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Writing my Paper

This LibGuide provides a break down of the essay writing process and other assignments

Where to Begin

Image of a frustrated child refusing to do his homeworkEssay writing is a daunting task. Don't worry, even the most experienced writer had to learn how to write. Start early to give yourself time to research and put your essay together. 


Each subject (for example; English, Nursing) requires its own type of essay. The best instructions for how to start are found with your course outline or assignment instructions. Talk to your instructor if you are unsure, and come to see a tutor at the Academic Success Centre in the Library for further help. 

Starting the essay typically begins with questions about your chosen topic: What is it that you want to know? Why is this topic important? The answer to these questions will lead to the development of your thesis statement. 

Throughout the writing process, refer back to your thesis frequently. I like to keep a sticky note next to my computer screen to remind me of the direction I want to go. Another helpful habit to get into is to create in-text and full citations for all of your sources as you read them. This is especially helpful so you don't accidently use a quote and forget to cite it. Check out the Citing my Sources LibGuide for more information. 

Create an outline of your main idea and the sub-topics you wish to address in your paper. Organizing before you begin will help create a paper that flows smoothly and keeps you on track. Check out the next tab, Idea Organization, for ideas of how to organize your paper

Always remember to proofread your paper before you hand it in or submit it online to the Learning Support Centre Online Writing Help Service. It is safe to assume that you will need to use a formal tone in almost all of the essays you write at the college or university level. Even personal responses require a degree of formality, although these papers can be less strict. 

For more information about our online writing Service go to

Image of Frustrated Student.  Rich. (7 Mar. 2012). Should preschool students receive homework? We Read Better. Retrieved from

Idea Organization

Mind Mapping

To make a mind map, start in the middle of the page, with the main idea. Work in all directions writing down key words and images that represent the supporting ideas. The result is an organized structure composed of key words, lines, arrows, circles, squares etc. that show the relationships among ideas.


Advantages of Mind Mapping:

  • Forces you to recognize key ideas and think about their relationships ~ active learning
  • Limits the amount of notes you need to take.
  • Organizes the material you are learning ~ improved recall.
  • Words and Ideas that are closely associated are recalled together.
  • Visual images are easier to recall than words. (Try enhancing the visual appeal of your mind map by using colour, different printing styles, shading and shapes. Things that stand out are easier to remember).

Outlining or Heading

Outlining is the most common method students use to take notes, but they often write down too much. Outlines should only contain the key words and ideas presented during the lecture or in your textbook. This method is advantageous for recording material that is well organized and presented in a linear fashion.

For example:

1. Animals

a. Wild

i. Dangerous                                                             ii. Domestic

1.  Lions                                                         1. Housecat

2.  Tigers                                                        2. Family dog           

3.  Hawks                                                      3. Caged Birds

4.  Bears                                

This is a general guide to writing annotated bibliographies. Before writing your own, always look at the course assignment or check with your professor for specific instructions.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

 The bibliography portion, as expected, provides the author, title, and publication details of a source. 

   The annotation describes the content, provides a brief summary, and includes an evaluation of each source. When writing the annotation, provide enough information in approximately three to five sentences for readers to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the source's purpose, content, and special value. Be sure to use complete sentences and avoid wordiness.

Sample Annotated Bibliographies

APA Style 

Meier, E. S., Lischke, H., Schmatz, D. R., & Zimmermann, N. E. (2012). Climate, competition and connectivity affect future migration and ranges of European trees. Global Ecology & Biogeography, 21(2), 164-178. doi:10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00669.x

Plant species have adapted to altering climate conditions, but it remains unclear if species will be able to keep pace with recent and future climate change. The goal of the study is to assess the influence of changing macroclimate, competition and habitat connectivity on the migration rates of 14 tree species. To predict future species ranges from the models, researchers applied three migration scenarios: no migration, unlimited migration and realistic migration. The study concludes that Migration rates depend on species traits, competition, spatial habitat configuration and climatic conditions. As a result, re-adjustments of species ranges to climate and land-use change are complex and very individualistic, yet still quite predictable.

MLA Style

Yves Bergeron, et al. "Response of Northeastern North American Forests to Climate Change: Will Soil Conditions Constrain Tree Species Migration?" Environmental Reviews 18.1 (2010): 279-289.

Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. At the continental scale, climate plays a major role in determining plant distribution, while at the local and regional scales vegetation patterns are more strongly related to edaphic and topographic factors. Considering the broad tolerance of most tree species to variations in soil factors, soils should not represent a major constraint for the northward shift of tree species.  Locally or regionally, soil properties may constrain species migration.

Questions to consider in the annotation

The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to evaluate the quality of different sources. Writing one is usually a preliminary step to writing an essay. While skimming the source you have selected, consider which key points you will be repeating in your annotation:

  • Did the author refer to other scholar’s research?

  • Does the source show any intended or accidental bias, for or against the topic?

  • What was the thesis of the research, the opinion of the book, or conclusion of the study?

  • Was there a hypothesis, method, and conclusion?

  • Does the source suggest areas for further research?

  • Finally, how will this source relate to your topic?

Download or view these PDFs (use Adobe or Foxit Reader to view them) to learn how to start your assignment and organize it into the essay type used in your class

Are you looking for something that isn't here? Email Amanda at or visit the Learning Support Centre in F215 to see if we have it. 

Do not use contractions. For example: can't, don't, won't, it's, etc. Write these words out in FULL. 

Do not forget to reference all of the sources that you have either quoted or paraphrased!

Avoid using first person or second person in formal writing assignments: I, me, we, us, you, your(s). Even though it is your position or assertion on the topic, statements should be generalized and written in third person (i.e. Studies show that... Evidence suggests...)

Do not "sit on the fence". What this means is do not use words such as "perhaps" "maybe" "likely" "should" "may" etc. They are "I'm not sure" words that will weaken your argument. 

Working with Digital Photos in Assignments

Some assignments involve the taking and submission of photos.  Digital cameras work best because digital images are easy to insert into digital assignments. You will require access to a digital camera and the knowledge of how to take pictures and upload them onto a computer.

It is very important that you know how to send in pictures in a reasonable file size. Modern digital cameras, even the cameras in a smart phone, are capable of taking extremely high resolution photos. These high resolution photos have an equally high file size. This can result in a Word or PowerPoint file that uploads very slowly to email or Moodle (if it uploads at all!). Here are some tips on keeping file sizes reasonable:

  1. Before you take any photos, make sure that the image size/resolution setting on your digital camera is set to the lowest resolution, preferably 640 x 480 pixels. See the instruction manual for your particular camera for instructions on changing this setting.
  2. Microsoft Paint will allow you to resize images after you have already taken them, by opening the image and then selecting “Resize” in the left-center of the top tab. A similar application for MacOSX is Paintbrush
  3. There are also quite a number of web sites that offer free, online resizing:

In order to insert a photo into a Word document, choose the “Insert” tab along the top of the Word screen, then choose “Picture” and browse to find your image. You can drag the image around your page to place it where you would like, and use the buttons in the corner of the image to resize it. Right clicking the image will allow you to choose various Wrap Text options that let you choose how the text of your assignment will fit around your new image.

If you would like additional assistance with working with digital photos in your assignments, please contact the Digital Production Technician at the GPRC Library at 1-780-539-2938 or toll free at 1-888-539-4772 ext. 2938 between the hours of 8:30am and 4:30pm Monday through Friday.

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