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Most professors emphasize three criteria on essays: completeness, clarity, and conciseness.

  • Completeness simply means: how much of the total possible essential content did you include?  Did you get the various elements in the right relationship to each other?
  • Clarity means how well did you articulate it.  This includes such things as grammar and syntax. It also includes elements of rhetorical style, such as a well-crafted introduction and conclusion.
  • Conciseness means did you write any “fluff” sentences to hide the fact that you didn’t really know as much as you were supposed to, or have enough research to back you up.

Obviously content is the most important part of an essay, but clarity cannot be divorced from it. Failure to be concise is the least damaging, as long as you got all the content, but still . . .

Remember, as a minister in the Church you will be responsible to articulate the Gospel in a complete, clear and concise manner.  Start practicing now.


  1. Prewriting
    1. Choosing a thesis or claim
      1. Begin when you see the syllabus
      2. Keep an journal of interesting thoughts
      3. Review your notes
      4. Brainstorming
        1. Exploratory writing
      5. What is the significance of the topic?
      6. Keep track of all citations!
    2. Research
      1. Keep track of all citations!
    3. Outlining
  2. Drafting
    1. Paragraphs
    2. Introduction and conclusion
    3. Keep track of all citations!
  3. Revision
    1. Sentences and paragraphs
    2. Transitions
    3. Integrating quotations
    4. Keep track of all citations!
  4. Editing
    1. Formatting
    2. Grammar and Spelling
    3. Citations
    4. Peer review
    5. Keep track of all citations!
  5. Publication
    1. Submission

Checklist for Writing a Paper


  • Significant topic
  • Unity of theme
  • Logical structure
  • Sustained focus on topic
  • Indicate understanding of content
  • Develop argument
  • Offer effective examples
  • Address anticipated objections
  • Appropriate length
  • Overall lucidity of expression


  • Your paper has a title at the TOP of the first page, as well as a title page
    • The title should NOT be a repetition of the topic. 
    • Nor should it be “Paper #1.” You need to be more creative than that.
  • Your paper should begin with an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis statement and a statement of method.
  • The intro should have a “hook” to engage the reader. Tell the reader why your paper will captivate her/him.
  • The body of the paper 1) describes, 2) elaborates, and/or 3) defends the thesis statement using a) arguments, b) examples, and c) quotations from authorities.
    • It also anticipates and argues against possible objections to your thesis.
    • The body of the paper is often organized according to sub-points. 
      • Use headings as subdivisions which help the reader to understand the flow of the paper.
      • Do not clutter the text with too many headings, especially in a short paper.
  • The concluding paragraph of your paper should summarize what you’ve already stated, while indicating how the text fits together to illustrate your thesis.
    • Refer back to the hook.


  • 1 inch margins all around (NOTE:  This is for the text. Page numbers should be outside this margin.)
  • Double space (NOT 1.5 spaced or triple spaced)
  • 12 pt. Times (New Roman)
  • Use page numbers.
  • "Reference List," although it has a page number, is NOT a part of the page count for the paper.
  • Only ONE hard return between paragraphs
  • Use full sentences
  • Write paragraphs that are not too lengthy or too short.
  • Check spelling and punctuation, syntax and grammar

Helpful techniques and procedures:

  • Write a one-sentence statement of your thesis or claim
  • Write a one-page outline of the paper
  • Have someone else read the paper
  • Read the paper out loud

 Things to avoid:

  • Plagiarism. If you quote the work of another, you must list a CITATION giving them credit.
  • ”I feel that…”  Instead, say “I think that….”   Or “I believe that….”                        If you say “I feel….” follow it with descriptive feelings, such as sadness, pain, joy, etc. and then write about reasons for the feeling.
  • Undocumented general assertions
  • Ad hominem attacks. 
  • Run-on sentences, comma splices, and sentence fragments
  • Weak “and” constructions
  • Redundancy

It is important to plan your time when answering essay questions.

Read through the entire examination first.

  1. Get a feel for the questions you are expected to answer.
  2. If the exam allows you to choose from a number of questions, be sure to number your answers exactly to match the questions.

Follow directions carefully.

Words such as “list,” “describe,” “compare and contrast,” and “outline” require different types of answers.

Don’t write "about” the question but answer it directly and concisely.


  1. After scanning the list of questions to be answered, choose the ones you know most about.    
  2. On scrap paper quickly prepare an outline of important ideas and facts to be included in your response. (Make a mini mind map.)         
  3. Your opening statement summarizes what you are going to say.
  4. What follows should support your opening statement.
  5. Your conclusion should show how your body text supported your opening statement.

It is absolutely essential that your ideas can be read and understood: print if your cursive writing is very hard to read; know and use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Each week the Writing Skills Associate has produced a Writing Tip of the Week for students. This archive contains 75 tips from the past four years organized by topic. 

Topics include: 

  1. Prewriting and Research
  2. Argument development
  3. Paragraphs
  4. Sentences
  5. Words and Concepts
  6. Grammar
  7. Quotations, Citations and Paraphrasing
  8. Formatting
  9. Studying
  10. The Final Product
  11. Types of writing
  12. Resources