Student Resources: Writing

Improve Your Writing

The following are steps to good college writing.  Remember the steps by using the acronym "Power"which stands for:


  • Select a topic.  Make it narrow.
  • Remember that good writing is clear thinking which begins with the main idea followed by illustrating details.  Write a thesis statement which contains the main idea.
  • Break the task into the component small parts such as doing research, writing the main idea, outlining the paper, writing the first paragraph, editing, and final preparation.
  • Write the due date of your paper on a calendar and work backwards from the due date to schedule the various steps to complete your project.    


  • Gather your research notes and write an outline of the paper. 
  • Use 3X5 cards to record separate ideas or sources of information for your paper.  Arrange the cards in a logical order. 
  • Another option is to record your ideas on your computer and use cut and paste to place the ideas in order.
  • Avoid plagiarism!  You may use the ideas of others but use quotation marks and identify your source of information.  Again use the 3X5 cards to keep track of the sources of information such as author, title, publisher, date and page numbers.  You will need this information for your bibliography or works cited.
  • As you are doing your research, look away from the book and record your own ideas about the topic you are researching.


  • Write a first draft. 
  • Remember that the first draft is not perfect. 
  • Begin with the main idea and add illustrative details.
  • If you have trouble getting started, use brainstorming and set a short time limit to begin the writing process.  Write quickly what comes to mind. 
  • Put your writing away and come back to it.  You will get more ideas and be able to take an objective look at what you have written.


  • Write freely in haste, but revise carefully at leisure.
  • Slow down and take a careful look at your work.
  • Be courageous and choose your best work.
  • Ask this this question, "Will the reader understand what I want to say?" Avoid overly complex language.


  • Use a computer to do a spell check and grammar check.   If you have difficulties with spelling or English, have a friend or tutor read over your paper.  Colleges have writing labs which can offer assistance.
  • Put the finishing touches on your paper.  Print your paper so that it reflects your best work.  Check the professor's guidelines for writing the paper.  Many have a required format which specifies font, spacing and other details. 
  • Don't forget your bibliography or works cited.  A college paper is not complete without this important last component.  

How to avoid writer's block

Sometimes the most difficult thing about writing a paper is just getting started and avoiding writer's block.  Here are some ideas to avoid writer's block:

  1. Begin by writing freely whatever comes to mind.
  2. Use the brainstorming technique.
  3. Set a short time limit.  You can write for 3-5 minutes and give yourself permission to stop.
  4. Put it away and come back to it.  You will think of ideas for your paper.
  5. Begin with the main idea.
  6. Then explain or give examples.
  7. Write the first sentence.

Need help with grammar? 
For help with basic grammar questions visit this online guide to grammar and style. Search for topics alphabetically. .

Need help with writing?
Writing is one of the most important skills for college success.  Enroll in the appropriate English or writing class early in your college career.  Most colleges have writing labs or tutoring available.  Find help if you need it.