Table of Contents
Develop a Thesis
Work from Your Sources
through your sources and take notes. Be sure to write down the
full bibliographic record for every source you use, along with
the page numbers of helpful quotes you might eventually cite in
your paper. As you become familiar with your general topic, notice
what aspects of it interest you the most. Let those aspects play
in your imagination as you continue to read; it is out of these
that your thesis will emerge.
Develop Your Thesis
your paper is simply descriptive, it should be driven by a thesis
statement. A thesis is literally something you "put out there,"
a one-sentence statement that claims something to be true.
It is like a conclusion, but it is a preliminary one; you state
it at the outset of your paper and then see if you can marshal
the evidence to support it throughout your paper. After doing
all of the research you have done, what is it that you want the
readers to know?
A Helpful Resource
Chuck Guilford has developed an online aid to paper writing at
Writing Assistant. Since he takes you through the steps
of writing various kinds of essays, his site is a helpful supplement
to this one.
Outline Your Argument
Establish Major Points
that you have a thesis, your goal is to demonstrate it in the
body of your paper. What evidence can you bring to bear from your
reading and research? Once you have listed the things you might
say, organize them. The organization might be:
strongest to weakest argument
on the characteristic features or outlines discussed in class
(e.g., apocalyptic features when examining a contemporary
paper should be entirely governed by your thesis. Select quotations
from sources only if they illustrate the point you are making
in the paragraph. Introduce the citation in your own words, indicating
its relevance for your own paragraph. After the citation, be sure
to suggest what is significant about it for your argument. The
format for quoting sources in your paper is offered at the Style
a scripture and tradition course, it is expected that you will
quote from the Bible or the Qur'an frequently. Since these references
occur so often, they (alone) do not need to be footnoted, but
can be abbreviated and placed in parentheses at the end of the
relevant phrase. For further instructions about citing scripture,
see the Style
following definition of plagiarism is taken from the MLA Handbook
for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations
(New York: MLA, 1977) 4-5:
may take the form of repeating another's sentences as your
own, adopting a particularly apt phrase as your own, paraphrasing
someone else's argument as your own, or even presenting
someone else's line of thinking in the development of a
thesis as though it were your own. In short, to plagiarise
is to give the impression that you have written or thought
something that you have in fact borrowed from another. Although
a writer may use other person's words and thoughts, they
must be acknowledged as such. The following passage appears
in Volume 1 of the Literary History of the United States:
major concerns of Dickinson's poetry early and late, her
"Flood subjects" may be defined as the seasons and nature,
death and a problematic afterlife, the kinds and phases
of love, and poetry as the divine art.
following, given without documentation, constitutes plagiarism:
The chief subjects of Emily Dickinson's poetry include nature
and the season, death and the afterlife, the various types
and stages of love and poetry itself as a divine art.
one may write the following with an accompanying note:
has been suggested that the chief subjects of Emily Dickinson's
poetry include nature, death, love, and poetry as a divine
William M. Gibson and Stanley T. Williams, "Experiments
in Poetry: Emily Dickinson and Sidney Lanier," in Literary
History of the United States, 4th ed. (ed. Robert E. Spiller
et al.; New York: Macmillan, 1974) 1,906.
you are in any doubt concerning plagiarism, you should always
cite the source or sources you are following.
above description was adapted from "Avoiding Plagiarism," Teaching
& Learning Unit, English Department, Leicester University
(27 September 1999), Online, Available http://www.le.ac.uk/tlu/tanplagiarism.html,
16 November 2002. Further resources are available at the
University Writing Center.
Write the First Draft
the points of your outline into independent paragraphs. There
are two stages, essentially, to the writing process: the "macro
level" and the "micro level."
The Macro Level
is the broad, structural level of your paper. As you draft your
paper, you want to be sure that you write:
introductory paragraph that introduces your subject and the
thesis or idea you will develop, with some indication of how
you will develop it
in the body of the paper that
- begin with a sentence that transitions from the prior
paragraph smoothly and introduces the topic of the paragraph,
- contain subject matter and examples that all
relate to and develop that topic, and
- conclude with a sentence that summarizes the evidence
or information in that paragraph.
concluding paragraph that summarizes your thesis, your findings,
and a sense of whether your thesis has changed in the process
of researching your topic.
The Micro Level
is the level of word choice (diction) and sentence structure (grammar
and syntax). There are some tips available at the Style Sheet
link above to help you avoid the most common errors (see Language,
Grammar & Style). You can also ask others to read your
paper to see if they understand what you are saying. Be sure to
take advantage of the Drop-in Writing Program offered through
Center (Academic Advising and Learning Resources) if writing
is difficult for you.
professor or employer will have their own directions for formatting
the paper properly (margins, type-face, pagination, notes, bibliography).
For this class, follow the formatting directions at the Style
Sheet link above in this web site.
you are working with a word processor, do not rely on your hard
drive. Back your work up frequently on a (good) disk in case your
computer crashes on you.
Solicit Feedback & Incorporate Corrections
your word-processor to perform a spell-check on your paper. Finish
your draft in time to ask a friend, a tutor or the professor to
read it and provide feedback. Ask them particularly for help with
your style (diction, grammar, syntax) and argument (does the paper
do what it says it will, or prove what it says it will prove?).
your corrections to your paper. Back it up frequently. Upload a copy to the Camino drop box by the due date.