Gently poking and pushing the loose blocks in a game of Jenga can reveal the weak spots—the places where the structure might topple over, ending the game. When outside readers encounter your essay, they will look for the weak spots. In academic or scholarly writing, weak foundations are built from inadequate ideas, thesis statements, and sources. In other words, scholarly writing is more than just “sounding educated” or “professional.” It extends beyond “good grammar” and “sentence structure.” Most readers are able to forgive a few minor grammar or spelling mistakes, but if the central idea is not solid and if it’s not supported by appropriate sources, your essay will not be effective or convincing. Here are a few ideas and resources for providing your scholarly essay with a strong base:
1) Identify original ideas. If you are taking a psychology, literature, history, sociology, art history—or any other kind of course that requires a final paper—be sure to identify your paper topic within the first 2-3 weeks of class. In this way, you could give yourself enough time to research and write drafts. To identify your topic, you could:
–Pay attention to course lectures and discussions. Jot down ideas that sound interesting to you.
–Ask your instructor about current trends or interesting developments in the field at hand.
2) Identify experts in the field by paying attention to course handouts or other readings. Write down the names of the authors and look up other articles they’ve written. However, if your instructor doesn’t want to provide you with this information, you could look for academic articles on your own, using the videos provided in this post below.
The days of relying on news articles or links that “sound” scholarly on the Internet are over at this stage in your academic career. Scholarly writing requires a few more steps beyond the Internet search. These steps are provided in the following videos, in the hope of helping you find convincing and valuable information for building a solid writing project.