Paper submission checklist

by John Bandler

Here is a checklist for students to use before submitting their paper or other written assignment. It can also be used by anyone submitting a written product, whether to a school, potential employer, client, etc.

Adapt for your particular purposes, and review this checklist early and often as you continue your writing process.

I have had the privilege to teach students (our next generations of doers and leaders) for many years now, including at the law school, graduate, and undergraduate levels. I do so as an adjunct, and I am not a full-time educator, nor do I consider myself an expert writer. Writing is difficult for me -- sometimes painful -- and requires many edits and proofreads until it is acceptable. Still, I have had a tremendous amount of practice writing, including two books, many articles, plus writing as needed as a lawyer and previously a police officer (lots of reports).

I also have read thousands of written student submissions, and had many conversations with students on the topic. It has given me insight on areas for focus and improvement, and I believe this checklist can be of great assistance for learning and to improve the final product.

The Paper Submission Checklist

  1. Read (reread if needed) the paper assignment instructions.
  2. Read (and reread) any feedback or individualized guidance for prior submissions.
  3. Read John's article How to Write a Paper
  4. Follow the phased process in the Final paper project with good effort throughout.
  5. Read and followed the instructions for the Final Paper Assignment
  6. Remember the overall goal is your learning about the subject matter and improving your researching, writing, editing, and thinking.
  7. Organize it well. Does the organization of the paper make logical sense.
    • For my courses, it should have 5-7 main points (including an introduction and conclusion)
  8. Summarize the law accurately and make good points.
  9. If the paper is about law or touches on law, lay out what the law is early in the paper. E.g., right after your introduction you would state what the law is, with appropriate reference and citation to legal authorities (Constitution, statutes, regulations, case law). After you have summarized the law (the rules), you can better analyze and discuss underlying issues, apply the law to cases or facts, or analyze what the law should be.
    • Consider organizing the paper according to IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion). Or use IRAC's cousin, CRAC (Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion). Or combine the two with:
      • Introduction/Issue/hint of conclusion
      • Rule points
      • Application points
      • Conclusion
    • Your outline should be organized into main points which can then have subpoints.
    • Create sections, give them helpful titles (don't just call them "rule").
    • More details in my outline assignment.
  10. The first paragraph (or two), the introduction, should introduce the paper for the reader. (A properly constructed and revised summary paragraph from the paper project could be the first paragraph of your introduction).
    • Don't spend much time explaining broad concepts to the reader, e.g., what the internet is, what cybercrime is.
  11. The last paragraph (or two) should conclude the paper (and not break new ground).
  12. In between the introduction and conclusion, you make various points. Points of law, other points. Each point should have a section header (appropriate and improved from your outline). You might have 5-7 main points in your final paper (including introduction and conclusion).
  13. Academic integrity is essential. Do your own work, put in your own effort.
  14. Ensure the paper is entirely your own work, and that you properly cite and quote where required.
    • Ensure you have not taken someone else's work and changed some words to merely make it appear different.
    • Do you understand, and can you explain everything you wrote?
    • Do not review any other student papers, past, present or future.
    • Did you properly quote and cite where appropriate?
    • Did you properly cite where appropriate?
    • See my Guide to citations and references
    • Read (yourself, first hand) the relevant portions of every source quoted or cited.
  15. Get a first draft done early. Do several edits (drafts) of the paper, with time in between each review.
  16. As you edit think of the following building blocks:
  17. The start of the paper needs a paper title, date, author name, and course name and instructor name.
  18. Include section headers that have appropriate names. The sections should correspond to your outline, as you have revised and evolved it, and are headers for your 5-7 main points.
    • Don't leave a section header "orphaned" at the very the bottom of the page (use a page break to format the page).
    • Section headers should be helpful to the reader (and you the writer). So don't use headers like "Point 1", "Rule", "Analysis".
  19. Review paragraph structure. Each paragraph should have one topic, with appropriate length (not too long). A paragraph cannot run on for an entire page. New paragraphs should either have an extra line break, or be indented.
  20. Review sentence structure. Read aloud if needed. Try to make each sentence clear, with a point, be kind to the reader, with appropriate length.
  21. Review word choice. Choose and understand each word used. Try avoid using a ten-dollar word when a one-dollar word works. Avoid legalese. Be kind to reader. Be careful about acronyms and initialisms.
  22. Review capitalization. A Title of a Paper Should be in Title Caps. Don't use ALL CAPS. Proper nouns should be capitalized, including the U.S. Constitution and First Amendment. Don't capitalize words that aren't supposed to be capitalized.
  23. Review spacing. Ensure there are no extra spaces or missing spaces. Have a space after punctuation like periods and commas.
  24. Don't use a table of contents (only very long papers need a table of contents, and your paper for my course is not a long paper)
  25. Don't use an abstract or executive summary (only very long papers need this, your paper is not long for my course).
    • Your introduction will introduce your paper.
  26. Don't use a "running head". But if you do include a running head, it needs to be an abbreviated form of your title (not the words "running head").
  27. The filename should be appropriate and relevant for the submission, and includes your name and date.
  28. The submission electronic format should be appropriate for the platform (e.g. PDF, DOCX, but avoid Apple Pages and avoid dotx).
  29. The paper length (wordcount, approximate pages) needs to be appropriate for the assignment. References and citations do not count towards the word count.
    • Law school, 3,000 words not including citations and references
    • Undergraduate and graduate, 2,000 words not including citations and references
  30. Misc formatting preferences
    • Double space
    • 1" margins.
    • Citations in footnotes
    • Paper needs page numbers (bottom right preferred)
  31. Take advantage of your school's writing center and expert writing coaches (where available). Your submission should note this.
  32. Take advantage of your school's library and librarians (where available). Your submission should note this.
  33. Make sure you put in good continual effort and read the above and are ready to submit it.
  34. Do a final read through. Consider reading it aloud to keep your focus, to hear every word, and improve your speaking.
  35. Submit to the right place on the right learning management system (LMS) platform.
  36. Double check to confirm the submission went through properly.


This checklist can help you to improve your writing submission, no matter what the purpose of that writing is. Remember that writing requires effort, editing, and practice.

If the list seems overwhelming, then resolve to improve your writing one step at a time. Then before you know it you have taken many steps that add up to significant progress and you have become a much better writer.

Additional Reading & Learning

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Page posted 12/20/2021. Last Updated 4/27/2024.