Help on writing papers

Writing papers is not just for English majors. Writing of papers (or reports) is tied to most, if not all, college courses to have the student demonstrate mastery of the course material. Obviously, English major students are expected to write well where more emphasis is on their writing skills while those in non-English majors are less graded on the writing skills but more on the mastery of the course concepts.

In a working setting, possessing good writing skills is a great asset whether or not the worker is an English major. Therefore, it pays to learn how to write papers well. Obviously, it is always difficult to know exactly what criteria a specific teacher will use to grade a paper. However, here are some suggestions that students can use to enhance their writing projects, whether it be a short or long essay or report:

  • If you have the choice of selecting a topic, choose a subject that you interests you the most exploring.
  • Research to find facts, graphics, and other material relevant to your topic. If needed, create your own graphics or charts to illustrate your position or point.
  • Organize your research material into logical categories. Consider writing main points to produce an outline. Use Microsoft Word’s list feature or some other way to produce your outline on computer. Your outline will indicate to you whether or not you have enough material for a particular point (or bullet). Your outline should contain information on the examples, graphics, quotation, and other information you are using. This does not mean you put the actual example in the outline instead be concise as possible.
  • Begin your first draft. It is first because you may have heard writing is about writing, writing, writing, and so on. Don’t think your first draft be final. You will likely have changes as you work on this.
  • Make sure your topic sentence (s) is (are) clear and relevant to the writing
  • Use examples to support your point, opinion, or finding, etc.
  • Make your writing clear and to the point. Quality of the writing normally prevails over the length of the writing. So consider preparing a quality paper rather than a lengthy paper.
  • Use headlines and subheadings to keep the material categorized. Make the headlines appropriate and relevant to the material that is under it. So if you were writing on describing a car, you could use headings such as Make, Hood, Interior, Exterior, and so on. Each of these headings could have more sub headings to describe more categorized specific features.
  • Use quotations (with proper credit to the author, of course) where appropriate. Don’t just choose any quotations. The quotation you choose should be relevant to your paper. So if you are arguing that drinking and driving don’t mix, an appropriate quotation could be from a study indicating drunk drivers are more likely to be involved in serious crashes than those who are sober. Be careful with what you quote. Cutting and pasting a quotation in your document may not do you any good if you don’t evaluate or explain the quotation. If you don’t illustrate how the quote supports your point in writing, the quote itself is not going to do the talking for you!
  • Prepare your references and other summaries or appendix content
  • Edit your paper to for grammatical and logical mistakes. Tip: Read your paper out loud, or have someone else review it for you. If you are planning to proof-read it, read it the next day so you don’t fill in the words while your mind is fresh.
  • Make sure your final project satisfies your teacher’s requirements. Make sure the length is appropriate as well as the fonts.

Citing references or bibliography information

When you write, you are likely to use material from various resources. To give credit to those sources, you will need to include a reference for each material at the end of your written document. Also, the information helps your instructor or teacher to know what material you used for writing your paper.

For referencing a book, you may need to include the following details:

  • Author(s) – write in the order they appear on the title page
  • Full title - include the sub-title
  • Edition or volume number
  • Publication information (publication year and location)
  • Page numbers from where you have taken quotations or ideas

In an edited book, you will need to provide in addition to the above:

  • Name of editor(s)
  • Author and title of the chapter

For journals, magazines, newspapers include the following:

  • Author(s) – in the order they appear
  • Title of the article
  • Name of the periodical (newspaper, magazine, or journal)
  • Issue and/or Volume number
  • Date of publication
  • Page number(s)

If you access the periodical on the web include this information in addition to the above:

  • Web address or URL
  • Date you access the article

To cite a website source, include the following:

  • Author
  • Title of the web page and website
  • Company or organization responsible for the website content
  • Date the web page was written or last updated (if known)
  • Date you accessed the page
  • Website address or URL
Posted on 1/5/2008
by Raj Singh