Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach

When Writing Your First College Paper…

These are also good tips for my former junior high students who are no longer in junior high.

To my former students: I know you will excel in college because you already know and apply many of the following tips:

  • TYPE your papers. No handwritten submissions unless the professor asks you to. (If you are in highschool and they don’t require this, do it anyway out of consideration for the person who has to grade it. In addition it will be great practice and improve your typing skills as long as you practice typing correctly.)
  • Use 12pt. Times New Roman font unless otherwise instructed. Teachers will notice if you make the font large in order to cover the fact that your paper is too short because you have no substance. If you make it too small and difficult to read, the grader will be grumpy. Do you really want a grumpy person grading your paper?
  • Use 1 inch margins, not 2. College professors know that trick.
  • Single space and indent long quotes.
  • Staple your pages, not fold. Folding the corners is not equivalent to stapling.
  • Proofread, Proofread, Proofread (Repeated for emphasis!)
  • If you have trouble correcting your own errors, try reading your paper out loud. It often helps to catch things you otherwise would not.
  • Have someone else read your paper; they can point out the things that are clear in your thinking but don’t make sense to the rest of the world.
  • Use spell check.
  • Read the syllabus/ instructions carefully.
  • Don’t address the authors by their first name unless you know them personally and are on a first name basis.
  • Include an introduction. Don’t assume the reader knows which book and which author you are talking about in a book review.
  • Learn to vary your transitions, sentence structure, and wording so your reader doesn’t grow bored.
  • Use complete sentences.
  • The material should be organized in paragraph form.
  • Don’t include the following note in the middle of a paragraph to see if I am paying attention :

“Sup gorgeous, yea I mean you grading this paper.”


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