How to write a scholarly paper

How to write a scholarly paper, words, knowledge, ideas, audience, reading, study, write

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

Good scholarly papers address a certain research question, whichis the central organizing principle of the work. Anything that isrelated to the research question has to be included in the paper.Usually one scholarly paper should discuss only one researchquestion. If you are allowed to study a few research questions,write several papers. How do you know that your work examines agood 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 overallidea area of study. Your work doesn’t necessarily have to createsomething new, it can extend prior knowledge in a useful way ordisprove existing knowledge. Finally, the question you areexploring should be interesting to others who work in the samearea.

Type of a paper you are preparing

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

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

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


Whether you’re doing an outside research or not, you need to haveinclude a thesis in your paper. When you know what you want tosay and what others have said on the subject you need to makeyour own idea more specific by crafting a thesis sentence. Itdetermines the main argument of your project. The point of anycollege paper is to persuade your audience that you havesomething to say and that they should care about it. A goodthesis should be concise, debatable, and specific.

Thesis takes one side of a possibly imputable argument. Tosupport your arguments, you need to use the material you havestudied in class as well as outside sources. When preparing apaper, you need to show that you can analyze new phenomenon andyour scholarly paper is an opportunity to show that you havelearned enough to conduct this analysis.

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

Structure of the paper

Once you clearly define the research question, it becomes mucheasier to write the paper. The paper will ask the question andthen answer it. If you want to create a successful paper you needto know how to structure it properly. The basic structure of anyscholarly paper includes the following:

  • Entry
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

Every section should address a different goal. In the firstsection, you indicate the issue you want to address, the researchquestion. In the methods section you need to explain what youhave done to answer the question. In the results section, youneed to explain what you have observed. In the discussionsection, you need to indicate what you think the results mean.

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


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

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

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


This section is usually factual and straightforward. All theresults of the study should be described in detail includingpercentages and simple counts. Try to stay away from showing youranalytic ability and the richness of information by offering manytables of not important results.


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


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

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

Following the basics

Once you know how your paper will be structured, you can startworking on it. However, you need to follow many details whilewriting. The main recommendation is to read and follow theinstructions you were given. Also, if you want to know how towrite a scholarly paper successfully, you may want to askprofessionals to give you a hand in editing and proofreading yourmanuscript. Usually when preparing a paper, you have to createseveral drafts before submitting the final version. Whenrereading your work, it is recommended to look for the mostcommon 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 indetail
  • Results are given selectively
  • Tables include results that are not related to the mainresearch 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 thequestion under study
  • The discussion section exaggerates the implications of theresults 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 givethem credit for those ideas. When you are writing a paper, youhave the right to offer your own ideas and opinions as well asground your work on the works made by others before you. However,these rights go with the responsibility to inform your audiencewhat ideas belong to you and what ideas of others you have usedin your work. This way you show that you have done your ownresearch and understand the significance of your sources indeveloping your own statements.

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

Specialized vocabulary

How to write a scholarly paper, words, knowledge, ideas, audience, reading, study, write

When writing scholarly papers, students assume that their readersknow the fundamental terms and ideas in their field and theyusually do not define them for the audience. The wording inscholarly papers is specialized and requires prior knowledge fromthe reader. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you take ascholarly journal in another field of study and don’t easilyunderstand its contents. To better understand the text, you willneed to see the definitions of certain concepts, so it is highlyrecommended to define any terms and concepts your reader may notbe familiar with.

Originality of thoughts

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


If you consider some points important, don’t hesitate to repeatyourself. Use similar expressions or synonyms to express the sameideas differently.

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