International students: How to prepare for writing your first paper

Rilita Theodora


This is my fourth year of study at the university. When I look back to my first year, I remember how clueless I was. I didn’t know how to be a university student, what I should do, and the worst thing was that I didn't know how to write at the university level. Isn’t that crazy? A communication student who doesn’t know how to write. What did I even think to take the program in the first place?! But I never regret it and I’m here to help you improve your writing in your first year. 

Ontario Tech is always there to support us. I have mentioned this several times, but you can go to the writing room! You can get support from a peer tutor before you start writing.

Feeling lost in my first year, I realized that I needed support to get used to the university writing style. I met a peer tutor that reviewed my writing; she let me know what I could improve on and gave me the resources I needed.

And here is the other good news! Our university also has a webpage called nool that has all the writing resources we need. I know it’s a lot of information, so I will list down some of the essential things you need to know for your first paper.



The base of your paper is structure. It also helps you organize your ideas clearly. I got this essay outline template from my peer tutor and, to this day, it helps me write my papers. 



Plagiarism is a no no! When we write papers, we need experts to support our arguments. Professors require us to use scholarly resources and we need to give the writers credit if we use their ideas in our paper. There are different styles of citations. The only way to know what your professor prefers is to see the assignment instructions or ask! Don’t be afraid to ask your professors questions; they are there to help you succeed. 



Even though I have written a lot of papers at this point, there are still grammar mistakes in my writing. That’s why professors always tell us to proofread our work. Editing is an essential thing for writing. What I usually do before proofreading my work is copy it to Grammarly to check my grammar, then make the necessary edits. Grammarly helps you clear out simple mistakes. Don’t rely 100 per cent on it though, as it is still just a program. Finally, after I make more edits and before I submit my document, I usually go back again to Grammarly just to confirm that it’s free from error.



My tutor also recommended I use a thesaurus. She suggested I use a thesaurus whenever I notice a repetition of words on my paper. BUT! This can be tricky. Readers, including your professors, don’t like big words. Make sure to be selective when you use any words from a thesaurus. Remember that you don’t need fancy words to get your point across. 

Those are the basic things that you need to know before you write your first paper. I would say that the best way to improve your writing is to read and write more. As international students, we should recognize that we may be lacking in vocabulary and writing style. But, do not ever be discouraged because you have plenty of time to learn. In fact, my writing is the aspect I improved on the most since attending Ontario Tech, Final tip, become a blogger for Student Speak; it has improved my writing immensely! 

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