UNITED STATES—Writing an academic paper is no easy feat. Being someone who has already attained his undergraduate degree in the field of English leaves plenty asking me time and time again, how I’m able to craft a paper with such ease. Well, while it might seem easy for me, it’s not as easy as you think. Even though I write for a living, I have trouble with the initial start of an academic paper, because the ideas don’t just explode from my head!
It’s all about having a clear argument. That is where any paper begins America, you have to know what you want to write about and it needs to be CLEAR. That is the most difficult thing I’ve seen with most people. They had some ideas, but they are so jumbled or unclear, the writer is not really centralizing their argument to a clear direction that won’t confuse the reader.
Research, research, research! Any good paper requires research, especially when we’re talking about pure academia. Rarely, will one get the opportunity to just write a paper and go on a rant and say whatever he or she wants to say without having to worry about rather this or that can be construed as opinion or fact. Trust me, I can’t recall the last time I was given the opportunity to write a paper that was not purely based on fact and research. Oh, now I recall, it’s this column that allows me to write freely.
To me, the introduction is the most difficult component of any academic paper. I’d make the argument that once you have that introduction nailed or partially nailed, you have an idea of what you plan to write about which makes it that much easier to formulate the rest of your paper. Why? It’s all about proving or disproving your hypothesis or argument. That central argument will clue your reader as to where your paper is headed. Finding reliable and accurate information to back up your claims will be important, hence the importance of your school’s library or scholarly resources. Yes, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m not a fanatic of combing through pages and pages of research material, but the more you do it the easier it becomes to shift through the important stuff and the not so important stuff in my personal opinion people.
Ask your professor or a friend to proof read your piece. While things might seem clear to you that is not always the case to your reader. Something that sounds ok to you might sound off or unclear to them. Getting another person’s feedback on your paper helps hone in on things that need to be fixed or tweaked to make your argument stronger and clear to the reader. Remember, a strong academic paper can prove to be a highlight in your educational career. I mean whenever, I get a paper returned to me from a professor I’m always nervous, but when you get those rare moments where the teacher whispers to you while handing you your paper it can be a good or bad thing; in my case it was always a good thing.
Proofread, proofread, proofread! This is the one thing that I spot over and over again with people when it comes to writing an academic paper. Take a moment to review your work and catch errors that you may have missed in the first or second read through. Do not use filler words or vocabulary that will cause unnecessary text to slow down the flow of the paper. If after at least 3 read-throughs of the paper and you feel satisfied with the format and the paper, then the paper is complete. I am a fan of keeping copies of all scholarly papers that I complete as a resource that I can go back to and use it time and time again as a reference when I work on future academic papers.
My last rule of thumb is to NEVER wait till the last minute to begin working on a paper, especially if it’s a paper that is substantive in length. A 4-page paper and a 10-page paper is a big difference. Start working on your paper when you can and you will not deal with the excessive stress and pressure to get that paper completed before the deadline approaches.