Choose the quotations you want to use in the paper with care. Overuse of quotations is considered sloppy in academic writing because it relies too heavily on others to make your point. Show not only that can you write, but that you can also judiciously sift through large amounts of research to glean the most important quotes that will support your argument.
Avoid summarizing. If you’re quoting something directly, it should be done because you have valuable insights based on that particular phrase or set of information. Quotes should not be used as filler, followed by a long summary or paraphrase of what you copied. Make sure that when you discuss the quote, you aren’t simply repeating what the text says in different words.
Use quotes to highlight a specific phrase. Often times in academic writing, a very specific phrase or term may be used and described by an empirical source. If there is no way for your to better explain or reword this phrase, use a quotation. When possible, try to paraphrase or use an indirect quote to avoid seeming lazy with your writing.
Quote important evidence. Quotations can be particularly helpful for an argumentative or study-based research paper, as you can use them to provide direct evidence for an important point you are making. Add oomph to your position by quoting someone who also backs it, with good reason. Be sure to elaborate on their point after quoting though, rather than just dropping it into your essay without further discussion.
Be clear when using quotes. Although helpful at times, quotes that have not been clearly attributed can be confusing and out of place. Make sure your quote is given context before stating it. Although you should have a citation involved as well, it is important to make it clear to the reader that the ideas you are presenting are those of someone else.
Include bibliographic information at the end of the paper. A "Works Cited" page, or other bibliographic source page, is used at the end of the paper to list full publishing information on each quoted source.
After you have a topic idea, what's next? You have to develop information that you will put into your essay and decide on your audience and purpose. Then you will need to decide the point of view, tone, and style of writing you will use. Sound confusing? Don't worry. Just answer the following questions to get ready to write. You can open up a word processing program, copy these questions, and then answer them, or do it the old-fashioned way with paper and pen.
- Topic idea: ______________________________________________. (Write yours out.)
- What kind of expository essay is this? (How to? How does it work? Definition? Fact? Cause? History of?)
- List or cluster different aspects or parts of your topic.
- Circle the aspects which are most interesting to you. Cluster those.
- Do you have enough to say or too much? Do you need to narrow your topic or expand it?
- What sources can you use? Where can you find them?
- What are some things your audience would be familiar with which you can compare your topic with?
- What do they already know?
- What would they be interested in knowing?
- What kind of tone would be best for this audience? (informational, satiric, humorous, folksy, professional?)
- Considering your audience, which point of view would be the most effective one to write in? Would it be better to write in the first person ("I" or "we"), second person ("you"), or third person (impersonal)?
Write Your Thesis
- Your purpose (What do you want audience to think, do, or know after reading? This will be related to what your audience doesn't know.)
- Turn your topic into a question: ___________________________________________
- Answer that question: __________________________________________________
- Make a thesis statement: _______________________________________________
- Essay map—sentence(s) which list main sub-topics: ______________________________________________________________ (These can be headers for sections of the paper.)
- Which sort of organization would work best for you? Examples: chronological (in time), spatial (in space and time), process (step-by-step), topical (part-by-part), cause/effect, historical overview, comparison and contrast, or reverse expectations.
- Write a brief outline for how you will structure the body of the paper.
Intro and Conclusion
- Which of these introduction and conclusion ideas could you use? Reverse expectation, expectation fulfilled, scenario (imagined typical story, also called a case study), personal story, frame story, vivid description, conversation, definition, comparison and contrast, analogy, startling statistic or fact, quotation, story from book or movie.
- Choose the best one(s) for your essay and explain what you will do.
Tone, Voice, and Style
- Which person will you write in for your essay? (1st “I,” 2nd “you,” or 3rd “he, she, it.”) Why?
- What sort of tone will you have? Why? (Example: serious and informative, humorous, sarcastic, enthusiastic.)