Writing Paper Guidelines

There are two general types of college-level paper: research paper and analytical paper. A research paper, strictly speaking, should be conducted by utilizing statistical methods or experimental methods and operationalizing the key research elements in the research process, such as problem, hypothesis, research design, measurement, data collection, data analysis, and generalization. Your term paper belongs to the latter. An analytical paper can be further classified into descriptive and explanatory. Your paper can be either a descriptive or explanatory analytical paper. Both require you to explain something. If you describe changes of institutions, patterns of behavior, or policies, you are not simply describing them for nothing, but for explaining something. A paper that merely reports what others have said or describes something will give you neither psychic satisfaction nor a good grade. Your task is not merely to assemble facts, but to interpret or explain the facts. An analytical paper is the most basic one; but it is not easy to do a good work. I will try to make it as simple and clear as possible in the following.

  1. To do a good work on an analytical paper, just as for any type of paper, the first thing you need is to choose or set up a topic, such as "Democratic Transition in South Korea" which usually defines the parameters within which your (research) question or a thesis is proposed, the relevant literature is selected and integrated either to support or refute the thesis, your evaluation is conducted based upon the criteria you set up, and some conclusions you will draw based upon your evaluation.

  2. Your work needs a thesis/theme for a paper that opens and closes the work. The question you want to work on implies a thesis or theme. At the end of your paper, you need to complete the circle by linking the opening of your paper with the closing of the paper. With a thesis or theme, you can work on integration and linkages of materials, paragraph to paragraph, literature to literature. With a thesis or theme, you know what you want to do or what problem or puzzle you want to solve you may defend or refute the thesis, or by doing so, you may come up with a synthesis breaking the ground. For example, you might want to develop a thesis, such as the driving forces for democratic transition in South Korea in late 1980s are economic growth, rising middle class, independent labor movement, roles of elites in power and opposition. Then, you want to show your readers whether you are going to support or refute this thesis, and how you are going to do so, such as historical review, critical review, content analysis, or what. This is your introduction  (I. Introduction).

  3. The next step is the definitional work on some key terms and to establish evaluation criteria by which you examine the state, development, change, or reality of the subject matter. That is to say, you have to define the key term, such as democratic transition or any key concepts to be used in your paper. You can do this either in your introduction section or do this as an individual part of the main body (II. Defining Key Concepts).  If you choose to do this in your introduction section, you will not have this particular section, which means that you will simply borrow or accept the definition of concepts established by other major work in the literature. If you need an additional section for this work, you first search the relevant literature to synthesize the material into different definitions or contrasting views on democratic transition by referring to some major work in the literature, because democratic transition could mean different things to different peoples. Only by defining the key terms and establishing evaluation criteria, your following examination can be valid and you can provide a valid justification for your thesis developed in your introduction.

  4. What follows is to engage in the investigation of real world or examination of empirical facts along some dimensions through a substantial literature research. This is a major part of the paper body (III. Examination). If you want to explain why democratic transition has occurred in South Korea, you need to examine those key causal variables informed and identified by previous studies by scholars (which is usually done in the literature review section) and provide sufficient evidence to support your arguments. You need to organize the materials in a systematic way and in a meaningful way. That is to say, you have to work on the linkages and integration from paragraph to paragraph, and from literature to literature.

  5. Evaluation of the results (IV. Analysis). This is actually a concluding part of your paper. Or, this can be a substantial part of the main body of your paper, if you want to have an additional concluding section. You can do it either way; it is up to you. Only listing or lumping facts together is not sufficient; instead you need to show that you are able to draw conclusions from the materials under your investigation (or you have studied). At this stage, you can apply the criteria you have established in section I or II and draw conclusions from the material. Your conclusions are actually your interpretation of the results of your evaluation of your subject, and expected to support or restate the thesis you have proposed at the beginning. By so doing you complete the circle.  This section should also include any insightful reflections and thought on the discussion of the subject matter. If you choose to have an additional concluding chapter, which is the most common way people choose, you simply recapture, in brief fashion, the thesis proposed at the beginning, the major empirical evidence that supports or refutes the thesis, and the conclusion you have made based upon your analysis.

  6. Finally, the format of your paper is also essential. The format must always include a title page, abstract if necessary, table of contents, text or body of the paper, sections with subtitles, and footnotes or references. Do not forget to do the page number!   

      Note: If you choose to do a research paper by utilizing statistical methods or experimental methods, you must first discuss with me the key research elements in the research process, such as problem, hypothesis, research design, measurement, data collection, data analysis, and generalization.

      I hope these general guidelines will be helpful either for your efforts to write your paper or for your long-term benefit at university. Work hard and commit yourself to excellence, and you will always be highly rewarded. Thank you for choosing my class as the media of your leaning process. Good luck and enjoy your work.