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Academic Guides: How To Start Writing A Paper

One of the most common questions that students have when they assigned an essay is “How do I start?” Despite the fact that students have been writing papers since they learn how to write in elementary grade, starting an essay remains a point of frustration. Instructors are often frustrated by students who ask this question and instructors do not usually offer any help, other than saying, “Just start.” To help you start your paper, here is an easy-to-follow guide:

  1. Choose a topic. Without a topic, you do not have a paper. There are plenty of place to go for inspiration and the Internet provides the majority of places. All you have to do is conduct a search for the type of paper you have to write and the word “topic” and you will get several great ideas. Once you see a topic you like, select it and move on to step two.
  2. Write a claim. You cannot just write about a topic, you need to narrow it to something that you can argue in an essay. Let’s say you chose this topic: professional athletes’ salaries. You cannot just write a list of the salaries, you need to create a claim. Ask this question, “So what?” and you will be able to come up with a statement. For example, you might create a statement like this: Professional athletes deserve their large salaries because of the hard work they do. The claim becomes the guiding sentence of your paper.
  3. Find support for your claim. If you are going to write about how hard professional athletes work, then you will need to show this in your paper. You will need to think about the ways that athletes work differently than the average worker. This support will help you focus your body paragraphs. Set aside the support and begin step four.
  4. Write an outline. This is where you will organize your paper. Without an outline, students often write essays that lack logical cohesion. Your claim will guide the paper. You should write a topic sentence for each body paragraph and then decide what support you want to include. You do not need to write complete sentences other than the topic sentences.
  5. Start writing. Now that you have the outline, you should be able to write a rough draft. Many students do better writing the body paragraphs first and then the introduction after they know what to introduce.

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