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How to write a graduate-level essay

Step-by-step guidance and resources for planning, researching, and writing essays as a graduate student.

Draft your thesis statement

Illustration of yellow sticky note with the words what's next               If you followed the instructions provided in the last step, Create a Preliminary Document Plan, you will already have a preliminary thesis statement for your essay. However, now that you have a clearer idea of what direction or focus you want to take in your paper, it's time to draft the thesis statement. If you're new to writing thesis statements, please view the resources available here: Thesis Statements.

The benefit to having a strong thesis statement is that it gives you and your reader clear parameters of what will be discussed within the paper. For example, if my thesis statement is that Royal Roads University is unique amongst post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island because of its history, diversity of wildlife, Hatley Park, and educational programs, I know exactly what I need to prove to my reader within the document. Depending on the breadth of my study, I have the four body paragraphs or perhaps four sections for my essay: history, diversity of wildlife, Hatley Park, and educational programs.

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Think about how you would describe the focus of your paper to a stranger in one or two sentences. "What's your paper about?", asks the stranger. You know that the individual doesn't want a detailed description, but is rather looking for a high-level summary of the focus of the paper. How would you answer that question in one or two sentences?

If you're having a hard time writing it out, have an actual conversation with someone where you can verbally describe your paper. Have your conversation partner ask you questions if they're not clear on the direction of the paper until you have that one or two sentence succinct description. Remember to keep in mind the assignment description so that you can be sure that your thesis statement addresses the expectations for the essay.