Identify a topic. Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. Consider what your assignment asks you to do, Inform yourself about your topic, Focus on one aspect of your topic, Ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts.
Compose a purpose statement. Sometimes you won't be able to find a focus or identify your "spin" or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn. Thus, you might begin with something like this: This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression. I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society's authority.
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