How to write an academic paper

The ability to write an interesting and strong academic paper is an important skill for all university, high-school, and college students. This skill will keep serving you if you want to go into your academic career or fields that involve analytical or persuasive writing. To write a successful paper, you need to start by following assignment instructions carefully. However, there are other basic things that should be done, including:

  • Research a given subject and use only reputable sources;
  • Organize your essay clearly and support all arguments with strong evidence and examples;
  • Check everything thoroughly and make the necessary edits.

Follow the necessary assignment instructions

Read the instructions given by teachers or professors carefully and assess what should be done. Before you start working on any academic paper, you need to understand what it’s all about and learn specific rules that must be followed. For example, a given assignment may ask you to do the following:

  • Answering a specific question;
  • Demonstrating the ability to present strong arguments based on your strong research;
  • Comparing and contrasting two events, ideas, or artistic works;
  • Presenting your critical analysis of a given sources, such as a poem, book, work of art, etc.

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Formatting and citation style requirements

Teachers usually have different expectations about formatting academic paper, so make note of any specific requirements. They include such basic things as:

  • Page numbers and line spacing;
  • Font size and total essay length;
  • Section headings and cover pages.

If you don’t see any formatting requirements on an assignment sheet, ask teachers for clarifications or check your course syllabus.

Pay attention to basic citation style requirements because they may vary based on your teacher’s preferences and subject matter. There are basic rules applied to all academic papers:

  • Essays on social sciences use APA style citations;
  • Papers om humanities, like history or literature, use Chicago or MLA formatting guidelines;
  • Writing assignments on health-related and medical subjects use AMA formatting;
  • Other sciences may have their unique discipline-specific citation styles.

Basic rules for the most popular formats are easy to find online and in style guides in libraries.

Narrowing down topics and asking for clarifications

If there’s something you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask teachers for clarifications. Ask any questions that you have in your mind about academic papers because most instructors are glad to explain and offer their advice.

Unless you’re given quite a specific assignment, you need to choose a subject to focus on, so be ready to narrow down interesting topics. Before getting starting, determine the main point of your academic paper and how you want to approach it. Pick the subject that really interests you and starts a unique question that you will answer.

Research your essay topic

Finding reliable and good sources of information is the first step in writing any academic paper. Use all available resources to create a bibliography, including digital scholarly options. You can start from your favorite search engine and type related keywords. Take advantage of online scholarly databases by logging in with your ID or accessing them through a library computer. Another effective method to building a good bibliography is looking at a reference list on the introduction or overview of your subject, including encyclopedia entries. Your teachers or librarians will be happy to recommend some useful sources too.

Choosing and reading appropriate sources critically

Search for reputable and updated sources of information for your academic paper. Ideally, they must be published within the last few years. Peer-reviewed articles from academic journals, scholarly books, and articles from reliable news organizations are widely acceptable options. However, you should avoid user-edited websites and popular publications, like Wikipedia. Although such sources are not reliable and appropriate, they can be good starting points for your research.

Just because facts and details come from reliable sources, including news articles, scholarly books, or peer-reviewed journals, it doesn’t mean that they are correct. Read all of them critically and answer the following questions:

  • Where did authors get their information?
  • Can they give credible sources?
  • Do authors provide strong evidence to support arguments?
  • Do they have any clear agendas or biases that affect their interpretation and presentation of information?

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Primary and secondary sources

Use primary sources of information when applicable. They include any type of direct or first-hand evidence concerning the chosen topic. Based on your subject matter, these sources can include anything, like:

  • Data from lab experiments;
  • Video records of events;
  • Historical documents, such as memoirs, works of art, and monuments;
  • Interviews with eyewitnesses.

When looking at such secondary sources of information as news articles and scholarly papers, you see the data filtered through a perspective of other people. Using primary data allows you to interpret all facts yourself. Teachers usually specify if students need to incorporate primary sources into their academic papers.

How to evaluate online sources

The Internet offers a lot of useful information to students, but you may find it difficult to separate high-quality sources from the bad ones. Evaluate all available online sources carefully and search for the ones published by reliable news organizations and on scholarly sites. When using them for academic papers, consider the following questions:

  • Can you see any credentials of authors?
  • Are they qualified to write about a given subject?
  • Do they state where they got their data?
  • Can you verify their sources of information?
  • Are articles written in an unbiased and objective manner?
  • Are they written for the academic audience?
  • Is their content educational?

Construct your academic papers

How to write an academic paper easily and fast? Creating an outline is your ultimate answer to this question. Once your topic is narrowed down and your research is done, the next step is organizing all interesting and original ideas. Make a list of the main points that you want to cover in your paper and determine the right order to address them. Your essay outline should look something like that:

  • Introduction;
  • Body with major points and supporting evidence in a few paragraphs;
  • Counter arguments and their refutation;
  • Conclusion.

Your thesis is a significant part of the introduction, so state it briefly and logically. This is where you need to explain the major argument that you will make in an academic paper clearly and concisely. This statement briefly outlines the evidence used to support a major argument.

Present and supporting strong arguments

Each argument that you use in your essay should be presented in detail in the main body, which consists of a few paragraphs where you support a thesis. Be sure that each paragraph includes a clear topic sentence that states its major idea. Support every statement that you make with strong evidence and examples. It’s not enough just to make a claim to write a successful paper, so you need to provide readers with concrete evidence to make a major argument convincing. Every paragraph that you write needs to include a few examples to support a particular topic sentence.

Write an introductory paragraph

Before presenting the main body of any academic paper, you need to offer a background on the chosen topic. Many writers agree that it’s easier to write an introductory paragraph when the rest of their essay is ready. Ensure that this section is not an exhaustive overview because you should include only the details that help you set the stage and tell others the basics of your academic paper. The introduction also needs to contain a breakdown of how you will approach a given topic and a clear summary of your main point.

Use transitional sentences and cite all sources

Your paper will fee disjointed and choppy without special transitional phrases and sentences. Look for effective ways to segue from one section to another in a logical and smooth manner. For instance, you can easily achieve this goal by starting every paragraph with a short sentence that connects it with a topic sentence of the previous one. It’s also advisable to end every paragraph with a logical sentence that links it to the next one.

Cite all sources correctly and clearly. When you present details or facts from other sources, be sure to identify them, no matter if they come as brief summaries or direct quotes. Meet the requirements of a specific style to format every citation (footnotes, inline references, and endnotes). Make your clear distinction between quoting directly (using the exact words of other people) and paraphrasing (putting the statements of other authors into your words).

  • When paraphrasing, you need to rephrase a particular idea or statement using your own words while identifying its source with in-text citations or footnotes;
  • When using short direct quotes, use specific quotation marks and identify their sources with in-text citations or footnotes;
  • Remember that long block quotations are never put in quotes.

Address counterarguments successfully

When you find any interesting or strong counterarguments to a thesis, you should acknowledge them in your academic papers. Provide clear evidence to refute them all successfully and address alternative interpretations of facts to show that you research the chosen topic carefully and present your case in a balanced and fair manner. If you succeed to refute major counterarguments convincingly, you’ll make your thesis more compelling to the audience.

Write a concluding paragraph

Once your major arguments and strong proofs are presented, the next step is linking everything together in a concise and brief summary. State why you think that presented arguments support a thesis in a confident and clear manner. Sum up a few major points and discoveries made in your academic paper. If you have final thoughts or original comments, including useful ideas for any further research and questions that must be answered, state them in the conclusion. Repeating what you wrote in the introduction is a poor idea. To write a concise concluding paragraph, use several sentences to reflect of the important of your argument and its effect of future studies of the chosen subject.

Create your bibliography

A bibliography contains a full and brief list of each source that you make references to in academic papers. Its format may vary based on a particular citation style that you use, but you always need to include the following:

  • Titles of works;
  • Their authors;
  • Publication places and dates;
  • Publishers.

How to polish academic papers

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Once the first draft is ready, take a break and step away from your paper. Otherwise, it will be difficult to look at your academic writing objectively. Coming back to your draft the next day is a wise move because you will look at it with a new and fresh perspective.

Read over the first draft

When reading over your draft, pay attention to any evident problems with its organization, flow, and style. It’s quite helpful to read your academic paper out loud to yourself. You should make notes of anything that seems to require improvements. As you keep reading the first draft, try to answer the following questions:

  • Is your essay concise enough?
  • Can you find any sentences, phrases, or words that should be cut out?
  • Is this paper well-organized?
  • Do you see anything that can flow better after rearranging in a completely different order?
  • Is your academic writing clear enough?
  • Do all ideas make sense?
  • Should transitions between paragraphs flow more smoothly?

You also need to check the tone and language of your essay. As you keep rereading it, determine if the language that you use is suitable and appropriate. Avoid any clichés, slang, colloquialisms, and words that sound overly judgmental and emotional. Your basic goal is keeping the tone and language of your academic paper objective and formal.

How to edit and proofread essays

Once you reread every sentence of your paper and make note of the necessary changes to be made, you need to go through and revise this draft. When this task is complete, reread it again and be sure to save a copy of the first draft separately if you change your mind about any major revisions.

Proofreading is an important task of finding and correcting such common academic writing issues as typos, formatting problems, punctuation flaws, spelling mistakes, and grammar errors. To complete it successfully, you need to read your paper slowly and fix any problems that you find. As you already know, reading out loud is a very helpful tactic to catch any mistakes and flaws that your eye may miss when reading essays silently.

Ask other people to check your writing, including relatives, friends, other students, etc. When revising your academic papers, another pair of eyes will always come in handy. That’s why it’s worth asking others to read over your final draft before finalizing and handing it in. They can find the mistakes that you missed and point out the parts that should be reworded and clarified to improve your essay content. Finally, if you face any hardships at any stage of this process, you can always count on professional help and academic writing services that are easily accessible online.

Before you write any academic paper, there are several important concepts that should be clearly understood. The first one states that academic writing is always done by scholars who need to read, think, and write about different ideas. Second, this type of writing is devoted to the subjects and matters interesting to the modern academic community. Look for the topics or questions that are appropriate and relevant to it. The next concept is that academic writing always presents informed arguments to readers. To construct it, you need to sort out everything you know and assess what you think about a given subject.

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