Guidelines for final paper assignment


  • Write a 5–10 page research paper to enter the writing contest and compete for 10 scholarships (monetary scholarship awards ranging from $50 to $300).
  • Cite at least five sources in your paper: One book should be from either the American Cultural Center (ACC)’s sustainability books collection or your university libraries; two scholarly/academic articles; one magazine or newspaper article; and one website. Check the Information Flow and Types of Information Sources – PDF Slides if needed.
  • The topic for your paper needs to be related to sustainable development and/or environmental issues.
  • The paper should be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point fonts, one-inch margins all around, and formatted according to the 6th edition of the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual:
    APA style guide
  • You need to watch all videos and do all assignments before you may start working on your final paper for the writing contest.

Selecting a Topic

  • Check environment/sustainability materials at the ACC on your campus, search your university libraries for scholarly articles and books, and consider articles, reports and websites at link of Related Resources on Sustainability and Environmental Issues.
  • Choose a topic in sustainability or the environment that interests you. The topic you select should be quite narrow in scope (for example, air pollution in Beijing rather than air, water, and land pollution in China).

Getting Started with an Outline

Consider the following questions:

  • What is the topic?
  • Why is it significant?
  • What background material is relevant?
  • What is my thesis or purpose statement?
  • What organizational plan will best support my purpose/thesis statement?

Writing the Introduction

In the introduction you will need to do the following things:

  • Present relevant background or contextual material
  • Define terms or concepts when necessary
  • Explain the focus of the paper and your specific purpose
  • Reveal your plan of organization

Writing the Body

  • Use your outline as a framework and/or a flexible guide
  • Build your essay around points you want to make (i.e., don’t let your sources organize your paper)
  • Integrate your sources into the paper’s discussion
  • Summarize, analyze, explain, integrate, and evaluate a published work rather than merely report it
  • Move up and down the “ladder of abstraction” from generalization to varying levels of detail back to generalization

Writing the Conclusion

  • You may need to summarize the argument and findings for your paper
  • If you have not yet explained the significance of your findings, use the end of your paper to add your points up, to explain their significance
  • Move from a detailed back to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction
  • You may discuss the future implications of your findings too
  • Perhaps suggest what aspects of this topic need further research

Revising the Final Draft

  • Check overall organization: The logical flow of introduction, the coherence and depth of discussion in the body, the effectiveness of the conclusion
  • Paragraph-level concerns: Think about topic sentences, sequence of ideas within paragraphs, use of details to support generalizations, summary sentences where necessary, use of transitional logic within and between paragraphs
  • Sentence-level concerns: Be aware of sentence structure, word choices, punctuation, and spelling. Review your paper for excessive colloquial sentences (informal speech), and see if you are “telling” too much instead of “showing.” [Refer to the “Challenges and Issues in Writing Academic Papers in English” video.]
  • Citing works used in your paper: Use APA style. Be sure all your citations are consistent in use of the style. Cite all information not considered common knowledge. Use appropriate in-text citations and end-of-paper references.