Step 6 – Writing the Paper
Goal: Writing, revising and finalizing the paper.
Feelings: When your paper is finished, you may feel satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, depending on how you feel about the end product. You’ll probably feel a sense of relief and the strong urge to take a nap—go ahead, you deserve it!
Thoughts and Actions: Follow the steps below to get an idea of things you should be thinking about and doing, and some of the strategies which will help.
Steps to Writing the Paper
Get to know the OWLs – the Online Writing Labs – from universities all over the country. Many colleges have put information online to help both the students enrolled in writing courses and students who have to research and write for other courses. The OWLs’ online handouts cover almost every conceivable aspect of writing, from grammar and punctuation to choosing a title for your paper.
To prepare for writing, go over once more the requirements of the assignment to make sure you focus your writing efforts on what’s expected by your instructor. Consider the purpose of the paper, either as set forth in the assignment, or as stated in your thesis statement—are you trying to persuade, to inform, to evaluate, to summarize?
Who is your audience and how will that affect your paper?
What prior knowledge can you assume the audience has on the topic?
What style and tone of writing are required by the audience and the assignment—informal, scholarly, first-person reporting, dramatized?
Read the linked articles that discuss Audience and tone. Also, look at the articles about the structure and purpose of different kinds of papers—Common Types of Papers and Papers on special subjects—to make sure your writing goals are clear to you.
Try to get a “model” outline for the type of paper you’re writing, or look at examples of good papers to see how they were organized. The Roane State Community College OWL (Henley, 1996) gives an example of an outline for a paper written to describe a problem:
- Statement of the Problem
- Thesis Sentence
- Body: Paragraphs 1 and 2
- History of the Problem (Include, perhaps, past attempts at solutions. Work in sources.)
- Body: Paragraphs 3 and 4
- Extent of the Problem (Who is affected? How bad is it? Work in sources.)
- Body: Paragraphs 5 and 6
- Repercussions of the Problem (Work in sources.)
- Body: Paragraphs 7 and 8
- Future solutions (not necessarily your own. More sources.)
- Summarize your findings
There are a lot more model outlines and instructions for preparing outlines available in books and at the OWLs. See the links under Organizing information for lots of articles on outlining and other ways to organize your paper.
Here’s where the Online Writing Labs excel—there are many dozens of great articles on every aspect of writing your paper. The Links pages have classified these by topic so that you can browse easily and pick out articles you want to read. The entire Links for Writing section will be helpful, and specifically the sections on:
See the section Citing sources on the Links page. There’s also a nice section on using sources in the middle of another article entitled in Writing a General Research Paperfrom the Roane State Community College OWL (Henley, 1996 A). The section, “What Happens When the Sources Seem to be Writing My Paper For Me?” describes how to break up long quotations and how to cite an author multiple times without letting the author take over your paper, and it links to both the MLA and the APA style requirements for partial quotations, full quotations, indented quotations, in-text quotations, and paraphrasing.
Read your paper out loud, to yourself. See if the arguments are coherent, logical and conclusive when read aloud. Have several experienced people read and critique your paper. If your school has a writing lab, use the tutors or helpers there as critics. If your only choice is other students, make sure they’re A students!
See linked articles on Critiques and peer review.
See the “Revision Checklist“ from George Mason University. The checklist asks some general questions to help you step back and take a look at the overall content and structure of the paper, then drills down to paragraphs, sentences and words for a closer examination of the writing style.
Almost all the OWLs have very large sections on grammar, sentence and paragraph structure, writing style, proofreading, revising and common errors. Browse some of the larger OWLs like Purdue University and University of Victoria and see the linked articles on Revising and rewriting.
Congratulations! You made it through all the steps to researching and writing an paper. We hope your instructor agrees!
A+ Research & Writing for high school and college students was created by Kathryn L. Schwartz