So, you have a paper to write. You have been attending class regularly, paying attention during lectures, reading the readings, participating in discussion, and, now, your professor wants you to put some of that knowledge and some of those skills on paper; they want you to use what you have learned to develop and articulate ideas of your own about a topic (or case study) that you have either chosen yourself, or that was assigned to you. The only problem is, you don’t know where to start and you wish this ordeal over as soon as possible.

Well, let’s face it, the Academic Essay is not going anywhere. As one drops out of sight in your rear-view mirror (been there, done that), another one rears its head on the not-so-distant horizon. This is because the essay, or research paper, is the preeminent assessment tool in the Anglo-American educational system, especially in Liberal Arts programs. More than that, in many disciplines in the humanities, the research paper is not just a testing tool; it is, first and foremost, a learning tool – meaning you learn more about your subject while writing the essay than you do studying, attending lectures, or having your knowledge tested. At the very least, you learn differently. So, you might as well try and get good/better at it.

The English Composition course sequence, the Writing Center Tutors, this website, and other resources are meant to help you develop your writing skills, no matter your starting level. As you progress in your education, essays will become longer, subject matter and reading material will become more complex, and you will be expected to show growth as a writer and as a scholar. So learning skills and strategies now, when tasks are relatively simple, is crucial to your future success.