The community of scholars has rules that govern how dissertations, theses and other academic papers are composed and formatted. Academic convention has established what is acceptable and what is not. Following is one of 12 recommendations to help you submit a conventional and acceptable paper. Each tip in the series will appear on the TPS Fans page on successive weeks. 


Choose an appropriate topic 选择适合的主题

At the university level, scholarly papers are written for other scholars. Therefore, the topic of an academic paper should appeal to a scholar. What appeals to scholars? Ideas. So the central topic of a paper should be an idea, a theory, a concept. Unless your professor assigns you a topic, you must put on your thinking cap and brainstorm an idea to build a paper around. 


The topic should be relevant. That is, it should add value to a particular academic discipline. Writing about a new French apple for a Chinese literature class will not be well received, regardless of how well you write. A chosen topic should be interesting, but it need not be provocative, or particularly original, though inventive and stimulating topics are welcome. 


For example, a mathematics paper might introduce a new theorem stemming from an accepted equation. A humanities paper might offer fresh perspective on a philosophical statement. A business paper might explain a weakness of a retailing model. Sample titles of papers include “Circus Sociology: The Gravitas of a Clown,” and “Architecture: How Tokyo Copied Topeka.” 

举例来说,数理论文一开始可介绍已被社会接受的一组程式而引导出新理论;人文论文可能提出在哲学理论上的一个新看法;商业论文或许是针对零售业经营模式分析其缺点。其它论文参考主题包括:“Circus Sociology: The Gravitas of a Clown”与“Architecture: How Tokyo Copied Topeka”。

Unless a professor specifically assigns a report, your paper is expected to be a reasoned argument. Simply compiling and presenting information will not be acceptable. So you should choose a topic with divergent points of view and claim one for yourself. The topic also should be substantial enough to be explored at length without resorting to redundancy and word padding. 


Treatment of the topic should be focused. That is, your paper should be limited in scope even if the topic is a universal condition. Example: Write about saving a species of tree on a Pacific island knoll rather than defending the world's forests against mankind. A finite proposition is more compelling than a sweeping generalization, and a scattershot conclusion never convinces. 


To review: The topic of an academic paper should be relevant and interesting. It should contain the seeds of opposing views. It should be complex enough to allow dissection and simple enough to be forceful. It should be narrow and deep in scope. Good luck !




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