• 3-minute read
  • 23rd June 2016

5 Ways to Get Inspired when Writing a College Paper

Y’all know the drill by now. Your professor sets an assignment. You head to the library and get out the relevant textbook. You write up your paper and receive an average grade for your efforts.

But what if “average” isn’t good enough? How do you make your work stand out? How do you get inspired when writing a college paper?

One answer is “independent research,” which will make your work more original. It also demonstrates that you’ve engaged with the topic in depth (rather than merely remembering what you were taught in class).

This, however, may involve venturing beyond the library walls in search of inspiration…

1. Conferences and Workshops

Some of the best places to get new ideas are academic conferences and workshops, especially if you want to find out about cutting-edge research when it’s first presented.

Most conferences are aimed at professional academics and grad students, but it’s definitely worth looking to see if your college is hosting anything relevant to your subject.

2. Books and Journals

While a good college library should have everything you need to get by, it’s always worth looking beyond the catalog for additional books and journals.

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Try checking the reference list in any set texts to see if something grabs your eye. If the library doesn’t have it, ask a librarian if they can order it in.

“It’s here somewhere. Good luck finding it.” [Photo: Djembayz/Wikimedia]

3. Getting On(line)

The internet, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, is the cause of, and solution to, all of academia’s problems.

On the one hand, journal databases provide a quick and easy way to access decades of research in various fields. College message boards, moreover, allow you to discuss academic (and non-academic) matters with other students around the country and beyond.

On the other hand, you should be careful when doing research online, as not every internet source is considered suitable for academic work. We’re looking at you, Wikipedia.

4. Talking to Your Lecturers

Back in meatspace, you could try asking lecturers, seminar leaders or other academic staff for advice. Most of them will be happy to recommend further reading. Heck, most of them will just be happy you’ve been paying attention.

5. Trade Magazines and Newsletters

Finally, if you’re studying a major with connections to a particular industry, reading trade publications will help you to keep up with current news and events in your field.

Probably best to go for a slightly more recent issue than this.
Probably best to go for a slightly more recent issue than this.

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