I feel like there is a lot of stress out there among grad students about writing seminar papers, especially when we’re told that our goal should be to make an original contribution to the field. That idea can be quite intimidating when we’re just starting out. It feels like you’ve asked us to jump off the deep end of the pool and we don’t know how to swim.
I think part of the problem is that we’re still working out how to structure seminar papers.** Each paper we write is another step closer to a successful, effective, and affective paper; however, we’re still flailing our arms (and other miscellaneous body parts) around because we’re uncertain of exactly how to go about it. I realize, of course, that there is no one right answer. However, below is my suggestion at sticking your toes in the water.
**Addition: I have to add that I think Donna has done a whole lot this semester to try and help us see this fact and demistify the process.
I welcome your comments and/or suggestions. Also, if there are any sources you’d like to recommend, please comment away.
Section #1 — Introduction
Provide a little bit (or a lot) of motivation for the reader to read your entire paper. Failing that, your reader should know what the paper is going to be about by reading your introduction.
Paragraph #1 — Get some attention.
1. Provide a context by citing a recent text in the field — the point that is cited may or may not be the main point of the text — it is what jumped out at you.
2. Set-up broader context of what you’re going to do
Paragraph #2-?? — Define issue and the gap.
1. Define issue and any key terms
2. Limit scope as necessary
3. Establish significance of issue
4. State problem by defining the gap
5. Explain how present research attempts to fill the gap
6. Outline contributions (readers will see lit review for more detail.)
7. End with thesis and preview organization of the rest of the paper
Section #2 — Literature Review
Give some credit where credit is due.
1. Indicate the current state of the issue/problem/topic
2. Define or qualify terms
3. Engage sources in conversation with each other (don’t just copy in annotated bib)
Section #3 — Argument/Discussion
As stated in the Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing: wallow in those complexities!!
1. Examine issue
2. Argue how issue can be mitigated, mediated, or mashed
3. Provide evidence and support
4. Make some lively commentary along the way
Section #4 — Conclusion
We’re almost done. Don’t quit now.
1. Summarize research question
2. Qualify argument/discussion if you need to
3. Explain where we go now
4. End well
Section #5 — Works Cited
1. Double check — Is everything listed on the works cited?
Tips: it’s ok to use sub-headings to keep yourself organized.