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Technical Paper Writing Guidelines

1.  Format
  • typewritten
  • double spaced
  • regular size & style font (i.e. Times New Roman 12, Courier 10)
  • 1-inch margins
  • numbered pages
2.  Style
  • include a title page (title, your name, class, date, assignment)
  • introduce: thesis paragraph(s) to start (be clear: present your main argument/question and how you will address/answer it in the body of your paper)
  • conclude: concluding paragraph(s) at end
  • use topic sentences (ideally, the structure of the paper should be clear from reading the first sentence of every paragraph)
  • avoid passive voice (was doing; were taken);  stick with active voice wherever possible (did; took) (EG: NOT: the apples were brought to the table. USE John brought the apples to the table)
  • make sure the subject of a sentence is absolutely clear, and if you must start a sentence with 'it' or 'they,' make sure your pronoun refers directly to a subject in the preceding sentence
  • avoid unnecessary jargon AND informal expressions (slang)
  • keep quotations short & to the point; indent and single space if long
  • citation. Use the Chicago Manual of Style format. NO exceptions. See CITATION section for formatting information.

3.  Remember to:
  • check your spelling: USE the spellcheck program on the computer
  • analyze:  keep supporting evidence brief and directly related to the point you are making.  Summary is not argument.
  • organize:  an outline can help you present your ideas in an easy-to-follow fashion
  • underline OR italicize book titles (be consistent); put article titles in quotes
  • be consistent in the style of citations you use (endnote, footnote)
  • put aside for 24 hours before checking your final draft
One good way to make sure you've written a clear paper is to have a third party (roommate, relative, co-worker) read it before you turn it in. Not only can an extra set of eyes catch typos you (and your spellcheck program) might miss, but an intelligent non-specialist reader may also point out places where you need to strengthen or clarify your argument, or cut out unnecessary detail.

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