The key to writing an effective paper is organization and good time management. If you organize your paper well before you begin, the pieces will naturally fall together as you work, preventing you from having to struggle with roadblocks. By managing your time well, you will also improve the quality of the work by being able to devote more time to it. Finally, if you can, get someone else to look the final product over before you turn it in, as a second pair of eyes can spot logistical, spelling, and grammatical errors that you may have missed.
When you get an assignment, be sure to examine, examine the terms carefully. Determine how long the paper is supposed to be, whether the topic is fixed or not, when it is due, and how the instructor wants it formatted. If the assignment is discussed in a class, take notes about what the instructor expects to see addressed in the paper. If the topic is clearly laid out, the instructor has done much of the work for you by providing a focus. If the assignment is open ended, start thinking about relevant and interesting topics, and decide on one which interests you. Do the research to support your topic, making sure to record where you found information so that you can cite it later. Then, sit down to write an outline.
An outline is a crucial tool for writing an excellent paper. By outlining how your paper is going to go, you will keep yourself focused as you work. You will also ensure that you do not miss valuable points, and that the writing will have a natural and consistent flow. The first thing to do when writing an outline is to determine what the point or argument of the paper is. Think about the topic, and how you have chosen to interpret it. After that, start laying out the ways in which you will state your argument in an outline format.
Once you have constructed an outline, think about your time frame. Some people work best by writing in several large chunks of time, while others prefer to work on a small section every day. You know your own work style, so set up a schedule that will be productive, and plan on finishing the paper several days before it is due, so that you have time to edit and polish it.
Once you start writing, stay focused and stick to your outline. Make sure that your logic is sound, and that your writing transitions smoothly from subject to subject. Keep your writing clean, concise, and clear, so that the reader will readily understand your words, and try to avoid using cliché words and phrases. Write by building arguments on the discussions leading up to them, so that the paper gets more logically complex as the reader progresses. By the end, you should have assembled a strong series of points to support your primary thesis statement, and at the close, you can briefly remind the reader of what has been discussed.