As you prepare to write, review the assignment instructions carefully and be sure you understand your instructor’s expectations for your writing assignment, such as: 

  • expected length and due date for your paper
  • resources you are expected to use (or to avoid)
  • goals you are expected to accomplish in the paper
  • purpose of the assignment

If any of this information is at all unclear to you when given an assignment, make sure to ask your course director for clarification!

A working thesis is a thesis statement that you adopt tentatively during your writing process as a means of guiding your research, reading and writing. You are likely to modify your working thesis statement based on insights and information gained in the writing process. As you develop the essay, the working thesis statement evolves into the definitive thesis statement of the final draft.

Developing a working thesis can serve to tell you what further information you need to provide in the essay and help you decide on the order of your ideas, or what further arguments you need to support the working thesis.

View SPARK’s resource on developing a working thesis 

View uOttawa’s resource on constructing a thesis statement 

PRO TIP: Once you’ve created a working thesis statement, read it over and ask yourself the question, “So, what?” A good thesis statement will clearly explain the stance that you are making on the topic of your paper. In other words, your thesis should not leave your reader asking “So what?”

As a first step to creating a search strategy, identify the main concepts for your topic or research question. Topics and research questions generally involve relationships among two or more concepts. Your main purpose at this stage is to derive a list of concrete terms that, taken together, capture the essence of your question or topic. 

View SPARK’s Module on Research Strategies

View SPARK’s Worksheet on Combining Keywords 

View SPARKS’s Worksheet on Creating Search Strategies

View uOttawa’s Resource on Doing Research

PRO TIP: For more information, research strategies, and research help, please visit York University’s Library website!

Outlining is one of several techniques for organizing your main points, examples, evidence and background information into a coherent structure. Most word processing software has outlining features that make it easy to draft and revise an outline as you write.

Some writers begin writing with a simple list of points. They gradually supplement and reorganize this list as they write to develop a working thesis and emphasize connections among their points. Other writers draft sentences and paragraphs from the beginning and use the cut and paste features of their word processing software to organize their material as they work.

View SPARK’s Sample Outline Process Resource

View uOttawa’s Making an Outline Resource

PRO TIP: It is always a good idea to understand the citation and formatting style of your assignment before creating your outline; it will help you to translate your outline into your first draft. 

View SPARK’s Essay Formatting Resource

It is important to edit your essay to ensure that readers focus on your ideas rather than on distracting problems of language and grammar.

While you can edit your essay at any point in the writing process, during the early phases of your writing it is more important to work with the content of your essay than with the details of your sentences. As you write you are likely to remove or substantially alter many of your ideas; thus, it is more efficient to delay paying close attention to sentence details until you have a relatively complete draft.

View SPARK’s Editing Checklist

View uOttawa’s Editing Resource

View Glendon’s Grading Rubric


Please see the grammar page of our website for more grammatical standards.

The structure of an essay refers to its form or organization. There is no one structure that is expected in an academic paper; however, the following are some structural elements common to almost all papers:

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Thesis
  • Body Paragraphs (including quotations and citations)
  • Conclusion

View SPARK’s Guide to Essay Formatting

View SPARK’s Sample Writing Process

View SPARK’s Guide to Writing an Introduction

View SPARK’s Guide to Writing a Conclusion

View Glendon’s Transition Guide to University Writing

View uOttawa’s Guide to Writing an Introduction 

View uOttawa’s Guide to Writing Body Paragraphs

View uOttawa’s Guide to Writing a Conclusion