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How to Write an Academic Paper Using Method Instead of Madness
Jim Janossy 10/31/2005

Writing papers is, for many students, a difficult, trying, and intimidating task. This is truly unfortunate because typically at least half of the courses students take in college use paper-writing as a form of academic exercise. Expressing yourself well in writing is often a crucial skill in the professional world. Yet whereas being articulate and knowledgeable in written composition in the workplace is a prized skill, academic writing demands even more. To do academic writing you must not only develop the ability to express yourself in words but also the ability to gather information from a variety of sources and select and present relevant nuggets of fact from those sources. You must be able to appropriately sprinkle in your own observations, determinations and conclusions. And you must document precisely where you obtained your facts. Academic writing is not about expressing your own opinions alone but rather expressing facts established by others and your reasoned observations and conclusions based on them. What makes paper-writing a dread to many students? My observation, after two decades of teaching at the college level, is that the answer to this question is simple. The dread comes from not knowing how to do it. No one teaches you a method for going about it! You’ll find any number of references on how to format bibliographic entries, how to use search engines, how to create an outline, and how to use word processors. But you very likely won’t find a short, simple description of a modern method to locate and extract information, build a paper in stages, and scale the effort to the rigor of the assignment. I have looked, and I haven’t found such a thing. It took me a long while to realize that this was sorely needed. I hope to cure this deficiency in this brief document. I’ve arranged this method in numbered steps. Start with step 1 and continue to step 15. 1. Start

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