Formulating and Conveying the Substance of Your Ideas

Before you write

1)  The basis for good written papers is attentive reading and making notes of the main points of what you read. 

2) Don't settle on a quick and simple answer without exploring for more thoughtful and meaningful possibilities. 

3) When you are ready to write, sketch an outline before you begin.

4) Know what you want to say before you begin writing, but be willing to modify your plans, if you find that in writing you have new ideas.

5) Give yourself enough time so you're not stuck handing in a poor paper because you had no time for a second try.

6) Clear writing requires clear ideas. Make sure you know your own ideas clearly before you write, and keep checking that you're expressing them simply and clearly.

Organization as you write

7) Read the assignment sheet carefully, and as you write, check that you are recalling it accurately.

8) Decide what points you want to make, link them in an organized argument, and check each sentence to be sure that your words convey the point you want to make clearly and simply.

9) Write for clarity; don't try to sound profound by employing ornate diction.

10) Unless you feel very confident about your writing style, follow these general rules of organization: Begin your paper with a "thesis statement," which summarizes in a sentence or two what your main point will be. Construct you paper in the form of an argument that attempts to "prove" (to a greater or lesser degree) the accuracy of your thesis statement, each paragraph representing a step in that argument.

11) Be sure that individual paragraphs discuss a unified idea. Check to see that the first and last sentences of each paragraph relate clearly to one another. Make sure your sequence of paragraphs makes sense check carefully to make sure you're not jumping from idea to idea.

12) Remember that your reader will not know what thoughts are going on in your head as you write. Read your paragraphs critically to see whether you have made your ideas clear. It's up to you to convey your ideas clearly; it's not up to your reader to figure out what you might mean.

13) When you make a claim that is central to your discussion, cite evidence that will back you up, even if you think your reader already knows the evidence. Make sure your references are accurate, that the evidence is really where you think it is, and that you've provided the precise page.

14) Quoted citations should be brief, but adequate to make your point. Do not cite long passages in full, but for any but the simplest passages, be sure to indicate in a phrase or two how your citation bears out your point.  Always cite precisely the words in the text, using quote marks or indentations, and indicating page or passage number.

15) If you cite or even paraphrase closely any language that is not your own, be absolutely sure to note that you are quoting someone else's work. Not to do so is considered a form of plagiarism, a serious offence that can lead to an automatic course grade of F. See the Policy on Academic Dishonesty.

After you're done

16) Re-read your papers carefully before handing them in.