Need a quick refresher on academic writing? These 10 tips might help!

1. What’s the difference between a research and a persuasive paper?

In a research paper, you are choosing a question and then laying out the research to answer that question. In a persuasive paper, you are choosing a stance on a controversial topic and then presenting research and arguments that support your stance to persuade your reader. Both require fact-based research.

2. What’s a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is (usually) a single sentence that states the purpose of a paper. Think of a thesis statement as a road map; it should serve as a guide for you and your reader regarding what the paper will be about. In a research paper, it answers your research question. In a persuasive paper, it lays out a stance on a topic that you will then go on to support. In order for a thesis to be effective, it must be more than a statement of fact; it must be a statement that can be argued both for and against.

3. How do I structure my arguments?

Most papers will have an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement at the end. This is followed by several paragraphs of arguments supporting your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that summarizes a concise point and then present supporting arguments and sources.

4. How do I write an introduction/conclusion?

An introduction should ignite reader interest, provide context for the topic at hand, and lay out your position in a thesis statement. A conclusion should summarize your arguments and reiterate for the reader why the thesis matters. Focusing on the a topic that is interesting or engaging to you personally is a good place to start.

5. How do I cite sources within my paper?

Whenever you pull information from another source to use in your paper, you need to cite it with an in-text citation. The exact information included varies by citation style, for instance; MLA requires author and page number while APA requires author and year of publication. Citation formatting varies by the type of source (newspaper, book, interview, etc.). Specific details on in-text citations styles for different kinds of sources can be found through OWL Purdue.

6. How do I create a works cited page?

A works cited page or bibliography is a listing of all sources used within an academic paper that is included at the end of the paper. Its purpose is to assist a reader to access your research as well. The formatting of works cited/bibliography pages varies by citation style (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.) but bibliographies must always list all sources referenced in the paper. Some people format their works cited as they compose the paper, while others gather all their sources in a separate document and format them correctly at the end.

7. What’s the difference between MLA and APA?

MLA (“Modern Language Association”) citations are used in papers written for the humanities, such as English, literature, or cultural studies. APA (“American Psychological Association”) citations are used in social sciences, including economics, psychology, business, and nursing. APA citations include year published because research in many fields that use APA citations is fast-moving, and information quickly becomes out-of-date. Other citations styles include Chicago (general research) and AP (journalism).

8. Can I use “I” in my papers? What about “you”?

Academic writing, unless otherwise specified, should be written in the third person. This means that your writing should not directly reference you, the writer (“I believe” “When I had this experience”) and also should not directly reference the reader (“What would you do if” “You might think that”). It is important to make no assumptions about the reader of your paper.

9. Is my grammar ok?

A good way to check grammar is to read your sentences out loud! Sentences may be phrased incorrectly or include other errors in the rush of drafting. Purdue OWL offers assistance with grammar questions.

10. How can I get more help with academic writing?

Participating in a writing consultation at the Writing Center is the best way to get help at any stage of the writing process or to learn more about these tips.