Tips for Polishing Your Academic Paper: The Final Draft
You’re almost done, and if you have the Buddy Holly song, “It’s So Easy” stuck in your head, you must be on the right track.
You’ve started out in this series writing a basic rough draft and now you should have a decent 3-5-page paper. All that’s left is to tighten and shine. In this article you’re going to learn some simple guidelines for paragraph structure and all about passive and active voice.
Paragraph Structure: The Introduction:
Here’s a guide you can use and adapt as needed when writing a response paper introduction:
First Sentence: Opening – something snappy. An attention grabber or a question. This is your billboard, it’s the first thing a reader is going to read. Make it count.
Second Sentence: This should tie your first sentence to the subject of your paper. For example:
Have you ever felt like beating someone over the head with a musical instrument? In Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Katerina does just that (and I, vicariously, feel the stress leaving my body).
Third Sentence: This leads to your thesis. Behold:
But don’t let Katerina’s fiery temper fool you, there’s more to her that meets the eye.
Fourth Sentence: Thesis.
After reading the play, thinking about it, and doing a little bit of investigation, I’ve grown to believe she’s a wickedly divine genius.
Fifth Sentence: This is your road map. It has your supporting points.
Katerina appears to be brighter than the average savage beast that she presents us with early on in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew because of her wit, her intelligence, and her ability to turn a given situation to work in her favor.
Sixth Sentence: Transition sentence.
I liked this play because I interpreted it as Shakespeare giving his audience a strong and intelligent (though highly temperamental) leading lady.
After this you will talk about how she is intelligent, how she is witty, how she takes advantages of given situations by devoting a body paragraph to each.
Of course, you won’t use my example if you aren’t writing about Billy’s play. That wouldn’t make much sense.
Writing The Body Paragraphs
Here’s a simple formula when writing a response paper:
- In the first sentence, give the supporting point.
- In the second, give a textual example.
- In the third and fourth, mention something pertinent to this that you thought about, learned in class from the instructor or peer group (do give them credit) or something that reminds you of this point.
- In the fifth, write a transition to the next paragraph.
Writing The Conclusion
The conclusion is a cousin to the introduction. It says the same thing, but in a tone that lets the reader know you are closing down shop. Look at this:
Introduction: In this paper I will…
Conclusion: In this paper I have…
You want to end the paragraph with something equally as memorable as your opening line in your introduction. Try ending with a question or a quote to make the reader think more about the subject, or in a response paper, your point of view on the subject.
When writing a response paper, do not end the paragraph with something that sounds anything like: “And that’s why I think (insert thesis here).” Why? Because I hate it. Also, it’s poor writing style.
Here’s a link to more information on writing an effective conclusion.
The Final Shine
Passive and Active Voice
Passive is then; active is now. You’re writing a paper now. You want the reader to be interested now. You’re explaining things your way for the first time now. It’s all happening now. Passive things happened then.
For more on this, and as a part of his own series, here’s a very well done article by Trent Lorcher about active voice vs. passive voice.
Look for this in your paper. Make sure you are keeping your reader engaged by making the paper active and not passive.
Done? So Soon?
That’s all there is to writing a response paper, friends. If you've been playing along, you read my pre-writing series for a response paper that took you through some vocabulary, first reading of the book, talking in class, and a second skim of the book for key points and invariable strengthenings or adaptions of your opinions. You should be ready to hand an excellent quality paper in to your teacher or professor, and you better get an A – or the teacher has failed to teach you adequately.
Remember: The key to writing a good response paper is to show your teacher or professor how you responded to the text. What stood out to you? What did it mean? After that it's a question of organization and writing technique. Don't let this response paper business seem too difficult, you can get it sorted out.
Before I let you go, though, there needs to be a discussion on plagiarism. Many times this is an honest mistake. In part 4, I’ll walk you through the common questions about plagiarism and the best ways to avoid it.