Katie DaRin: Hi! My name is Katie DaRin with SMARTHINKING.com and today we are talking about how write a better college paper. In this next section we are going to talk about choosing a genre, topic, and scope.
When choosing a genre, topic, and scope, it's important to read the assignment description carefully and look for key words in the assignment description to help determine the genre. Make sure that you are achieving the purpose of the assignment. It's difficult to choose a topic. A good way to help you decide is to organize your thoughts beforehand. There are two common brainstorming methods - a concept map and free writing.
In a concept map you will start with the main topic including sub topics to organize your thoughts.
Free writing is a way to just lay out everything you know beforehand and what you still need to achieve.
Once you've brainstormed, you'll have all the information in front of you and it will be easier to decide. Brainstorming will help you decide if you know enough about the topic or if you know how to tackle research in it. Once you develop the topic, you have to develop the claim which is the thesis. It's important to make your thesis first, so you know what your essay is trying to prove and accomplish.
Coming up next we are going to talk about research outlines and writing a thesis.
The above essay is actually a meta-essay, in that it is written in the precise form that it describes. The key to writing such an essay is planning. How does one plan such a well-structured essay?
First: one gather information. As you read about a topic, you should be trying to structure the information in roughly three broad points that will become the support for your argument. You should be able to express each of these broad points in a short sentence. Each point or line of evidence should be distinct from one another.
Second: form the thesis statement out of the broad points identified during your reading. Each of the points should be represented briefly in the thesis statement, and will then serve to structure the essay in paragraphs.
Third, write the opening paragraph. Keep in mind that the goal of the first paragraph is to gently lead the reader to the thesis statement. By the time they reach the last sentence of the introductory paragraph, they should have all the contextual information they need to understand the thesis.
Fourth, write each supporting paragraph separately. Make each of the points you highlighted in the thesis statement into a topic sentence, followed by information that relates back to that topic. Do not include more than one topic in a paragraph. At this point, do not worry about transitioning between paragraphs.
Fifth, write the concluding paragraph. Paraphrase your thesis sentence — more or less — for the opening sentence, then broaden the scope. Link everything to the main topic and try to leave the reader with something important: perhaps about the impact the topic might have, implications of your argument, or the like. You have some freedom here. Be creative and critical, but always relevant.
Finally, read everything together. You might wait a day or so before between the previous step and this final step. This is your chance to tweak the writing and smooth over any awkward phrases. Add some transitions between the body paragraphs if needed. Look for basic errors like incomplete sentences, copy-paste issues, and the like.
If you followed the steps above you should now have a well-structured essay that makes your ideas transparent to whoever may read it. If you are a student hoping for a good mark, here’s a secret from cognitive science: fluency effects mean that your easy-to-read essay looks better to your marker than an hard-to-read essay with ideas of the same quality. With a bit of planning, you can take advantage of your marker’s cognitive biases, and have them thank you for it.