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Carolyn Jacobson's Suggestions for Paper Writing

Some Suggestions about Writing Your First Paper


Carolyn Jacobson


  • Title
      Make sure your title isn't the same as the essay you're writing about. Complete-sentence titles are best avoided. Your title should tell the reader something specific about your topic and the direction you will take.
  • First Paragraph
    • Does it grab your reader?
    • Is your thesis clear by the end of the introduction?
    • Have you explained the relevance of your thesis?
    • Does your reader know what essay(s) you are writing about?
    • Make sure you're not alienating your reader in any way.
    • Make sure you don't repeat yourself.
    • Do your ideas and sentences lead into one another?
    • Make sure it sounds like an introduction.
  • Body
    • Don't feel that the body of your paper must have three paragraphs. Let the material you have determine the number of paragraphs you have. Avoid paraphrasing. Assume that the imagined reader of this paper has done all the reading for the class and has been present for all of the discussions.
    • Always use "literary present tense" when writing about the action in a work of literature.
    • Make sure you explain the relevance of quotes you include to your reader. Imagine a lazy reader. Make everything as clear as possible.
    • Format dashes properly--like this--in your paper.
    • Do you vary your sentence length?
    • Remember that a semicolon divides two complete sentences, while a colon either divides a complete sentence and a sentence fragment, or divides a sentence and a quote.
  • Last Paragraph
    • Make sure this isn't just a restatement of your first paragraph! If you are stuck for a final paragraph, here are some things to think about. Has your paper developed ideas in any way so that you have more to say at the end? What are the implications of your thesis? Why is your paper important? If you haven't been writing about the effect of your thesis on a reader so far, the last paragraph might be a great place to do it. Can you take a step back and look at your thesis in a broader context? Make sure it sounds like a conclusion.
  • Things to Avoid
    • The word "utilize"
    • Overly long and convoluted sentences
    • Words you are not familiar with
    • Overuse of the verb "to be"
  • When You Are Done Writing
    • Spell-check.
    • Look for the kinds of mistakes you know you make.
    • Make sure you've punctuated your quotes properly.
    • See how often you use the verb "to be," and try to weed some of them out.
    • Reread and edit.
    • Reading out loud might help you catch some problems you might otherwise miss.
    • Make sure there are page numbers on your paper (hand-print them if necessary).
    • Proofread.
    • Proofread again.
    • Print it, and make sure to bring THREE copies of your paper to class on Friday.