- Understand and analyze your assignment
- Narrow your topic
- Do preliminary research and review course concepts
- Develop a working research question or thesis question
- Make a research plan
- Read sources and take notes
- Develop a thesis and outline
- Write first draft
- Revise and edit
- Proofread and check citations
Booking an appointment with an Academic Skills Instructor is beneficial at any stage of the writing process. Plan ahead and book an instructor to help you understand your assignment, create an outline, or review the first draft of your paper.
Consider how long each step will take and make a plan for when you will complete each step. Enter these mini-deadlines into your calendar or planner. See an example.
- Analyze the assignment question: read it carefully and underline key words, terms, and concepts.
- Note important assignment requirements:
When you can choose your own topic, pick something that truly interests you. Browse through the syllabus, lecture and reading notes, and course readings to help you decide.
Preliminary reading helps to focus your topic. You can determine how much information is available and whether you need to change the scope of your topic.
- Start with course readings and texts.
- Search the Trent Library Guides to find reference tools related to your discipline, including the best databases to use, relevant peer reviewed journals, good websites, dictionaries, and encyclopedias.
- Read your sources efficiently and effectively. Academic reading is difficult reading and requires you to both actively and critically read.
- Take useful research notes. Notetaking from reading is a critical skill that aids in the research process and also distances you from your sources to help prevent plagiarism.
- Notetaking templates
An outline identifies the main sections of the paper in relation to one another and the order in which they will be discussed in the essay. Include the evidence (and citation information) that you will use to support each section. There are various ways to outline a paper.
- Revise the whole paper. This includes considering the structure and argumentation of the paper.
- Edit for sentence-level errors and ensure that you are communicating your ideas clearly.
Final proofreading is important for a polished finished product.
Check citations for accuracy; our documentation guide has full details on proper citation.