Nov 17, 2008

How To Write a Paper

For many of us, few things are more boring than writing a paper. Unfortunately, all students are condemned to this menial task at one time or another. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get it out quickly without suffering in the grade department.

The first step is to find a topic. Writing papers may not be fun, but with the right topic, the process can at least be interesting. Try to see the paper as an opportunity to learn about something that you choose. One option would be something your teacher touched on only briefly or not at all. Another is a connection between the material and something outside of class that you have special knowledge about. Choose your topic early and clear it with your teacher to make sure it is what they are looking for.

After picking your topic, it’s time to create a thesis statement. The thesis is the argument that you want to prove in your paper. A good thesis statement is “debatable”, or in other words, it should entice the reader to form opinions of their own. Always state your thesis at the beginning of your paper. Think of it as the starting point from which to launch your arguments. Also, make sure the thesis is as clear as possible - in many ways, it is the most important part of the paper.

With these two first steps finished, a general outline can be constructed. This includes researched arguments that you will use to convince the reader that your thesis is correct. Feel free to spend a lot of time on this step. A good outline will save you a lot of stress and effort when you are writing the actual paper because you won’t be grasping for an argument or supporting evidence-you’ll already know what it is.

Get a feel for how much information and space you need for each argument. Write down where to find important book passages and Internet sites so that you can quickly reference information. If you find yourself frequently “fluffing” up your papers to reach the minimum length, figure out how much space each argument will fill, then adjust the number of arguments you have accordingly. Anticipate counter-arguments wherever you can. A successfully thwarted counter-argument will go a long way towards convincing your reader that your thesis is correct. Set up a mini-debate within the paper.

Another important tip is to make sure you write for your specific audience. The style, vocabulary, exposition, and even topic of your paper should be geared towards whoever will be reading it. For example, if you want to write about the book On The Road by Jack Kerouac, a history teacher might be more interested in the time period in which the book is set, while an English teacher might be more interested in character development.

Once your paper is written, it is time to edit it. Go back over your thesis and arguments and make sure they flow together. Look at how each argument ties back into the thesis, and the way that each paragraph transitions to the next. Try reading the paper aloud to yourself. Finally, take lots of breaks. Looking at the same words over and over will not help. Try to edit with “fresh” eyes.

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