Crafting Your Paper

Declaration of IndependenceIn a world of instantaneous text messaging and casual, unpolished communication, most students struggle just to get their papers written and have little time for anything but the bare essentials.

Taking time to craft your paper, so it is thought, is superfluous. But there is, in fact, an unbreakable connection between what we say and how we say it—a connection that is felt by our readers. Would The Declaration of Independence have had the same impact if Thomas Jefferson had hastily written, “All of us think it’s pretty obvious that everybody’s basically the same,” instead of his more measured and profound words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”? If we care about our thoughts or the impressions they make on our readers, then we must give some thought to how we put our ideas on paper.

Considering the Reader

Successful writing requires the writer to think about the reader and to tailor the written product to the reader’s needs and limitations. The reader cannot be expected to know your thoughts intuitively or to agree with your opinions naturally. You must make your ideas clear, easy to follow, and difficult to misunderstand. More than this, you should seek to be persuasive, demonstrating that your opinion is not arbitrary but rational, coherent, and sensible. To do this well requires that you lay out your ideas and your reasons for those ideas in a format that is natural and accessible to your reader.

Specific Audiences

Who will be reading your paper?  What do they expect? In an academic setting, your paper may be read only by your professor, and the assignment description as well as the professor’s approach to material in class and on the syllabus provide clues as to how he would approach your topic and what he might be expecting of you. Because the professor is grading your paper, he will usually expect you to summarize the basics of a topic, even if he knows these basics well.

Perhaps you are writing a sermon or the sort of researched essay that could be published in an academic journal. Just as we adjust our conversations to what we know about our conversation partners, becoming familiar with how your audience approaches the topic you are writing on, and what their expectations, questions, and interests are, will help you adjust your essay’s structure, language, and content in order make your writing as effective as possible.

Organizing Your Paper

Perhaps the most important stylistic decision you must make when writing is deciding how to organize your work. Second to the actual content of your thesis, the organization of your paper has the most effect on how your reader receives and understands your thoughts.

It is taken for granted here that most written works will require some sort of introduction and conclusion. But because these are relatively simple compared to the body of an academic paper, we will deal first with the most difficult portion of a paper to write: the body.


In this section:

The Body of Your Paper

Writing Your Introduction

Crafting Your Paragraphs

Writing Your Conclusion

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