Writing an article, college paper

Writing an article for a college paper

Feb 23, 2013
Though research papers and essays are customary for college-level writing, in many instances a professor may also request for students to diversify things a bit by providing an article instead. By definition an article is generally a document that is part of a larger written work such as a magazine, newspaper, or journal. And likewise all of these three mediums are where you will likely find most articles (though bare in mind the internet also hosts thousands of articles that may or may not be connected to these types of mediums).
As compared to more formal writings such as term or research papers, article writing is usually written with a more casual tone and conversational writing style. Another noticeable difference may be that articles are specifically written to be read so to speak, by a larger more general audience (though there are exceptions) which can be seen in the manner in which they are composed. For example, (a) the language that is used (b) the references that are made, and (c) examples and illustrations that are provided. Articles may also be more entertaining and engaging to read in contrast to papers that are focused more on interpretation and evaluation.

The exception

Journal articles, more so than the other two types, are often written with a specific group of people in mind (as a oppose to a general audience). These people usually have some previous knowledge regarding the subject matter and a may be professionals, educators, students or researchers. Some examples of journals include Journal of Abnormal Psychology and The American Journal of Education. *More information on journals can be found in the last section.
When writing your college paper you may be asked to replicate the style and form of any of one of these types of articles.

Preparing a newspaper article

Journalist have a big role to fill in preparing a good story for publication. Not only do they have to get all the details right, but most importantly they have to grab your attention, and sustain it to at least the end of the first paragraph. This is usually the toughest part of newspaper writing-keeping the reader's attention. And this is why news articles tend to trim all the fat by providing a 'just the facts' style of journalistic writing. And one way in which this method is implemented is by using the inverted pyramid.
Essentially the aim of the inverted pyramid is to provide the most important facts first; leaving the least important details for the end. This is usually done by providing a well-crafted lead paragraph that does an excellent job of summarizing the story then working on providing the story details bit by bit.
A simple breakdown of a newspaper article can be seen below.
  • Headline: A great title to captivate your audience
  • Byline: Your name or the writer of the story
  • Lead paragraph: This is the informative paragraph that should answer the questions Who? What? Where? When? And the remainder of your story will hopefully answer the how and why. This paragraph also needs to have an attention-grabbing introduction.
  • The full story: Here you should try to answer all the reader's questions starting with the most relevant details. Tell the story in the order in which it occurred and include quotes as well as other supportive documentation.The first sentence in this section should also mirror a thesis statement in that it provides your objective and purpose of writing.
  • Extra information (take it or leave it): This is the information that really doesn't need to be included. It may be helpful for readers who would like more details such as background information etc. Also this section should stand alone and be taken away without causing any harm to the story itself.
Another important point not mentioned here for newspaper articles, is fact checking. All good news stories are true; so making sure you have your facts straight is an important job for any news article writer.

Crafting a magazine article

There are several types of magazine articles to construct, with the most popular of them being the feature article. The feature article usually aims to entertain but also works to inform the reader about a particular topic. It may include a quick anecdote or short story as well as characteristics of newspaper writing such as a lead paragraph. A few other types of magazine articles include;
  1. Inside story or expose (a shocking article; may reveal something unknown to most)
  2. Human interest article (usually evokes emotion; can also be a feature)
  3. How-to or utility article (used to educate the reader; may be instructions, steps)
  4. Profile or personality sketch (essentially is a biography; may include an interview)
Since the types of magazine articles vary considerably it would be quite difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all outline for magazine writing. Though if you find yourself leaning towards the feature article, know that it mirrors the newspaper article with regards to the lead but is unique in that it is written in a more relaxed and conversational tone (as opposed to the fact presenting style of news articles).

Journal article writing

The last type of article, described in some detail earlier, is the journal article. In most cases when people refer to journal articles, especially in academic circles, they are referring to scholarly journals.

What is a scholarly journal article?

Scholarly articles are generally not written by college students as the name suggest, but by graduates and seasoned professionals that are considered to be 'scholars' of a particular subject matter. These articles are sometimes peer reviewed as well and may go through rigorous fact checking and other evaluative methods before being published. Credentials also play an important role as well, and generally a degree and experience is expected of each contributor. *Though it is possible to get published without these requirements.
So overall, from what has been presented, its pretty clear that your article writing assignment will likely fall under the magazine or newspaper category. And in addition to the advice mentioned when preparing these types of articles it's very important to be mindful of sources and citations. Though popular magazines generally do not cite their sources (news articles usually embed their citations within the text), its still important for students to keep track of their references in the event that the information is requested of them by their professors. Writing for college is not the same as writing independently. You may be required to provide a bibliography or work cited list even if it is not traditionally done for your particular style of article writing.
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By Martha Buckly. Martha is a good freelance writer and loves sharing posts on different topics including tips and guidelines for articles and academic writing. Her professional experience helps to create interesting and useful material.
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