People struggle to write good academic papers in college. The writing skills obtained in high school differ from the writing skills you will need to write a strong college essay. Many people fail to realize this fact and do not understand the fundamentals of writing an academic paper.
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You will be writing either a topic or a research paper in college. If you are writing a topic paper you will be provided a topic based on your class readings or discussions. To write these papers you need to focus on the materials provided in class. Research papers in contrast ask you to come up with your own topic and provide secondary sources to back up your arguments.
No matter what type of paper you are writing you need to make use of your course material. The purpose of writing an academic paper is for you to make use of the knowledge you gained through the course. If your bibliography or works cited page does not cite course material chances are your paper is not relevant to the course.
Create a Strong Thesis Statement
Your introductory paragraph should include your main argument or thesis statement. Your thesis should be constructed after you have read all of the relevant material and have formed an opinion about what you have read. An effective thesis statement is clear, concise, and debatable.
The rest of your supporting arguments should be drawn from your course materials to show off your understanding of the concepts and ideas covered throughout your course.
Think of your thesis statements like your opening argument in a trial and your professor as the judge when writing. Your course and research materials become the evidence you use to prove your case. Be sure to add quotes that back up your argument as well as quotes that contradict them. You will want to explain why other people's ideas wrong-headed.
Introductions set the stage for your paper. The topic you discuss and the arguments you make within your academic paper should be shared in the introduction. You will want to start off with a general idea that is specific to your subject matter. After which you will connect these general ideas to your specific topic.
Do not make your introductory sentence too general. Your introductory sentence is too general if you can substitute the subject with countless other subjects and the sentence still holds true.
For example, a bad introductory sentence would look like:
The Three Stooges were comic geniuses.
A good introductory sentence would be general but more specific.
The Three Stooges expressed their comic genius through slapstick comedy.
The first sentence is too general and could be replaced easily by a number of comic groups. The second is more specific to the topic being discussed. From there you can discuss slapstick comedy and how the Three Stooges used it in their act. When writing your introduction you will want to develop a good flow of ideas that will lead to your thesis.
When writing a conclusion you want to communicate the importance of your argument. You want to point to the conclusions that your paper suggests and broadly discuss the arguments you made.
When you use other people's research and ideas in your paper it is important that you give them credit. Failing to cite someone else's work shows academic dishonesty and can get you into a lot of trouble.
Providing citations shows your readers that you have integrity and have taken the time to research your paper and make a thought out argument.
Usually, your professor will ask you to cite your sources in a specific style. These styles include the Modern Language Association (MLA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and Chicago.
Courses in Education, Science, and Psychology usually employ the APA guide. The Humanities typically use the MLA style while Business, Fine Arts and History courses rely on the Chicago style. Though some professors will deviate from this list.
When citing sources it is important to include the pages of any secondary source used. This shows your professor that you actually read the book that you are quoting or paraphrasing from.
If you use any statistics, quotes, or ideas expressed by other authors you must cite them. It is important to cite the works used both in the text and on the bibliography page. If you fail to do this then you will be guilty of plagiarism.