How to Write a Paper

Whether you’re in high school or university, writing papers is probably a big part of your grade for at least some of your classes. Writing an essay on any topic can be challenging and time consuming. But, when you know how to break it down into parts and write each of those parts, it’s much easier! Follow the steps in this article for help writing your next paper from start to finish.

Steps

Method 1 of 4: Pre-Writing Download Article

Choose a topic and research it. Typically, your teacher or instructor provides a list of topics to choose from for an essay. Read the assignment rubric, make sure you understand it, and pick a topic that interests you and that you think you can write a strong paper about. Then, start finding primary sources on your topic so you can back up the claims you’ll make with evidence.

  • If you have an idea for a topic that isn’t listed, feel free to ask your instructor if it would be okay to write about something that isn’t on the list they provided.
  • In some cases, the teacher or professor might just provide an assignment sheet covering the logistics of the paper, but leave the topic choice up to you. If this happens, it can be helpful to come up with a short list of ideas on your own, then choose the best one.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor for guidance on choosing a topic if you’re having trouble deciding.

How to Write a Paper

Start by analyzing primary sources and looking for points to argue. This helps form your thesis statement, or a concise summary of the main point or claim of your paper, which all the other content will support. Read through your sources and try to find tension, ambiguity, interest, controversy, and complication in the information. Then, try to determine what the “why” is behind 1 or several points to develop your thesis statement.

  • Note that there are different types of papers including research papers, opinion papers, and analytical essays. All of them need a thesis statement and all of them require you to do research and review various sources in order to write them.
  • Your primary sources may come from the Internet, books, and various academic databases.
  • Try to form your own ideas about your topic, based on your research. In other words, don’t just restate what the author of a source is already telling you.
  • As you do your research, what questions do you find yourself asking? What patterns are you noticing? What are your own reactions and observations?
  • Keep in mind that a thesis is not a topic, a fact, or an opinion. It is an argument based on observations and findings that you are trying to prove in your paper, like a hypothesis statement in a science experiment.

How to Write a Paper

Write a brief thesis statement that tells readers what you’re arguing. Once you form an idea about your topic, write a clear, concise, and specific statement regarding the point you are going to argue to readers of your paper. Try to keep the statement to 1 or 2 sentences. Avoid using overly general terms and abstractions.

  • An example of a thesis statement for a research paper is: “The Soviet Union collapsed because of the ruling class’s inability to tackle the economic problems of the common people.” This tells the reader what point you are going to back up with evidence in the rest of your paper.
  • A thesis statement for an opinion paper might read something like: “Libraries are an essential community resource and as such should receive more funding from local municipal governments.”
  • An analytical essay’s thesis statement could be: “JD Salinger makes heavy use of symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye in order to create feelings of melancholy and uncertainty in the novel.”

How to Write a Paper

Make a list of major points to support your thesis as an outline. Write your thesis statement at the beginning of your outline. Write all the major points below it, leaving plenty of space between them for supporting points, and label them with Roman numerals.

  • For example, if your thesis is about why the government needs to do more to protect wetland ecosystems, main supporting points could be: “effects of wetland loss in the US,” “current lack of laws protecting wetlands,” and “benefits of saving wetlands.”
  • These major points form the body of your paper, in between your introduction and your conclusion.

How to Write a Paper

Write supporting ideas and arguments under each major point. Label these with capital letters. If you need to, break down these sub-points even more to help outline your ideas and label them with numbers and/or lowercase letters.

  • For example, under a main point that says “employment conditions affect the mental health of workers,” your sub-points might be: “high levels of stress are directly related to mental health” and “workers in low-skill positions tend to have higher levels of stress.”
  • Conduct additional research as needed to come up with supporting points to back up your thesis and major points.

Method 2 of 4: Writing Download Article

How to Write a Paper

Start the introduction with something to hook the reader’s attention. This could be an interesting fact, a rhetorical question, a common misconception, or an anecdote about your topic. Whatever you choose to begin your essay with, make sure it’s something that encourages the reader to keep reading.

  • For example, you could write something like: “Did you know that cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest?”

How to Write a Paper

State the specific topic of your paper. After you hook the readers with the first sentence, write 1-2 sentences explaining what the topic of your paper is and why it’s important. Include any important background information to give readers context.

  • For example, you might write something like: “It’s common for apps and social media to be demonized as a waste of time and brain space, but not all such technology should be considered mindless entertainment. In fact, many apps and social media networks can be used for educational and academic purposes.”

How to Write a Paper

End the intro with your thesis statement. This is the standard placement for thesis statements and helps ensure the reader pays attention to it. Stick to this rule of thumb to keep your thesis statement prominent in the introduction to your paper.

  • Make sure the background information about your topic that you include in your intro flows nicely into your thesis.

How to Write a Paper

Discuss your major points in detail in the body of your paper. Refer back to your outline to remind yourself of your main points and their supporting sub-points. In general, aim to write 1 body paragraph for each main point. Introduce the point at the beginning of the paragraph, write a few sentences to back it up with evidence from your research, and summarize how it relates to your thesis statement in the last sentence.

  • Think of each paragraph as kind of a mini essay in and of itself. Each paragraph should be a self-contained chunk of information that relates to the overall topic and thesis of your paper.
  • Supporting evidence can be things like statistics, data, facts, and quotes from your sources

How to Write a Paper

Connect your body paragraphs in a logical way. Organize the main points of your essay in the way that makes the most sense, so your paper flows well. For instance, if you’re arguing how 1 thing led to another in history, organize the paragraphs chronologically. Make sure each new paragraph clearly states the shift of focus to a new point.

  • For example, put a paragraph about the reasons behind the collapse of the Soviet Union before a paragraph about the changes to Eastern European societies in the 90s, because the collapse of the Soviet Union directly led to many of those changes.
  • If your first body paragraph discusses the extent of deforestation in the Amazon over the past decade, and your second paragraph is going to explain how that affects animal extinction, state the shift in focus by writing something like: “The deforestation of the Amazon over the last decade has resulted in a drastic reduction of natural habitats for many species.”

How to Write a Paper

Start your conclusion by rephrasing your thesis statement. This reminds the reader what the point of your paper is. Make sure not to write the thesis statement differently from how you wrote it in your intro to restate your argument.

  • For example, if your thesis in your intro was “The use of technology can benefit children because it improves developmental skills,” restate it something like this: “The use of technology contributes to children’s well-rounded development from a young age.”

How to Write a Paper

Sum up your main supporting points and how they support your argument. Refer back to each major supporting point from the body of your paper and relate it back to your thesis statement. Try to tie all the pieces of your paper together in a few brief sentences.

  • For example, you might write something like: “Deforestation is directly linked to climate change and increasingly extreme weather across the world, which is why global governments must take more action to stop illegal logging.”

How to Write a Paper

End by stating what the significance of your argument is. Tell your reader why they should care about your argument. State why it’s so important or what you want the reader to do, think, or feel when they walk away from reading your paper.

  • For example, say something like: “Ignoring the realities of deforestation and climate change has grave implications for all of us. If we don’t start putting more pressure on governments to act, your children or grandchildren will be living in a very different world from that which we inhabit today.”

Method 3 of 4: Citing Sources Download Article

How to Write a Paper

Write an MLA-style works cited page for humanities papers. Label the last page of your paper “Works Cited” and center the heading. List the titles of your sources aligned with the left margin, double-spacing them and indenting any lines beyond the first for each source. Include page numbers for print sources where applicable and list URLs for online sources.

  • Humanities subjects include language arts and cultural studies.
  • Note that these are just the basic rules for writing an MLA-style works cited page. For a full list of rules regarding all things MLA and citations, refer to an MLA handbook.
  • Note that there is some crossover between certain subjects, in which case more than 1 style of works cited or reference page may be acceptable.
  • Always review your assignment rubric or ask your professor which style of citations they prefer before writing your reference or works cited page.

How to Write a Paper

Cite references in APA style for social sciences papers. Center the headlines “References” at the top of a page at the end of your paper. Left-align the titles of your sources and indent and double-space all lines.

  • Social sciences include psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
  • Refer to an APA style guide for complete rules about how to list different types of sources.

How to Write a Paper

Cite sources in Chicago style for business, history, and fine arts papers. Place numbered footnotes after pieces of text you want to cite in your paper. Place citations at the bottom of the page for each footnote on that page. Alternatively, put the author’s name and the date of publication in parentheses after the text you want to cite.

  • Check a Chicago Manual of Style for more specific instructions about citations.
  • Note that Chicago style is more commonly used for published works. If you’re a student, your professor might instruct you to use MLA format for your papers.

Method 4 of 4: Revising, Editing, and Proofreading Download Article

Analyze your paper and eliminate unnecessary information. Take a break from writing after you finish your first draft, then go back and read your paper from beginning to end. Try to imagine that your paper was written by someone else and analyze how readers may interpret your paper. Consider your thesis and make sure all the evidence backing it up in your paper is relevant — remove anything that is not totally necessary for supporting your thesis, or rewrite it to explain it better and make it more obviously relevant.

  • Anywhere from a few hours to a day is a good amount of time to wait before you start revising your paper. The point is to come back to it with a fresh set of eyes.
  • If you can, get a roommate, a family member, a friend, or a classmate to read your paper too. Ask them for advice on ways you could make your argument and your evidence more clear or relevant.
  • Here are 3 questions to ask yourself as you read each sentence and piece of information in your paper: Is this really worth saying? Does this say what I want it to say? Will readers understand what I’m saying?

Tighten and clean up the language. Look for confusing sentences or ideas and revise them to make them more clear. Get rid of extra words that aren’t necessary to convey your point, as well as vague words or misused words.

  • It helps to read your paper out loud as you do this. Listen for awkward pauses, phrases, and sentence structure, and revise them so the writing flows better.
  • Try copying and pasting your essay into the free online tool called “Hemingway.” The app suggests many different ways to make your writing clearer, more direct, and more readable.

Edit for repetition and look for better words to use. Look for ways to make your paper even more polished by eliminating repetition of the same word in sentences or paragraphs. Look for more descriptive or more precise words to use to add variety. A thesaurus really helps here!

  • Take this sentence as an example: “The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the collapse of local governments and economies across Eastern Europe.” Instead of using “collapse” twice, replace the second instance with “crumbling.”

Proofread for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. This is the final step before turning your paper in! Run spell check on your word processor to catch obvious mistakes. Then, read through your essay a final time and look for anything the computer didn’t catch.

  • It’s also a good idea to paste your paper into a third-party tool, like Grammarly, for a final spelling and grammar check. Not every program catches everything, so it’s better to be on the safe side!

Sample Research Papers

How to Write a Paper
Sample Scientific Research Paper

Support wikiHow and unlock all samples.

How to Write a Paper
Sample Environmental Research Paper

Support wikiHow and unlock all samples.

Sample Essays

How to Write a Paper
Sample Othello Essay

Support wikiHow and unlock all samples.

How to Write a Paper
Sample Ozymandias Essay

Support wikiHow and unlock all samples.

How to Write a Paper
Sample Tess of the d’Urbervilles Essay

Support wikiHow and unlock all samples.

News Related
  • How to Watch the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics

    After a year’s delay due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the 2020 Olympics are set to kick off in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. Even though the events are technically taking place in 2021, they’re still called the 2020 Olympics. The bad news is that international spectators aren’t allowed—but that ...

    See Details: How to Watch the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics

  • How to Become a Member of the YMCA

    The YMCA offers a wide variety of services to its members at hundreds of centers across the United States. YMCA members have access to state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a broad range of wellness programs, and licensed child-care services. Most YMCAs offer flexible membership plans, including reduced fees for low-income participants. Steps ...

    See Details: How to Become a Member of the YMCA

  • How to Put Ski Bindings on Skis

    Mounting ski bindings is something you can do yourself if you have the proper tools and know-how, including a drilling jig and a special drill bit. If you don’t have the right tools or aren’t confident in your ability to get the job done, it’s always best to have your ...

    See Details: How to Put Ski Bindings on Skis

  • How to Run a Fitness Boot Camp

    A fitness boot camp is a type of physical training class that encourages participants to do cardiovascular and strength training through instructor-led exercises. The classes often include intervals, competitions and team work. It is available through gyms, private trainers and dedicated boot camp businesses. Boot camps may take place inside ...

    See Details: How to Run a Fitness Boot Camp

  • How to Do Qigong Hsing I Exercises

    This article will show you how to do basic-advanced qigong that will develop internal strength and increase martial power. Though easy to perform these exercises are immensely effective. Steps Part 1 Part 1 of 2:Empty posture Download Article Stand normally with feet shoulder width apart. Your arms will rest normally ...

    See Details: How to Do Qigong Hsing I Exercises

  • How to Become a Football Player After 20

    Soccer or football can sometimes seem like a young person’s game. But with the right attitude and preparedness, anyone who is fit and dedicated to the sport can get in the game. Here are a few tips to help you out if you’re over 20 and still keen to get ...

    See Details: How to Become a Football Player After 20

  • How to Do a Sitting to Standing Exercise

    Moving from sitting to standing is a motion that most people already do throughout the day. However, when this motion is done mindfully, it can be a gentle–yet effective–exercise. This movement can strengthen your legs, lower back, and core. It can be especially helpful for older folks and people recovering ...

    See Details: How to Do a Sitting to Standing Exercise

  • How to Exercise

    Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but figuring out how to get more active can be tough. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Go for 10 to 15 minute walks, and work your way up to briskly walking or jogging for 30 minutes daily. Try ...

    See Details: How to Exercise

  • How to Be Hygienic Using Public Swimming Pools

    Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but figuring out how to get more active can be tough. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Go for 10 to 15 minute walks, and work your way up to briskly walking or jogging for 30 minutes daily. Try ...

    See Details: How to Be Hygienic Using Public Swimming Pools

  • How to Exercise Facial Muscles

    Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but figuring out how to get more active can be tough. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Go for 10 to 15 minute walks, and work your way up to briskly walking or jogging for 30 minutes daily. Try ...

    See Details: How to Exercise Facial Muscles

  • How to Get Rid Of Man Breasts Through Exercise

    Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but figuring out how to get more active can be tough. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Go for 10 to 15 minute walks, and work your way up to briskly walking or jogging for 30 minutes daily. Try ...

    See Details: How to Get Rid Of Man Breasts Through Exercise

  • How to Get PSA Grading

    Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but figuring out how to get more active can be tough. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Go for 10 to 15 minute walks, and work your way up to briskly walking or jogging for 30 minutes daily. Try ...

    See Details: How to Get PSA Grading

  • How to Measure a Fitness Ball

    Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but figuring out how to get more active can be tough. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Go for 10 to 15 minute walks, and work your way up to briskly walking or jogging for 30 minutes daily. Try ...

    See Details: How to Measure a Fitness Ball

  • How to Improve Reaction Speed

    Exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but figuring out how to get more active can be tough. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Go for 10 to 15 minute walks, and work your way up to briskly walking or jogging for 30 minutes daily. Try ...

    See Details: How to Improve Reaction Speed

OTHER NEWS

How to Become a Nike Authorized Dealer

Nike is an Oregon-based athletic company specializing in shoes and sportswear. From its modest beginnings in 1972, the company grew quickly and sells products in 130 countries today. If you ... Read more »

How to Learn Wing Chun

Wing Chun is a style of kung fu that emphasizes close quarter combat, quick punches and tight defense to overcome opponents. This traditional Chinese martial art destabilizes opponents with quick ... Read more »

How to Start a Dance Studio

Dance has been a traditional element of many cultures for centuries. Many different styles of dance are taught and practiced around the world, and dance studios are a common type ... Read more »

How to Raise Your Leg up to Your Head

All kinds of athletes and performers raise their legs up to their heads, demonstrating flexibility and strength in their abilities. These include dancers, figure skaters, and martial artists, among others. ... Read more »

Proven Workouts and Exercises to Increase Your Athletic Speed

Whether you’re a runner, a basketball player, or a martial artist, speed is an advantage for any athlete! Get quicker on your feet by incorporating speed drills and sprints into ... Read more »

How to Display Hockey Cards

Instead of keeping your hockey cards stashed away in old shoe boxes, go ahead and show off some of your favorites! If you have some high-value cards, use professional-grade preservation ... Read more »

How to Fit a Riding Helmet

Whether you are a casual rider or a competitive equestrian, a well-fitted riding helmet is a must. You want a helmet that is made specifically for horseback riding, that fits ... Read more »

How to Go to the Himalayas

Traveling to the Himalayas can be a thrilling, life changing experience, so you’re probably really excited to plan your trip. The Himalayas are a mountain range in Asia that spreads ... Read more »

How to Travel to the Dominican Republic

If you’re dreaming of white sandy beaches and a lush, tropical landscape, head to the Dominican Republic for the trip of a lifetime. As the top destination in the Caribbean, ... Read more »

How to Strengthen Quads Using a Fitness Ball

Quad exercises are a great way to build strength in your upper legs, and, if done regularly, will yield results relatively quickly. Working your quads (the muscles along your thighs) ... Read more »

How to Reduce the Stress of Your Commute

Are your mornings filled with stress and anxiety due to your commute? Do you find yourself laying on the horn, screaming expletives at the drivers around you, and feeling extremely ... Read more »

How to Travel Around Taiwan

Taiwan is a beautiful island country located in East Asia, only a short distance from mainland China. In addition to the main island, Taiwan has many smaller islands and archipelagoes ... Read more »

How to Chew Betel Nut in Papua New Guinea

If you ever go to Papua New Guinea, the first thing you will notice is the brilliant red-stained teeth and lips of the local men and women. Betel nut, or ... Read more »

How to Plan a Spring Break Staycation

Typically, when it comes to spring break, ideas like vacations to the beach come to mind. You don’t, however, have to take a vacation to enjoy your spring break. Instead, ... Read more »

How to Travel During the Holidays for Seniors

The holidays are a great time for traveling to visit family and friends. If you’re a senior, there are special considerations to take into account during holiday travel. You want ... Read more »

How to Travel As a Photographer

Becoming a travel photographer is a dream for many. Being able to roam around the world, getting paid for taking photos of beautiful landscapes, and experiencing new cultures and people ... Read more »

How to Cope with Honeymoon Mishaps

Text Only Text Only Going on your honeymoon with your partner is a marriage rite of passage. You and your partner may have a romantic beach getaway planned or a ... Read more »

How to Get to the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands—made up of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets—is well-known for its amazing wildlife. If you plan on visiting the Galapagos, you’ll need ... Read more »

How to Disappear Completely

Whether you need to lay low or simply want to be left alone, disappearing might sound like a good idea. Running away usually isn’t necessary and most problems are solvable ... Read more »

How to Apply for ESTA

If you want to visit the US for a brief period, either for business or pleasure, you may qualify for travel authorization under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) ... Read more »

How to Travel With Children

Do you want to go on vacation, but need somewhere family friendly? Do you dread traveling with your children because of the inevitable headaches? Don’t put off travel altogether. Traveling ... Read more »

How to Write While Traveling

Writing while traveling can be either a professional or personal pursuit. Some people travel and write as part of their jobs, while others simply want to make the most out ... Read more »

How to Obtain a NEXUS Membership

NEXUS is a “Trusted Traveler” and accelerated border control program for pre-approved, low-risk travelers, allowing them quicker and smoother crossing between the Canada-United States border. Steps Download Article Find out ... Read more »

How to Apply for a Nigerian Visa

Except for nationals of some African countries, visitors to Nigeria generally need a visa to enter and depart the country. You can complete an online application to apply for a ... Read more »

How to Travel to Nigeria

If you’ve got an adventurous spirit and you’re looking for something off of the beaten path, Nigeria may be a great option for your next vacation! From sun-drenched beaches to ... Read more »

How to Make a Travel Brochure

A creative, expertly written and well-designed travel brochure invites readers to cast themselves into a story that takes place in an exotic locale. In this article, learn how to make ... Read more »

How to Travel Spontaneously

Traveling can be a pleasant, carefree experience, but the large amounts of planning and preparation which usually precede actually traveling can make the process seem like more trouble than it’s ... Read more »

How to Enjoy Niagara Falls when It Rains

It can be a let down if you get to Niagara Falls and it’s raining. Luckily, there are many indoor attractions you can still enjoy. Try to spend time at ... Read more »

How to Go to Sydney from Melbourne

Melbourne and Sydney are two of the largest cities in Australia, so it stands to reason you’d want to travel between them from time to time. Your main options for ... Read more »

How to Use the Mobile Passport App to Save Time at US Customs and Border Patrol

After flying internationally, you can speed up the US Customs and Border control process by using the easy-to-navigate Airside Mobile Passport app! Anyone who holds a US or Canadian passport ... Read more »

How to Dress in Egypt As a Woman

Whether you’re going for the ancient history, the modern cities, or the mesmerizing beaches, Egypt is a country you don’t want to miss out on. Since Egypt is a mostly ... Read more »

How to Enjoy Maui with the Kids

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or an action-packed trip, Maui is the perfect place to spend time together as a family. You’ll find plenty of activities geared towards ... Read more »

How to Buy Gifts and Souvenirs for Others When Traveling Abroad

People love receiving gifts and when you’re traveling, it’s tempting to bring a piece of a faraway land back to others. Traveling abroad brings a host of concerns, including what ... Read more »

How to Ride your Bike to School Safely

Did you just learn how to ride a bike and want to ride it to school? Well, read this guide to do it. Steps Download Article Find a safe route ... Read more »

How to Prepare for a Trip to Israel

Also known as The Holy Land, Israel is a beautiful and diverse Mediterranean country with a history of religious significance dating back thousands of years. Despite its small size, millions ... Read more »

How to Plan Your Business Travel

Planning a work-related trip can be a stressful endeavor. On top of your usual travel concerns, you also have to keep your mind focused on the business aspect of your ... Read more »

How to Plan a Trip to Blue Hole in Belize

Deep in the middle of the turquoise Caribbean Sea, is a large dark blue circle known worldwide as the “Blue Hole”. Situated in the centre of the Lighthouse Reef, the ... Read more »

How to Get to Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island is a popular year-round tourist destination and stopover spot for yachts sailing the Tasman Sea. Fly to the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage island on small propeller planes ... Read more »

How to Travel to Madagascar

Madagascar is an amazing place full of unique wildlife, gorgeous beaches, and fascinating geological structures. Because it’s an isolated island, Madagascar is home to many animals that can’t be found ... Read more »

How to Get to Machu Picchu

If the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru is your destination, you’ll have to navigate through the mountainous terrain by train or on foot. How much money and ... Read more »