As a college student, you’re expected to write papers on a weekly or even daily basis. Unfortunately, however, many students struggle with essay writing, resulting in low grades, less-than-satisfactory work and more time spent procrastinating than actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). To help you along the way, here are 8 proven tips to help you write better essays as a college student without the help of a professional essay writer.

1) Do your research

When you’re writing an essay for school, it’s tempting to just hop onto Google and copy-paste what you find in there. Don’t do that! The research is supposed to be your own original work. And even if you try not to plagiarize, sometimes it happens (and professors always know). Spend time on research and make sure everything you write is original and backed up by evidence.

2) Keep an organized paper

By keeping an organized paper you can always find what you need when you need it. Make sure that you include all of your citations in your bibliography and annotate everything that isn’t common knowledge. When writing, make sure that you have a plan for each paragraph so that you don’t lose track of where you are going with your argument. Organize your thoughts on a separate piece of paper before writing them down so that they are easier to put into words. And finally, use spell check! It is very easy to miss something even if you think it is spelled correctly.

3) Rewrite, then rewrite again

Just like how professional writers on grade miners rewrite their work over and over again before publishing, you should rewrite your essay (or any paper) multiple times. Each time you go back, check for typos and grammatical errors. Also look for sections that can be cut down or shortened without losing meaning—sometimes having less on your page is better than having more.

4) Know what your professor is looking for

Professors aren’t interested in seeing what you think—they want your take on their subject. They want you to learn how to express yourself, and they’re going to give you clear guidance so that you can tailor your essay toward those goals.  Before you start writing, make sure you know exactly what your professor wants. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

5) Use correct grammar and structure

There’s no way around it, grammar and sentence structure are two of the most important aspects of your essay. Your ideas may be innovative and creative, but if you can’t string them together into cogent sentences, they won’t get you very far.

6) Format properly

Formatting is important when it comes to essay writing. Most lecturers will have their own preference for how you need to format your essay. This means that if you don’t properly format your work, it can negatively impact your grade. Before submitting an essay, ensure that you are familiar with the particular style that needs to be used for it. If not, search online for some help or advice on what is needed in terms of formatting.

7) Take breaks when needed

It’s easy to get lost in your work and never take a break. This makes it more difficult for you to concentrate when you do return to your essay, leading you down a rabbit hole of research or, worse, writer’s block. If at any point during your writing process you feel like taking a break (even if it’s just for 5 minutes), then go ahead and do so. Worried you might take a break and miss out on a deadline? Read here

8) Avoid distractions

It’s easy to get distracted while writing, especially when you’re in college. As an overachiever, it can be tempting to hop on Facebook or Instagram, check your email or watch YouTube videos. It might seem harmless at first—after all, they are entertaining—but your grades will suffer if you allow yourself to get distracted from your essay. Limit distractions by putting your phone in another room or getting noise-canceling headphones for maximum productivity.