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Online Writing Lab: Tips & Strategies

Writing Lab services for online and distance students.

What Every Paper Must Have

Thesis

Your thesis is a summary sentence of what your paper is about.  It should guide your whole paper.  Every paragraph and every sentence should be connected to your thesis.  If an idea doesn't relate to your thesis, it should not be in your paper.

Introduction

Every paper needs an introduction paragraph.  This is your chance to get the reader's attention.This paragraph is a preview for what is to come in the essay.  Introduce each of your main points in this paragraph.  Think of your introduction paragraph as a miniature outline for your paper.  The last sentence of your introduction paragraph should be your thesis.

Body

Each of your body paragraphs should support your thesis statement.  Begin with a strong introduction sentence that states the topic of the paragraph.  Each following sentence should be related to this main topic.  End with a conclusion sentence that summarizes all the points of the paragraph.

Conclusion

A plot twist at the end of a novel may be exciting, but in an essay there shouldn't be any surprises!  Don't introduce new information in your conclusion paragraph!  Summarize what your paper has been about.  Restate the main points.  End strong, leaving the reader with a clear idea of what they have just read.

Transitions

Let the reader know how two ideas, two sentences or two paragraphs are connected.  Use transition words and sentences to get from one idea to the next.  The connection may seem obvious to you, but if your reader isn't prepared, you might lose him when you shift ideas.

Introduction Sentences

Every paragraph needs a strong introduction sentence.  Let the reader know what the paragraph is going to be about.  Every body sentence should be related to the introduction.

Conclusion Sentences

Every paragraph needs a good conclusion sentence.  Summarize the main idea of the paragraph.

Common Transitional Words and Phrases

To show sequence

first, second, third, then, after, afterward, since, before, when, whenever, until, as soon as, as long as, while, again, also, besides, finally, furthermore, last, moreover, next, still, too

To show cause and effect

therefore, thus, consequently, as a result, for this reason, so, so that, accordingly, because, for this purpose, hence, thereupon, to this end, since

To compare

similarly, likewise, in like manner, also, in fact, actually, indeed, certainly, again, in the same way, once more

To contrast

however, on the one hand /on the other hand, in contrast, conversely, but, yet, on the contrary, nevertheless, nonetheless, still, notwithstanding, despite, still, although, even though, in spite of, instead, regardless

To show addition

and, in addition, also, furthermore, moreover, besides, next, again, too, second, third, another, finally

 To indicate time

before, now, after, afterwards, subsequently, later, earlier, meanwhile, in the meantime, while, as long as, so far, after a bit, after a few days, after a while, as soon as, at last, at length, a that time, before, earlier, immediately, in the meantime, in the past, lately, presently, shortly, simultaneously, since, then, thereafter, until, when

To give examples

for example, for instance, specifically, namely, to illustrate, that is, in particular, after all, even, indeed, in fact, of course, such as, the following example

To generalize

in general, for the most part, as a general rule, on the whole, usually, typically

To emphasize a point

indeed, in fact, as matter of fact, even

To show place

above, adjacent to, below, beyond, closer to, elsewhere, far, farther on, here, near, nearby, opposite to, there, to the left, to the right

To show qualification

frequently, often, usually, in general, occasionally, provided, in case, unless, when, since, because, for, if 

To signal concession

of course, naturally, although it is true that, granted that, I admit that, it may appear that, although, though, no doubt, to be sure, whereas, of course, doubtless, certainly

To conclude or summarize

in conclusion, to conclude, in summary, to summarize, in short, in other words, therefore, thus, in reality, as a result, as has been noted, as I have said, as we have seen, as mentioned earlier, in any event, on the whole, therefore  

Outline

Make an outline for your paper.  It sounds like more work, but in the end it will improve your organization and save you a lot of time.

Get Organized!

Prewriting

Think through your thesis.  Take time to fully develop it.  Outline your argument.  This brings clarity to your ideas and helps ensure that the organization of your paper will be consistent.

Thesis

Introduce your paper with a clear, specific statement of your main idea.  Your thesis sets up the argument that your paper makes from the beginning to the end.

From Start to Finish

Build your paper around three structures:

The introduction, which presents your thesis and begins the argument of your paper.

The body of your paper, where you present evidence and reasoning in support of your thesis.

The conclusion, which ties your ideas together and directs attention to the main idea.

Topic Sentences

Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the main idea of that paragraph.  Effective topic sentences connect the idea of the preceding paragraph to the idea of the new paragraph.

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