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Writing Skills: Types of Papers

Academic writing skills

Writing Different Types of Papers

As a student, you are usually required to include a bibliography (reference list) with every essay you write. But what is an Annotated Bibliography? How do I write one?

A bibliography is “a list of the books and articles that have been used by someone when writing a particular book or article” (Cambridge Dictionary). An annotated bibliography is a little different. It requires a list of cited sources, but also requires a short (about 150 words) explanation or opinion of the text you have included in the list.

Read below for lots more help:

What Do I Include?

This will be determined by your instructor, but the following aspects will be included:

  • A citation – at JIBC, the standard citation method is APA, or American Psychological Association style
  • An annotation:
    • A short description of the content of the source
    • A reason why the source is relevant to the topic
    • Any strengths or weaknesses of the source
    • An evaluation of the reliability of the source
    • A description of your opinion of the source

There are different types of annotations to be aware of:

  • informative/descriptive annotation – description of the source without evaluating or judging the content
  • analytical/critical annotation – evaluation of the source’s content. To learn more about the evaluation process, check Critically Analyzing Information Sources (Cornell University).

One of the main reasons for doing an annotated bibliography is to show why a particular book or article is relevant to the topic you’re researching. Choosing articles or books to include is more than picking the first few that come up in a library or web search; evaluating the content before including it in your annotated bibliography is a huge part of the process.

Steps In Writing An Annotated Bibliography
  1. Choose sources that have a different perspectives on your topic
  2. Read the book(s) and/or article(s) related to your topic
  3. Summarize or evaluate the source, according to assignment requirements
  4. Cite your sources in APA format
General Guidelines
  • Write as an objective third person
  • Be specific and succinct; don’t write long sentences or unnecessary words.
  • Use direct language; avoid vague statements like “the book is good” or “the article is helpful” – explain why it is good or helpful.
  • Unless the author is well known, list his/ her qualifications and point of view.
An Example Of APA-Style Annotated Bibliography Entry

O’Connor, B. N., & Cordova, R. (2010). Learning: The experiences of adults who work full-time while attending graduate
      school part-time.  Journal of Education for Business, 85(6), 359-368. DOI: 10.1080/08832320903449618

In this study, the researchers examined how employed adults dealt with the addition of part-time graduate studies to work schedules and life demands. This study is distinct because very little research has been done about part-time graduate students. Using a modified phenomenological research approach, the researchers gathered qualitative data through both face-to-face interviews and phone interviews. The major finding was that, despite pursuing degrees relevant to their professional lives, all students found their workplaces resistant to proposals learned in school. However, the researchers surveyed only 6 individuals; therefore, these results may not be statistically significant. However, this study is relevant because it provides future researchers with a methodology for determining the impact of adding part-time graduate studies to the schedule of fully-employed adults.

More Examples:


"A book review is a critical assessment of a book. It describes and evaluates the quality and significance of a book and does not merely summarise the content." Massey University, New Zealand 

University of Southern California



A critique is a paper that gives a critical assessment of a book, article, or other medium. It combines both a summary and critical comment (requiring analysis and evaluation) on the content.

Organizing Your Critique

A critique should have an introductionbody and conclusion.

  • Identify the article you are reviewing, including the title of the text, the author’s name and their expertise in the field being addressed in the article.
  • Identify the purpose and context (background information or shared knowledge) in which the article was written.
    • Background material might include: an explanation of why the subject is of current interest; a reference to a possible controversy surrounding the subject of the passage or the passage itself; biographical information about the author; an account of the circumstances under which the passage was written; or a reference to the intended audience of the passage.
  • Summarize the author’s purpose and main points/evidence cited that are used for back up.
  • Write a statement that asserts your main point–your evaluation of the article–and shows the direction you will pursue in your discussion (your thesis statement).
  • Identify and analyze the key points made in the text.
  • Evaluate the validity of the evidence used to support each point. Decide whether the conclusions which are reached are convincing when applied in a general sense as well as in the specific situations described in text. This should include both the strengths and weaknesses of the claims made in the article.
  • Use about three to five points to support your thesis statement depending on the length of the assignment.  The criteria below should serve as a guide to help you select your points.
  • State your conclusions about the overall validity of the piece—your assessment of the author’s success at achieving his or her aims and your reactions to the author’s views.
  • Remind the reader of the weaknesses and strengths of the passage.

Recommended site to visit:

What Criteria Can Be Used For Evaluating?

The following questions provide some ideas to help you evaluate the text:


What is the nature of the article? Who wrote it and what are her/his qualifications for writing it?



Why was the article written?

What is its purpose?

What are the objectives of the article?    

Who is the intended audience?           

How well does the article suit its audience/purpose?

What kind of material is presented to achieve those objectives?

What is the significance of the article?

How does it relate to other materials on the same subject?



What is the writer’s position?

Is it stated directly and clearly?

What are the writer’s key assumptions?

Are they explicit or implicit?

Do you detect biases?

Are the assumptions and biases obvious, or are they hidden behind a stance of neutrality and objectivity?
(An assumption is a belief about something. It is often not stated by a writer. Assumptions underlie all human behavior. For example, when you go to your classroom, you assume your teacher will show up. You should critically examine all assumptions, even those in sync with your own.)



What does the writer provide to support her/his position?

What are the writer’s specific arguments?

Is the evidence believable? Authoritative? Sufficient? Logical or emotional? Are you convinced?


Does the writer present her/his thesis as the only reasonable position?
Or has the writer clearly and fairly presented any opposing sides?

Has the writer shown the opposing arguments to be invalid?

Has the writer overlooked any possible opposition?

Are there any potential points for/against the argument that the author has omitted? 



What is the appeal of the article?        

What are some of its most striking or illuminating qualities?

What new insights does the text provide?

What, if any, are its striking deficiencies?

Where do I agree/disagree with the author?

What is the writer’s style or tone? Authoritative? Speculative? Reasonable? Suggestive?

What kind of language does the writer use? Does it add to her/his credibility?

What, if any, new problems has the text presented?

What personal values/beliefs does the text challenge or reinforce?


Two Common Structures Used For Critiques

The following are a couple suggested structures for your critique:

Example 1

Example 2

Introduction Overview of the text

Evaluation of the text

  • Point 1
  • Point 2
  • Point 3
  • Point 4…(continue as necessary)


Introduction (with thesis)

Point 1: Explanation and evaluation

Point 2: Explanation and evaluation

Point 3: Explanation and evaluation(continue elaborating as many points as necessary)



Essay writing for college involves a few steps. Each step is equally important and skipping steps or not allowing yourself enough time to complete each step will result in a less impressive paper.

If you don’t have a lot of experience writing essays, get used to following these steps each time you write an essay until you develop a system that works best for you. You should remember that starting an essay the night before it is due is not enough time to write an excellent paper.

Step 1: Preparing to Write

This may seem like common sense, but preparation before you actually start writing is a key part of writing a paper. Read over your assignment and make sure you know exactly what your instructor wants from you. If there’s anything you’re unsure of, this is the time to ask for clarification. Things to be aware of:

  • how many pages or words are required?
  • how many sources are required?
  • what types of sources are acceptable?
  • when is the assignment due?
  • how much is the assignment worth?

This is the stage to start mapping out your ideas for your paper. Your instructor may have a very specific topic to write about or may allow you to choose your own topic. Make sure you’re clear about what you’re hoping to prove and write some notes for yourself about the topic. You don’t need to do a lot of writing; this is just the stage where you’re deciding your topic. Write a very short outline of what you think you may find or to keep track of what you already know about your topic. The next step will help you narrow your topic even more and see if your thesis statement or the main point you’re hoping to prove can be supported.

Step 2: Researching

Usually your instructor wants you to include certain types of information sources to support your thesis. If you’re used to finding all your information from Google, you may find this step more challenging in college. Most instructors expect more thorough research for academic courses and the JIBC Library should be your first stop for research. Besides books specific to your courses, the Library has subscriptions to academic journals and article databases that will meet the requirements from your instructor and help you write a stronger paper. There may also be a subject guide for your course that will give tips on researching. Librarians can help you if you’re not sure how to get started, or check through the Research Help page.

Choosing the best search terms is the hardest part of researching. Books and articles are described by people who organise information, so they use standard descriptions to make finding materials easier. A few tips:

  1. avoid using a, an, the, of, and other short linking words. These are not useful in searches and can make your results less accurate
  2. avoid verbs like “describe,” “discuss,” “compare,” or others. Concentrate on descriptive keywords for more accuracy
  3. put two or more keywords together by using “and” and “or” to narrow or broaden your search (e.g. leadership AND Canada)
  4. think of synonyms for your keywords so you can try different combinations of search terms. Keep track of the words and combinations in case you have to do your research over a few days

Once you’ve found some information sources, skim through each to figure out if they will be useful for your essay. Is it related to your topic? Is this source reliable? How current is this information? Does the information fall in one of the areas of your outline? Even if the information contradicts your thesis, make a note of it in case you decide to change your point of view during the writing step.

Make sure you’ve kept excellent notes on where all your information came from so you can more easily put your bibliography together. See the JIBC’s APA Guide if you’re not sure how to cite your sources. At the very least, make sure to write down the following pieces of information about each source you look at, even if you don’t use it in your first draft:

  • author
  • title
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • edition number, for journal articles
  • publisher
  • place of publication
  • where you found it, for journal articles
Step 3: Writing

This is the time to synthesize or combine all the information you found and the ideas that you’ve developed from your research into written form. Start with a first draft of your essay, adding in everything you listed on your outline. Make sure you’ve stated your thesis, or the main point you’re trying to prove in your paper, in the opening paragraph or the introduction.

Arrange your ideas into separate paragraphs and your paragraphs into a logical order. Include your introduction, the body of the essay that supports your thesis statement, and a conclusion to summarise your findings or research.

When you’ve completed your first draft, read through your paper critically or have someone else read your paper and give feedback. Often a tutor, a friend, or even an instructor will agree to read a first draft and let you know how to improve on it. The second draft should fix all the issues or changes from the first draft review. Ask yourself the following questions during this review:

  • Have you included everything your instructor required?
  • Did you answer what you stated you would in the Introduction?
  • Does the flow of information support your argument in a clear way for the reader?
  • Is there a balance between analysis and facts?
  • Is your thesis or argument clearly supported by your research?
  • Have you made grammar or spelling errors?
  • Is the writing style clear?
  • Did you answer the thesis statement in the Conclusion?
  • Have you forgotten anything?

Executive writing is different than academic writing! An executive summary is a “quick preview” of a report’s contents. It is often the only source of information used by decision-makers to reach significant decisions.

Executive summaries are literally written for an executive, or decision-maker, who most likely DOES NOT have the time or inclination to read the original document.  They will be reviewing your findings and looking at your recommendations. 

So, make sure your executive summary includes all the pertinent information. Think about what an executive would need to know in order to make a decision about changing a policy, undertaking an action, or spending money and then provide that information as specifically and concisely as you can.


An Executive Summary aims to:

  • Provide a brief overview of the whole document so that executives or managers could read the executive summary alone without the accompanying document
  • Allow the reader to quickly understand the information contained in the document
  • Help readers draw conclusions and make decisions based on the data
  • Persuade the reader that the document is worthy of being read
Simple Rules
  • Give readers the essential contents of your document in a small quantity of pages (typically 5-10% of the total document). Check with your instructor concerning the word length.
  • The summary should be original: don’t copy and paste sentences from the full report
  • Use bullet points, subtitles, or selective bolding to improve clarity and to make it easier for the reader to skim
  • Use active verbs, “we will do it” not “it will be done by us”
  • Be concise: remove all unnecessary words; omit lengthy transitions and examples
  • The summary should not have reference citations
  • The language should be for the general, educated reader, not for the technical expert
    • Avoid highly technical language, and briefly define any technical terms you must use
    • Spell out any uncommon symbols, abbreviations, or acronyms
    • Avoid jargon, legalistic words, and bureaucratic language
  • The summary should communicate independently of the report. Ask someone not familiar with the report to read your executive summary to see if it makes sense.

Executive Summaries are provided on a separate page at the beginning of the report before the Table of Contents.  They should cover in brief statements the aim of the report, methods used, major findings and conclusions/recommendations.

1. State the purpose/aim of the report. For example:

The main purpose of this report is to…
The main objectives of this report are … 
It is the purpose of this document to …

Make sure you present the main message of the document.

2. Describe the procedure that you used. Outline the methods you used to analyse the situation.

3. Provide the results of the study. The major findings may include a number of sentences.  What did you observe, discover or understand?

4. Conclusions and recommendations should also be provided.  This is the most important part of your Executive Summary.  Provide a concise statement of the conclusion you reached after conducting your analysis and/or research.  Provide a specific recommendation for action geared toward your audience.

Examples and Additional Resources

Literature Reviews (JIBC Library PDF)

A good literature review shows the reader (your instructor) that you have done the background reading around your topic and that you've understood the important issues around your topic.

Read below for lots more help:

What Is A Literature Review?

A literature review:  A literature review is NOT:
  • Focuses on a specific topic – your argument or problem as stated in your thesis
  • Compiles the research that has been published on the topic by recognized scholars and researchers
  • Informs the reader about the current concepts and state of research on the topic and any controversies
  • Describes the pros and cons of particular studies and may suggest areas for further research
  • Organizes the citations thematically into a narrative that can serve as the introduction to your report or that can be an individual essay
  •  A literary review describing and evaluating a specific book, poem, play, etc.
  • An exhaustive, alphabetical list of every work consulted in your research, nor a list of references cited
  • An annotated bibliography listing references and adding a brief notes about the value of each source

Content Of The Review

A literature review should contain an introduction, a body and a conclusion, and should be centered on a main idea or argument about the literature you are reviewing. Section headers are useful to highlight the main points for the reader; however the different sections should flow together.

Introduction Your introduction (usually approx. ½ – ¾ page) will not only present the main topic, but will also make a statement about the status of knowledge in this area of research. This usually involves reporting what is known about a topic and what is problematic about it. Knowledge deficits are crucial to literature reviews—such deficits are usually spoken about in terms of effects on particular populations, gaps in the research, and other contexts where the research could be useful. Additionally, your introduction will include a statement that outlines what issues within the broader topic (main ideas and subtopics) will be presented and in what order. Sources are often identified in this section but don’t have to be.
In order for your reader to move through your information with ease while keeping the big picture in view, order your body paragraphs in the same way that you did in the statement about how your literature review will proceed. Order the main ideas from general to specific, deciding which sources have contributions to make to which concepts. You will then present more specific information from the sources, using in-text citation, to discuss the main ideas in more detail and to point out areas of agreement or debate among sources. Your body paragraphs should work to not only summarize what sources have said, but to demonstrate relationships between them.
Conclusion You should conclude (about ¾ to 1 page) by reminding readers of the main topics and sub topics by identifying points of consensus and debate that have been presented in your literature review. Identify new possibilities for knowledge making, new gaps in knowledge—what else could be looked at now that scholars know this information? Are there other contexts that need to be examined? Gaps in the research so far? You also want to include statements about what communities are best served by this knowledge—where and for whom is the information most relevant?

Some Possible Ways Of Structuring A Literature Review
I. Introduction
II. Article X
a) Summarize the article (when and how was the study done, what was
its key focus, etc.).
b) Describe in detail what the article says about:
    a) Sub-issue #1 (e.g., gender)
    b) Sub-issue #2 (e.g., lifestyle)
    c) Sub-issue #3 (e.g., diet)
Article Y
(Same procedure)
Article Z
(Same procedure)
III. Compare, Contrast and Critique
a) What all three say about sub-issue #1
b) What all three say about sub-issue #2
c) What all three say about sub-issue #3
IV. Draw Conclusions, by answering these questions:
    So what?
    Where do I stand now?
    Where does this leave us?
    What next? 
I. Introduction
II. Brief Summaries (perhaps one paragraph for each of the articles, X, Y
and Z)
III. Compare, Contrast and Critique what the three articles say about:
    Sub-issue #1 (e.g., gender)
    Sub-issue #2 (e.g., lifestyle)
    Sub-issue #3 (e.g., diet)
IV. Draw Conclusions

Sample Literature Reviews:

Check out the Writing Research Papers guide for lots more help!

A research question takes you beyond simple facts about a given topic; it is an inquiry into a specific issue or problem. Once you have an idea of what you want to study, your first step in the research process is to articulate your research question. The research question guides you continuously as you write a paper, forms the basis of your research activities, and underlies your hypothesis or thesis statement.

A research question should be:
  • Clear – recognizable and explicit; there is little chance of misunderstanding or ambiguity
  • Focused – a central purpose or interest, rather than a topic that is too broad
  • Concise – the question is briefly stated; the question is phrased with precise language
  • Complex – requires analysis and thinking. If it’s easy to answer, it’s not a research question
  • Arguable – why does this question matter? What evidence will support or refute your claim?
Thanks to Mount Saint Vincent University for sharing this information
Excellent sites to visit:


According to Chandler et al. (2020), "systematic reviews seek to collate evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods documented in advance with a protocol" (Key Points section).

Chandler, J., Cumpston, M., Thomas, J., Higgins, J. P. T., Deeks, J. J., Clarke, M. J. (2020, September).  Chapter 1: Introduction.  In J. P. T.

Higgins, J. Thomas, J. Chandler, M. Cumpston, T. Li, J. J. Page, & V. A. Welch (Eds.),  Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of

interventions (version 6.1).  Cochrane.

Take a few minutes and view this video [Time: 3:26]

The Steps of a Systematic Review from Evidence Synthesis Academy on Vimeo.

Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. Here you will learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.

Read below for lots more help:

What Is A Thesis Statement?

The thesis is a key sentence in your paper; it tells your reader about the paper’s focus. Because thesis statements should be short and focused, they should usually only be one sentence long.

The thesis almost always comes as the final sentence of the first paragraph (the introduction).

The thesis idea usually appears again in the first sentence of the conclusion (although in different words). This reminds the reader of your point and allows the reader to evaluate how well you have developed and supported your point-of-view.

Two Types Of Thesis Statements

There are two general types of thesis statements:

  1. the “Point-of-View” thesis, which presents an argument or case to be made.
  2. the “Scope” thesis, which simply outlines the scope of the paper.
The “Point-of-view” Thesis

This type of thesis makes one main point which can also be described as the key insight you are explaining, the central argument you are putting forward, the case you are arguing, or the claim you are making. The purpose of your entire paper is to provide evidence and explanation that back up the thesis. 

A “point-of-view” thesis should be:


  • Make sure your topic and thesis stem directly from the assignment instructions for the paper.
  • Make sure it connects to key concepts you are learning in the course.


  • The thesis needs to focus your paper on a specific piece, aspect, or side of a general topic.
  • Limiting the topic to one specific group of people, to one time period, to one geographical location, to one specific character, to only the problem or to only the solution. Any number of these limiting factors can be combined to make the thesis specific.


  • You need to have enough material to fully support the thesis you have chosen. If you are not able to find enough research, or you don’t have enough examples, reasons, expert opinions/quotations, facts, and explanations to fill up the size of the paper that you need to write, then you might have chosen the wrong topic.
  • At the same time, if you have too much material for the size of the paper you were assigned, you need to further limit your thesis (see #2 above) so that the paper doesn’t turn into a book.


  • Have a point to make that is worth making. Your main point or central idea should not be so obvious that most readers will already know what you are going to discuss or explain in the paper. Instructors do not want to read through points that are already common knowledge.


  • It needs to be about what the audience (instructor or maybe classmates) will take seriously or care about. If your audience can say “So what?” or “Why does that matter to us?” you might not have a significant case to make.
The “Scope Thesis”

For some assignments, students are not expected to take a point of view. Instead, they are expected to answer a series of questions or give information about a topic. For these types of assignments, the thesis simply states what the paper is about.  Sometimes it may even include a short list of sub-topics included in the paper.

For example, “This paper explores the challenges faced by people with bipolar disorder and suggests strategies communities can take to assist them.”

Similar to the point-of-view thesis, the scope thesis should:

  •  Be short and clear.
  •  Be suitable to the assignment instructions.
  •  Identify a scope that is feasible considering the length of paper assigned.
What Makes A Good Thesis Statement?

What Should You Avoid When Writing A Thesis Statement?
  • A question:
    Instructors do not want you to raise questions in your thesis; they want you to provide answers. Instructors especially do not want to see rhetorical questions (questions that either have no answer or have implied answers and are made only to argue a point, not to provide insightful analysis that leads to answers). 
  • Statements of fact that need no further support or proof.
  • A detailed list of everything that you will try to include in the paper

Tips For Writing A Thesis Statement

Don’t attempt writing your thesis statement until you have explored your topic through research and brainstorming. You can’t take a position until you’ve done your research!

Write a thesis using these four steps:

  • Re-state the assignment or topic.
  •  Take a position on the issue.
  •  Briefly state your reasons why/how.
  •  Revise: take out any wordiness or vague ideas, and make sure the thesis relates to the topic.
How Your Thesis Statement Fits Into The Essay


Your thesis statement articulates your position.

Your essay supports your thesis.

The paragraphs in the body of your essay must connect with each other as well as with your thesis statement.

Revise and/or refocus as necessary (thesis, body paragraphs or both) if further research causes your position to change, or to maintain coordination between thesis statement and body.

Thesis Statement - How it Fits in Your Essay
From Characteristics of a Strong and Effective Thesis Statement (UofT) 

Additional Resources:

Thanks to the following two Universities for providing information on thesis statements.