How to Complete a Decent Academic Paper
Academic essay writing is writing done for an audience of academics. No matter what level in school or college you are in, you must imagine that your work will be read by peers who are versed in your discipline and will expect that your work has provided them with knowledge they didn’t already have. There are various methods to successfully writing an academic paper, but generally, a great paper will always be written early, will have been through several drafts, will be structured and focused, etc. While you may be aware of some of these tips already, here are a few things you probably don’t know about writing a decent paper:
- Don’t make miscellaneous observations
It’s not enough to just make a few casual observations about a topic. This is a sign of passivity and doesn’t say anything important or valuable about a topic. An academic paper should have an argument, try to prove something, or directly answer a question or two about a topic. Gathering evidence means reading sources and presenting them so they support something and aren’t just included as filler.
- Have a clear and focused thesis
Your thesis should be a clear and concise statement – no more than two sentences – that tells your reader exactly what it is you are writing about and what your position on the matter is. “Sharks are deadly” is not a thesis because it doesn’t say what it is about sharks that make them deadly. “Sharks are a danger to humans because global warming forces have diminished their natural food supplies and have forced them into new habitats” is a better statement because it gives a reason why sharks are a threat and puts you in a position to have to defend your claim.
- Develop your argument
When you write an essay in high school you are often told to make your best argument the last. While there isn’t anything particularly wrong with this, it makes better sense to organize your paper so that your argument goes through a natural progression. Using the example above it would be best to first discuss global warming’s negative effects to ocean life before discussing shark attacks or the threat of attacks on humans. In a sense, developing an argument is almost like story-telling: one must own a dog before claiming “Fido” is his best friend.
- Revise extensively
Instead of writing a draft and then checking for spelling errors, one should revise his or her paper thoroughly by rearranging the order and logic of the paper’s larger parts. Perhaps one argument would make better sense appearing before another. Perhaps a paper would be stronger if an entire section were deleted or re-written. Revision is an integral step of rethinking your paper for effectiveness.