I’ve been getting many academic writing questions lately. After many, many years of earning nothing but As and a few Bs on academic papers and helping MANY classmates with their writing, I have developed a formula that is extremely useful for many timid writers who fear things such as organization and staying on topic.
Here’s how this goes:
1) Decide on a problem–what you want to solve. Think “scientfic method” if that’s helpful to you. Your hypothesis, that’s your thesis statement. It goes at the end of you first paragraph (intro.);
2) Draft your intro paragraph. You are always answering this question: Why your reader cares about your subject.
3) Ask yourself a bunch of questions. Pretend you are interviewing you. Organize the questions in a natural order. What you want to know 1st, 2nd, etc. (e.g. 1st I want background on the problem–I need to understand it and why it’s a problem; 2nd I want to know what can be done about the problem. What has been tried and failed/has been successful; 3rd I want to know your solution, and why it’s the best one. Give me data and research, etc.);
4) Answer your questions one by one, and work your way to a solution/conclusion. Repeat thesis statement in last paragraph (conclusion).
5) Organize. Read through your questions and answers again. Reorganize if needed. Make sure that your 1st question is really the 1st one you would ask on the subject. Make sure your 2nd question really is the second question you would want to have answered. You may find that question number 4 is a better 2nd question to ask, so reorganize if needed; and,
6) Edit. Delete the questions and create transitional phrases to improve flow. Edit for grammar, spelling and citing sources. Ask for help with editing if you’re concerned. This isn’t cheating, especially if you use the expereince to learn–work in a tutoring session to help you learn how to self-edit a little better.
If you follow this formula, your chances of earning at least a B are quite good.