The Key Difference Between High School and College Papers

September 4, 2015 3 1956


High school students transitioning into college are often befuddled by their inability to score as high as they believe they should. Unfortunately for them, writing a high school essay isn’t the same as writing a college paper. There are some critical differences, but one stands out above any other. What is that difference? It’s simple. College papers ask students to make arguments. Many students in high school write narrative or expository essays. Argumentative, or persuasive, essays are fewer and far between.

The defining feature of a persuasive essay is an argument that is stated up front, in the form we typically call a thesis. Almost all college papers will require one. The thesis is the lead statement that defines what your paper is about. However, to make an argument, you need more than just a thesis. College papers should also be composed of a series of evidences that help support the argument. Academic writing is filled with writers who choose an argument and the evidence that best supports their argument.

To be completely academically honest, a student should acknowledge evidence that contradicts their position. However, college papers that acknowledge these counterarguments aren’t made weaker because of them. A paper is actually stronger, because it gives the student an opportunity to discuss why they did not include that line of evidence. A student is then free to compose his paragraphs. If following the traditional three paragraph format, students should lead each paragraph with a topic sentence that reinforces the thesis.

The student can then present the evidence that backs their topic sentence and explain its relationship to the overall thesis of the paper. A series of strongly worded paragraphs with topics that directly show support for the student’s argument is they key difference between writing a high school essay and an academic paper.


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