Cautions for Writing a Literature Paper
Dr. Harold William Halbert

Every professor has his or her pet peeves and concerns when it comes to the papers students write. These are mine. Many of my colleagues would agree, but not all. In generally, papers that do well in my class do the following:

1. Have a clear thesis to argue instead of simply summarizing the text or the history around the events related to the text.

2. Make sure each paragraph makes ONE major point that is clearly related to the paper's thesis.

3. Make sure that quotes support your point in a particular paragraph instead of being the point.

4. Use a signal phrase for each quote.

5. Give citations for direct quotes, paraphrases, statistics, and facts that are not common knowledge.

6. Quote only significant words, phrases, sentences, or passages that you intend to analyze or comment upon. Simple facts from the text can be paraphrased.

7. Avoid "I" in the paper unless there is a very clear reason to make yourself a part of the analysis.

8. Don't describe your reading, research, or writing process in the paper.

9. Avoid starting sentences with "Yes," "No," "So," and "Well."

10. Place the transition between paragraphs at the beginning of a paragraph, not at the end.

11. Author's names: on the first mention of the name, give the full name as it appears on the cover of the text. After that, use the last name only without any titles (Mr./Dr./Ms./etc.). Never use the first name alone: it's unlikely you have a personal relationship with the person that entitles you to that level of informality, especially if the person or character is dead.

12. Always identify the text you are working with as soon as is feasible.

13. Follow format guidelines.

14. Refer to action in the text as if it is happening in the present tense:

15. Avoid starting or ending a paragraph with a quote.

16. Avoid making announcements in the paper.

17. Avoid "you" in the paper.

18. Avoid "in conclusion."