When it comes to academic or college writing the most important thing for a student to do is follow the instructions given by the professor. This is not high school. Academic papers are specialized, particular, specific, and functional, and the paper must be written for a specific audience covering a specific topic and convey a specific message.
The main difference with papers written for high school and a report for college is in the complexity of the project. In high school a passing and failing grade could be determined by the paper's sentence construction - not necessarily based on the report's content. Not so with college.
A great academic paper for college requires the student to conduct thorough research, follow strict guidelines, be current in its information, and must contain material from all perspectives and when needed, create a decisive conclusion. This form of writing requires you as the paper's author to communicate your expertise and understanding of the subject matter along with completely covering all required criteria outlined by your teacher.
"Google it" was "the answer" for writing a research in high school, but academia says googling for information or clicking on Wikipedia will find you floundering in failure when it comes to academic writing. There will be a need to learn new skills that requires a student to literally go to a physical library and even use books that actually have covers and contain paper pages. Academic papers are called research papers for a reason - they require extensive research from a wide array of sources. This will take a lot of time and it will be wise for students to begin working on a research paper as soon as the assignment is received - do not wait to the last minute because a rushed paper will land you last in class standings - a failure. Students also will have to create new internet information sources such as White Papers or JSOTR, an online library of academic journals and papers. Good solid Sherlock Holmes research skills are needed for top-notch research papers.
Along with research skills comes the need for great comprehension of unknown or foreign material. You will need to become a subject matter expert on material or topics you never even thought about prior to writing your academic paper. It's like walking into an unfamiliar restaurant and ordering dishes you never heard of or even knew existed. A great academic paper must explore the unknown and you must be willing to move past the familiar and begin understanding new concepts, thoughts, ideas, and information. You must have a willingness to explore new topics and comprehend the various variables from the information you uncover.
There will be a need to differentiate between fact and fiction - opinion and gospel truth. For this to happen you first must know you have reliable and concrete sources. There will be a need to ferret out implications and to explore the hints and inferences - the tidbits of information that could possibly open doors to thoughts and ideas never conceived. Once all your information has been verified, simplified, and understood by you, it is your job to present this information in a way the reader can understand.
This is important so it merits repeating - it is your job to present this information in a way the reader can understand. Lucky for you the people before you created a standard to follow in presenting this information. These standards are called "research paper styles". For example, if you are writing for humanities class you might be told to use either the APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association) style of writing and formatting for your paper. If you are writing for a science class you possibly could be using either the CBE (Council of Biology Editors), AMA (American Medical Association, or ACS (American Chemical Society) style.
What this means is your margins, font size, acceptable abbreviations, citation formatting, types of headings, etc., all have been determined for you. This eliminates a lot of guess work allowing you to focus all your attention on what is important - your research.
Your research is critical because in academic writing you as the author must take on the role of a lawyer. You must present your case, which is determined by your opening statement called a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader exactly what your whole paper is about. It presents your subject and the point of view your paper will be taking. Your paper's success relies completely on how well you support and back-up your statement. With that in mind it is important that your statement is not broad in nature but in essence is concise, precise, and decisive.
Academic writing is not editorial opinions but facts - facts that lead to a definite conclusion. So it is imperative that you stick to the facts. But like all facts, statistics, and factual statements, information can be manipulated to support anyone's belief, idea, concept, or opinion. So as the writer and student, it is your job to present both sides of the issue, but provide conclusive evidence that your thesis statement is factual, accurate and not only an opinion. Basically, you cannot sit on the fence when it comes to academic writing but must support a solid and factual statement that possibly could be controversial in nature.
To ensure your academic paper covers all the important details, you must think, research, and ask questions like a veteran journalist.
One of the first things a journalist learns in school is to ask
the six basic questions -
These are vital to ensuring all the stones are uncovered and all the material is available for a journalist to write their story. The same is true with academic papers.
When doing your research make sure all these questions are answered and you will not leave out any vital information that could render your paper a failure. And don't forget to check your academic paper for plagiarism - plagiarism in college is a serious violation.
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