Ivory Tower Writing #13: Knowing your enemy – types of papers and what to expect (part 2)

This post further explains the types of papers you may encounter during your university life and what to expect from them.

I’d like to continue on from where we left off at post #8 when I first discussed the types of papers that you may meet throughout your university life. This time, let’s focus on some of the more specific types of papers.

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Ivory Tower Writing #11: Writing a conclusive conclusion

This post covers some practices on how to write a conclusion that’s conclusive.

At this point, we’re almost done with the paper. You’ve fleshed out your ideas in paragraph after paragraph and you don’t have anything more to say. But wait, there’s still one part left: the conclusion.

Cue the groans.

“But I’ve already made my point! Why do I have to write more?”

Well, as I’ve said before, academic writing is a circular process. Like it or not, you have to write a conclusion. So, let’s get down to business.

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Ivory Tower Writing #10: Structuring your body

This post provides pointers on how to organize your ideas in the body of your paper.

Now that we’ve covered the introduction, it’s time for us to tackle the brunt of the writing work in the body of the paper. Let’s assume your introduction has been interesting enough so the readers want to read more. This is where you will have to organize your ideas in a meaningful manner and develop your argument to the fullest.

As usual, I won’t speak about how you ought to write; writing in an academic style is fairly straightforward and you are allowed to insert your personal style a bit. However, I will provide some pointers as to how you could organize your ideas so they make sense. We’ll cover paragraph structure and bit by bit, we’ll get to body structure.

Let’s get started.

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Ivory Tower Writing #9: Writing an inviting introduction

This post provides pointers on how to write an enticing introduction section for academic papers.

They say that first impressions are everything, and you don’t get a second chance at making first impressions. Such holds true for even academic papers. Your introduction is your first chance to hook readers into reading the rest of your paper, so you better work hard on it.

At this point, we have covered the general parts of the introduction, so let’s get to the actual writing. Also, because writing an inviting introduction is hard, this section is often written first and finished last.

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Ivory Tower Writing #8: Knowing your enemy – types of papers and what to expect

This post discusses some pointers in distinguishing the different types of papers that you may encounter during your academic life.

At this point, you have some of the basics of structure covered. Before discussing more basics, I think now’s a good time to understand the types of papers you may encounter when you’re in university.

Some general advice first. You ought to always pay attention to the wording of your research question (as I’ve mentioned in post #4), as this determines the general character of your paper. This also applies to questions your professor gives you. If they provide you with a research question, then you actually have your work cut out for you. You may also have to do some work, especially if all they give you is a statement like “Robotics will change the nature of war. Discuss.”

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Ivory Tower Writing #7: A note on data and sources

This post covers some pointers on data and sources which forms the bulk of any paper, particularly printed and textual sources.

While you’re doing your literature review (or revising an existing one), you should be familiar with sources and data at this point. This post serves as a guide regarding these two things. We’ll cover things like what “good” sources and data are and how not to get bamboozled into using less credible sources. As usual, the material here is targeted primarily for my undergraduate students. Let’s get to it.

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Ivory Tower Writing #6: Writing a literature review

This post introduces the art of writing a literature review.

Ah, the literature review. The two words that will surely break the spirit of grad students or anyone assembling a book-length argument of why we should use concordance theory as a new paradigm for civil-military relations. It is that section that you will always be revisiting and revising so it remains coherent and up-to-date.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the basics of a literature review, starting with whether you really need one, what it is, and how to write it.

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Ivory Tower Writing #5: Deciding your methods

This post provides an introduction to the issue of choosing your methods in research.

Once you have decided on a research question, you’re now likely going to start choosing what methods to apply in your research.

Depending on your field of study, your go-to methods will likely be either quantitative or qualitative. Some may say that quantitative methods are better than qualitative methods. Note that neither method is “better” than others absolutely. Imagine trying to cut a steak using a bread knife. Theoretically, you could do it, but then it’ll take a goddamn long time and you’re not doing justice to a prime cut of meat. Instead of insisting on using a bread knife, go buy a proper steak knife. That analogy illustrates the issue of methods: none are absolutely better, they just have different utility depending on what you’re trying to cut. As King, Keohane, and Verba wrote in Designing Social Inquiry (1994):

“All good research can be understood—indeed, is best understood—to derive from the same underlying logic of inference.”

Besides, choosing between qualitative or quantitative isn’t even half the battle.

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