How to write a scholarly paper

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For most of us, writing scholarly papers does not come naturally. Typical scholarly paper is very codified rhetorical form. You need to know many rules to successfully write a paper.

Good scholarly papers address a certain research question, which is the central organizing principle of the work. Anything that is related to the research question has to be included in the paper. Usually one scholarly paper should discuss only one research question. If you are allowed to study a few research questions, write several papers. How do you know that your work examines a good research question?

The main attributes of a good question include:

  • Novelty and originality
  • Specificity
  • General relevance to a scientific community

Your question should be accurate and not only indicate an overall idea area of study. Your work doesn’t necessarily have to create something new, it can extend prior knowledge in a useful way or disprove existing knowledge. Finally, the question you are exploring should be interesting to others who work in the same area.

Type of a paper you are preparing

Most scholarly papers can be divided into two categories. They are as follows:

  • Research papers. In research papers, you are supposed to choose a subject and conduct an independent research to find sources and information.
  • Topic papers. In topic papers, you are generally assigned a particular subject. You can also be given several topics to select from based on the course readings and discussion. You are supposed to use the resources to write your paper.

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It doesn’t matter what kind of paper you’re working on, you need to use the course readings. The readings will help you understand the material better. When writing papers, your professor wants to see how well you can use what you have learned in the course during your independent research. Once you finish your paper, check whether you have cited course readings in your bibliography. If you have not used any readings, you have probably created a paper that is not relevant to the course. Below you will find useful advice on how to write a scholarly paper effectively.

Thesis

Whether you’re doing an outside research or not, you need to have include a thesis in your paper. When you know what you want to say and what others have said on the subject you need to make your own idea more specific by crafting a thesis sentence. It determines the main argument of your project. The point of any college paper is to persuade your audience that you have something to say and that they should care about it. A good thesis should be concise, debatable, and specific.

Thesis takes one side of a possibly imputable argument. To support your arguments, you need to use the material you have studied in class as well as outside sources. When preparing a paper, you need to show that you can analyze new phenomenon and your scholarly paper is an opportunity to show that you have learned enough to conduct this analysis.

It is important to place the thesis up front. It is a guide to the position you will discuss in the rest of the paper.

Structure of the paper

Once you clearly define the research question, it becomes much easier to write the paper. The paper will ask the question and then answer it. If you want to create a successful paper you need to know how to structure it properly. The basic structure of any scholarly paper includes the following:

  • Entry
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

Every section should address a different goal. In the first section, you indicate the issue you want to address, the research question. In the methods section you need to explain what you have done to answer the question. In the results section, you need to explain what you have observed. In the discussion section, you need to indicate what you think the results mean.

At the same time every basic section should address several topics and can be split into subsections. In the entry, you need to explain the background and the rationale to the study. You need to explain what your research question is and why it is important. You need to situate your study within some bigger field of inquiry. You always need to spell out your research question without leaving your readers to guess what it is.

Methods

In this section, you need to offer your readers more sufficient details about the methods of study used to reach some solutions. This section should be concrete, specific, fairly detailed, and technical. Here you need to describe the following:

  • Methods of data collection
  • The strategy you used
  • The instruments you applied
  • The strategies of analysis

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If you’re conducting a qualitative research, you should tell your reader what research tradition you were utilizing and connect the research objectives with the choice of methodological strategies.

Results

This section is usually factual and straightforward. All the results of the study should be described in detail including percentages and simple counts. Try to stay away from showing your analytic ability and the richness of information by offering many tables of not important results.

Discussion

In the discussion section you have some freedom, which makes it difficult to write. Online you can find examples of structured discussion sections that can help you prepare a good paper. Even though you do not have to strictly adhere to rules, it is useful to follow up plan just stay on track.

References

Use your references wisely. The main statements should be referenced as well as the instruments and methods you used. However, don’t try to be exhaustive. Try to avoid referencing the following:

  • Technical reports
  • Any sources that the readers may have difficulty understanding or finding
  • Unpublished works

Following the basics

Once you know how your paper will be structured, you can start working on it. However, you need to follow many details while writing. The main recommendation is to read and follow the instructions you were given. Also, if you want to know how to write a scholarly paper successfully, you may want to ask professionals to give you a hand in editing and proofreading your manuscript. Usually when preparing a paper, you have to create several drafts before submitting the final version. When rereading your work, it is recommended to look for the most common mistakes. If you avoid them, you will create a good paper.

Common mistakes students do when submitting their papers:

  • The research question is not determined clearly
  • The goal of the paper is vague and tautological
  • Paper is poorly organized
  • Failure to follow the instructions
  • The paper exceeds the maximum number of words
  • The entry provides an extensive review of literature
  • Instruments, methods, and interventions are not described in detail
  • Results are given selectively
  • Tables include results that are not related to the main research question
  • Main arguments are not supported by relevant references
  • Out of date references that cannot be accessed by readers
  • The discussion section does not contain an answer to the question under study
  • The discussion section exaggerates the implications of the results and does not discuss the limitations of the study
  • The paper is written in bad English

Using citation

When you use certain ideas made by other people, you must give them credit for those ideas. When you are writing a paper, you have the right to offer your own ideas and opinions as well as ground your work on the works made by others before you. However, these rights go with the responsibility to inform your audience what ideas belong to you and what ideas of others you have used in your work. This way you show that you have done your own research and understand the significance of your sources in developing your own statements.

You can use in-text citations providing a bibliography at the end. The citation should include the name(s) of the author(s), the date of the specific text, and the page number. If you are citing the part of the whole article or book, you have to indicate the page(s) where this specific argument you mentioned is discussed. If you are utilizing the idea that fills the whole source you can leave it without providing a page number. However, make sure there are no close paraphrases of certain pages or exact quotes.

Specialized vocabulary

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When writing scholarly papers, students assume that their readers know the fundamental terms and ideas in their field and they usually do not define them for the audience. The wording in scholarly papers is specialized and requires prior knowledge from the reader. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you take a scholarly journal in another field of study and don’t easily understand its contents. To better understand the text, you will need to see the definitions of certain concepts, so it is highly recommended to define any terms and concepts your reader may not be familiar with.

Originality of thoughts

Scholarly papers should have original thoughts whether through synthesis or primary research that offers an original perspective on prior research. In a scholarly manuscript, you are expected to have ideas on the issue you’re studying. However, these ideas have to be grounded in research, analysis, and critical reading rather than personal opinion or experience.

Repetitions

If you consider some points important, don’t hesitate to repeat yourself. Use similar expressions or synonyms to express the same ideas differently.

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