Different academic disciplines require different approaches. Below are some samples of concepts to consider when writing for specific disciplines, as well as tips on writing essays in general. Feel free to read the tips for every discipline—there is useful information in all of them. If you don’t see the discipline for your course here, just contact the Writing Center for more information.
Essay Writing in General
No matter what discipline you are writing for, the essay must have a point and demonstrate this point through a focused discussion. The discussion should not include stray information that distracts the reader from the focus.
Structurally, essays should typically have an introduction paragraph that establishes the main idea, or thesis, for the discussion to follow. The body should contain information that relates to the thesis. Finally, essays should have a conclusion.
Mechanics are valued differently from professor to professor, but an essay should read cleanly and not distract readers with grammar or punctuation errors, poor word choice, or improper format.
Writing within the Disciplines
- Get to the thesis right away and support it. Say what you think and support your ideas with specific examples, such as lines, stage directions, and character descriptions from the text. Discuss the characters, the dramatic action, and the premise. Cite other works you’ve read, seen, or performed. How does this play relate to others you are familiar with?
- Don’t be afraid to interpret. Analyzing a play requires creativity and vision. You should try to bring your insights and opinions to the work, but beware of introducing ideas that can’t be supported.
- Abandon the misconception that history is a pile of factual minutia that students must read and absorb.
- Avoid relying on summarization in your papers; history professors already know what happened and they probably aren’t interested in hearing you retell an old story.
- Come up with a new perspective on the old story. Argue and synthesize, using historical facts to support your thesis.
- Write clearly and succinctly; don’t use big words without good reason and certainly omit needless words.
- Be straightforward. The abstract concepts in business are difficult enough to comprehend without adding challenging prose and style. Short, direct sentences are generally appreciated.
- Organization is key. The use of subtitles can be helpful in clarifying organization and they allow the reader to skip sections which he or she may not be inclined to read. The physical layout of the paper should also be well thought out.
- Convey your ideas clearly. Run your writing by a test reader (a writing consultant, perhaps) to be sure you are communicating your ideas clearly.
- Research writing requires precise write-ups which include an abstract, introduction, materials, procedure, results and discussion. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains details about the requirements for submitting a research paper for publication. The fifth edition (2001) is the most recent.
- Psychology is abstract and consequently clarity is important when writing in this discipline. The study of human thoughts and behaviors draws on many theories. Explanations are essential so that everyone can understand, review, and respond.
Early Childhood Studies
- Writing is emphasized in the field of early childhood education, and consequently many courses seek to sharpen students’ writing skills
- Display your understanding of concepts, ideas, and theories by connecting information from class discussions, practicum experiences, and readings.
- Use appropriate terminology to express yourself professionally and demonstrate your understanding.
Natural and Biological Sciences
- Address each aspect of your assignment, but avoid including extraneous information unless otherwise requested.
- Be clear. Most scientific papers are full of terminology that can be difficult to understand. Therefore, it is important that you state what needs to be stated, and state it clearly.
- Science is changing. Scientific theories change from year to year. Be conscious of this. Be sure to use up-to-date sources in your writing.
- Understand your purpose for writing. Professors assign writing with a goal in mind. Try to address each aspect of a professor’s assignment with that purpose in mind.
- Develop a thesis. What exactly are you addressing in your paper? Once you have decided what to address, support your claims through examples found in both research and experience.
- Avoid plot summarization. While you may have to briefly summarize to give context to your discussion, the purpose of a literary analysis is not to say what happened in a story; rather, its purpose is interpreting and evaluating what happened through analyzing specific characters, themes, or symbols.
- Defend your position through the use of specific examples from the text. Remember, you aren’t trying to say what happened; you are saying why what happened was important.
- Use examples from the text and cite these examples properly. Most literary analyses use the MLA (Modern Language Association) format, but check with your professor to be sure.
- Originality is essential. We all have poems about love, stories about victories, and essays about losing beloved relatives. What is your unique take on the material? Do you have fresh approaches, new metaphors, and/or original angles in your writing?
- Form is also valued. Does your work contain the formal features of whatever genre you are working in? For example, in short fiction have you developed motivated, three-dimensional, believable characters? Is there a clear sense of conflict and a good story line? Do your essays have clearly defined narrative threads and/or themes for relevance and purpose? Do your poems show attention to line and stanza, musicality, and overall precision and economy of language?
- Revise thoroughly. Don’t just edit, but try to thoroughly explore and develop your topic and characters.