College Research Paper Tips

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Moreover, if you are this short story in an upper-level literature class, you will want to be aware of different critical perspectives on Alexie's work and on American Indian literature in general, so that you can "place" your argument within the larger ongoing conversation.

When you sit down to write an academic paper, ask yourself these questions: Can I answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, how? What historical or cultural influences do I know about that might be important to my topic?

Remember that academic writing must be more than personal response or opinion.

In other words, you will want to write something that helps your reader to better understand your topic or to see it in a new way. Academic writing should present the reader with an informed argument.

The five-paragraph theme, for example, is not sophisticated or flexible enough to provide a sound structure for a college paper.

Also, many old tricks -- such as using elevated language or repeating yourself so that you might meet a ten-page requirement -- will fail you now.To create an informed argument, you must first recognize that your writing should be analytical rather than personal. You evaluate a text the moment you encounter it, and -- if you aren't lazy -- you continue to evaluate and to re-evaluate as you go along.In other words, your writing must show that your associations, reactions, and experiences of a text have been framed in a critical, rather than a personal, way. You'll notice that you can construct several different summaries, depending on your agenda. Evaluating a text is different from simply reacting to a text.Much of what you learned in high school will be useful to you as you approach writing in college: you will want to write clearly, to have an interesting and arguable thesis, to construct paragraphs that are coherent and focused, and so on.Still, many students enter college relying on writing strategies that served them well in high school but that won't work well for research papers.To construct an informed argument, you must first try to sort out what you know (knowledge) about a subject from what you think (personal opinion) about a subject.If your paper fails to inform, or if it fails to argue, then it will fail to meet the expectations of the academic reader.You will want to have certain terms in hand so that you can explain what Alexie is doing in key moments.You will want to be familiar with Alexie's other works so that you can understand what themes are important to him and his work.It may not even require you to have mastered the terms important to literary criticism -- though clearly any knowledge you bring might help you to make a thoughtful response to it.However, if you are asked to write an academic paper on the short story, then you will want to know more.


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