Writing Tips for Final Papers

By Melissa Rey


With the end of the school year come semester projects and final papers, which can be challenging for students with learning disabilities. We asked then Pomona College student Melissa Rey, who has dyslexia, to share some strategies she found particularly helpful. Many of these can be used by high-school students as well.


 Although I had 6 hours of English college credit before I began my freshman year, I still felt unprepared when it came to writing analytical papers. Two years later, I was able to crank out a solid paper with minimal stress. Here’s what I learned:

  • Find a critic. Use the college Writing Lab or find the same person to proof all of your papers.
  • Do Smart Research. Ask your professor for the best journals and search for articles among those journals.
  • Specific Topic.  Narrow topics are easier to research and to write about. For example, instead of insomnia, research insomnia + caffeine + college.
  • Organize Your Thoughts. From my notes, I write down the sub-topics that are important. Each sub-topic gets its own 4×6 index card. On the card, I write supporting details and quotes. Each card equals one paragraph in the essay. Using index cards makes it easier to move the order of sub-topics and to add or delete material.
  • Get Feedback on a Rough Draft.  If asked, many professors will be willing to read and give notes on a rough draft. This is incredibly helpful, because each professor has their own writing style and preferences.

Final Thoughts

In addition to the above suggestions there are two more strategies I found helpful. While it may be too late to implement them this school year, consider using them when classes resume in the fall.

  • Take notes. My accommodations include note-takers, so I request them for every class.
  • Record lectures. Even though some professors prohibit recording, I have been successful in obtaining recording permission. I meet with professors and show them how I can use my iPhone to record inconspicuously. I promise not to share recordings and to delete them at the end of the semester. Recording tips: at 5-minute intervals, write down a few words to describe the topic, along with the time. This makes finding information much easier.