Martha Carlin
Professor of History
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
copyright Martha Carlin 2022; all rights reserved


How can you write a great paper? Here are six tips:

A great paper is based on excellent sources, careful reading, and thoughtful analysis. You can’t write a great paper from poor sources or hasty reading. Great papers take serious work.

A great paper is more than an assemblage of relevant facts: it has a clear and engaging narrative. It poses a question, presents compelling evidence and arguments, and answers the question. The question, evidence, arguments, and conclusion all make sense and are presented in a well-organized, logical sequence.

A great paper is concrete and accurate. If you find yourself resorting to vague writing, it usually means that you don’t know what you are talking about. Don’t fake it – find out.

A great paper is honest. If you don’t understand something, or if you find evidence that contradicts your ideas, figure it out or get help – don’t ignore the problem or try to camouflage it. If source citations are required, cite all sources from which you drew quotations, factual information, methodologies, or ideas.

A great paper shows original thinking. It is not merely a compilation of other people’s information and ideas – it also reflects your own independent questions, research, analysis, or insights.

A great paper is persuasive and transparent. It is on-topic, thoroughly researched, accurate, clear, well-written, and uncluttered.  Source citations (if used) are scrupulously complete and correct, and everything has been proofread.