Rules for Good Paper Writing
(1) Paper construction –Your first step is reading the assignment thoroughly. Choose your topic carefully so your paper will properly fit all elements of the assignment. Here as following are the elements of a paper (in suggested order of appearance):
• Presentation of the summary of your project, usually in one paragraph
• Description of your project (your research question, research design, the setting of your research site, what you observed, whom you interviewed, etc.)
• Background (key concept used in the paper and discussion of relevant literatures)
• Description of ethnographic data (a vignette, an interview excerpt, etc.)
• Analysis of the ethnographic data you collected
For most papers, the analysis section is the most important part because that is where you present the significance of your project. Although it is tempting to spend a lot of time and pages on your descriptions, your analysis should be at least equally important and detailed. Go deeper than “I found this interesting because…” Think about why a certain phenomenon is important to those who participate in it, what kinds of meanings are involved, how meanings come out of everyday practice, and how your project serves as a window onto the broader processes of globalization. Remember, “anthropologists study in a village, not the village itself” (Clifford Geertz).
• Have a creative title! The title sets the tone for your entire paper, so don’t discount the importance of it.
• Always put page numbers in your header or footer, make sure you have all the required information (your name, student ID#, etc.), and absolutely use the assigned font and spacing (Times New Roman, 12-point, double-spaced, and margins of 1 inch on any side). If you put a date on your paper, use the date on which the paper is due and no other date). Also, don’t make your professor/ TA go blind by using anything smaller than 12-point font.
• Pay attention to sentence and paragraph structures: Don’t write your whole paper in one big paragraph! Try to vary your sentence structure once in a while.
• Grammar and spelling: They count so pay attention.
• Use the tools Bill Gates gave you, i.e. spelling and grammar check.
• Stay away from slang: For instance, “stuff,” “you know,” and “I mean”
• Be specific: Never use the word “thing” in your descriptions unless it’s absolutely appropriate.
• Vocabulary: Invest in a dictionary and thesaurus to avoid using the same words over and over again.
• If you decide to write in the first person (which is acceptable), make sure your writing style remains more formal, for instance, instead of writing “I am not saying…” try “Rather, I would argue…”
Last note –Be creative! Don’t be afraid to take risks, but make sure you have something concrete to back it up. Finally, when in doubt, check with your TA or the professor.