How to write a graduate paper

Write a literature review

In order to get started, it is important to read what others have written about your topic. The best way to do this is to write a literature review. In a literature review, you summarize the different research papers that have been published up until now on the same topic as your paper. The goal of this step is NOT to copy from these sources but rather to gather information and organize it in a logical manner so that you know which points have been researched and how they relate to each other before moving on to your own research. You can either read all of the papers yourself or use an academic source such as Google Scholar [link] [advice for getting started].

Choose a thesis statement from among the points you discussed in your literature review

After you have summarized the ideas and theories of others, it is time to form your paper around one particular thesis which you will argue for. This will be the sentence that sums up your entire argument. For example: “Inflation is a factor in interest rates” or “Expanding social programs lead to higher unemployment”.

Create an outline for writing your thesis statement

Your thesis statement depends on what you want to research and discuss in depth, however there are several things that almost always need to be included (see below). Once you’ve chosen your topic and thesis, create an outline listing each point that should be discussed. When forming this list, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone else who has not read your topic before and would be interested in it. What points would they find most interesting?

Write a rough draft of your paper

Begin by writing out your first draft as quickly as possible without editing yourself or worrying about perfect grammar. In this initial stage you are simply trying to get all of the ideas down on paper, even if they’re jumbled or poorly phrased. Once you have a basic structure established with some content written, go back through and edit what you’ve already written to improve clarity and correctness. This is also a good time to do general research that will allow you to better explain the topics along with adding additional examples where appropriate. When rewriting everything from scratch, remember not to change too much because this can lead to confusion when it comes time to cite your sources.

Cite all sources in phonetic alphabet [link]

This is very important for avoiding plagiarism. phonetic alphabets are different from language to language, but you can use this wikipedia page [link] to see how they work in English. When you’re quoting a source, always include the abbreviation of what type of document it was (e.g., “CQ Researcher”, “IEEE”, etc.) and then put quotation marks around exactly what you want to quote before writing down where you found it (in italics). Then, at the bottom of your paper write each author’s name followed by the title of their book or article and their date of publication. Using this format, any specific pieces of information can be easily cited and checked by the professor should they want to find out more about it.

Summarize your paper in 3-5 sentences

While this step is not necessary for every assignment, many professors would like you to write a summary of your paper in 3-5 sentences so that they can quickly assess if you understood the key points. To save yourself some time when writing this, look at all of the headings in your thesis paragraph outline and see if there’s a way you can summarize each one using only a few words. For example: “Inflation affects interest rates because…” or “Expanding social programs is linked to unemployment because…” [example].


Proofread your paper for errors

This is the last chance to catch any mistakes or poor word choice that may have happened earlier. Once you’ve proofread, your assignment is finished! Congratulations on successfully completing your assignment. If you want to make changes later on, it’s always best to get in touch with the professor who gave it to you ahead of time. Good luck!



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