First, this guide gives you basic clues to follow in writing all papers. Then it gives you individual sections with step-by-step guidelines for fulfilling specific types of writing assignments. There are also brief, clear guides for using transitions, and revision and editing checklists for reviewing your drafts. If you refer to the suggestions below, to the guidelines for your specific assignment, and to the checklists, you should be able to save time and increase the effectiveness of your writing.
Not all of the following suggestions will apply to all forms of writing. Many of them, however, are basic to almost all types of writing. Go through the list, and take note of those that are appropriate to your particular assignment. Take them into consideration while you are writing your paper.
Basic Clues to Follow in All Paper Writing:
I. Make sure that you understand the specific requirements and limitations of the assignment. Ask your instructor questions if you do not understand, and/or call, write (email@example.com) or visit the Metropolitan State University Writing Center.
II. Prewriting: Make sure you think through your ideas for the paper before you actually start writing. A writing project involves several separate activities: planning, collecting data, drafting the first version, revising, editing, and proofreading. Planning is probably the most important because it will make the others go more smoothly. Set aside some time specifically to plan your document. Here are some things to think about when you plan:
A. Determine the nature of your audience. The people who will read the paper greatly influence the kind of information you present and the way you present it. Whom are you informing? Why are you presenting this information to them? How are they to use the information?
B. Limit your topic so that it is workable. The more specific your topic is, the less information you have to manage. For example, "Free Trade" would be an impossibly broad topic to cover, but "The Economic Effects of Free Trade on the U.S. Clothing Industry" might be workable. Get the purpose of the assignment clearly in mind. As you begin collecting information, state your topic in the form of a question or problem. For example, what effect will free trade have on the clothing industry?
C. Assemble as much information as you can that deals with your limited topic. Be reasonable about this. Obviously, a three-page paper would not require the review of as much information as a research paper would require. Don't get so bogged down in information that you can't write the paper.
D. On the basis of that information, decide on your position. Read over our information, paying attention to pro and con arguments as well as to facts and figures. Then decide what position you want to take or which way you want to approach the information.
E. Decide what form of presentation is most appropriate for the approach you want to take and the nature of your audience. For examples of possible forms, see assignment guidelines.
F. Decide what general subtopics the paper should cover. How many sections should the paper be divided into? What topics should be placed in each section? In what order should the sections be arranged?
III. Writing the first draft. Make sure that you keep in mind the following important points in drafting a paper.
A. After you have decided what approach you want to take, write down a purpose statement. Let your purpose statement help you limit your topic. You must make sure that your position or main idea is completely clear to your reader. The best way to do that is to begin with a purpose statement which does three things.
1. Tells the limits of your topic.
2. Expresses your position or main idea.
3. Gives a reason for that position (or indicates your approach or method of development if there are more reasons than can be listed in one sentence).
Example: "Since the continued economic health of U.S. industry depends on equalizing the international balance of payments, the free trade of ready-to-wear clothing will eventually benefit the U.S. clothing industry."
(1) limits the topic (ready-to-wear clothing, U.S. clothing industry)
(2) expresses a position (will eventually benefit)
(3) gives a reason (Since....balance of payments)
A purpose statement will also help you keep track of where you are going while you are writing the paper. This is especially appropriate in an essay type of paper, but all papers should have a main idea or clear governing concept.
B. After writing a rough draft, organize your paper so that each paragraph deals with a particular aspect of the problem and provides support for your paper's main point. Make sure that each paragraph or section follows logically from the paragraph or section preceding it. Use repetitions of key words and concepts and transition words to emphasize the way sections relate to each other. (See Revision Checklist)
C. Define any terms which are important to your presentation or which your audience might not understand.
D. Keep on track. Each sentence should relate to the topic and purpose of the paragraph it's in. Make sure the reader understands how the points relate to each other.
E. Make sure that your information is correct, and that you can provide proof of its being correct, that statements and figures are quoted accurately, and that you provide citations for all quotations, figures, paraphrases, and reused arguments.