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Writing my Paper

This LibGuide provides a break down of the essay writing process and other assignments

Essay Break-Down

The thesis statement is the sentence that gives your paper direction for the reader and for you while you write it. It sums up your topic, your position, and a brief "why". Ideally, this sentence (no more than two) appears at the end of your introduction. 

You may think "my paper is so long, how do I sum up all these ideas into a sentence or two?" Well, think of your thesis statement as "Here's what I will be talking about and why" statement. 

The thesis is a great way to give yourself direction while you are researching and during the writing process. Start with a question like "What is my topic?" then ask "How do I feel about this topic" followed by "Why is it important?" This helps you to stay on track and focus on your topic. 

What is a Thesis Statement? What is its purpose?

1. Tells the reader what the essay will be about and what point the author will be making.

2. The thesis statement is similar to an architect’s blue print, or an explorer’s map. It tells the reader how the essay is going to be structured and in what direction the argument is going.

3. By creating a thesis, the writer can focus attention and research on a specific area of a topic.

Why a Thesis Statement?

Why do you need a Thesis Statement?

1. It gives flow and structure to your paper.

2. It makes it easy to read and acts like a guide for your reader.

3. It keeps ideas and thoughts flowing for the writer.

4. It tests your ideas by distilling them in a sentence or two.

5. It helps to better organize and develop your argument.

Basic format of a Thesis Statement

A good thesis statement consists of three main parts:

1. States the main topic of paper

2. Gives an assertion or opinion

3. Gives the by... or because...


Within his artwork, Seurat uses pointillism effectively through his use of line, colour, form and contrast.


Academic achievement in low income neighbourhoods is a growing concern that government should address by funding innovative education programs.

How to tell if your thesis is strong

1. A strong thesis takes some sort of a stand.

2. A strong thesis justifies discussion.

3. A strong thesis expresses one main idea.

4. A strong thesis is specific.


Your introduction is the key factor in grabbing the reader's attention and giving them just enough information to keep them interested and let them know what they will be reading. Your introduction will start out with an attention grabbing sentence or a "hook" sentence about your topic. Be very general but interesting. You don't want to give it away right at the beginning and you don't want to lose your reader's interest. 

Your next few lines will be a little bit more specific about what you will be writing about. Avoid adding quotes or citations in the introduction; you want these ideas to come from you.

Finally, your last line will be your thesis statement. This line will be very specific and will let the reader know exactly what you will be discussing (one main idea and three points) as well as let the reader know your position on the topic. 

Think of your introductory paragraph as a triangle starting from the general and moving towards the very specific. You may not need to have all 5 sentences as laid out below, but be sure you have your clincher, some information, and your thesis statement in your introduction.

Your body paragraphs will be discussed further in the next tab

Your thesis laid out the direction for your paper. It is very strong and specific and now you have to complete the discussion in your body paragraphs. Your body paragraphs will follow the structure laid out by your thesis statement and will not discuss anything but your main idea (for example: If you are discussing pain management for children, you won't be talking about your experience in a nursing home). 

The following elements are essential in your body paragraphs: topic sentence; introduce the quote/paraphrase: quote: justify the quote (why did I use it? How is it relevant to my thesis?); finally, a transition sentence relating this topic to the next one in the next paragraph. You can have multiple quotes in one paragraph, always remember to introduce it and justify it to the reader - don't leave them wondering why you used it! 

Stay on track within each paragraph by giving it a Topic Sentence. This sentence is almost a mini thesis that guides the reader and lets them (and you) know what your paragraph is about. Here are some topic sentence examples. Note that they all reflect back on the thesis statement. 

Thesis statement: Within his artwork, Seurat uses pointillism effectively through his use of line, colour, and contrast.

Topic sentence for paragraph 1:

Pointillism is effectively shown with Seurat’s use of line.

(Body paragraph will be about the use of line, giving quotes and examples to support your argument.)

Topic sentence for paragraph 2:

The subjects in Seurat's artwork are brought to life with his use of colour.

(Body paragraph will be about colour, giving quotes and examples to support your argument.)

Topic sentence for paragraph 3:

Pointillism in Seurat's work effectively conveys contrast.

(Body paragraph will be about contrast, giving quotes and examples that support your argument.)


Transition sentences usually come at the end of a paragraph and help with the flow of the paper.

The purpose of a transition sentence is to inform the reader of a change in topic. It gives the reader a link to the information that will be discussed in the following paragraph.

Download the PDF for Transitional Words and Phrases. 

The conclusion paragraph is almost a mirror image of your introduction. As with the introduction, it should include the following three things:     

1. You must restate your thesis statement in different words.

  • By restating your thesis statement at the beginning of your conclusion, the reader knows that you are concluding your argument.

2. You must touch on all main points in your argument and "hammer home" your assertion in 3 - 5 sentences.

  • You don't want to go into too much detail here. Just reiterate the main points that support your argument.

3. You must clearly end your conclusion paragraph - don't leave the reader hanging!

  •  I often tell students that this last sentence is one of the most important sentences in your essay, next to the clincher and thesis statement. You want to start strong with a good clincher, and, in turn, end strong with a profound statement. This sentence should make the reader think "hmmm, interesting."...or..." "How true"...or something along those lines!

Here is an example:

After reading what seemed like hundreds of nursing papers on nursing shortages, a student came in with a paper that not only started with a strong clincher but ended with this statement:

"Doctors need nurses; patients need nurses; nurses need nurses."

As the reader, I thought to myself: “How true....interesting!"

Just as starting your paper with an interesting clincher puts your reader in a frame of mind to read your paper, ending your paper with a good, strong, poignant statement puts your reader in the frame of mind to MARK YOUR PAPER!!  

Academic writing relies on more than just the ideas and experience of one author. It also uses the ideas and research of other journal articles, websites, books and so forth. These other sources may be used to support the author's ideas.

Referencing is used to tell the reader where ideas from other sources have been used in an assignment. There are many reasons why it is important to reference sources correctly:

  • It shows the reader that you can find and use sources to create a solid argument

  • It properly credits the originators of ideas, theories, and research findings

  • It demonstrates to the reader how your argument relates to the big picture

Citations are needed when . . .

  • You have used an idea or fact from an outside source, even if you haven't used their exact wording (paraphrasing)

  • You have copied words from a book, article, or other source exactly (direct quotation)

Citations and references

There are two elements used in referencing:

  • A citation or footnote inside the body of the assignment

  • An entry in a reference list or bibliography at the end of the assignment


  • Failure to properly acknowledge sources is called plagiarism, and it can carry significant academic penalties. Fortunately plagiarism can be avoided by following a few basic principles.

  • Whenever an assignment uses words, facts, ideas, theories, or interpretations from other sources, that source must be referenced.

Paraphrasing is when you take another writer’s ideas and express them with your own words. When paraphrasing, it is important to maintain the essential meaning of the passage at hand and to accurately represent the original material.  Although paraphrases still require a citation, using paraphrases helps to avoid too many direct quotations in your writing. High quality paraphrasing also demonstrates understanding.

Do not just switch out key words and substitute your own because this approach is a form of plagiarism. Instead, work on understanding the idea. Read and re-read the passage and focus on grasping the main idea; then look away and work on restating the main idea with your own words and sentence structure.

Examples from the Purdue Owl Website:

The original passage:

Students frequently overuse direct quotations in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source material while taking notes.  Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976); 46-47.

A legitimate paraphrase:

In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

A plagiarized version:

Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.


For more on paraphrasing, go to:



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