Always focus on the backbone of your college essays
By the time you finish high school, you’ve probably begun skipping writing the outlines prior to beginning the rough draft of your essays and papers, and for good reason. High school papers are generally short enough, and simple enough, that writing an outline is extraneous. However, when you go to university, it’s better to start writing those outlines again. Here’s why:
Maintaining a Clear Thesis is Key
Keeping yourself focused on your thesis during the writing of your paper is absolutely as important in university as it was in high school. The difference, however, lies in the detail and complexity that college level writing requires. You’ll need to draw from many more sources, and they’ll be far more diverse and interesting, with more complex ideas than those you used in high school. You can quickly find yourself off track, or, at best, writing paper which doesn’t flow well, because you haven’t sufficiently organized your ideas. Outlines help keep your ideas organized, not only by cataloguing the points you wish to make (which you may well be able to do without an outline), but by providing a map and a reference for how you plan to transition from point to point gracefully.
Focusing on Your Main Ideas Means Higher Scores
No matter how many interesting little facts you come across while researching, remember that your instructor will be grading you on how well you support your thesis statement. If you’re not remaining focused on that, you’ll undermine your final grade. Also, you’ll need to remain tightly focused on your thesis in order for your essay to flow well and be coherent, another aspect of most grading standards.
How to Stay Focused
First, make sure you stay organized while planning your essay and doing any necessary research. Make notes regarding what quotes you wish to cite, for example, and be sure to pay attention to how closely they relate to your thesis statement. Organize your notes by section; i.e. which body paragraph each piece of information will apply to. Then, make your outline, detailing the main idea of each paragraph and how you will relate it to your essay’s overall theme. Also, plan your transitions between ideas in order to keep your theme intact.
Staying focused on your thesis statement will give your essay a strong backbone, and streamline the writing process and raise your score.