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Butler Writing Guide

Types of Writing Assignments

Your professor may assign any of the following types of writing assignments

Narration: Narration, a story that follows a sequence of time (not necessarily chronologically).  These links explain narration:     Examples     Definition

Classification/Division: Classification and division are two strategies that help explain complex topics by breaking it down into sub-topics. These links explain classification and division:  Example     Tips     Procedure

Comparison/Contrast: Effective comparison/contrast explains similarities and/or differences of two topics. These links explain comparison/contrast:  Example     Procedure

Causal analysis: Causal analysis explains the relationship between causes and effects. These links explain causal analysis:     Tips     Procedure     Procedure

Argument: Argument is a strategy to convince or persuade the audience to accept the validity of the writer's thesis. These links explain argument:     Procedure     Tips     Examples



Click here for information on "making sense" of a writing assignment.

Your professors will require you to write at an academic level.  For information on how to write an academic paper, click here.

If you are assigned a Research Paper click on the tab to the left,"Research & Citations", for an explanation of all aspects of the research paper.

Choosing a Topic

The first step in many writing projects (especially research projects) is to select a topic.  Your professor may assign a topic, you may choose a topic from a list, or you may be given free rein to choose any topic.

Things to Consider when Choosing a Topic

  • Don't choose a topic that is too broad.
  • Choose a topic that interests you.
  • Choose a topic that will enable you to read and understand the literature.
  • Choose a topic that has resources available. Make sure there are enough to write a good paper.

Narrowing the Topic

  • Limit to a particular population or age group, for example, infants, teenagers, college students, or adults.
  • Limit to a particular environment, such as schools.
  • Limit to an ethnic background, such as Asian Americans.
  • Limit by a particular theory or approach. For example, in Psychology, you might limit to behavior modification.
  • Limit to a methodology such as only field experiments, or research studies, or naturalistic observations.


Can you state your topic as a question? For example, "What is the effect of television violence on children?" Or write it as a statement in a sentence or two. For example, "Watching television with too much violence can have a negative impact on children."

Freewriting and Brainstorming

To start any assignment, it is important to begin to "put words to paper."  Many students choose to freewrite or focus free write

You may also consider graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are important visuals to generate ideas and to organize ideas into common forms of writing and thinking.

Links for help with:

Freewriting     Definition/Examples

Graphic organizers     Exercises     

Concept mapping     Exercises/Examples

Thesis / Purpose

Unity relates all elements:

  • Words relate the ideas in a sentence.
  • Sentences relate to the topic sentence of the paragraph.
  • Paragraphs relate to the thesis/purpose statement of your writing.

For many writing assignments this unifying idea is expressed in a thesis statement or purpose statement.  In some instances, arguments are unified by a claim

All of these statements have three essential qualities.

  1. The statement must restrict the general subject to the specific elements of the subject in your writing.
  2. The statement must unify these elements into the rhetorical strategy that you will use in your writing.
  3. The statement must use precise vocabulary to clarify the terms of your writing. 

Most importantly, the thesis or purpose statement is a "contract" between you and your reader. You must "deliver" what you promise.

Links for help with:

Difference between a thesis and a purpose statement     Examples

Thesis statements     Procedure        Examples     Examples

Claims in arguments     Definition   


Your professor may include an outline (or other organizational technique) as part of the assignment, but if he or she doesn't you may still decide to create an outline to help organize your ideas.   

Links for help with:

Outlines     Definition     Definition