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Emma Pettit is an English and Political Science major who is on the volleyball team at Villanova University.


Everyone who has ever gone to college knows that writing a good paper is essential. There are essays for almost every class, and learning to communicate a thesis effectively is key to any major. Many people are intimidated by the writing process, or think that just because writing isn’t their strongest skill, they can’t produce a good paper. But forming a solid essay is an attainable goal for any college student, and these five college essay writing tips will help any writer improve.

1. The thesis is key

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Almost every essay you will write in college will be thesis driven, aka you are arguing for one specific claim and you back up this claim with research and support. A common mistake students make is that they don’t come up with their thesis before they start writing, so by the end of the paper, all of the paragraphs are hinting at the point but don’t explicitly state it. I recommend figuring out a sold, ARGUABLE thesis before you start writing, and keep it written down next to you as a constant reference.

2. The thesaurus is not your friend

A lot of papers I have read are written by smart students who all of a sudden are using words like ‘adumbrate’ and ‘perfidious’ because they think it makes them sound more intelligent. But what students don’t know is that this method actually works to their disadvantage. Big, fancy words are awkward when you don’t know how to use them. The teacher knows the student doesn’t actually know what the word means or how to properly use it, and now sees the student like this:

i know some of these words

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So please, stay away from that right-click button and don’t reference a thesaurus too often for your words.

3. Cite cite CITE your sources

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A big mistake most students make is that they think they only need to cite their sources when they’re using a direct quote. But whenever you’re paraphrasing, half-quoting, or using ANY information you did not previously know, you need to cite your source. This tip can help enhance the authority of your papers and keep you from plagiarizing, which is a serious offense at most universities.

4. Keep it simple

Many students think that writing in college means you add in tons of adjectives, adverbs, and description that wows the professor. So instead of saying “The dog ran”, students write, “The minuscule, chocolate-brown terrier sprinted swiftly towards the brilliantly burning broken-down farm house”.

eye roll judge judy

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Description is fantastic in creative writing, but the best papers are simple and elegant. Cut out unnecessary adjectives and let your ideas speak for themselves.

5. Proofread!

A first draft is exactly what it sounds like: a starting point. Everyone makes spelling, grammar, and structure errors that they don’t catch the first time around. Most first drafts are riddled with errors, so take the time to edit and proofread. The most important part of the writing process is rewriting.

Which writing tip was the most helpful to you?