Writing a scientific paper / essay

Every student at a college or university will have to write a number of papers during his or her study trajectory. One student has no problem with it, the other sees a paper as a difficult obstacle. This article sets out a number of requirements that significantly increase the chance of a good score. If you need help writing a paper, you definitely need reading this article and find your own answer.


It is essential to plan writing. Make a plan for yourself in which you must distinguish two things: reading primary and secondary literature and writing the paper. Scheduling is one of the characteristics of an academic. This is the foundation of what you will do next.


Primary literature usually consists of texts that belong to the ‘canon’ in a certain (research) field: they are internationally recognized texts that guarantee high quality. In other words: classics that you absolutely must have read as a student. There are also texts that criticize classics or texts that use a completely different analytical perspective on a canonized text. Such texts form the secondary literature; they offer different perspectives and offer different handles. It is also important to analyze in which ‘genre’ the secondary literature falls. Is it a purely scientific text or is it popular science? Is it a chapter from a manual? Look carefully at the source, because it usually gives the answer away.

The literature will of course be discussed during the lectures and seminars. Make sure you are always present! Taking notes will simplify the writing of the paper. Please note, however, that you never mention a lecture as a source: the information that the teacher explains will generally be information from another source. Therefore, find the primary source and use it as a reference.

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Study and analyze

Reading the primary literature in particular will take quite some time. First read the texts exploratory in order to get a global picture of the text. Often every text is preceded by an ‘abstract’ that briefly summarizes what will be dealt with in the article. This is a minute summary, but it does outline the main lines. Reading paragraph titles will also help to create an image about the literature.


Then read the text comprehensively. Get the essence of the story, write down key words and important sentences. Detecting signal words will definitely simplify that process. Make sure you understand the author’s thinking steps and ask questions during the lectures when this is not the case. Try to formulate the main idea per paragraph. If the paragraphs are very long, you can also do this per paragraph. In this way you automatically create a summary for yourself.

Finally, try to take a critical look at the text. When writing a paper, it is not the intention to copy and confirm everything from literature as a yes marble. Make critical comments and analyze the arguments calmly: is evidence provided for each argument? Do the arguments in the text follow or are they taken out of the blue? Is the author consistent? Activating your own prior knowledge about the subject will also make this process of critical reading a lot easier.

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In short: reading primary and secondary literature is essential for writing the paper. Read well about the chosen topic. Look for the ‘classics’, but also for texts that put the classics in a different light. Penetrate to the core, but also form your own arguments and certainly do not take everything for granted. When you have completed these steps, the writing phase naturally begins.

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