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Know Your Paper Types: How We Categorize Assignments in the Writing Center

February 10, 2021

The writing that we do throughout college can take many forms, and sometimes, the terms used to describe these different types of writing can be confusing.  What type of paper is this prompt?  What does my professor mean by a response?  Am I doing this text analysis correctly?  

Let this serve as an introduction to different types of papers and the language we use around them in the writing center.

Argumentative/Persuasive Paper

What it is:  a paper based on your arguable opinion and supported by evidence

Possible topics:

  • A world/national/societal problem
  • Societal/national/legal change (actual or potential)
  • The ethics of a particular world/national/societal circumstance

Text Analysis/Close Reading

What it is:  a paper based on the analysis of specific details in a text (or a few texts) to reach a wider conclusion

Possible topics:

  • A particular theme throughout the text
  • The larger significance of a short section of the text
  • Patterns in the text (in plot, characters, language, etc.)
  • A particular character’s significance, development, characteristics, etc.

Research Paper

What it is:  a paper that explores a topic in-depth with information from many sources

Possible topics: 

  • will vary greatly depending on the class
  • often, a topic covered in class only briefly

Reflective/Response

What it is: a paper or writing assignment that asks you to reflect on the class material (such as a reading, video, activity, guest speaker, the class as a whole, et cetera).

Possible topics:

  • Why it was (or wasn’t) interesting, important, or beneficial
  • How it relates to other class material
  • The strengths/weaknesses of the writer/speaker’s ideas

Senior Thesis

What it is:  the major project that you do during your senior year to implement all you’ve learned in your major

Possible Topics: 

  • will be determined by your major, personal interests, and supervising professor 
  • varies between disciplines

Class Writing Assignment

What it is:  assignments for class that would not be considered papers but still heavily rely on writing

Examples: 

  • Discussion posts
  • Short-answer questions
  • Reading comprehension assignments

 Career-Related

What it is: writing for your job, a job-search, or a graduate school application

Examples:

  • Resume
  • Cover Letter
  • Research or Grant Proposals

Personal Narrative

What it is:  writing about yourself and your personal experiences

Possible topics:

  • A specific story from your life
  • Your personal history
  • Your plans and hopes for the future
  • Someone else and their impact on you

Lab Report

What it is:  a paper that documents your findings in a scientific experiment

Topic:  an experiment performed in class

Other

What it is:  everything that doesn’t fit into one of the previous categories

Examples: 

  • creative writing
  • journalism
  • blogs


Please note, these are not all possible examples of work that may fit into those categories.  They are simply a short list of possible topics to help you have a better understanding of these categories or start brainstorming.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding about the different types of writing that you might do throughout your time at Carthage.  Good luck on your next assignment, whatever it may be!

Writer

Jackie Miller ’22