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Paper One: Making Sense of Experience

This paper can be a narrative, a descriptive essay, a lab report, an autobiography, an excerpt from a journal, a short story—any paper that represents an attempt to make sense of one’s own observations.
  • This paper will often be written in first person, but it does not have to be.
  • This paper should not be a book report or a summary of someone else’s ideas; the writer should write from his or her own experience.
  • If the writer is using a lab report, there must be a substantial results, discussion, or conclusion section showcasing the writer trying to "make sense" of the experiment.

Paper Two: An Academic Argument

In an academic argument, you must make a claim that a reasonable person could disagree with. Your topic does not have to be a "hot button issue" debated in the public sphere (though it certainly can be); any essay that offers a particular position on something – your position – and then offers evidence for that position qualifies as an argument.

The Parts of an Argument

  • Introduction. Catch your reader’s attention and introduce your topic. Include a clear, emphatic claim (thesis statement) that the rest of your essay will support. Your thesis statement for this essay is extremely important: it should be clear, focused, and obvious.
  • Support. Use logical reasoning, examples, illustrations, and/or definitions to develop your points persuasively and thoroughly. If your issue is complex, you may want to include expert sources. 
  • Concession / Refutation. Respond to opposing viewpoints, either in a separate section or as they would occur to the intended audience. (These are not required but will make your argument stronger.)
    • Concession—agree with whatever you can without hurting your position. Qualify your assertions thoughtfully to avoid triggering doubt or disagreement in your readers.
    • Refutation—diplomatically show what’s flawed with opposing arguments.
  • Conclusion. Tie your argument together and leave the reader with something to think about and remember.

Paper Three: Analysis, Evaluation, Criticism, and/or Interpretation that Focuses on the Ideas of Others

This paper will usually be a college-level research paper, as the instructions indicate. Importantly, a good research paper is not a compilation or summary of other people’s words and ideas; the student-writer should analyze, evaluate, interpret, and/or synthesize information found through research. Source material should support and develop an original, insightful thesis about the topic that the writer has formulated after analyzing the subject.
  • The thesis of this paper will often make a claim of some sort, but it won’t necessarily be as emphatic a claim as in the argument. In this type of essay, the author should have done enough research, interpretation, evaluation, and/or analysis on the topic to be able to express a personal, well considered view. This type of essay could offer the writer’s interpretation of a Shakespearean play, an analysis of an environmental problem, an evaluation of a particular therapeutic approach in counseling, or a critical examination of a theater performance. In other words, the paper must do more than simply present information: It needs to use information.
  • While aspects of this essay may overlap with the academic argument, the essays are distinct in that they showcase different things: the argument essay showcases your ability to take a position and convince your reader of it. This essay, on the other hand, showcases your ability to become a student-expert on a topic, finding all relevant source material and presenting it so that the reader gains new insight on your topic. In this essay, you will put experts in conversation with one another – and you will also be "present": you must do something with the material. (This does not mean you must use "I"!)
  • The ideas in this paper must be fully developed and clearly presented. Source material should be used to aid development and support. Any quotation or paraphrase should be integrated into the student’s prose and connected clearly to the thesis. The writer should fastidiously attribute all source material. See Hacker for integration and documentation. 
The documentation of source material should be meticulous. Read more about Writing with Sources.

Paper Four: The Timed Writing

Timed writings measure your raw writing ability and your skill at thinking under pressure. They also reflect your ability to recall, synthesize, and analyze detailed material.
  • You may turn in any timed essay from any class. If your handwriting is unclear, you may type a copy of the exam, but you must turn it in with the original. Your timed essay submission must have the class number, date, and professor’s name.
  • You may take a timed writing at the Writing Center. The Writing Center can also help prepare you for timed essays. We offer a handout on how to take a timed writing exam.
  • Because clarity of mind is vital, one of the best things you can do to prepare for a timed essay is to get plenty of sleep the night before.
Still have questions? Visit the Writing Center, Seibert 103. Don’t wait until the last week, the WC gets very busy, and you will not get the kind of attention the consultants would like to give you.