How to Write a Formal Paper

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Formal papers follow a traditional format, which includes an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Within these three parts of the paper, a formal argument, also known as a thesis, should be stated and justified throughout the written work. Remaining clear about your thesis throughout while avoiding a redundant tone is an essential element in writing a formal paper. Writing takes practice and editing so that your argument and the construction of the paper will be appealing to your reading audience.

  • Choose a specific topic to write about. For example, if you want to write about children's education, write about a sub-topic in the field rather than the field as a whole. A sub-topic, such as the use of literature in third-grade classrooms, would be a manageable topic for a single formal paper. Once you have chosen the subject area and have read through your resources, think about the argument you would like to pursue throughout the formal paper. If your work is on children's literature, you might argue that the use of literature helps children do better in other areas of the learning process. Be sure to choose an argument that can be backed up with reputable evidence and sources.

  • Write an introductory paragraph to open the paper and introduce your reader to the topic and your argument. Create a first sentence which grabs the reader's attention; this is known as a "hook". A commonly used technique is to open with a quote from a reputable source. Another option can be to open with a short anecdote about your topic. Only use a small amount of space for the hook. Use the rest of the paragraph to outline your goals in the paper and to state your main argument, also known as a thesis. The thesis is often placed near the end of this first paragraph and should neatly summarize your argument. For instance, "Children's literature remains an ideal tool through which to enrich third grade education in the classroom because it enhances learning in many other disciplines." Keep the thesis simple, straightforward and clear.

  • Write the body of the formal paper, which will include a paragraph for every main topic you would like to discuss. Ideally, each paragraph will cover one aspect of the paper you are writing, and only one. Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence to introduce the reader to the next section of the paper. Once you have written a topic sentence, support your claim with specific evidence and examples. For example:

    "Reading short stories in the classroom after lunch supports motivation for afternoon activities. As the Johnson Study confirms, these types of activities increase interest and energy for younger children."

    Connect the different paragraphs with a transition statement like: "As discussed above, this issue has continued to gain attention from educators." After the transition statement, you can begin again with a new topic sentence.

  • Conclude the formal essay with a powerful recap of the argument you have detailed in the body of the paper. Restate your initial goals as well as any major points you developed throughout the paper and the restatement of your thesis. Do not recap every aspect of the paper and keep the summary succinct. Use the last part of the conclusion to suggest ideas for further research in the same topic or to posit some further questions to be investigated. This strategy helps open the topic up for further debate.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never use contractions or slang in a formal paper.
  • Edit the paper a few times by reading it out loud to yourself.
  • Have a peer read over your paper to look for mistakes and clarity in the argument.

References

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