It’s finals szn! How to ace that final paper

Finals season is upon us again and that means that a lot of us will be spending most these days studying hard and working on those last few papers. Love it or hate it, writing is something that we all have to do in college. I personally love writing papers as long as I can write about a topic I am passionate about.

My creative writing is… subpar. However, my academic writing is usually fairly strong. Some of you might not know it, but I am a huge government nerd, and I love writing about the intricacies of international relations, international law, and human rights.

Following below are my tips to write a great final paper.

Before even choosing a topic, go over the requirements. How long should the paper be? What format should it be in? Then, when you do have your topic, check beforehand how many useful sources you can find. If you accidentally chose a really obscure topic, there might not be a lot of information about it, and writing the paper will become hard.

As soon as you find a useful source, SAVE IT. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I found a useful source, and then never saved it, never to be found again. A helpful tool for saving your sources in an organized way is to make a mini annotated bibliography. If you’ve ever written these, you know that usually you put the source in the correct format at the top (MLA, APA, Chicago), and then you write a little summary underneath it. This way, you’ll have all the information about the sources you need, and you’ll be able to easily find it again.

Another handy thing I’ve come to realize is to make an outline for your paper. The first time I truly did this was when I had to write a long paper for my International Law class. Outlines are a useful tool for staying on track with your paper, and keeping the flow going. Below is a little snippet from my International Law outline:

Part 1: Intro

  • Define refugee crisis → a term referring to a period in early 2015 when unprecedented numbers of people arrived in the European Union, by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, or crossing by land.
    • Syria
    • Afghanistan
    • The Congo
    • Iraq
  • Thesis → The EU-Turkey deal violates International Law

Part 2: Greek Law and Turkish Law

  • Greece:
    • 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees
      • Principle of non refoulement
    • Common European Asylum System (CEAS)
    • Schengen Borders Code → all external borders be secured
    • Law 3907/2011 → created Asylum Service:
      • Central Office located in Athens and regional asylum offices,
      • a First Reception Service,
      • and an Appeals Authority.
    • June 2013: Presidential Decree 113/2013 → Every foreigner or stateless person has the right to submit an application for international protection, provided that he or she meets the criteria of the Geneva Convention and applicable national law or qualifies for subsidiary protection.
    • Applicants have the right to stay in Greece during procedure
    • Applicants may not be detained based on application
    • Detention of minors is not allowed except in special circumstances
    • Legal aid is provided to those who need it → law 3226/2004
  • Source:
  • A small piece of hell; Migration (1): Greece

As you can see, I put my thesis in my introduction. Because this was a law paper, it was important for me to dive deep into European, Turkish and International Law. Everything I found that I found useful, I put in my outline and then closed my list with its corresponding source. I was lucky in this case that all my sources were easily accessible online, so for the purpose of my outline I just pasted the links.

Once you’ve finished your outline, you can start converting it to actual words. I can’t really tell you how to write your sentences, but when I was a freshman in college my English professor gave the class a really good tip. Once you’re done writing, choose a few random words and check an online thesaurus to see if there are words that sound more professional. I’ve done this for every paper I’ve written, and it truly adds some professionalism.

And this should go without saying, but please do not wait until the last moment to write your paper. I’ve done it many times myself, and it causes way too much unnecessary stress. Instead, try to spread everything out. Set goals for different days or weeks. Make your outline one week, and then write the first few paragraphs the second. You’ll see that you’ll go into those final weeks way more relaxed.

That’s all for now! Let me know your own favorite tips for writing papers!

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