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Writing

University-Level Writing Expectations 

Critical Thinking and Analysis 

Demonstrate reading, understanding, and thinking. Do not just state or summarize your sources; use concepts and ideas to make arguments and/or draw conclusions. Some questions to ask yourself: 

  • Which specific ideas from my source(s) do I want to discuss? 

  • What do I think about those ideas? 

  • What evidence from my source(s) supports my arguments and conclusions? 

  • How can I best connect the different ideas and concepts I’m using? 

  • What new knowledge should other scholars take away from my paper? 

Organization 

Academic papers have structure. Use sections, such as Background, Methodology, Results, etc., or an essay format (introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion). If you’re unsure about the structure, ask your professor.  

  • Your introduction contains your research question and/or thesis statement. Introductions are “roadmaps” to your point and provide context for your topic.  

  • Your body paragraphs contain the evidence and analyses that support your thesis. Each body paragraph should have one main idea. Ideas should flow logically in the body of your essay. Pause between ideas to include transitions (phrases or sentences that connect one idea to the next). Body paragraphs need concluding sentences. 

  • Your conclusion is where you bring your ideas together into a cohesive, meaningful takeaway that flows from your argument. Depending on the purpose of your paper, you might wrap up loose ends, leave your reader with something to think about, or propose an action. 

Referencing, Formatting, and Mechanics 

Your professor will tell you which citation style (e. g. APA, MLA, Chicago) to follow. Style dictates the format of your paper and the way your in-text citations and references page look. The Purdue OWL online resource has helpful guides to referencing and formatting.  

Print your paper to check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure errors. Don’t rely on a spell-checker and avoid editing software, which can put you at risk of plagiarism. 

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca

References 

Bullock, R., Goggin, M. D., & Weinberg, F. (2008). The Norton field guide to writing. Norton. 

Graff, G., Birkenstein, C., & Durst, R. (2015). They say / I say (3rd ed.). Norton. 

The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue (1995-2020). Purdue OWL. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html 

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