Wait a day or so and re-read your essay. Get your essay done a couple of days before the due date so that you have time to go back and revise it to make it polished. Avoid turning in a first draft that you haven't double-checked for errors.
Correct errors related to grammar, punctuation and spelling. Consult a style book if you are unsure how to properly use quotation marks, colons, semicolons, apostrophes or commas. Avoid using exclamation points.
- Look for mistakes involving than/then, your/you're, its/it's, etc. Make sure you know how to use apostrophes correctly.
- Look for mistakes involving general punctuation. Check for run-on sentences, commas and periods inside quotation marks, as well as sparely-used dashes, colons, and semi-colons.
- At the same time, try to keep your language short, sweet, and to the point. A thesaurus is a great tool, but don't just use big words to sound fancy. The best essays are clear, concise, and easily understood by a wide audience.
- Focus on writing killer verbs for sentences. Verbs communicate the action in a sentence and drive the action. A great verb can be the difference between a bland sentence and a beautiful one.
- Use adjectives lightly. Adjectives are great descriptive words, but when used indiscriminately, they can burden an essay and make it less readable. Try to let the verbs and nouns do most of the heavy lifting before you focus on adjectives.
Avoid colloquial (informal) writing. Do not use contractions or abbreviations (e.g., don't, can't, won't, shouldn't, could've, or haven't). Your essay should have a serious tone, even if it's written in a light or lyrical style.
- When events happen in sequence: I first started to realize that I was in the minority when I was in middle school...My realization was confirmed when I proceeded to high school.
- If sentences elaborate on each other: Plants need water to survive...A plant's ability to absorb water depends on the nutrition of the soil.
- When an idea contrasts with another idea: Vegetarians argue that land is unnecessarily wasted by feeding animals to be eaten as food...Opponents argue that land being used for grazing would not be able to be used to create any other kind of food.
- If you're relaying a cause and effect relationship: I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college...I am inspired to continue my family's progress through the generations.
- When connecting similar ideas: Organic food is thought to be better for the environment . . . local food is believed to achieve the same goals.
Cut information that's not specifically related to your topic. You don't want your essay to ramble off-topic. Any information that doesn't directly or indirectly support your thesis should be cut out.
Have someone read your paper aloud to you, or record yourself reading it aloud and play it back. Your ears are sometimes better than your eyes at picking up mistakes in language. The essay should sound like it has a good flow and understandable words.
Rewrite any problematic body passages. If needed, rearrange sentences and paragraphs into a different order. Make sure that both your conclusion and introduction match the changes that you make to the body.
Don't panic. Most people experience writer's block at some point in their lives, especially when faced with a large task such as a research paper. Remember to relax and take a few deep breaths: you can get through your anxiety with some easy tools and tricks.
Use freewriting exercises to get your mind flowing. If you are stuck on your paper, put away your outline for a few minutes. Instead, simply write down everything you think is important about your topic. What do you care about? What should others care about? Remind yourself of what you find interesting and fun in your research topic. And simply writing for a few minutes--even if you are writing material that will not enter your final draft--will get your juices flowing for more organized writing later.
Pick a different section to write. You do not have to write a research paper from beginning to end in that order. Especially if you have a solid outline, your paper will come together no matter which paragraph you write first. If you are struggling to write your introduction, choose your most interesting body paragraph to write instead. You might find it to be a more manageable task--and you might get ideas for how to get through the more difficult sections.
Say what you mean out loud. If you are getting tripped up by a complicated sentence or concept, try to explain it out loud instead of on paper. Talk to your parents or a friend about the concept. How would you explain it to them over the phone? Only begin to write down this concept after you have gotten used to explaining it orally.
Let your first draft be imperfect. First drafts are never perfect. You can always fix imperfections or clunky sentences in revision. Rather than getting hung up on finding the perfect word, simply highlight it in yellow in your document as a reminder to think about it later. You might be able to find the right word in another day or two. But for now, just focus on getting your ideas on paper.
Take a walk. You don't want to make a habit out of procrastinating, but your brain sometimes needs to take breaks in order to function properly. If you have been struggling with a paragraph for more than an hour, let yourself take a 20-minute walk and come back to it later. You might find that it looks a great deal easier once you have gotten some fresh air.
Change your audience. Some people experience writer's block because they are anxious about who will read their paper: such as a teacher who is a notoriously tough grader. To get over your anxiety, pretend that you are writing the paper for somebody else: your camp counselor, your roommate, your parents, your advisor. This might help put you in a better frame of mind and will also help you clarify your thinking.