I’ve taught writing at several universities, both in the United States, and at U.S. institutions abroad. The principles of good remain the same whether you are in Orlando, Florida or Doha, Qatar.
- Begin with a clear thesis.
This thesis should present an argument that is not a fact and which a reasonable person might disagree with. The disagreement is why he/she keeps reading your piece. Answering the question so, what, or who cares allows you further draw in your reader and make sure you have his/her attention until the end.
- Back up your claim with convincing evidence or supporting points.
Without good evidence, your argument falls apart and you will not be successful in persuading your reader of your particular view point. Each paragraph should further your main claim from the introduction and expand on a particular element.
- Topic sentences are what connect the dots.
Early in each paragraph you should explain how the ideas you are going to expand upon connect to the main idea. The principles of a good thesis apply here as well: don’t rely on fact, and remember the more interesting, the better.
- End with an expansion, not just a summary.
If you merely regurgitate what you’ve told the reader, then you’ve wasted my time. I want to know how your points/argument relate to the world in general or other ideas in particular. What are the larger connections you can make? In your conclusion you should remind us of what the big questions were, why we care about your topic (the so what).
Good writing isn’t fancy words or lengthy sentences (though you’ll see plenty of both in academic writing). Writing that engages the reader has a unique perspective on an interesting issue and draws us in by telling us something we wouldn’t otherwise know. These rules may seem deceptively simple but they become second nature as you practice them.
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