A Manual on Writing an Academic Paper

  1. Make sure that you have read and read the brief that you have for completing your paper. Take note of the time frame you have been given and make a note of important dates such as the date for submission of your proposal and the final date for for handing in your paper.
  2. Take a little time to think in terms of the subject or focus of your paper. This may be a good point to start a project diary (make this your go to book) by writing down ideas as they come to you. By doing this you have a good reference to any decisions you make regarding idea pathways. If you are unsure, check in with your professor.
  3. Once you have the basic idea for your paper, start a literature search. Decide on your key words and the order in which you enter them into a search engine. One of the problems with literature searches is that they sometimes take you down a pathway that can end up as a dead end. Make sure that you make a note if this happens as it will save you time later. Make a note of the papers, journal articles, books or web sites that you feel are useful (make a note of why) for your paper with the view to exploring them in more depth later.
  4. Check in with the College or University librarian, to see if they can offer any more suggestions or key words.
  5. Start the proposal for your paper. Does it meet the criteria set out in the instructions you were given? Does it make sense? Do you need to access more information to complete the task? Hopefully you have left yourself enough time to leave your draft for a day or two and go back to it and proofread.
  6. If your proposal has gone well, you can now start on the paper. Re-read the instructions. Don't start by writing the abstract this is the last part that you will write. Start with the Introduction and the Literature review (most of which will be in the proposal). Continue with Methodology, Discussion and Conclusion.
  7. Read your draft and if possible get your professor to check through the content at this stage. Make any changes that have been highlighted.
  8. You may now be ready to start writing the Abstract. This may be the most frustrating task, as you have to prices everything into 150-200 words. It may take a few re-writes.
  9. Start proofreading and editing your paper. This will take more than one read through. Ideally you need to recruit someone to do a final proofread and edit. It may be advisable to pay for a professional to do this for you.
  10. Hand in your paper. Relax.