Constructing a bridge without a blueprint would constitute stupidity, because it would result in a faulty structure that would probably fail. And making an attempt at writing a paper without a blueprint that outlines the steps is just as ridiculous. Just as a blueprint guides a construction crew through a step-by-step process, so does one for construction of a scholarly research paper. You can’t skip any of the steps and still expect an excellent result.
Step One: Pick your topic. While this may seem like an easy step, you may actually end up feeling like Goldilocks in the home of the three bears. One will be too broad and another will be too narrow. You will have to find one that is “just fight” for the length parameters your instructor has given. One way to do this is to take a look at sample papers on the internet, in your broader content area, that meet the breadth and depth of what you need and that interests you. And do pick a topic you like – the entire production process will be drudgery if you don’t.
Step Two: The research. Your search for appropriate resources can begin on the Internet, using specific keywords related to our topic. Now here is the thing about resources. Your instructor or professor will want a variety – one or two books, two-three journal articles, and the perhaps one or two sources solely available on the Internet. You will not have a problem finding resource titles, but you do have to sort the “junk” from the respected sources. Check out the authors of any source you are considering, so that you know they have credentials to be considered authorities on the topic. Since most campus libraries are online, a lot of current resources are accessible from your home or dorm room, but you may have to actually enter the structure and check out a book or two!
Be careful as you take notes, so that you have your resource information included for citation later on. And, if you have a good app for doing so, you can organize your notes by sub-topic, and the combining of different resources on one sub-topic is done for you. If you are unsure about sub-topics to include again, look at a sample paper or two online, and see what sub-topics others have used.
Step Three: Get a thesis. What is the purpose for you writing this paper? If your writing paper assignment is to persuade, then you probably already have a thesis – your opinion. But, once the research is done, what do you see as important for a reader to learn about this topic? If you are writing about artificial intelligence, for example, what are the great benefits and what are the potential dangers? If you are writing about the Vietnam War, was it worth the cost in lives and money? You need to make a point with your paper, and your thesis statement comes from your response and your reaction to what you have researched.
Step Four: Paper writing cannot begin until you have the most important part of your blueprint in place – your outline. Now, this does not have to be a formal one. In fact, remember how your organized those subtopics? They really are the basis for your organizational structure, so look at them and determine the sequence in which they should be presented. Now, take each sub-topic and read through the information and/or data from your research. Combine pieces of information that are related, and these “sub-sub topics” will be your paragraphs for that section of your paper.
Step Five: The writing. You’re now ready to write the rough draft of the body of your paper. Be considerate of your reader, and use headings for each sub-topic – it keeps his/her thoughts organized (and your professor will be impressed). If you have not yet bought a style-check app, you should do so. It does much more than just a simple Word grammar check, and it will help you “clean-up” all those poorly structured sentences as you write. Here’s a few other tips for your writing:
- Don’t use a vocabulary that is “beyond your years,” and don’t try to impress with lengthy and highly complex sentences. Pretend that you are writing this paper for a fellow student. So, if there are terms that are not commonly known, define them.
- Don’t use slang and jargon unless it is in a quote.
- Don’t use contractions as I am using here! They are not appropriate in formal writing.
- Limit the direct quotes you use to those that are really impactful.
Step Six: The Final Draft. Editing and proofreading is a task best accomplished in two ways. If you are doing your own proofreading, put the paper aside for at least 12 hours and do something else (like sleep). This will allow you to be more objective when you do review it. The other and better option is to have someone else review it – you can trade-off with another student and edit each other’s papers, if you are both pretty good writers. The paper has to flow logically, and someone else will pick up issues with coherence that you will not.
Step Seven: The Style Format. Your in-text and end-of-text citations must be according to the required style, so do not get sloppy with this. And be certain that your title page, pagination, font, margins, etc. are in compliance. It’s those little things that keep a professor happy!
A paper that is worthy of a good grade can only be produced by using all of these steps. You really cannot “cut corners,” and that is why paper writing consumes so much time. If you don’t have the time or if you really dislike your topic, you will not prepare a scholarly piece of writing. In these instances, you are probably better served contacting a custom paper writing service and getting some help.