1. The introduction is often considered the most important part of your paper. Its main purpose is to sell your topic to the reader and grab their attention, making them want to read more.
Avoid starting your paper with “I am going to write about…” and “I want you to know about…”
Instead of starting with these sentences, just jump into the topic! The reader should understand what the paper will be addressing without you having to tell them.
2. Your thesis statement should present the argument to be discussed. It should be specific and doesn’t necessarily need to be concise. Examples of thesis statements are below.
Topic: Siberian Tigers
Example 1: In Russia, Siberian Tigers do not have a safe habitat in which to live.
Example 2: Siberian Tigers should be protected because they are being killed at alarming rates.
Example 3: Due to the ever increasing amount of poachers in the eastern region of Russia, Siberian Tigers are facing extinction, and their habitat needs to be protected.
The first example is a weak thesis statement. Although it addresses the topic to be discussed, it doesn’t necessarily present an argument or draw the reader’s attention into the paper. The second example is better, but it is not specific enough. The third example is the strongest because it not only explains the need for protection of the habitat, but it helps the reader understand that poachers are the main cause for putting the tigers at risk of extinction.
3. Remember, not everyone will be interested in your paper. You will have readers that will agree with you and some readers that disagree. Make sure you are consistent with your side of the argument, and don’t sway back and forth in order to please both sides. Jumping from side to side will make your paper seem weak and confusing.
Example 1: Human cloning is helpful to the scientific community because it opens possibilities of creating organs for patients that are in need of these vital tissues. It should not be allowed for research because human lives are affected. However, it could be helpful in the long run.
This example shows that jumping from one side to another can make it difficult for the reader to understand your point of view. It is okay to acknowledge how the other side feels, but you want to keep your own point of view intact.
Example 2: Human cloning is helpful to the scientific community because it opens possibilities of creating organs for patients that are in need of these vital tissues. Although some might argue that it should not be allowed because human lives are affected, human cloning could be very resourceful in the long run.
This example successfully balances how to explain the other side’s viewpoint while still remaining strong in your initial argument. You want to make sure to follow your statements with quotations and evidence of researchers in the field of your topic that can make your argument stronger.
4. Keep terminology consistent throughout your essay. The type of language used depends on the type of essay you are writing. Pay attention to the assignment given. There are general rules for writing essays, but assignments for class often have specific guidelines that need to be followed.
Do not stray away from your side of the argument. Your language should be strong and concise. It is okay to have personal judgment, but also support your argument with evidence from research and/or scholarly resources. Strong argumentative papers will address the opposing side’s views and have claims against them. Avoid using first person pronouns (I, me, we, us, etc.) unless otherwise stated in the assignment instructions.
Example 1: Some Christians feel that abortion is wrong because it is considered murder of a human being.
Incorrect: I am a Christian, and I feel that abortion is wrong because I consider it murder of a human being.
Example 2: Many Americans would argue that the U.S. government should not bail out any more companies in order to boost its economy.
Incorrect: We, as Americans, feel that the government should not bail out any more companies in order to boost our economy.
It isn’t necessary to state how you feel necessarily. You should argue from a point of view, which could include a large group of individuals. By taking yourself out of the argument, and by supporting your argument with evidence and scholarly sources, you will be enabling the reader to have an objective opinion about a certain issue.
The reader should be entertained with your writing. Personal narratives can be both humorous and emotional. You should find a way to establish a connection with the reader so that he or she remains interested. The language should be very personal and first person pronouns are inevitable.
Tenses are crucial in this type of writing. Be consistent in your writing, whether it’s in past, present, or future tense.
Incorrect: Monica and I traveled to New York City for the New Year’s Eve celebration. However, we didn’t reserve a hotel room for the night. I can’t believe I have to stay in New Jersey. I don’t mind staying in a cheap motel, but I didn’t want to.
This example shows that the author did not use the tenses properly. Although it can be appropriate to jump back and forth between tenses throughout a paper, it should not occur in the middle of a paragraph about only one topic. The following example shows how this paragraph could be written appropriately.
Example: Monica and I traveled to New York City for the New Year’s Eve celebration. However, we didn’t reserve a hotel room for the night. I can’t believe I had to stay in New Jersey. I usually don’t mind staying in a cheap motel, but I didn’t want to that night.
Instead of confusing the reader by jumping between tenses, this example shows how to stay in the same tense when it’s appropriate. The sentence I can’t believe I had to stay in New Jersey uses both present and past tense verbs, but they illustrate how the author is currently reflecting on the experience. In the last sentence, some words were added to make the sentence clearer and more readable.
These assignments usually have a certain goal in mind for your paper. You may be asked to write as a critic, analyzing the book from a certain point of view. On the other hand, you may be asked to write a character analysis or a review illustrating the plot through symbolism. Whatever the case, make sure to follow the instructions of your assignment. Book reports can either be formal or informal.
If it is to be a formal critique, keep your writing objective. In other words, don’t say “I feel this was a good book because…” Instead, describe what the author did to make it good, and let the reader decide whether or not they would like it. You want to give an overall review of the aspects of the plot and characters without making a judgment of your own (unless told to do so in the assignment instructions, which would make it an informal critique).
Do not use first person pronouns (I, me, we, us, etc.). The language of a research paper should be very formal and should contain no contractions (don’t, won’t, etc.).
See Writing a Strong Research Paper for more information on this topic.
Newspaper articles are the most informal type of writing. Many of the general grammar rules do not have to be followed to allow for easier reading. You can use personal pronouns and have shorter, more concise sentences. It is not important to support claims with evidence. Articles are usually written from one point of view on a personal level between the author and reader.
5. Use transition words to help your paper flow more smoothly. Read #6 on General Grammar Tips to learn how to properly use these words. Transition words can help your paper feel complete rather than choppy.
Find a list of transition words here.
6. The best way to begin writing your conclusion is to use the introduction paragraph(s) of your paper. Do not repeat what you have already written. Instead, expand on your thesis statement by describing how the evidence you found to support your ideas is important. You want to leave the reader with something to remember about your paper.
It is perfectly fine to begin writing your conclusion even before you are finished with the rest of your paper. Sometimes it is easier to write part of the conclusion before you have finished doing research. Starting earlier on the conclusion will help you be consistent throughout the paper, and it will prevent the reader from reading repetitive statements.
If you didn't fully find evidence to support your thesis, or if there are gaps in research regarding a certain topic, put it in your conclusion! The reader should be well-informed about the process you took when writing the paper and how much work still needs to be done on the topic.
Imagine picking up a paper and only reading the last page. You should be able to get an idea of the topics discussed and why this paper was written. It should also be clear what the reader’s point of view is. If your reader skimmed through your paper and only grasped the last few paragraphs, they should still be left with a strong and lasting impression.
Coming up with a Good Title
Read my post about Titles to learn which words should be capitalized and how to come up with a good title.