Tips for Writing Papers
The key to writing a successful paper for any publication is to establish a theme and focus the content of the paper on that theme by exploring it, embellishing it, analyzing it, refuting it, supporting it, taking a position on it, etc. In other words: make it your own. The paper has to bring the reader to an obvious conclusion based on how well you have made your points.
For the World Standards Day Paper Competition, the basic theme is already provided so part of the job is done. Given the theme, then, the rest of the work begins and the following steps may be helpful as you set out to write a winning paper.
These steps provide a broad outline for a process to follow when starting to write a paper.
1. Develop a thesis statement: Your thesis is the point you hope to make in your paper and all sections of your paper point toward the specified theme in some way.
The thesis statement must clearly set out for the reader how the paper will treat the theme. Readers need to be brought into your paper right from the beginning so a well-stated - even provocative - thesis can set the stage for interesting engagement. Determine what interests you about the assigned theme. Is it an area of vital importance to you, or your work? Do you have specific expertise in the area? Have you written about it in some form before? Do you feel strongly about the topic and if so, decide what is most important to you and what you’d like to communicate to the reader. It can be helpful to first develop up to three essential points you’d like the reader to ‘get’ and accept. Form the thesis around those points. Conclusions should be inevitable from the points you have made and should refer back to your thesis.
2. Research your subject: Once you’ve formulated your thesis, gather supporting information before you begin to write.
Research can be in the form of written material, documentaries, videos, and verbal exchanges as long as you can document them. A conversation with a recognized expert in a field that relates to the topic and your thesis is perfectly acceptable as long as you credit the individual. It is helpful to also gather information that you don’t agree with and then use that as a counter-argument to one of your main points. There’s no harm in using quotes as long as they are not the bulk of the writing or are distracting. Judiciously placed quotations can be a great way to show that your thesis is supported by world-class experts!
3. Create an outline: Organizing thoughts on paper presents challenges in word choice, sentence structure, and overall paper structure.
An outline makes writing easier by establishing sections into which you will put your ideas and enables you to see at a glance if your planned paper is well-organized and consistently supports your theme.Use the outline to ensure that you are building up to a conclusion. The element of suspense is part of many great writings, but you have to plan for the big punch line and outlines can really help to achieve the desired response.
4. Start writing: There’s no sure fire trick to starting the writing process but since you’ve already tackled the outline, you are probably as ready as you are going to be. Jump in! Write steadily or stop and go. Whatever works for you. If nothing is working that may be a sign that you have not yet picked the right thesis for you or you have not zeroed in on the main points you want to communicate. If you have to, go back. Just don’t give up!
5. Edit and get feedback: Mistakes happen on the printed page.
Reread your paper. Read it out loud to yourself. Ask someone who is knowledgeable of the paper topic, or whose skills with the English language you respect, to review your paper and provide feedback. Listen with an open mind and make necessary changes. A good review can also result in rearrangement of the content in order to make your paper more effective. Remember: you are aiming to catch the reader’s undivided attention so removing distractions such as spelling and grammatical errors, thematic inconsistencies or poorly placed information helps ensure that your material flows smoothly from the theme, through thesis to conclusion.
6. Submit the final draft: Submit your paper by the deadline. Double check to be sure you’ve followed all the rules and have gathered all required components (cover letter, registration form, graphics supplied as required, etc.).
Other Helpful Tips:
Follow the rules: Be aware of all contest rules or the editorial guidelines of whatever publication you are writing for. This includes page or word count, whether or not graphics are permitted or required, the formatting of those graphics, the formatting of the paper itself, etc.
Theme, Theme, Theme: Papers that have not addressed the theme in an appropriate and effective manner will not be considered. Make sure that the theme is the central focus of the paper and all additional arguments, graphs, pictures, etc. are used in supporting the theme.
Check spelling and grammar: Use spell check but don’t rely on it alone. Have someone whose skills with written English you respect read over your paper to point out any inadvertent errors.
Cite your sources: Use quote marks around all quoted material and footnotes to cite this material. If you use an idea or statistics from another source, without quote marks, cite that too. Even if you quote yourself from a previously published paper word-for-word, cite that as well. Use the rules of the competition as a guideline for creating a bibliography or reference section. What are the requirements, if any, of the competition or publication you are writing for in regard to citing sources?
Use a style guide or manual: These guides or manuals are a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. The implementation of a style guide provides uniformity in style and formatting of a document. Two popular guides are The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style.