Writing is a process, and no two people write in the same way. We recommend following these steps when writing your paper and remember that it is okay to jump between steps if you need to do more thinking or researching as you write.

Use our downloadable Academic Paper Checklist to ensure all your academic papers are complete and correctly structured:

Academic Paper Checklist


  1. Understand Your Assignment


    • Identify the purpose or goal of your assignment: Why are you writing this paper?
    • Think about how the assignment relates to what you are learning in class.
    • Understand what you need to accomplish in your paper.
    • Read all of your required course materials about your topic.
    • For more help, see our page on understanding your assignment
  2. Brainstorm

    Think and Decide

    • Pinpoint your paper’s topic from the assignment instructions. If you have a choice, pick a topic to write about.
    • Think about what you already know about this topic and brainstorm a few more ideas.
    • Ask yourself who, what, where, when, why, and how questions about your topic.
    • For more, see our page on overcoming writer's block.
  3. Research

    Find Information

    • Do a basic Google search, explore web pages and images, watch related YouTube videos, or review a Wikipedia article to learn about your overall topic. Although you don’t want to rely on any of these popular sources for your academic writing, these can provide a good starting point for an overview of the topic and a list of references. ChatGPT is another example of a popular source that can be used to learn more about a topic, but it is not a reliable source of information for academic writing. 
    • Find the answers to your who, what, where, when, why, and how questions.
    • Use your university library to find academic and credible articles and information that you’ll use as sources in your paper.
    • Ask a librarian for help if you get stuck in the research process.
  4. Outline

    Review Information and Organize

    • Review the information that you found.
    • Decide the main point you want to convey or prove in your paper.
    • Develop a list of “talking points” (main points) you hope to get across.
    • Find evidence (facts, quotes, details, or expert opinions) to support your main points.
    • Organize your points into a structure that makes sense.
    • For more, see our page on outlining
  5. Draft


    • Start writing. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just get your thoughts on paper.
    • Draft an introduction that grabs your reader’s attention, states your topic, and explains the point of your paper.
    • Write body paragraphs that logically support your thesis statement.
    • Put the information you researched into your own words.
    • Draft a conclusion that reflects on and summarizes the main points of your paper.
    • Write until you have said everything you want to say about your topic.
  6. Revise

    Make it Better

    • Read what you have written and revise your paper.
    • Rearrange words, sentences, or paragraphs so that everything makes sense.
    • Remove any unnecessary or off-topic sections.
    • Do more research if you think your points need more evidence or support.
    • Make sure you use an academic voice in your paper.
  7. Edit & Proofread

    Make it Correct

    • Run spell check.
    • Read your writing aloud to be sure it flows smoothly.
    • Correct spelling, capitalization , and punctuation.
    • Be sure all sentences are complete.
    • Replace unclear or overused words.
    • Make sure your paper is correctly formatted in APA style and all your research is cited within your paragraphs and in your references page.
    • For more information, see our page on proofreading and editing strategies