Follow the steps below to break down the writing process.
To get started, formulate a plan. Work backwards from your paper’s due date and create a customized calendar or timeline for your project. Set a target date for each step.
Pick something that interests you. To generate ideas, review the indexes and bibliographies from class readings, talk to your instructor, and brainstorm with classmates. If your instructor chooses the topic for you, make sure you understand it thoroughly, then figure out what about the topic interests you.
Choose a topic that has a narrow scope. Move from the general to the specific, such as
History of French art → History of 19th century French art → History of French art from 1895 to 1900 → Comparison of impressionism and symbolism in French art from 1895 to 1900
Scan a wide variety of sources about your topic to develop an overview of available information. Based on that overview, start reading and taking notes from the sources most relevant to your topic. Take advantage of bibliographic citation software to keep track of your sources.
Make an outline and look for patterns in ideas, notes, and sources you’ve collected. If you can’t find any patterns, try to arrange your ideas into a sequence that would make sense to a reader. Use a thesis statement as a magnet—once you create a thesis, you can direct everything else towards it.
Start writing anywhere in the paper you feel you have something to say. It doesn’t need to be the beginning. Work diligently to get something down and set a goal for each writing session. Work quickly; don’t fret over selecting the perfect word or phrasing the most elegant sentence. Allow yourself to edit and revise later; this is only a draft. Use the outline you’ve already established, but be prepared to modify it if necessary.
If you get stuck, talk about your idea with a friend, with an instructor, or just out loud. The act of selecting words to voice your ideas can translate to selecting words to write. Imagine a real reader for the paper; think of yourself as telling a story to an interested audience.
Give yourself time to edit. Make sure you finish your paper at least 24 hours before it’s due. Learn more about revising your rough draft.