Tips and Tricks Series: Planning your Paper – Part 2

Written by Madeline Grove, Senior Writing and Language Consultant at the Student Learning Hub

Welcome to part two of our paper planning tips and tricks from the Student Learning Hub!

In part one, we delved into elements of pre-planning like understanding the assignment expectations, creating a schedule, and seeking support.

In part two, we’re ready to introduce some strategic techniques that will not only streamline your writing process but also elevate the quality of your work.

Use Strategic and Active reading when researching

Use the same active reading strategies when reading your sources. Read the intro and conclusion first to identify the source’s relevance to your topic. Highlight potential quotes and jot down your thoughts in the margins. Good notes now will mean less hassle later. As Stephanie Jury, our Learning Strategist says, “if you are taking well-written notes, you are going to be able to put those into your essay.” So, you’re already writing the essay before you get to writing the essay!

Calculate your sub-topics

Remember, your essay has a central argument, but each paragraph should host a distinct sub-topic that ties back to your thesis. To calculate how many sub-topics you need, consider the assignment’s word count. Divide it up into paragraphs, about 150-200 words each. Now, subtract two – one for the introduction and one for the conclusion. What you’re left with is the number of body paragraphs longing for their unique sub-topics. For example, a 1500-word essay might have 5-8 body paragraphs.

Craft your main argument / thesis statement first

Your thesis is the most important part of your assignment; it defines what the rest of your essay will focus on. But, feel free to tweak it as you move through the writing process. As Dr. Stephanie Jury says, “Writing is a fluid process.”

Now, you’re all set to make your paper planning journey easier and more fruitful. Good luck!