You’ve got the assignment. You know your topic.
Now you’ve just got to translate your thoughts into a well-written five-paragraph paper.
If you’ve ever tried to read an unorganized paper or essay, you realize how important maintaining structure is.
Often, your paper will be broken into five paragraphs or sections. This structure includes the introduction, three main points and a conclusion. Brian Wasko from The Write at Home blog describes the structure as,
“Well-structured papers take the time to creatively introduce the subject matter, present the content in a clear and logical order and conclude by reinforcing the main idea and providing a sense of closure.”
Here, we share five tips to help you organize your thoughts and create a strong and compelling paper.
1) BEGIN WITH AN OUTLINE
In an effort to stay organized throughout the writing process, you need to start organized. First, you’ll need to establish a structure—whether broad or in-depth—where you plan out where you’re going to take your reader as they journey through your paper.
This outline may need to come after you do some research on your topic. You can also choose to write a detailed and long outline that includes all your sources and supporting points. Or, you can choose to keep it as a broad overview that will help to guide you as you write. Whichever way you choose, be sure to start out organized by creating an outline.
2) INTRODUCTION: ENGAGE YOUR READER
The introduction of your paper is one of the most important parts you’ll write. That said, this may not be the paragraph you start writing right away. Often, it can be easier to write the introduction to the rest of the main points and conclusion last or later on, as you get a better feel for the content of your paper.
Why is the introduction so important? It’s the hook that makes the reader interested in wanting to read more of what you write. The introduction sets the tone for the rest of the paper, including what your position as writer is, what it is you are trying to communicate and in what way it will be communicated.
Begin your introduction with a sentence or two that really intrigues the reader. This opening can take the form of a story, a surprising fact or other attention-grabbing statement. For example, if you were writing a paper about how animals can be used for therapy, you might open with an anecdote of a news story of how a dog saved a person’s life.
Next, in the introduction, you want to prepare the reader for what he or she can expect from reading the paper. You want to set the context and connect your hook to your thesis sentence.
The thesis statement is the sentence that will guide the rest of the paper. This sentence should highlight the topic, the opinion that you’ll present in the paper and briefly address each main point you’ll cover in the following paragraphs.
With a solid set-up from the introduction, the reader is well-equipped to move into the rest into the paper.
3) BODY OF THE PAPER: EXPLORE EACH MAIN POINT
Once you’ve set the stage, it’s time to share each of your main points that contribute to your thesis statement. While it’s most common to have three main points (such as in a five-paragraph structure), there may be flexibility with your professor in the assignment requirements. Check the assignment description to make sure you’re following it correctly. Generally, you want to limit one idea or topic to one paragraph and keep the paragraph between three and six sentences.
START WITH A TOPIC SENTENCE
In the body of the paper, which makes up the majority of your content, you want to support your thesis with the research and reasoning you’ve acquired. Start each section (main point A, main point B and main point C) with a strong topic sentence that prepares the reader for what they can expect in the paragraph or section.
MOVE INTO SUPPORTING EVIDENCE
Including research to support your main point, and then adding further explanation, is at the core of quality paragraph development. Here’s what Shane Bryson from Scribbr said about the main point paragraph:
“While good topic sentences offer an idea of what the paragraph is going to be about and how that fits into the rest of the paper, at the heart of a paragraph are evidence and explanation that support the key claim of the paragraph.”
You can’t just reference what your source said and leave it hanging. Instead, you want to surround that source with your own words and analysis. Adding that further explanation to your research helps enhance the content and ensure smooth transitioning.
END WITH A CLEAR TRANSITION
Once you’ve presented your evidence and provided explanation, conclude each paragraph with a transition sentence that makes it easy to follow from one paragraph to the next.
This transition, whether from main point A to main point B or from main point C to the conclusion, prepares the reader to switch to another aspect or element of the argument which you as the writer are moving into.
4) CONCLUSION: FINISH STRONG
When you’ve thoroughly explored and described your main points to contribute to the main point of your paper, it’s time to wrap it up.
The conclusion of your paper summarizes your argument without merely repeating your thesis or your main points. And, be sure you don’t introduce any new information or main points, which will seem out of place and take the reader by surprise.
There are many ways you can conclude your paper. Use a quote or example to emphasize your point. Follow up on an anecdote you brought in the introduction. Share points of action or next steps as a result of the content you’ve presented.
However you conclude, leave your reader with a better understanding of your argument or topic.
5) BEFORE YOU HAND IT IN, EDIT
Finish that last sentence in the conclusion and ready to hand in? Hold on a second. Before you turn it in, be sure you’ve reviewed and revised your paper. Editing your paper can have a profound influence on the effectiveness of your content, so be sure to take the time and read through for smooth paragraph structure, grammar, APA Style and readability. Check out this blog article to learn more about how to edit your paper effectively.
Do you still have that idea for your next assignment? Follow these easy five tips in crafting a memorable and effective paper. Your writing process will not only seem easier, but you’ll also submit a more effective assignment.
Writing a quality paper isn’t always easy. Thankfully, as a student at PGS, you can have access to a range of helpful and practical academic resources at any time.