Important Information for Writing Papers

Dr. Nina Haydel

Note: All business, science, and social science disciplines must use the APA format and style for all paper writing elements, whereas the creative, literary, and theater arts must use the MLA format and style for all paper writing elements.

  1. The introductory paragraph must begin with a topic sentence that is related to the main idea and end with a thesis statement as the last sentence of the paragraph. The thesis statement drives the paper. Do not include any quotations in the introductory paragraph.

  2. All succeeding paragraphs must begin with topic sentences related to the thesis statement. All internal paragraphs must have a summarizing concluding sentence. Between these two sentences are the supporting sentences that fulfill the promise of the topic sentence. You cannot have fewer than three sentences in any paragraph. A solid paragraph usually has between five and seven sentences.

  3. Include quotations from the works to which you are referring as the way of expressing proof of your ideas
  4. .
    • No more than 5 percent of the paper should be quoted.
    • Never start or end a paragraph with a quote.
    • Never have two quotes back-to-back. You must have at least one of your own sentences between quotes.
    • Quotations must be written with proper punctuation ("She shepherded the trainee through the process.") Notice that periods and commas are placed within the quotation marks.
    • When you use quotations, you must have parenthetical references following them. Example: "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…recorded time" (Shakespeare 93).
    • Pay close attention to the position of the reference and the period at the end when you have a reference.

  5. Use headings according to the APA or MLA format. Technical reports also make use of bullets to designate important statements. Be consistent. Decide in advance if bullets will be fragments or complete statements. Stick to your decision. Format and appearance are vital to the success of the final product.

  6. The concluding paragraph should begin with the rephrasing of the thesis statement. Do not add any new content or ideas to this paragraph. It is only a summary of the points you have made in the internal paragraphs.

  7. Brush up on commas, semicolons, and capitalization. These are elementary skills that you are expected to know.

  8. Pay close attention to spelling, even in your rough draft. Do not depend on the computer to catch your errors, as the computer doesn’t know the difference between homonyms such as there and their or site and cite. It also does not know that in this sentence the letter e was omitted from the word suite: "The suit of rooms…."

  9. Be very careful about your References (for APA) or Works Cited (for MLA) section. It must be PERFECT! Check out the Web sites and texts listed in the Course Materials heading in the Course Essentials area of the course Web site. They will provide help with the APA and MLA citation formats.

  10. When writing about literature, always refer to the literature using present tense. The work still lives on for the next reader, although you have finished reading it. The characters continue living, so avoid past tense.

  11. Never use personal pronouns in formal papers. They are formal, academic papers. Eliminate the use of you, I, we, us, etc.

  12. Never tell what you are going to do. Example: "I am going to write this paper about…." Just do it!