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Writing Your Paper

Dos and Do Nots of Academic Papers 


  • Provide both in-text and reference list citations for all the sources that you have either quoted or paraphrased in the paper.

  • Consult all of your guidelines carefully to make sure you understand and can provide what is expected. Even within academic writing, expectations for different subjects, courses, or papers can still be different.

  • Start your research early. Searching for resources - and reading through them - always takes longer than you think it will!

  • Keep the tone both formal and clearly worded.


Do Not:

  • Do not use contractions. For example: can't, don't, won't, it's. Write these words out in FULL (cannot, do not, will not, it is).

    • Note that possessives do not count for this rule. For example, the apostrophes in "The author's evidence" or "the school's mandate" are both fine to use.

  • Unless otherwise specified for a particular assignment, do not use first person or second person in formal writing assignments: I, me, we, us, you.

    • Even though it is your position or assertion on the topic, statements should be generalized and written in the third person (e.g., "Studies show that..." "Evidence suggests...")

  • Do not hedge your writing, or sit on the fence. That is, try to avoid words such as "perhaps," "maybe," "likely," "may" etc. They will weaken your argument by making you seem unsure. 

  • At the same time, however, do not apply your claims too broadly. For example, most things will not be true of all people, or all countries, or all situations. Be clear and specific to avoid overgeneralizing your argument.

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