When it comes to writing a final paper, regardless of the subject matter, there are four major ingredients needed for it to be a success: Focus, Content, Organization, and Principles. Blending the four ingredients together will produce a final paper that is a masterpiece. Here’s a breakdown of each part of the puzzle and how to make sure you’re making your paper’s argument clear and cohesive.

Focus – The Thesis Statement

Building a thesis statement sets the stage that the entire paper will support. It shows what the focus of the paper is all about; it’s the spotlight, the cornerstone, and the ultimate punchline of the whole entire work. It will be the theme, surrounded by factual information supporting it. It’s important that the thesis statement has a clear purpose, so that can be developed throughout the paper. It’s also important that your thesis is an argument and not just a fact. To determine whether your thesis is an opinion, ask if someone could reasonably disagree with you. If the answer is no, rethink what you have going on.

Organization – The Outline

Before writing the actual final paper, sit down and outline the order in which it will be presented. You may be tempted to skip this step if you’re in a time crunch, but if you do, it will show in the lack of progression throughout the paper. A clear and concise outline gives strong structure to the paper and keeps you as the writer on task. As you progress through the paper, you can refer to your outline to ensure that every single sentence contributes to the thesis of the paper in some capacity. Without an outline, the paper will be all over the place, and not create the desired developmental flow needed. Don’t skip this important step, even though it’s not presented with the final paper.

Content – The Information Sources

Choosing quality information sources will provide support for the thesis statement. Citing professionals throughout the body of your paper gives credit to the argument being presented so that it is no longer an argument, but has authenticity. Also, having multiple sources of information produces a good foundation and backs the thesis statement on which it can grow. Think about it this way: if you’re a student making claims, readers have little reason to believe you. If, though, you mention that MIT professors, UN officials, or millionaire CEOs feel the same way you do about the issue, readers are more likely to find you credible.

Principles – The Proofread

The fundamentals of good grammar, sentence structure, and spelling are pertinent to a successful final paper. Using complex sentences is acceptable, as long as it is clearly stated, so the reader can follow easily. Overly complicated sentences create confusion so that the reader can not follow what the writer is trying to express. A great paper can be ruined by poor grammar and bad spelling, too. Using a grammar and spelling check is a beneficial tool. You may even want to bring your paper to a friend, classmate, or parent and ask them to give it the once-over with fresh eyes to make sure your arguments follow as well as you think they do and your sentences make sense.