Step ya paper up.

Every elementary school had that kid.

There was that kid who said, “What if I sleep naked?” when the teacher announced pyjama day. That kid who reminded the teacher to collect the homework juuust when you thought they forgot.

And then, there was me: that kid who liked writing essays.

Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star say "Ew!"

I know, I know. But before you start booing, let me explain. Essays give you the chance to argue your point. There are no right or wrong answers in essays — as long as you have some evidence to back up what you’re saying, you’re golden. You don’t have to worry about memorizing formulas or equations; you just write.

That being said, until you get the hang of them, essays can be a real pain. So, here’s my that-kid-approved guide to writing your perfect paper:

Plan it out

I get it: planning an essay is boring. You just want to jump right in because, the sooner you start writing, the sooner you’ll be done. But, believe me, getting some notes down first will make the writing portion go way more smoothly.

Kermit the Frog types on a typewriter.
See? Kermit must have planned out his paper.

Start by answering these questions:

  1. Why am I writing this?
  2. What point am I trying to argue?

This will give your essay direction and prevent you from going off on tangents.

Bob the Drag Queen says, "Get to the point."

Next, find some supporting points. What evidence is out there that supports your argument? Jot them down.

BAM — with just a few minutes of work, you have your essay roadmap.

Start in the middle

Attack a paper the same way you would an Oreo: start with the middle and leave the outside for last.

An oreo on a bright rainbow background.

The body of your essay is the most important part. It’s your argument; it’s where your information should live. Trying to introduce or conclude an argument you haven’t written out yet will make your life a whole lot harder.

Quote, but don’t over-quote

A man says, "And it's all my idea!"

Your paper should feature your ideas. Adding in quotes from experts is great if they build on your ideas — but they shouldn’t be thrown in haphazardly or in place of an original argument.

Word vomit – at first

It’s a lot easier to edit down a paper than to try bulking it up.

On your first pass through, don’t worry about the word limit – just write down all your ideas. You can remove anything unnecessary later.

Get a second (and third, and fourth) opinion

The bad news: most of the work you have to do when writing a paper is editing. The good news: you don’t have to do it all yourself.

A turtle slides down a blue ramp.
Me sliding into my classmate’s DMs to ask them to edit my paper.

Edit your paper four times. The first time, read it through to condense your ideas and take out any of that word vomit from before. Second, get someone who understands the subject to read it over – maybe a classmate or a willing instructor from your program. Then, have someone who doesn’t understand the subject read it – if you can make your topic clear to someone who doesn’t know anything about it, you’ve done a good job. Finally, read it over one more time yourself to make any last minute touch-ups.

If you’re struggling to revise your ideas, make an online appointment with the Humber Writing Centre. Experienced tutors can help you format your paper per APA or MLA guidelines, give you tips to structure and format your writing or help you clarify your ideas before you start writing.

Two men high-five.

Essentially, it’s your one-stop shop for perfect paper writing.

Make it original

I know you’ve been told this before, but I’m going to say it again: don’t plagiarize. Seriously – it’s so not worth it. At best, you’re headed for a zero on your paper. At worst, you could be expelled.

A woman looks horrified.

If you’re pressed for time or overwhelmed by your assignment, reach out to your instructor (or get some help from the Writing Centre). Most professors are willing to negotiate an extension or clarify essay requirements – supporting your learning is literally their job. Asking for help doesn’t make you lazy or weak – in fact, it’s a sign of self-respect.

You can easily avoid accidental plagiarism by double-checking your work against existing content through apps like Plagiarism Checker. Available for iOS and Android, it scans the internet for duplicate writing so you can be sure your paper is 100% original.

A cartoon man says, "All mine!"

Got more questions about avoiding plagiarism? Tune into Igniting Conversations on Thursday, November 19 at 10 a.m. to chat about all things writing with a member of your IGNITE Board of Directors and one of your Student Engagement Coordinators!

This student-led, student-focused discussion will help you adopt the best paper-writing practices and answer all your essay questions. You’ll walk away feeling empowered to amplify your ideas, not copy anyone else’s – because, let’s be real, your ideas are pretty great.

Plus, it’s absolutely free!

Sound good? Sign up for Igniting Conversations and get ready to turn in the best paper of your life.

Writer’s block? Get inspired by checking out the 10 most inspiring “how it started vs how it’s going” memes!

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