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Writing Better Papers

Allow sufficient time both to research and write your papers.

  • Good papers and good writing takes time and a bit of forethought. Writing is a craft, and a good paper has a beginning and an end - an introduction and a conclusion - and some information and analysis in the middle.
  • Write in complete sentences, following the standard conventions of the English language. Sentences must have a subject and a verb. Shorter, more direct sentences are better than longer, convoluted ones.
  • One of the best books on English writing, William Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style, was written in 1918. What they had to say then is still valid.
  • Remember that short papers are not necessarily easier to do than longer ones. A good three page paper can take longer to write than one which is 10-15 pages.
  • Invest time into researching your subject material from a range of academic sources. If you must use the Internet, some online resources for Political Science are available through the university library by clicking here.

Write in your own words.

  • Direct quotations from sources which you have been using should be used sparingly, and only for emphasis, or because it is useful for the reader to know exactly what another author has said.
    • Shorter quotations can be included in sentences, but always in quotation marks.
    • Longer quotations must be single-spaced, and indented at both sides, but should not be enclosed in quotation marks.
    • Papers which are little more than direction quotations strung together will receive a poor grade.
  • When you write, put things in your own words. Using the words of others without proper attribution (see below), constitutes plagiarism, a form of academic dishonesty. We watch for it and apply Memorial University regulations on academic misconduct when necessary. It isn't pleasant and can result in a grade of zero for the course, or in some instances, suspension from the university.
  • Remember that there are ways of summarizing other people's ideas without plagiarizing. Those of us who write do so regularly, typically by using phrases such as "According to Cairns..." or "Cairns argues... " followed by a footnote, endnote or in-text reference. This tells the reader, up front, that what is about to follow is summarizes or paraphrase's Cairn's argument. You still have to put it in your own words, but both you and the reader know what is happening.

Remember to document the sources which you have used in footnotes, endnotes, or in-text references.

  • Doing so requires you to make judgment calls. In order to so, pay attention to what other authors do. You need to footnote information or ideas which were not common knowledge, but you don't need to footnote every word or sentence. Instead, you can group references in a single note at the end of paragraph.
  • The most common reference systems are APA, MLA, and Turabian. You can find further information on these on QEII Library's web site. Political Science students are encouraged to follow our Political Science Style Guide.
  • Remember:
    • Improper documentation makes a poor paper worse.
    • An absence of documentation suggests plagiarism.