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Expand Your Skills for Writing College Papers


Many students say there is no easy way to write college papers. This may be especially true if English is not your first language.

Many students say there is no easy way to write college papers. This may be especially true if English is not your first language.

This is the VOA Learning English Education Report.

Many students say there is no easy way to write college papers. This may be especially true if English is not your first language. Most teachers agree that there is no single “correct” way to create a personal essay or a research paper. But there are methods to help you structure your papers.

One way often used to structure writing is the traditional five-paragraph essay. Many students learn this form in middle and high school. The paragraphs follow conventions, or established rules.

The first paragraph is introductory. It tells the reader what the paper is about. It is followed by three paragraphs containing evidence that support the writer’s argument. The final paragraph is the conclusion. It provides a reasoned opinion based on the evidence.

Allison Cummings teaches English at Southern New Hampshire University. She is among many professors who find this form too simple for college work.

Still, on the positive side, Ms. Cummings says the five-paragraph essay form teaches a student some tools for writing a paper. She says the form teaches the need for the opening statement, or thesis. This thesis tells the reader what will come next. In addition, students who have learned to write a five-paragraph essay know they must provide evidence. And Ms. Cummings says the writer will know a conclusion is required.

But she also says the five-paragraph essay falls far short of college writing needs.

“Most of the subjects that students are asked to write about are going to involve more paragraphs, and more points, and more complexities.”

So, if a traditional method for structuring a research paper does not work, what steps can help you structure your writing? Ms. Cummings’ students learn several ways learn to organize their papers. The pace at which they learn differs.

Ms. Cummings says doing research for a paper helps some students in their writing. The teacher says noting the way the research is structured can help students organize their own writing.

“They’ll read articles and see what other people argue about, whatever issue they’re writing on, and get a sense of what the points are out there, what the debates are out there, and then let that structure what they come up with.”

Allison Cummings offers sample outlines – examples for organizing papers.

“If they want to use them, they are free to follow that kind of standard template…”

Ms. Cummings also provides her students with examples of successful and unsuccessful student papers. That way, her class can see what works in a piece of writing and what does not.

And that’s the VOA Learning English Education Report. I'm Jeri Watson.

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Words in this Story

convention – n. a custom or a way of acting or doing things that is widely accepted and followed

introductory – adj. providing information about something that is about to begin

conclusion – n. a final decision or judgment: an opinion or decision that is formed after a period of thought or research

positive – adj. good or useful

thesis – n. a statement that someone wants to discuss or prove

pace – n. the speed at which someone or something moves

article – n. a piece of writing about a particular subject that is included in a magazine, newspaper, etc.

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in this Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

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