use of blogs as a learning tool at a University, the outline could look something like this:

“Introduce blogs in general: where did they come from and why are they being used in different context such as in business.  Need to find general business applications of blogs”

“Next, mention how these blogs were introduced into the education system: where in education are they being used and why are they being used.  Need to find literature that explains the introduction of blogs into education”

“Describe how they are being used currently as learning tools: what does the research say about how they are being used, and are they effective?”

“Describe the current negative views of blogs as learning tools.  Need to find case examples and literature that examines the perspectives of students”

“Describe the current positive views of blogs as learning tools.  Need to find case examples and literature that examines the perspectives of students”

“Explain how these negative and positive views have occurred.  Need to read the discussion sections and analyse how the authors have explained the occurrence of such views, comparing them with each other to identify any relationships or commonality”

“Analyse and suggest recommendations and suggestions of what could be done to make blogs better learning tools for students.  Need to make educated judgements based on what the researchers have argued.”

What should therefore be gained is an understanding of what information is to be written, how this information is to be written, and what possible resources could be used to help construct each section.  What should also be gained through outlining an essay is documenting how ideas and arguments should be developed. 

Another key to organizing a research paper is to understand the different writing styles used to communicate a progressive and logical flow from description to analysis.  These writing styles include descriptive, exploratory, persuasive and analytical.  In other words, a college paper begins with descriptions of the subject matter, then explanations of existing conditions of the subject matter, and then discussions and evaluations of how and why certain conditions of the subject matter can and should change.

Sentences need to be developed into paragraphs.  This begins with understanding that a paragraph is a single unit of thought or idea; a sentence within a paragraph deals with a single aspect of that thought or idea. There, therefore, needs to be a transition of thought or idea between each paragraph and, where possible, a display of a development of ideas and arguments.

A completed first draft of an essay enters a phase of proofreading and reediting to check that the ideas and arguments flow progressively and logically, that all information is correct and references are included in the appropriate places, and to catch grammatical and general typing errors.  This is a continuous process until the college paper is logically correct and error free.  Proofreading should involve a few people as well as the author so that as many errors as possible are found and corrected.

Once the college paper has been completed, do not forget to add a contents page.  Additionally, add a sheet of information including course name, module name, name of the assignment marker, and any student registration information as required.  Protect the college paper using a plastic wallet or plastic document holder, and then hand it in for marking. 

Do ensure to read through the assignment brief before handing in the college paper for marking to ensure that all criteria has been met.  

Key aspects to organizing a college paper are to understand the structure and content of the paper, understanding the academic terminology to produce substantial essays, and to organize thoughts and arguments in a way that is progressive.