College essay writing help: using different techniques

There are many techniques to writing a college essay. You may have only been taught one or two methods or planning out and executing your essays, but the truth is there are a plethora of options that can be useful for a wide variety of writing assignments. Before you start writing a paper, you should consider all available prewriting options and choose the writing technique that is best for you, your schedule, and the nature of the assignment at hand. Below is a guide to some of the numerous writing techniques available, and a primer on when to use each one.


The most common and most frequently taught prewriting method is simple outlining. You have problem been required to write an outline for MLA research papers, as well as English rhetoric papers (as well as persuasive essay papers for communications classes, among others). The outlining method is fairly straightforward: you plan ahead before writing, and divide your paper up into several key sections. These sections get filled in with research based details, supporting ideas, or arguments. Eventually, once you have a specific enough outline, you sit down and “fill in the blanks” to produce your first draft.

This is a great way to prewrite if you are working on a research intensive paper or a paper with a number of interlocking, complex arguments. The outlining method may not be best for short paper assignments, response papers, creative nonfiction, and personal essays that do not follow a rigid structure.


Pantsing, or “writing by the seat of your pants” involves sitting down at the keyboard and writing the first thing that comes to your mind, with no initial brainstorming or prewriting of any kind. Famous pantsers include Farenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury, who believed “the first thought is the best thought”, and science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, who did not even edit his manuscripts.

Pantsing can be great when you have a long word count goal and need to make a ton of progress as quickly as possible. It is also useful for all kinds of creative writing formats, including autobiographical creative nonfiction. You can also improve your initial drafts through extensive editing, so your first thought doesn’t necessarily have to be your final one. If you are doing very complex technical writing, however, it may be best to engage in some planning so you do not get confused or lost. If you’re writing a thesis, for example, you should probably have an outline.