10 Writing Tips For Creating A Powerful Documented Essay

Creating a powerful documented essay may seem like an insurmountable task. Here are a few tips that will help you write a powerful documented essay, from choosing a topic to proofreading and editing the finished product.

Tip #1: Choose a topic for which there are credible sources.

You may need to do a cursory search for sources to find a suitable topic. Try searching for topics that are related to your topic, even tangentially. You may find an interesting angle from which to approach the topic or an even more interesting topic to research. Try not to limit yourself to finding sources that say exactly what you want to say. Remember: you can say something different than what has been said before.

Tip #2: Conduct research in an actual library.

Librarians can help you find sources on your topic and show you how to research more effectively. In addition, you can usually find library resources, databases, catalogs, and research guides on library websites. Beware of doing just a general online search; sources you find may not be credible or reliable, and these searches access less than 5% of the internet.

Tip #3: Evaluate your sources.

After finding a lot of sources, you will need to evaluate them to determine whether they are credible. Develop a set of evaluation criteria to assess your sources. Here are some things to consider:

  • - author credibility (credentials, degrees, experience, reputation)
  • - types and accuracy of evidence (verifiability of claims)
  • - credibility of the publication
  • - author’s purpose (agenda, biases)
  • - when it was published (Is timeliness a factor for your topic? Is there more recent research discrediting the information? Is the information experimental and require more research?)

Once you develop your evaluation criteria, go through each source and evaluate whether it adheres to this criteria. If not, do not use the source.

Tip #4: Write notes on your sources, including proper documentation.

Once you determine which credible sources to use, start taking notes covering information that you think will be useful in your essay. Include proper documentation and make sure to note with quotation marks when you are including exact words from the source so you don’t accidentally plagiarize.

Tip #5: Write an outline for your paper.

An outline is a great way to organize your ideas. An outline will ensure that your argument is organized clearly, thoughtfully, and purposefully. In essence, your outline should reveal your thesis, the argument for your thesis, the line of reasoning of your argument, and how the parts of your argument cooperate to show your topic’s significance.

Tip #6: Write a first draft without sources.

Writing your first draft (based on your outline) without using any sources will help you avoid relying too heavily on your sources. You want your sources to support your claims, argument, and ideas, not the other way around!

Tip #7: Write a second draft, adding sources with citations to support your claims.

Now you can go back through your paper and decide where you need to support your claims with evidence. Add source material and incorporate it meaningfully into the body of your essay. Make sure you provide proper documentation, and don’t just copy and paste from your notes. Explain how the material supports your claim.

Tip #8: Be cautious with citation generators!

Write a list of references in your documentation style (MLA, APA, Turabian). Also include in-text citations, the purpose of which is to point your audience to that source on your reference list. If you decide to use a citation generator (either online or in a word processing program), be very careful. Most of these generators do not provide proper or updated formatting. If you do use one, double-check citations using a manual of style.

Tip #9: Revise your essay for higher-order concerns before editing for lower-order concerns.

When you revise for content and organization, you will introduce new editing errors. Focus on higher-order concerns first, including thesis statement, introduction, conclusion, transitions, content, and organization. After your revise, you can focus on lower-order concerns, including grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation.

Tip #10: Double-check your citations, formatting, and source list for accuracy before submitting your work!