10 STEPS ON HOW TO WRITE AN “A” PAPER
BY: KRISTOPHER CRAWFORD-DICKINSON
STEP ONE: Follow Directions: Always, always, always follow the
directions you are given. Part of the assignment is to see if students can follow directions. Also note that the directions outline the minimal expectations of the paper. If you do not follow the directions, you are throwing away easy marks. For example, if you are asked to give 10 sources, give at least 10 sources. Even better, give two or three
more – it shows initiative (always looks good).
STEP TWO: “Nail” Introduction: One of the most important
aspects of a paper is to make a good first impression. TA‟s
and Professors only have a limited amount of marking time. Therefore, if the introduction is “nailed”, it will start you off on the right footing. Incidentally, a “nailed”
introduction also helps ensure that you paper is well organized.
A good introduction will have a clear and concise thesis that informs the reader what you are writing about and why you are writing about it.
“Nail” Conclusion: One of the most important aspects of a paper is to leave a lasting good impression. Again, TA‟s
and Professors only have a limited amount of marking time. Therefore, if the conclusion is “nailed”, it will leave
the TA/Professor with a “good feeling” when deciding what the grade should be.
A good conclusion will summarize the main points of the paper. It will also try to leave the TA/Professor with some “food for thought”.
In the final analysis, it is ironic that the current symbol of justice is a blindfolded woman holding scales. The symbol is to denote fair and equal justice for justice is to be truly blind and equitable when being delivered. This, however, is obviously not the case
for female tort victims. The compensation level for their loss of future earning capacity is predicated on a highly gendered construction of equality that is fundamentally rooted in both a patriarchal society and an artificial public-private division and has resulted in a clear compensatory gap between the sexes. If this situation is not corrected by using the legal means identified above, then perhaps the symbol of justice needs to be changed to a man that is winking one eye at the scales while holding a finger to his smiling mouth in the „shush‟ pose to reflect the true nature of justice since the current compensatory gap between male and female tort victims is not blind, equitable nor fundamentally just.
Note: If you “nail” your introduction and conclusion,
chances are you will end up with a higher mark (i.e. as long as the body is average, you will likely been given the “benefit of the doubt” on your mark).
STEP THREE: Treat Paper As An “Hourglass”: Treat the paper as if it is
an hourglass when you are writing it. Your introduction should start off broad and be narrowed down to your thesis, which should be the last sentence of your first paragraph (represents top of the hourglass). Your second paragraph should then state how the paper is going to be organized.
Then, move into the body of the paper (represents the area where the sand passes through). This is considered the narrow part of the paper because your points of argument are being focused on your thesis.
Your conclusion should start off narrow and then broaden out (represents the bottom of the hourglass). It starts off narrow because you are summarizing your arguments from your body. It then broadens out as you leave the reader with some “food for thought”.
STEP FOUR: Use Subheadings: Always, always, always use sub-
headings in your paper. They help to organize your thoughts. Further, each sub-heading can be treated as a mini essay itself with its own introduction, middle and conclusion. By using subheadings, you ensure that your thoughts remain on topic within a certain limited area (i.e. if you are talking about “A” under a subheading and then
somehow “B” gets mixed in then you know that you are getting off track and need to reorganize).
Subheadings make research easier. It is easier to organize your research around subheadings (i.e. place them in piles according to the subheadings) then to have one big pile of research. By organizing this way, you only have to look at the sources that deal with the particular subheading you are writing about rather than trying to pick through the entire pile of research.
Subheadings also make the paper easier to
write. Since it is organized, you will have an easier time of writing the paper. Further, if you do find that you have writers block, you can put the points of argument under each subheading and then organize it later.
STEP FIVE: Beginning to Write the Paper – Use Point
Form: Writing a paper can be a daunting task for many students. Often, they find that they have several great ideas that come to them all at once and therefore have difficultly trying to get all of these ideas on paper. To combat this, write any and all ideas in point form under the appropriate subheadings. Do not worry about writing in complete sentences, organization, spelling or grammar. Get the idea out and on paper.
Once all of the ideas are on paper. Leave it for a while, if possible. In doing so, you will ensure that you are not too tied up in your paper. This also avoids the problem of staring at a blank computer screen.
After some time, come back to your paper and
organize your points into a logical sequence. Leave the paper again, if possible.
After some time, come back to your paper and begin to write your points into sentence and paragraph forms.
STEP SIX: Writing the Paper – Use Short Sentences: You
should try and write in short, concise sentences. It makes it easier to read. Further, your ideas will not get lost if the sentences are short.
STEP SEVEN: Writing the Paper – Use Short Paragraphs – The
“Hamburger” Method: Writing a paragraph is like
making a good juicy hamburger. When writing a paragraph,
you should try and keep it as short as possible (minimum of
4 sentences and a maximum of seven sentences). It is
difficult to read long paragraphs and the idea can be lost
within the paragraph if it is too long or becomes
disorganized. Remember, a paragraph should be organized
along a single though/point of argument. By following this
simple recipe, you will ensure a good grade:
The recipe is as follows:
Top Bun - Say what you are going to
say (1 sentence)
Condiments - Say what you say (1
Meat - Prove what you say (1 – 4
Bottom Bun - Say what you said (1
STEP EIGHT: Finishing Paper – After Writing Paper, Leave It For 1
Day: After you have completed writing your paper, leave
it for 1 day. Set it completely aside and do something else
(preferably something you enjoy doing). Then, come back
to the paper and reread it to make sure that the paper
sounds proper and you are happy with it.
STEP NINE: Completing Paper – Endnotes/Bibliography/Proof
Read: If you are happy with your paper, begin the final
process of completing the paper. First, make sure you
footnotes are formatted correctly (refer to citation guide if
need be). Second, make sure your bibliography is properly
formatted (again refer to citation guide if need be). Finally,
have your work proof read by someone else to make sure
all spelling and grammatical errors are corrected. If you do
not have anybody else to proof read your work, read it
aloud to see if it sounds right. If it does not sound right to
you then there is probably a problem.
Note: When writing a paper, I prefer to use footnotes
rather than the bracket method because it makes doing the
bibliography easier. I have found that you can cut and
paste your footnotes into a bibliographical form. After
doing this, all you need to do is switch the authors‟ names
(i.e. place the last name first) and place the sources in
alphabetical order. This saves typing out the bibliography.
STEP TEN: Start Early: When writing a paper, start early. Do not
leave it until the last minute. Most TA‟s and Professors can
tell who left their paper until the last minute. Further, by
starting early, it provide you with the opportunity to seek
help if you need it and wrinkle out any problems well
before the paper is actually due.
Note: The above method of writing a paper is just one method. It is, however, the method that I use and I find that it is quite useful. Further, the students in which I have taught this method have also found that it is quite useful. This, however, does not mean that everyone will find it useful. Writing a paper can be difficult and everyone has his or her own way. Above all, you should choose your own way of writing a paper. If, however, your method is not working, then feel free to try this method.
Note: Always, always, always remember that when in doubt, ask for help.