Your First Draft in 8 Easy Steps

Writing the first draft of a big paper can be really stressful, but one of the easiest ways to tackle a huge project is to break it into small, manageable bits. Try these eight easy steps for a complete first draft minus all the struggle.

Step 1: Clear your mind

Open a new document and type everything you know about the paper topic. It does not matter how much you know, just get it down. Let’s say you want to write about American culture in Japan, but you don’t know much about it. Make each thought a new text line like this:

  • American culture in Japan
  • World War II
  • Okinawa
  • Japanese culture in the U.S.
  • Food, music,
  • languages

Step 2: Research

Use your favorite research tools to look up your most exciting lines. When you find information that you like, copy and paste a portion directly into your document. Include URL’s and page numbers because you’ll need them for your APA reference page, MLA works cited, or other bibliography type later.

Your draft should now look like this:

  • American culture in Japan
  • World War II
  • Okinawa
  • Japanese culture in the U.S.
  • Food, music
  • languages
  • Jeans, bourbon, hamburgers
  • The victor’s secret weapon
  • Japanization, Marie Kondo

Tip: Change the text color or font of your original ideas. This will help you remember which researched texts need to be cited.

Step 3: Theme building

A minimum of fifteen to twenty lines is necessary before you begin this next step. Take a look at your lines and see what themes you can find. A good way to start is to ask yourself: What, Where, When and How. 

Example Japan/American Culture Themes:

History of the U.S. in Japan

Japanese culture in the U.S.

Examples of American culture in Japan

Japanese immigration to the U.S.

Step 4: Thesis statement

With your themes in mind, it is time to write your thesis statement. If you need help writing your thesis, check out this piece.

Example thesis statement:

From California rolls to closet organizing gurus, Japan and the U.S. have an ongoing cultural exchange that began with World War II.  

Tip: Feel free to begin from step one with a thesis already in mind. But note, the benefit of building your thesis from researched themes is that you know you already have facts to support it which can save a lot of time.  

Step 5: Organize

Place all research lines under the theme where it fits best. Like this:

History of the U.S. in Japan

  • The victor’s secret weapon
  • World War II

Examples of American Culture in Japan

  • Jeans, bourbon, hamburgers

Tip: Depending on how your mind works, you might find it easier to switch steps 4 and 5. For some themes are easier to recognize after related lines are grouped together.

The Graveyard

It hurts to delete a good idea. Instead, put it to rest in a graveyard section at the bottom of your draft. These ideas that don’t fit any of your themes might be helpful in another paper. 

Step 6: Order your themes

Your themes are fully constructed with lines under each, but you still need to decide how your themes will be presented in your paper. One of the simplest ways to do this is to go from past to present like this:

History of the U.S. in Japan

Examples of American culture in Japan

Japanese immigration to the U.S. past and present

Japanese culture in the U.S.

Step 7: Lines in order

The single lines you have under each theme still need to be placed in order. You can do this however you like, but it is important to remember that some lines will make it easier for you to transition from one theme to the next.

Example of sorted text lines:

History of the U.S. in Japan

  • World War II
  • The victor’s secret weapon

Examples of American Culture in Japan

  • Jeans, bourbon, hamburgers

Japanese culture in the U.S.

  • Japanization, Marie Kondo

Tip: Be sure to give yourself a break between each step. Your work will be more efficient and effective if you allow yourself some distance. Make it easy to jump back in by typing what you’d like to do next at the top of your paper just before taking a break.

Step 8: Write baby write!

With all the correct information in order, all you have to do is put everything into your own words. A pro tip is to start with the theme that is the easiest or most fun to write. This will help you find your groove and get you ready for the more challenging themes.

Looking for a plagiarism definition? Wondering how subject verb agreement works? Asking what is an interjection?  The BibMe grammar guides have answers for you.


How to Cite Primary Sources

It’s that familiar, time-tested assignment again: the research paper. You already know that it’s critical to include a variety of sources as evidence to back up your argument or ideas. Sources of information like books, websites, and academic journals are easy to access and can help you locate pertinent information to your topic. But how do you include information from sources that provide first-hand evidence, such as maps, letters, etc.? 

These types of sources are called “primary” sources, and citing them can be a bit more challenging than citing those that are “secondary” (sources that interpret primary sources or information). However, primary sources are strong resources to use.

First, primary sources help you relate directly to the content. Instead of reading an “outsider’s” analysis of a topic or event, you can explore it for yourself through primary sources. Second, primary sources allow you to create your own opinions and analysis of a topic, without the bias of a secondary analyzer. Finally, there is less chance of miscommunication or misinformation with primary sources.

Now that you know the value of primary sources, here are some tips on how to properly include them in your next bibliography or MLA works cited.

No matter what you are citing, the key thing to remember is that the overall objective is to lead your readers directly to the sources you have consulted. Here are some of the pieces of information you should include from your primary source in order to accomplish this goal:

  1. Author or creator's name
  2. Title of the source or a description
  3. Date the source was written/created
  4. Publication information, such as the database you accessed it from
  5. Collection name, if there is one
  6. Box and folder, if the source was housed in a place that uses such a system
  7. Repository/archive that holds the source

Here is an example for citing a letter as a primary source in MLA format:

Benton, Alice. Letter to Charles Friend. 24 Jan 1789. Charles Friend Collection, State University Library, New York, MS 511, box 15, folder 9.

And here is how you would cite the same letter in APA format:

Benton, A. (1789, October 24). Letter to Charles Friend. Charles Friend Collection (MS 511, Box 15, Folder 9). State University Archives, New York.

If you are unsure about how to cite a primary source for your paper, talk to your instructor or consult the manual for your citation style. also has helpful citation forms for many types of primary sources like interviews, photography, maps, federal bills, and more! 

Preparing to write a paper? Why review BibMe grammar guides and brush up on how to use an adverb, what is plagiarism, how to define “conjunction,” and more!


How Brain Mapping Can Help You Crush That Paper

You’re at your desk looking over your paper assignment. You have an inkling of what concepts and examples you want to mention, but you have no idea where to start. Maybe, you ponder, there’s a productive way to get this tangled web of thoughts out of my head?

As you’ve probably deduced, brain mapping is the answer! Whether you’re writing a paper about Shakespeare or trying to argue that bananas are better than apples (both have their “a-peel”), brain mapping can help you organize your thoughts and writing.

If you’re really stuck for research paper ideas, can help! Check out the free writing and grammar guides for inspiration. They cover everything from verbs and nouns to coordinating conjunctions and possessive pronouns — cover all the basics and make your writing shine!

But wait, what exactly is brain mapping?

Brain mapping is an easy writing technique you can use to get your thoughts in order before you write. Ever read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book where you pick what happens to your character? You start at the very beginning of the story, and as the journey progresses, you can go off in different directions. If you were to lay out all your adventure options, you’d get something that looks like a brain map!

The goal of a brain map is to get all your ideas onto paper and then draw connections among those ideas. Once you can see all your thoughts, you can then get a sense of which ideas are worth writing. 

Ok, so why should I do it?

Brain mapping is the perfect step to take when you’re either confused about a topic or have too many thoughts about it (honestly, it’s perfect any time you have to write). 

If you’re confused, it’s helpful to use a brain map to decipher why you’re confused. Write out the questions you have about the topic. From there, you can potentially start to answer them with some of the concepts you’ve learned in class. By laying out all the things you’ve learned in class, you can start to see how ideas connect. 

This also works when you have too many thoughts. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the amount of information given in class, and you’re unsure what to use. By seeing all your ideas at once, you give yourself the gift of seeing all the possibilities for your paper and honing in on the most relevant ones.

Great, I’m on board: how do I brain map?

The easiest way to start brain mapping is to grab a pen and paper. Write your prompt in the middle of your paper and circle it. From there, write down any immediate ideas that come to mind, and then connect them back to the prompt by drawing a line between each idea and the prompt. From there, look at each idea individually. Do additional thoughts, examples, or arguments come to mind? Connect them to the original idea. As you do this, you’ll create a map that fills your entire paper. At the end, see if you can draw additional connections between sub-ideas.

Once you have your map, you can see if a general flow arises. From there, you can then create an outline for your paper, and then write said paper!

What’s an example of a brain map?

Here’s an example of a brain map using this very article! It’s very simple, but it gives you an idea of how you can visually organize the thoughts in your brain!

Your research is done, and your ideas are mapped with solid connections — now what? Use the BibMe plagiarism checker to help prevent unintentional plagiarism and cite your sources! BibMe citing tools include an APA reference generator, an MLA citation guide, a Chicago style citation maker, and other resources


10 Computer Shortcuts to Make Your Life Easier

Spending time on the computer is a reality of doing schoolwork. You spend many, many hours each week on computers completing assignments, sending emails, maybe binging a series or two, and creating projects. These shortcuts will help you save a little bit of time while you’re working — maybe you’ll even get to know your computer a little bit better!

Speaking of saving time, why do citations by hand when BibMe can help you do citations? MLA, APA, Chicago style format, and thousands of other specialized styles are available to help you cite dozens of source types quickly and accurately.

1. Send emojis from your computer

Sending emojis from a phone is pretty easy, but finding them on a computer can be more complicated. Use this command when you want to add a little fun to whatever you’re doing on your computer.

Apple: Control + Command + Spacebar

Windows: WIN + ; or WIN + . (period) 

2. Add a hyperlink

Hyperlinks are useful when you want to direct someone else to sources for an assignment, pages they need to read, forms they need to complete, or even videos you think are funny. They make your page look less cluttered, too, so learning these commands could certainly come in handy.

Apple: Command + K

PC: Ctrl + K

3. Print the current document

Learning the print command is incredibly useful and also very simple. Bonus tip: if you go to print options on your computer, you can also save a document as a PDF instead of printing it! When your document is a PDF, it can be easier to edit, add a signature to it, crop it, or make any other changes.

Apple: Command + P

PC: Ctrl + P

4. Add the degree symbol

Lab reports are a real pain when you have to constantly use special characters. Learning the shortcut for the degree (°) symbol should save you some time when working on those science assignments.

Apple: Option + Shift + 8

PC: Alt + 0176 or Alt + 248

5. Creating something new

If you need a new window, document, or version of whatever app you are using, this is the command for you! If you are working on a paper and need to open up another document, or you need to search for something on the Web but don’t want to disturb your current window, then use this simple shortcut.

Apple: Command + N

PC: Ctrl + N 

6. Search within a document or webpage

When you find yourself looking for a specific word or phrase within a webpage or document, the search command will be your best friend. It can save you tons of time by preventing you from searching line by line through a big jumble of text.

Apple: Command + F

PC: Ctrl + F 

7. Refresh the page

Sometimes pages don’t load properly or need to be updated to show new information. Use this shortcut instead of clicking on the address bar a million times and hoping that something magical happens.

Apple: Command + R

PC: Ctrl + F5

8. Close all current tabs

There is no better feeling than closing out all of your tabs after you’ve finished a long assignment that required a lot of research. If you use this command, you can exit out of all of your tabs with one quick motion!

Apple: Command + Shift + W

PC: Ctrl + Shift + W 

9. Screenshot a selected area

Taking a screenshot of your current activity on your computer can be very useful if you need to save something and reference it later. This command will let you not only take a screenshot, but also let you select the range of the screen that you want in the frame.

Apple: Command + Shift + 4

PC: WIN + Shift + S

10. Save your work

Nothing hurts more than losing an assignment on your computer because you forgot to save it. Instead of manually clicking FileSave every time you want to keep your current progress stored on your computer, get in the habit of using this shortcut. Its simplicity will make it harder for you to forget to save it!

Apple: Command + S

PC: Ctrl + S

Now that you’ve learned the ropes, try out these shortcuts the next time you have a writing assignment or just want to send a note to a friend online. You’ll thank yourself after you learn them, and you can even show off your computer skills to your friends as you become the new computer productivity expert.

Use the BibMe plagiarism checker to protect yourself from unintentional plagiarism, and check out their free writing guides to see a research paper example and to review nitty-gritty grammar topics like prepositional phrases, possessive nouns, and conjunctive adverbs, too.


5 Writing Hacks to Kick-start Your Next Paper

We’ve all been there: you’re assigned an essay, you turn on your computer, and then you sit in front of a blank screen for 20 minutes. You ask yourself, “Where do I even begin?”

There are times you might feel stuck or completely overwhelmed by a prompt. That’s okay! It happens to everyone, but fear not! By using one of these hacks, you’ll kick-start your next paper in no time.

Sometimes just playing with words can kick-start ideas for your writing. has fun and comprehensive grammar guides that cover everything from demonstrative pronouns and examples of adverbs to the definition of interjection!

Hack #1: Make a brain map

Instead of focusing on writing, draw! It can be boring to look at a monolith of words. By making a brain map, you can identify what ideas, keywords, and sources you’ll want to potentially include in your paper.

There are a lot of ways to make a brain map. One method is to write the prompt in the center. From there, write any associated ideas around the prompt, and then connect these ideas to the prompt with a line. Continue drawing branches out from each idea, adding examples, arguments, connections, and sources. By the end of your brain mapping session, you’ll have a sense of how various ideas connect.

Hack #2: Type headlines into your document

Outlining is a common tool in essay writing and an impactful way to organize your paper. An outline allows you to get a sense of the flow of your paper, and to see if you’re connecting ideas in a way that makes sense. But sometimes, you might feel like your outline isn’t fully fleshed out or that you need to write a thorough outline before you can start writing.

A hack you can use to get around that feeling is to type headlines for the main ideas you want to include in your essay. By typing in all your headlines first before typing, you can use them as guideposts for your paper and ensure that you’re happy with the overall structure.

Your headers can just be key phrases or something more structured like “Main Idea 1: ____.”  As you type, you can see how much you need to write for each section, and you’ll slowly but surely fill in the gaps.

Check out a BibMe research paper outline example for inspiration!

Hack #3: Don’t write in order

Speaking of filling in the gaps, there’s no rule that says that you must write your introduction first. An effective way to kick-start your paper is to write the section you feel most confident about first. Once you have that section down, it’ll be easier to write the rest of your paper. 

One caveat about this hack is that you do need to ensure that your paper flows nicely before you submit it. Be sure to carve out some time at the end to review your paper’s overall flow.

Hack #4: Use citation tools

Citation tools are an awesome way to kick-start your next paper. By knowing that you have a way to ensure that your writing is up to par, you can focus on creating a rough draft that effectively analyzes ideas and arguments. Afterwards, you can use a paper checking tool to improve sentence structure, check for unintentional plagiarism, and more! Using citation tools allows you to completely keep your initial focus on the meat of your paper. creates citations automatically in thousands of styles, including APA reference format, MLA citation format, and Chicago citation format, too!

Hack #5: Write with a pen and paper

Nowadays we’re so used to typing that sometimes we forget that we can also write with a pen and paper. If you’re feeling stuck, a hack you can use to kick-start your paper is to start writing your essay by hand. As you write by hand, don’t worry about re-writing: just focus on getting some words down onto paper. 

This hack is effective because it’s easy to delete words or phrases as we type. Though convenient (can you imagine using a typewriter to write your essays?), it’s too easy to self-edit. Convenient self-editing means you don’t get to see your progress. With a pen and paper, however, you can see how many words you’re actually creating yourself. Sure, you may not use every single word, but you have physical evidence of your progress. And that can be enough to get you writing!

And those are five writing hacks you can use to kick-start your next paper! Happy writing!


Easily Cite a Summer (or any) Concert

If you are writing a paper about a musical artist or band, you may want to use a concert you saw in person as a reference. But how do you go about adding a live concert to your bibliography or sources page? This article will tell you everything you need to know in order to properly cite a concert in MLA format, APA and Chicago styles. offers thousands of other specialty citation styles, dozens of source types, and an annotated bibliography sample to help you cite just about anything in any way you need it! Also, check your music review for unintentional plagiarism and tighten up your writing with the BibMe grammar and plagiarism tool!

What you will need

The information required to cite a concert is different from what you would need to cite a book, although the citation formats are similar. To cite a live concert you will need:

1. The name of the artist

2. The name of the concert tour

3. The date, month, and year of the performance

4. The name of the venue where the concert took place

5. The city and state where the concert took place

MLA references for a concert

Formula for MLA references:

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Name. Concert. Day Month Year, Venue, City.

Example in MLA style:

Eilish, Billie. Concert. 7 June 2019, Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Independence.

Formatting notes

Artist’s name

Write the artist’s name with their last name first followed by a comma and then their first name followed by a period, just as you would the author of a book. If the artist is a band with multiple musicians put the full name of the band instead. Add a period following the artist, and follow this information with the word, “Concert.”

Date and location

Next you will need to write the date of the concert in the format of day-month-year followed by a comma. Then put the name of the concert venue followed by a comma and the city of the venue followed by a period.

APA references for a concert

The concert was viewed in person, and isn’t accessible to the reader, so it would fall into the category of “personal communication.” Personal communication references are only cited in the text of the paper. Include the name of the artist and the date the concert took place. 

If, however, the concert is accessible to the reader, perhaps on YouTube or another viewing or listening website, cite the source by following the instructions for citing a video, streamed music, or music recording. 

APA citation format in the text:

Include the artist’s name and the year. 


The use of blue fluorescent lights throughout the Billie Eilish concert in 2019 promoted a feeling of calmness and serenity. 

Chicago references for a concert:

This specific style recommends including information about the live performance in the text of the paper, or in footnotes, and excluding it from a bibliography. 

Chicago style citation in the text of the paper:

Include the performer, the date of the performance, and the name and location of the venue in the writing of the paper. 


Billie Eilish’s concert at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri, on June 7, 2019, was filled with bright fluorescent lights that promoted a feeling of calmness and serenity. 

Chicago Style Format in the footnotes:

  1. Name of Performance, music and lyrics by Performer’s Name, Name of Venue, Location City, State, Month Day, Year. 


  1. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, music and lyrics by Billie Eilish, Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Independence, Missouri, June 7, 2019.

We hope your summer concert was a blast! Even if it wasn’t, you’ll want your review to sparkle, so check out the BibMe grammar guides for inspiration! They can help you with everything writing, including a list of adjectives, how to use conjunctive adverbs, examples of interjections, and more!